Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Collaborative Campaign World Design

The evil cleric Agnal has no god. That is, we jumped into game play before ever bothering to sort it out, and then the character got ejected from the party (and the game) once his evil nature was discovered. Later, nearly the whole party was killed, new characters were rolled up, and perhaps to bring the aborted Agnal back into play, all the characters were made neutral or evil.

I’d like to make Agnal a larger plot force and was thinking of asking his player if he’d like to design his own deity for Agnal to use. There seems so much rich role playing material that is underutilized when it comes to clerics and their relationships with their dieties - perhaps part of the reason for this is the whole supermarket approach to god selection that most people seem to use.

After considering all of the benefits of this particular approach, it quickly dawned on me that there was no reason to stop with just clerics and deity selection - why not really open up the campaign world creation process so that it was much more collaborative overall? Obviously this happens in the course of play as the actions of the PCs inform the world - but I’m talking here about even before the PCs enter the picture. Geography, races, religion, culture - all of these can be created along with the players. Of course it won’t be for everyone, some are not going to have the time or interest, but I would imagine particularly with more experienced players it might be met with enthusiam. A side effect is that the role of DM becomes potentially something that can be shifted from person to person in the playing group more easily since we’re all playing in each others’ world that much more.

Practically, how would this look? One option would be to draw up rules that would outline the collaborative creation process, step by step, and give each participant a turn in contributing a part (reminding me again of my earlier thoughts on Exquisite Corpses). Knowing I'm not the first to have thought of this approach, I first turned up this interesting DM handout proposal, and then discovered N. Bob Pesall’s “Dawn of Worlds” game, which is exactly what I’d been hoping someone had already developed. I haven’t yet tried it out, but if nothing else it’s a great road map for potentially creating our own rules with the same purpose in mind, perhaps utilizing them with an online white board and wiki, or even Google Wave.


Unknown said...

I like the handout a lot. I think for collaborative designs to be successful though, there needs to be a Big Central Idea or (set of ideas) that would be a jump-off point for the contributors' creative muscles. Your section called "The Universe" provides a sketch, but I think I would want something more meaty.

Then again, providing your own realm as a blueprint/example of what you're looking for might be enough.

Chris Creel said...

I actually thought of a similar idea this week. I've have a great game group and we're in a bit of a transitional phase. I was gonna suggest that we collaborate for our setting, each member choosing what he would write and create. I feel a good starting point would be geographic regions and, or races.

christian said...

Our cleric started play without a god, too. Finally he made one up last session. I'm looking forward to creating the mythos as we go along. All hail Amara the Sun God. (Currently there is some debate as to the god's sex. Oh well.)

ze bulette said...

@G. Benedicto: Just to be clear, that's not my handout, I just stumbled across it on the web. I agree with you about that "Universe" section and the need for a central, commonly understood and agreed upon theme.

@Chris C.: Geographic regions might be a good starting point, I was actually thinking of organizing it first around some sort of "primary" creator gods with particular areas of interest that might correspond to geography in some manner also (elemental gods for example, or a god of the desert, a god of the mountains, etc.)

@Christian: Hail Amara! As opposed to her (his?) sister (brother?) Amana, God of Ice (and refridgeration)!

Don Snabulus said...

You will make L. Ron Hubbards of us all in creating our own mythos.

Rusty said...

@ze-b: I actually did some of this, mainly in helping design the style and type of game we were going to play. I hadn't thought to go to the next step of campaign design.

I think it is also possible to have a group of gamers design different geographic areas and then take turns DMing, using the same group of characters. The DM's character either stays home or is a very quiet NPC for the session that the player is serving as DM.

Going back to the idea of collaboration with players--my players came up with all sorts of great ideas that would have never occurred to me.

Rusty said...

By the way, how are you feeling?

ze bulette said...

I've been thinking how I might make this a simpler game for two, one representing the force of Law and the other Chaos.

@Axe - breathing better for the moment, can't complain! thanks

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