looking for good collaborative map/world-build rules

Started by shadowcourt, December 10, 2009, 08:37:29 PM

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This is sort of a newb question, but it's an area I've barely delved into in recent years, so I'm starting from scratch without too much guidance. So, caveats aside...

Can anyone point me towards good mechanics for collaborative "map"/world design between GM's and players? I've seen a few systems that do worldbuild as an interesting group activity (Burning Empires' world-burning, for instance, and some discussions of how to use FATE's "fractal" to stat out things on the macro level, including what's available in "Starblazer Adventures"), but I'm looking for something which isn't quite as crunchy, and instead is more helpful for bringing out flavor and player interest in a physical location their characters will likely be romping around in.

Mostly I'm trying to mine systems for ideas, and see if there are any elements I'd like to bring to the table before starting a new game. I find that providing a little bit of structure to these sorts of exercises can really get players' creative juices flowing; while saying "Okay, well, what do we want the local area to look like" can be a bit daunting and disorganized, I trust there might be a slightly more structured way to let everyone contribute and get them brainstorming.

Personal solutions to this situation, in lieu of anything that's been published somewhere, are also more than welcome. Ditto for direction to threads where this has been discussed extensively in the past (I just haven't bumped into any with a cursory search).

-shadowcourt (aka Josh)

Kevin Vito

Well, here's something I've done with dungeon crawls...

Let's say you have a bunch of those cardboard dungeon squares that wizards sells, where each square is a grid and represents a single room. When somebody opens up a door or walks some stairs to another room, have that player pick out a dungeon square from the pile and set it down.
I played this one zombies game once with a similar mechanic except that you had these scenery cards representing city blocks that were drawn randomly from a deck.

I can easily imagine a system for world design where players take cards marked "orest", "castle", "mountain", or "village", and so forth, and place these down on a grid to sort of lay down the foundations for a world map, then flesh out some details as they visit each of these locations.

Another idea: You might take a look at the DMG for D&D 4E and the chapter on world creation, but let the players make the decisions.
"Is the world newly formed, or ancient?" "Is magic rare or common?" "Are the gods distant and unseen or do they actively participate in the world?"
Ask all these questions and more, and let the players vote to decide.

Jaakko Koivula

Tangential question: After you get the world together, what are you going to play in it?

I mean, for example, is the game going to be a GM-driven "traditional" RPG after the world creation, or will the narration etc. rights be spread out evenly across all the participants?

Because in many cases, it won't be that necessary to define the world that exactly. You can sort of decide it has to do with stars burning out and people not having enough resources and that the game will handle scarcity and racism and leave it at that. The majestic space-ships will appear if you happen to need them. And in this type of game it would be silly to populate all the planets in the universe, if you're just going to play a bunch of farmers dying of famine on one of them.

On the other hand, if you're going for a more simulationist direction and want a whole ready world, it's another matter. Even if you're never going to visit Planet XL-5, it is still important to know that it's populated by blue mollusks and panther-men (tech-level 3).

I still get a sort of mixed messages -thingie here. Do you want the players to help you create a world, where you can run them through exciting plots? Or do you want to create a setting together, in which to handle some issues and create stories and do other narrativistic artsy stuff?

Sorry if Im completely derailing and being unhelpful. Im just curious. And I've just read a bunch of stuff here on Forge about strong settings etc. and Im hyped :) (for example: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21952.msg224100#msg224100 and forwards)

Still! Some input on the original question:

I'd use questions too. Some really loaded and important ones. Maybe make a big list and say that the players can answer three of them and the world will be created based on those three answers. You would get to see what they think is interesting and what they want to deal with while adventuring.

"What do they use for power?" 
"Is it a monarchy, democracy or necrocracy?"
"Do they believe in higher powers? How does this show?"

"We pick the form of govenment question! It's a necrocracy!

After you answer a couple of this kind of questions, you pretty much also get a bunch of answers to other questions also and new leads to other stuff.

"Ok, necrocracy. So do they have magic or do the corpse-talkers just fake it? And the architechture favours pyramids? And yeah, they're really terrified about undeath/real death, why's that?"

This way pretty much would keep you in charge of the world building process, but might ease the players to help you a bit.

I think many narrativistic games have a bunch of stuff of creating settings together, but that might not be what you are after now. I can try to look and think up some if you want. Personally Im just so lazy nowadays, that I just try to make the players think up all the cool stuff on the go. "It's your homeworld, how am I supposed to know what it looks like? You describe it."


It's true, I probably should've been less opaque about my intentions.

Very specifically, I'm using "Spirit of the Century"/FATE 3.0 to play around with doing a wild west game. Most of the conceptual stuff (this is Weird West, some steampunk elements, some supernatural oddness, but little of it being just "the norm" for your average person in the world) has already been hashed out via consensus with the players and prior conversations.

So, I'm talking very specifically about the geography and topography of a "conventional" RPG, quite literally what our big western county map might look like--what's where, and what sorts of things people would like to see on the physical map as places of relevance. Some authorship is always in the hands of players, as much as FATE encourages the use of point expenditures to make declarations about the world, but a lot of it is done by the GM, from what I've seen of FATE in the past.

I've been having a sort of renaissance at looking at old conventions that have been classic in games of my youth, and wondering how some of those impulses could be turned into something more provocative to story and collaborative for players, which is what brought me to this question. As a kid, I'd have endless fun drawing fantasy maps which were incredibly storyfull in my head, even if they never ended up amounting to an actual game. The map has been such an artifact of fantasy gaming for decades now; I've been wondering if there's a good way to do this by consensus and group design, brewing up something together, rather than the typical GM fiat which is usually involved.

-shadowcourt (aka Josh)

Ron Edwards

Hi Josh,

Currently, this thread isn't meeting the standards for the forum. Fortunately, you already pointed to the solution in your latest post:

QuoteSome authorship is always in the hands of players, as much as FATE encourages the use of point expenditures to make declarations about the world, but a lot of it is done by the GM, from what I've seen of FATE in the past.

To continue the discussion, you should post about exactly what you've seen to lead to this conclusion. It doesn't have to be in any way critical of FATE or otherwise be especially deep, as long as you make clear to the reader what you're talking about, by presenting the touchstone of your observations.

Best, Ron