The Art and Science of Worldbuilding For Gameplay [+]

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
On topic, in your opinion, what degree of detail do you think is best for playability in world building. If 0 is no world building at all beyond the needs of where the PCs are right now, 1 is a rough sketch map with maybe some names on it, 5 is a short primers with a paragraph each on nations, religions, factions, etc... 7 is a full primer on each of those things, and 10 is a Kingdoms of Kalamar level of meticulous detail, what numerical value would you give it?
I'd say mine is between 5 and 7, some things get more of a primer, whereas most get paragraphs of detail.
 

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On topic, in your opinion, what degree of detail do you think is best for playability in world building. If 0 is no world building at all beyond the needs of where the PCs are right now, 1 is a rough sketch map with maybe some names on it, 5 is a short primers with a paragraph each on nations, religions, factions, etc... 7 is a full primer on each of those things, and 10 is a Kingdoms of Kalamar level of meticulous detail, what numerical value would you give it?

That's a good way to formulate this. For my current world what I have is something around 4, on this scale, though that's an average and some areas are more like 6 and others at 2. (And a lot of the information isn't actually written down, it just exists in my head.) I ideally probably would want at least a 7, but it is a lot of work. And for world of my own making I wouldn't mind going all the way to 10 (but that's never gonna happen,) but from a published work by others I really don't want much beyond 7. After that it just becomes a chore to internalise all the information.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
On topic, in your opinion, what degree of detail do you think is best for playability in world building. If 0 is no world building at all beyond the needs of where the PCs are right now, 1 is a rough sketch map with maybe some names on it, 5 is a short primers with a paragraph each on nations, religions, factions, etc... 7 is a full primer on each of those things, and 10 is a Kingdoms of Kalamar level of meticulous detail, what numerical value would you give it?

It really depends on what we’re looking for in play, so the answer can vary based on that. Generally though, I’d say something like a 5. I like to have defined concepts available, but not pinned down so much that the group can’t make them their own in play.

So I might define a city and then a handful of factions that have authority there to give a sense of what’s going on and what the characters may already know about the place. But I wouldn’t detail those factions so much that they’d be set in stone. This would give me some flexibility to adapt to what happens in play.

And just to remind everyone, we are talking about world building an RPG setting, but not necessarily YOU doing the work. The scale I just provided applies to something you might make, but might also purchase or adapt from a media property or develop with a community or whatever.

With products I purchase, my answer would largely be the same. I want enough detail to provide some scaffolding for my own ideas. I want situations that are rife with potential for the players to come along and change them. I want things detailed loosely enough such that two groups could take them and wind up with very different seeming games.

I don’t want to be GMing or playing in someone else’s world. I want to be in a world that belongs specifically to my group.
 

Reynard

Legend
With products I purchase, my answer would largely be the same. I want enough detail to provide some scaffolding for my own ideas. I want situations that are rife with potential for the players to come along and change them. I want things detailed loosely enough such that two groups could take them and wind up with very different seeming games.

I don’t want to be GMing or playing in someone else’s world. I want to be in a world that belongs specifically to my group.
That description gives the impression of buying the main boxed sets for 2E settings, but not the mounds of follow up material.
 



On topic, in your opinion, what degree of detail do you think is best for playability in world building. If 0 is no world building at all beyond the needs of where the PCs are right now, 1 is a rough sketch map with maybe some names on it, 5 is a short primers with a paragraph each on nations, religions, factions, etc... 7 is a full primer on each of those things, and 10 is a Kingdoms of Kalamar level of meticulous detail, what numerical value would you give it?

And just to remind everyone, we are talking about world building an RPG setting, but not necessarily YOU doing the work. The scale I just provided applies to something you might make, but might also purchase or adapt from a media property or develop with a community or whatever.
I think it depends on the sort of game to be run, but I think there are rapidly diminishing returns by 5, in general. Take Stonetop as a benchmark. It has a moderately detailed description of the village itself, describing the major features, the social order and roles, the elements of the village's economy (though not it much detail), and its location within a wider region. The region gets a bit of a description, with certain landscapes described in terms of how they might relate to play, interesting facts, a few possible play hooks, etc. This serves well to allow the players to describe the details of THEIR Stonetop, how they fit into it, etc. The players will also develop the themes and conflicts, dangers, etc. through their backstories and indirectly by provoking the GM into framing challenging scenes involving whatever parameters they bring into play.

Now, sometimes it can be useful to go beyond that, BitD describes Doskvol in a pretty good level of detail. Not down to all the buildings and streets, but at the level of the different regions of the city, their overall character, the city administration, politics, many different factions/crews and their potential relationships, etc. It describes appropriate NPCs to fill certain roles, like the leaders of some of the rival crews and factions. A few specific locations are also detailed, like parts of Charterhall that PCs might be interested in, the harbor etc. Even here there isn't anything like a floorplan or anything.
 


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