The Art and Science of Worldbuilding For Gameplay [+]

I would tend to respond that "gameability" is always a paramount consideration. Over the almost 5 decades of running FRPGs I produced a pretty heavily explored and explicated 'place'. But every single step of that was necessarily shaped and constrained by the needs of play. I'm pretty familiar with a lot of the classic RPG settings. I cannot think of a single case where the fundamental tenet was not "a place in which the chosen type of agenda can be pursued." Its unlikely that a world built without regard to those considerations would really provide that much value as a tool for play, would it?

I am not really disagreeing, but I'm not quite sure how this follows from what I said either. You were talking about setting as vehicle for a story the author wants to tell, and I said I tried to avoid an overarching story. I.e. the intended play is more sand boxy and less Big Main Plot.
 

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I would venture to guess that what @Emberashh is trying to say is basically that the interest in play, the challenge, is inherent in these limitations. That is, the fictional position of the characters, as you correctly point out, excludes certain otherwise-possible statements of action. In crude terms, a wall is in front of me, I cannot any longer proceed forward. This is a limitation on the play options of the player arising out of world authoring of some sort, or perhaps some other process of play. The contention is that this is not 'limiting of play' in that it simply provides a reason for the players to solve the constraint in some way.

I would point out that such constraints, in narrativist play, also serve this sort of purpose. They simply constitute the landscape which the PCs will need to navigate and will thus shape narrative. I leave it to you all to hash out your terminological morass, though I personally don't think the disagreement really has a lot of substance.

Yeah, are rules of the game limiting gameplay or are they enabling it? It is just how you look at it. I'd say that in certain sense it is both. And same with the setting. More fixed "reality" enables different sort of gameplay than more malleable one. In my campaign the characters are in midst of a murder mystery. Whilst me deciding beforehand what happened and who did it certainly limits the players' capability to insert their own fiction, it also enables them to genuinely solve a murder mystery.
 

Reynard

Legend
I have gone back and reviewed the posts.

First, there was this:
Then this reply:
And I explained how it would occur. As best I can tell, @prabe agrees with me at least in broad terms. So I feel I have at least understood his point correctly!

If you want to assert that nothing in a setting can limit gameplay because it is inherent to the gameplay to be limited by the setting, knock yourself out! But I don't think that such metaphysical pondering is at all responsive to @prabe's much more practically-oriented point.
This thread is a out
Glad someone mentioned Spire, I was going to as well but for a different reason. I can't remember where I first encountered this analogy, but I think it's a good principle of worldbuilding for this medium: set up your world so that it's a powder keg about to blow. Factions maintaining a delicate peace, tensions bubbling under the surface, conflicts about to happen, but currently it's that brief moment of calm before the storm.

Then the player characters wander in. And whatever aspect of the world they decide to take an interest in, it's going to have serious consequences. You don't know exactly what shape the explosion is going to take, that's up to them, but you know that there will be one. The other benefit here is that the players feel like their actions are having a significant impact on the world itself, which I'd regard as a desirable outcome (as a slightly simple example, in my current game the players have completely removed a couple of the keyed locations from the city map through use of, uh, arson).

Spire is a great example of this. The setting is incredibly detailed (some might say too detailed), but everything's constructed with player engagement in mind; the city's absolutely packed with fuses to light. Even if the action of the campaign is confined to just a single district, you've got extremely good odds that after a few sessions, much of the setting, if not all of it, will never be the same again.
While it isn't necessarily a bad thing for a setting to be a "powder keg" I don't think it is an optimal way to build a setting that you don't intend to break in play. "Everything is about to hit the fan!" is a valid tone for play, but too much of that is counterproductive to open ended sandbox play, which I prefer most of the time for long term play.

That said when I run my mini-campaigns at conventions, that is often the design ethos I start with.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
While it isn't necessarily a bad thing for a setting to be a "powder keg" I don't think it is an optimal way to build a setting that you don't intend to break in play. "Everything is about to hit the fan!" is a valid tone for play, but too much of that is counterproductive to open ended sandbox play, which I prefer most of the time for long term play.

What is it about a static setting that you think is more suited for long term play? I tend to agree with @Vraal that inherent tension in the setting is more suited to game play.
 

What is it about a static setting that you think is more suited for long term play? I tend to agree with @Vraal that inherent tension in the setting is more suited to game play.
I don't think static is good. I think a world should have a lot of tensions, conflicts and other events going on in it. But if there is one massive central conflict (War of the Lance, War of the Ring,) then it warps everything to be about it, and lessens the scope of what sort of stories you can meaningfully tell in the setting.
 

