MoonHunter Sayeth 20180821


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World Building with Friends
Because sometimes a group is better.

There are many ways to build a setting. The run up and down the game building spectrum from Total GM (The GM/ the coordinating player does everything with no input from the group at all) to GM does most with some input from the Troupe to Total Troupe (there is no coordinating player/ GM), with all the possible points in between.

Of course, there are MoonHunter's ways, you have seen it in the chronicle building, the checklist (currently only old), Data Maps and various tools. As written, the articles assume that you are using MoonHunter's Sweet Spot of The GM doing most of the work, with input from the players. These processes can be done in various ways, moving the game building slider up and down the spectrum.

To make a GM's workload lighter, players can be engaged to do more of the work. This was discussed in the soon to be the classic blog post:

If you haven't read it... go do it. The summary is: use 3x5 cards to collect bits about the chronicle that the players want to see. Here the slider is being moved to The Troupe doing most of the work with the GM coordinating it.

There are three concepts that will make doing this process (or any related process) easier.

The Palette: These are the bits and ideas that a player can "dip into" and use when they are coming up with things. They come in four and a half types:

Chronicle Blurb and Direct Copy : This may or may not exist depending on the troupe, but it could be provided by The GM or another player. These are the inspirational ideas that everything should come from. The Direct Copy should minimal at this point.

Genre/ Mood/ Memes: These are play style elements that define how the game will be played and what sort of things would be acceptable. These are usually defined by the direct copy, but can be added to as the process continues. Most of these are "one-word elements" or one line of text that explain an idea.

Genre: By definition, a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, marked by a distinctive style, form, or content. There are many genres available to you Fantasy, Sword and Planet, Modern Horror, Pulp, Espionage, Alternate Historical, Rockets and Rayguns, Noir, et all. The exact divisions of the genre are messy and subject to all sorts of opinions. It will define the types of action and settings possible for you. In short, it helps defines the chronicle's and the setting's conception.

Also, remember there may be memes or key elements that are required for the genre and the kind of setting that will be in play.
Key Points/ Traits: These are ideas, feelings, themes, or images that often come from the chronicle's conception. This list is expanded by use of accepted cards

List of Requirements: These are elements (locations, organizations, NPCs, items) that need to be present in the chronicle. They are listed in the direct copy and are very important to the chronicle. If one is hard pressed for a new card, this gives a place to start.

Accepted Cards/ elements: Most elements for a chronicle places, people, things, organizations, plots, etc, are bits that the players will put on 3x5 cards and add to the game. Most everything that players want to a chronicle "fit it". If anyone challenges "the fit" or doesn't want to see it in a chronicle (No. No Dwarven Empire this time!) they can negotiate with the player for changes or put it up to group vote to see if it is accepted.

Exclusions: The half item. This is a list of things that should not be in the chronicle. It is a list of things that are not accepted by the troupe or rejected by a player (and that rejection accepted by the troupe). Some of the exclusions are provided at the beginning. Most are brought up by a player (I don't want this in the game) and it is accepted by the troupe. Others are based on bits/ elements/ cards that are rejected by the troupe. (No Dwarven Empire this time!)

Big Strokes: These are the big broad strokes that cover much of the canvas in painting. In gaming, these are the big things in the chronicle, based on the scale of the chronicle. For most, it will be things like countries, cities, organizations, leaders, important locations, regions, etc. If your chronicle is small (a gang in the city), it would be things like streets or neighborhoods, other gangs, other groups, local leaders, places to go, things to see.

Paintbrush tool: The paintbrush tool is a metaphor borrowed from computer uses. Find a time/ place, fictional or real, that is similar to your game environment and most are familiar with. 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, with these differences Y". Using the paintbrush technique, you can describe things in one line that would have taken a paragraph.

Note: This is mostly for building purposes. 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.

You can even have multiple "paints" if your game environment is complex or diverse enough.

Once you have your "paint", you can use it multiple times. If there is an area you have not worked out, dip into this other place and paint it into your own world, copying much of it whole cloth from this other time/ place.

So a player could say, We will use Medieval England as the Paintbrush for the setting. If everyone agrees, it will make filling cards easier.
One specific kind of big stroke that needs to be addressed is the Story Arcs. Story Arcs are "What is going to be the “big story” you are going to tell with the game?" Is it “Defeat the Empire?”, “Find the True Ring”, or “Thwart the invasion of Evils”? There may be even more than one if you want to be more interesting in your play (though you might only start with one). Once the group has determined at least one Big Story to tell with the campaign, i.e. what is going to be important to the players, the GM can make sure certain things are in the chronicle (either by a player card or a GM addition).

Another specific kind of big stroke is Scenario Types: This is related to story arcs, are the types of adventures that you are planning on running. Are there going to be murder mysteries, military action, exploration, retrieving lost artifacts, or what? Once you have an idea of the types of adventures being run, you know what things should be and should not be in the environment. If you want to run murder mysteries, having a corp of mystics who can see the past, present, or future might not be a good idea to add to your setting.

Fine Strokes : Once the big swaths of color are put into a painting, it is time for the blending and detailing. This would be cards that you would put under one of the Big Stroke calls. So if a big stroke is The local Cathedral, smaller strokes would be the bishop and priests inside, unique elements about the cathedral, and something about the congregation.

Remember to do what is important to the chronicle, the plot lines, and the characters. While it can be fun to make things, try to save fine strokes for things the characters will encounter. (Then when you are "all done", then you can go back and do these other things... who knows once they are built, they might come up in the chronicle.

Collect, Compile, and Relationship : With the GM's help, the players will collect all the cards, compile everything together, clarify things (or ask for more clarifications or details), and build up a relationship map (or two).

Now, this is all about the first section of The New Building Blocks: 3x5 cards. This is building the chronicle setting in which everything else will be done. Each Bit/ Card will be in its appropriate palette pile.

Go around the group (clockwise from the GM) and have them put up a card with its element. If everyone is okay with it, go to the next until it has gone around the group and is back to the GM. The GM can opt to put in a card or not. Then continue on around and around until the GM says they have enough for them to compile into a setting/ chronicle and the players don't want to add anything more. The building can continue (and perhaps not in the round at this point) until everyone is done.

Ideally, Cards for Locations (and anything associated with a location) will be spread out as a geographic data map. Some enterprising patients might make relationship maps for nonprotagonists in a location or organization. The same can be done for plot maps/ lines

** Remember to use cards between cards that show the relationship between the cards. **​

The GM should record all the data maps and collect the cards. They are then tasked to help "build" what the players designed. (Heck the players can help do that too.)

World Building never ends
Once the setting is "all compiled", the collection of cards slows down. Note: Slows Down. Players can continue to make cards for chronicle to add small strokes that the characters might encounter, including plot lines.

Just something to note:
Big 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 big stroke/ checklist areas. Only work on the 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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The New Building Blocks can help a group go down the road of setting development. No matter when the game is on the game building spectrum, this process can be useful. It is more useful when the troupe is more involved. These three main concepts, Palette, Big Strokes, Small Strokes, will help a group build a setting more efficiently, but giving them tools to choose appropriate scales, needed pieces, and relationships between things. A setting/ chronicle could be built by a group without them, but it makes the process more "even" in responsibilities. Also since no one player builds every aspect of the world, there are still elements of surprise and wonder. If the troupe is even remotely willing to try it, they should. It can be a great process for players to use and learn.

Players helping GMs is often a great thing for all parties involved.
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