Saturday, September 27, 2014

Growing the World

I mentioned this at the end of my first post.

If you have a campaign world, it belongs to everyone who plays in your games.

I have had a few DMs over the years who seemed to be of the opinion that the world was theirs and only they could change it. It didn't really bother me much when I was young. As I grew up, however, it became one of the things I hated most about the campaigns I did not DM.

Worlds change. Heroes rise, defeat great evils, or fail.

In the past 15 years, Medentri has seen 7 campaigns.

Six of my players' PC live on as Gods.

At least 3 villains live on in one fashion or another.

Several organizations founded by the players live on, although time may have corrupted their purpose.

I call out failure because of one specific truth in Medentri. Most of my campaigns have ended with the PCs failing. Either simply not stopping the villain in time or, once, total party kill during the final climactic encounter.

I have a few basic rules for how the world grows and changes.

1) The PCs successes or failures matter to the world. If they stop the big baddie, the world at the start of the next campaign will be in better condition. If they fail, the world will be darker, more desperate. (This can turn your world into something of a horror setting if failure becomes common.)

2) The PCs grew up in the world, the players did not. If the character should know something about history it is my responsibility to make sure the player does. (This becomes easier over time with a consistent group. You only have to teach the "recent" history between the end of the last campaign and the start of the next one.)

3) When in doubt, involve your players. If the character succeed, ask the players what their characters do in their retirement. Even in failure, consider using your players as a resource to determine how others react. (I'll post about the fallout of the Zassom campaign soon.)

4) Be consistent. It is tempting to escalate everything. This success is greater than the last success or that failure is worse than the one before. To quote Admiral Ackbar: "IT'S A TRAP." This is not an argument to have everything be the same, rather, each result should matter.

5) Let time pass. I try to place at least 500 years between campaigns. This means that the new generation of heroes can tell their own story. It also means that even if the previous heroes failed, the next campaign is not going to be "Quest to Defeat Zassom, take 2"

That's it. A campaign ends or fizzles out, and the world moves on.

So am I still in control of my campaign world? Yes, I still have the final say about how the world changes. But my players give me the impetus. Their actions define the direction those changes take. Players recognize this. The ones that care appreciate it, the ones that don't, well, they won't care any less.

Take care and have fun.


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