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MoonHunter Sayeth 20180108


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Old Worksheet

When I am designing a setting, of any scale, I tend to hit some key points every time. In the old days, I had an actual worksheet (or 3x5 cards) that listed these key points. I used the sheet for all my core work on a given setting. These days I do it all in my head (mostly), so I am going to share my Old Worksheet with all of you, with a couple of elements that are in the New Worksheet process. (Yes eventually I will create the Current Worksheet and all the bells and whistles when I do a full Setting Creation Section, but I want to work on that more before I let it loose upon the world.)

One point I have to stress. Scale is not an issue here. I build stellar societies/ worlds/ spheres, continents, kingdoms, regions, city/town, and neighborhoods all with the same ideas. (You build smaller areas by basing the answers from the larger area.)

A second point is that once you have an entry, apply 7Cs to see what you can do to polish the entry or expand to shows its impact in other areas.

The third point: You see, your job as the builder of a game environment is to give the environment the illusion of completeness. You do not need everything; you need “just enough”. In aspects of the environment that the players will interact with, you will need a great deal of detail. In aspects that players care very little about, just one or two details will suffice.

Fourth Point: Use the Paintbrush tool. The paintbrush tool is a trick borrowed from computer uses. Find a time/ place, fictional or real, that is similar to your game environment. It does not have to be a perfect match, just close. This is your "paint". You can then describe things with the phrase, "It is like X (from this time/place/work), with these differences A, B, and C". (No more than three differences if you can humanly help it.) Using the paintbrush technique, you can describe things in one line that would of taken a paragraph. Note: This is mostly for your own use. If you are going to describe things this way to the players, make sure they know the time/ place/ piece of fiction you are painting from. If they don't you are going to have to give the complete explanation.

I have some more points, but lets go with these for now. So I present...

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Old Worksheet Categories

Themes and Images: Major controlling ideas, visual images to be incorporated, small important ideas, key bits, the most important world themes.

Worlds Specs: Planetological lists... if needed.

Terrain: Major terrain features, environment, climate, appearances. Remember that cities and even buildings have terrain. This section will have sooo many entries, as the setting gets built up.

Flora/Fauna: All things alive (or independent ambulatory) be they domestic, wild, predators, or just important to people.

Resources: Things both renewable and non-renewable.

Races and Peoples: Descriptions, coloring, profiles, and modifications to any rule mechanics. This includes ethnic/ subtypes of peoples as well.

Cultural Overview: This is the culture in broad simple strokes. Major themes of the culture. Languages/ Morals/ Common Beliefs/ the Unknown/ Needs

Calendar/Standards: Weights, Distances, Measures.

Institutions-Major: Areas of control and Power. These should be the important groups for both the setting AND the adventuring characters.

Laws and Morals: Legal rules/ responses/ punishments/ and manners. Social and moral rules are often more strictly enforced than laws.

Family: Types/ Sizes/ Values

Social classes: Formal and Informal/ Birth and Earned.

Political Power: Institutions and groups of political/social power, control, and who enforces the control. The power structure of the area.

Economics: Money/ trade/ value/ subsistence/ working/ monopolies

Religion: Beliefs/ Organizations/ Groups

Technology and Common Power: (Using Clarke's law and that power is just a technology in many environments)
Military Weapons and Tactics
Industrial/ Production
Math and Science: Math Engineering, Algebra. These things are the foundation required for other cooler sciences and building projects. Many "primitive peoples" had more complicated math abilities than we have today.
Information: Writing/ Printing/ Processing. How does it get moved?
Other Knowledge:

Holidays: Historical, Cultural, Religious, Political

Transportation: Land/ Sea/ Air(?) and other

Arts/ Literature: Forms/ Usage/ Needs/ Ideals

Shadow: Criminals/ Assassins/ Deceit/ and those on the margins of society.

Power: Magic per type, Psionics, Other. Notes on users, attitudes towards it and practioners, and prejudices.

Paranormal: Weird beasties, supernatural entities, spirits, demons, Gods, the Unknown.

History Brief: Every world has two histories, the actual one and the one that people believe is true.

Rules: Special modifications in game system needed to accommodate the world. This could be a power system, special skills and races, and items.

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I have some settings in various stages of completeness (or lack) hiding over at Strolens.

Once you have all these entries, you can put them in an appropriate order to create a setting packet and more useful Summary of the Setting

Now remember, all these points did not get into the setting packet (but in the GM's Journal/ packet).

Let me hammer a note up so you notice it
Every chronicle packet should include key visceral elements, concrete things about life in the world. (I call them Key Elements/ Bits in the Setting Packet.) Birth, Death, Clothing, Eating, Sleeping, Family/ Marriage, Worship (if needed), Common Buildings (what are they made of and look like), and Work/ Leisure, are some of the most important key elements. (Toss in weather as one that is usually very important.) Laws/ etiquette that will impact the characters and are not intuitive (sword etiquette, bowing, rules of honor, gender rules, weapons restrictions, belief and rules about magic, and such) should be included. Each bit should have no more than five lines. Note: Short and brief sections are sometimes better than long, complete entries. If you have to put a bigger more complicated section in about a key element, it should be in other areas. You should do this for each culture involved in the setting.

The Checklist is a useful tool for setting creation. It helps ensure completeness in thought process and your write up. If you use it, there will be no last minute scrambling when the PCs do something strange or go where they are not supposed to (like that would ever happen). You will have a strong foundation for the setting and can build easily upon it.

It is not (cue reverb) The One Perfect Tool (end reverb), but it is a darn fine place to start. You can take this and run with it. You can use paper, 3x5 cards, or your computer. I scribble, but I am really old school . You can add/ delete or modify categories to make it useful for you and your chronicles. (It is okay, the meme police will not be after you if you do.) Just make sure to design that strong foundation of DaS (design at start) so any DiP (design in play/process) will be easier, faster, and something you won't have to think about - and it will all fit in seamlessly with what is done before.

So go make some settings... practice makes perfect.

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Yes, that last bit came from 4b of Chronicle Creation. So let me recap:

It can not hurt to have a semi-cooked chronicle in your notes.
1) Creating a chronicle takes time and effort, having something started would make it easier to get it done later.
2) If your players are "non-commital" to a chronicle, having others closer to "go" might come in handy.
3) If it is another chronicle in an existing setting, every additional bit of work adds to all the chronicles set in that setting.
4) Having a Ready to Go Chronicle Copy and things to support it might be handy the next time a chronicle/ campaign changes.
5) Practice makes perfect. The more you practice and finish a chronicle packet or make a setting, the better you will get at it.


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Okay... one more thing Jackie

Big Text and small text: This is an idea borrowed from technical writers. It is a tool for making sure the project gets done. Big text is the important, large, and visible aspects of a subject. Small text is all the details that are not as important, that simply fills out or illustrate a big text idea. Focus on the big text initially for all checklist areas. Only work on small text of the most important areas AFTER everything else is done. If it is not an area that will impact the character's lives, avoid doing the small text for it.
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