Tuesday, January 25, 2011

[RPG] Development

A friend of mine and I are both working on an RPG setting. We both have worlds that lend themselves to fast, flexible and probably easy systems like Savage Worlds. We both have magic, technology and otherworldly stuff going on in our games.

Out settings have a vastly different feel to them- his is very Wild West and mine seems more fantasy. I find this particular fact extremely odd as I really don't like fantasy very much and I can't fathom where this idea took root in my head as the soil for it to grow in is pretty sparse.

Why I'm developing a strange combination of  fractals and fantastical action is beyond me- but I know it's what is brewing in my head. I've come across ideas that work slowly, and I am in no rush. This idea has already been in the works for more than 2 years. A little more time won't hurt.

My idea isn't even finalized enough to have a summary statement, where my friend's idea sounds almost complete. He's got an incredibly creative concept and he's been able to express it eloquently and definitively.  My idea is still in the "squishy development stages"; and takes on the shape of things around it pretty easily.

I find it interesting to see how these two ideas have moved along in their development stages, and I like comparing notes - it's sort of like raising a baby. The overall outside is the same- but how it grows and becomes more sophisticated and defined is all independent and unique.

My friend and I are asking a lot of questions. So I have some for you-

How do your games develop? Do you share notes? What things inspire you to grow your settings? What makes a fascinating concept work for you and how to you cultivate it?


  1. I think every setting starts with a cool little nugget, and things get built around that nugget, and pretty soon you have a big mass.

  2. How do your games develop?
    I'm unsure what you mean exactly, but if you're thinking about once the game is on, they tend to take on their own lives. I have an idea, the players react. Rinse/repeat.

    Do you share notes?
    Yes, on the blog. Didn't use to, but that's changed.

    What things inspire you to grow your settings?
    Pretty much anything. Books, films, news, the works. And of course neccesity -- as play progresses new needs materialize. E.g. The players start asking questions about islands briefly mentioned for pure fluff purposes, and I have to come up with something.

    What makes a fascinating concept work for you and how to you cultivate it?
    There has to be something there that grabs my attention, something that makes me start spinning on plots and scenes. If the concept stays in my mind, as opposed to just slipping away, I'll make some notes, and perhaps start a game. The current game is pretty much a concoction of all the fascinating concepts I want to play.

  3. My number one influence in developing a setting in the stages prior to playing is always visual inspiration, browsing through art. Then most of the actual work is done after play begins, since the ultimate inspiration for me is the ideas my players have which I could never have had on my own.

  4. How do your games develop?

    The games that I've run have all started with one awesome scene in mind. There was a Vampire game of epic cheese where the first fight was against Tremere himself AND his reborn avatar. Then there was my game of Changeling, with the characters running into each other as they sprinted through the hedge, dogs made out of glass and rock chasing behind them. From there I start building the world behind that scene and populate it with all sorts of strange characters. It's definitely this part that I find the most fun... I mean, when you've got world building, who needs plot? :P

    Do you share notes?

    I'm a bit on the fence with this. Generally if I'm a GM/ST/DM/what have you I tend to play a bit off the cuff. I'll start with a large body of developed setting and a few plot elements and let my BSing and the characters take it from there. I've had a few helper-GMs before but I don't really work that whole planning-ahead thing when it comes to plot, which can make them rather useless. With my latest project I'm working with three other guys on jointly creating an entire city to play in. We have a fairly extensive Google Doc set up and we're currently in the process of migrating it over to Obsidian Portal, where my Changeling game also resides.

    What things inspire you to grow your settings?

    Stories, tv shows, movies... if it's something that feels really atmospheric, gives off a dark fantasy vibe and has plenty of twisted references to fairytale lore I'm in. For instance, I based a chapter of my Changeling game off of an episode of Torchwood... and no, it's not the most obvious one. As I mentioned previously, the cinematic scenes generally start the process but characters and places generally grow from a byline or short poem that I write on a whim. For example, a character that I've had in mind for years started with the simple warning that mother's give to their children to "stay out of the rain." Enter Mr. Bad and his water wolves...

    What makes a fascinating concept work for you and how to you cultivate it?

    Again as mentioned before it's if it sets off my faerie tale sensors. Something a bit off, a bit twisted, and it grows inside me. I'll have bouts of manic writing where all I can think of is the game and my characters, and suddenly I have entire worlds spinning off left and right. But then I have to actually bind them to a plot and I stop getting interested.

  5. Do I share notes?
    It depends - when I ran and when I helped with LARPs, the Storytellers and Narrators collaborated and shared ideas over coffee, and I trusted my narrators and gave them free reign over their own plots.
    In table top, no, because I want everything to be a surprise.

    For setting:
    I like to base on the real world. This has the advantage of immediately giving the players a mental image of what they're immersed in. In LARP, I mashed the surrounding cities into a megacity, making each RL city a "burrough", and changed history around some, emphasizing stereotypes of each of the smaller cities.

    Concept work for me are things I think the players would really enjoy. I preferred to run games where the players came and investigated the plots themselves, having to get involved, rather than hold their hands as if they were just part of a movie going by around them.

    I first developed my games to learn how players / characters would react to different situations, finding out what interested and drove them. From there I ran large plots with planning and smaller plots that depended mostly on what players ended up doing. I also encouraged players to seek their own power and many of the plots going on ended up being power struggles between the more crafty players rather than anything I had to dream up.