Reynard

Legend
What is it about a static setting that you think is more suited for long term play? I tend to agree with @Vraal that inherent tension in the setting is more suited to game play.
I wasn't advocating a "static" setting, just not actively breaking a setting as @Vraal was suggesting. If I am going to spend weeks, months or years building a setting, i absolutely do not want "extremely good odds that after a few sessions... [it] will never be the same." I want that setting to be a place to play for multiple campaigns over long periods of time.

"Breakable" settings are fun, but for limited campaigns IMO.
 

Reynard

Legend
What is it about a static setting that you think is more suited for long term play?
I realize I did not actually answer your question per se:

Let's call it a "robust" setting, one that doesn't break after a few sessions. A robust setting allows for different stories of different types. It can still be (and should be) reactive to the PCs', but on a scale that is commensurate with the PCs as actors on a very large stage. I like my campaigns to generally be grounded. That is, to feel like real people doing things, even if they are important people, or ones with magical powers, or whatever. I wouldn't build in a self-destruct switch for the world because it is counterproductive to long term play that can evolve the world slowly.

All that said, I realize that "setting" doesn't always mean "world" especially when talking about a specific adventure or campaign. I think it is fine, even cool, to have the central setting of an adventure or campaign be "breakable" in the context of that campaign. One thing I think I may not be making clear in this thread and elsewhere is that there is a diffrence between a world and campaign. Campaigns happen in worlds, and I like it when many campaigns happen in the same world. One of those campaigns may blow up a city, but none of them should blow up the world, if that makes sense.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I wasn't advocating a "static" setting, just not actively breaking a setting as @Vraal was suggesting. If I am going to spend weeks, months or years building a setting, i absolutely do not want "extremely good odds that after a few sessions... [it] will never be the same." I want that setting to be a place to play for multiple campaigns over long periods of time.

"Breakable" settings are fun, but for limited campaigns IMO.

How’s that not static? Doesn’t this seem to be placing the preservation of the GM’s fiction over playability?

To explain, when I think of playability, I’m thinking of the players’ ability to dictate what happens. So if they’re going to burn down a building, then that should be possible.

Denying that kind of option for the players in order to preserve the setting… that seems to be going against the idea of playability.
 

Reynard

Legend
How’s that not static? Doesn’t this seem to be placing the preservation of the GM’s fiction over playability?

To explain, when I think of playability, I’m thinking of the players’ ability to dictate what happens. So if they’re going to burn down a building, then that should be possible.

Denying that kind of option for the players in order to preserve the setting… that seems to be going against the idea of playability.
I'm not sure how you got to players not having agency to burn down a building. We were talking about the world builder intentionally building in a mechanism to break the setting in relatively short order. That was the thesis. It seems a stretch to suggest that not giving the PCs access to a world breaking switch somehow robs them of agency.

This appears to be an example of taking every argument to the extreme. My saying "I want the setting to be robust enough to survive each campaign so the next campaign can also take place in the setting" became "the goal is to preserve the GM's fiction over playability (which is a euphemism for player agency in this context)" with no reason to interpret it that way.

To wrangle this back on topic, though, let's talk about how world building intersects with player agency. Good world building, I think, provides lots of things for PCs to do and places for them to go, thereby granting players agency over choices of "adventures." The world can't really offer unlimited choices of things to do and places to go, because the world is whatever the world is, and the PCs hold whatever position in the world they hold with whatever capabilities that implies. This relates back to the "limitations" discussion earlier in the thread, which we can hopefully not rehash.

There are other kinds of player agency, but those are beyond the scope of this discussion (and there are already very long threads about it).
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I'm not sure how you got to players not having agency to burn down a building. We were talking about the world builder intentionally building in a mechanism to break the setting in relatively short order. That was the thesis. It seems a stretch to suggest that not giving the PCs access to a world breaking switch somehow robs them of agency.

This appears to be an example of taking every argument to the extreme. My saying "I want the setting to be robust enough to survive each campaign so the next campaign can also take place in the setting" became "the goal is to preserve the GM's fiction over playability (which is a euphemism for player agency in this context)" with no reason to interpret it that way.

To wrangle this back on topic, though, let's talk about how world building intersects with player agency. Good world building, I think, provides lots of things for PCs to do and places for them to go, thereby granting players agency over choices of "adventures." The world can't really offer unlimited choices of things to do and places to go, because the world is whatever the world is, and the PCs hold whatever position in the world they hold with whatever capabilities that implies. This relates back to the "limitations" discussion earlier in the thread, which we can hopefully not rehash.

There are other kinds of player agency, but those are beyond the scope of this discussion (and there are already very long threads about it).

I think you’re assuming that change to a setting means it’s broken, and that’s a mistake. If you look at what @Vraal said, Spire is set up so that things… consequential things… are about to take place. Things are going to change.

I don’t think that’s the same as “breaking” the setting.
 

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