The GM's World, the Players' Campaign

What do you think? Do you think of world building as largely a GM responsibility? Do you think of the "game" as a whole as a shared responsibility? Do linear games versus sandboxes versus railroads/rollercoasters versus free for alls fit in?
I skimmed through the previous comments, but I'm not sure I got all the nuances, so I'll go with the initial question. My answer will still reflect a couple of things that have been mentioned already.
My answer to the second question (shared responsibility) would be a sound yes. Even though the roles might be different (especially in traditional games), a successful game IMO requires active contributions by both players and GM.
The answer to the first question is a bit more tricky. Discovery of a fictional world and experiencing stories is one of the main reasons I play RPGs, and for that discovery to work, the facts about this world cannot be created by myself. Traditionally, these facts would come from a published product or the GM's imagination and that is also the dominant part of how world building happens in the groups I play in.
Yet, there are multiple "buts":
  1. Even in very traditional games, we have developed consensus that it actually improves the game if people ask leading questions or express theories about a foe that establish new facts in the current scene. Something like "in the walls of this derelict castle, is there a crack large enough to squeeze through and get to the inside", or "this ominous tree at the other side of the river, that is surely a sign of demonic influence". The GM can decide if they want to take this up, and potentially also ask for a skill check, or refute and potentially offer an alternative to achieve the same goal.
  2. To a lesser (1) also happens for larger things like: "This city must have trade with the Dwarven hold in old times. Are there remnants of an old trade route that we could follow to make sure we don't get lost?"
  3. And tying in to question 3 (sandbox): it is possible, but not necessary that the GM knows about potential obstacles on the way. Random tables and dice rolls that they then interpreted (potentially assisted by the players in a spirit similar to what I outlined before) on the spot in the context of previously established facts are equally fine.
  4. Similarly, it is also fine for me, though bordering on falling into another "bucket of fun", if information about aspects of the worlds are established by another player, as long as it is contributed through a lens of their character. Example would be the player of a barbarian relaying facts about the culture of the tribes in the northern tundra, or the player of an elf talking about the habits of their kin.
Also, if we move beyond the focus of a game/campaign being the exploration of a world and stories within it, I can also derive fun from games focusing mostly on characters and their developments (here, I'm fine with the world being more malleable), or about (collaboratively) creating a specific kind of story (here, the world itself matters less to me and often only provides the background for the story). It's mostly that the first type of game has a special place in my heart.
 

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I don’t think this is an accurate representation at all. I think you’re likely talking about your players, rather than all players.
It is basic enough. The whole point of being a player is to just sit back and play a single character in a game. That is the draw for many, nearly all, people that want to be players. They don't want to run the game, create things in the game, world build in the game or do anything else other then play their character.

Do some players want to do more....sure, it's popular enough.

It's also not an accurate representation of any published game I'm familiar with.
This is why I don't name game names
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It is basic enough. The whole point of being a player is to just sit back and play a single character in a game. That is the draw for many, nearly all, people that want to be players. They don't want to run the game, create things in the game, world build in the game or do anything else other then play their character.
To be fair, while it might be the initial draw for "many, nearly all", once those players gain some experience I think more become interested in branching out than you might expect. Some help the DM with game-related chore work e.g. the DM has a map of the game area on a rough piece of paper and a player volunteers to digitize it and clean it up. Others look to become DMs in their own right, and sometimes someone who you'd never expect to become a DM does, and does well. And so on.

And yes, some players are happy being forever players, while others try DMing and find it's not for them.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
To be fair, while it might be the initial draw for "many, nearly all", once those players gain some experience I think more become interested in branching out than you might expect. Some help the DM with game-related chore work e.g. the DM has a map of the game area on a rough piece of paper and a player volunteers to digitize it and clean it up. Others look to become DMs in their own right, and sometimes someone who you'd never expect to become a DM does, and does well. And so on.

And yes, some players are happy being forever players, while others try DMing and find it's not for them.
My wife is the latter player. She's very creative, but finds it extremely difficult to do the work of translating her ideas to a mechanical expression. Great roleplayer though.
 

DrunkonDuty

he/him
I'm a big fan of collective world building. My current campaign setting is very much a communal effort.

It is a "monster of the week" sort of game. And that means mysteries. That in turn means I have to keep some stuff back from the players. But not as much as one might think as it's not usually very long into the mystery before the villain becomes obvious. Which is to say, the mystery part ends.*

There's a broader setting that the players all contributed to back in our session 0. I've embellished some of the initial ideas. The players have embellished some of the initial ideas. And I regularly ask the players for more input, especially on things that are of special importance to their character.

For example, I recently learned that there's a Hogwarts in our world when one of the players suggested that their school compete with Hogwarts (the actual words were "those stuck-up, rich wankers") in some sort of inter-school competition. A competition in which the PCs have every intention of cheating. So now I have to come up with some appropriate competitions. And I'm looking forward to doing it. I'm struggling with inspiration right now, but when I next have the whole crew together I'm just going to ask them for suggestions. Between us we'll muddle out something fun.

And together we've created our little game world. Please note the plural pronoun. Because it's important. All of us have a sense of contributing to the whole thing. It's really nice.



* Precise details of the baddie may vary from expectations but the PCs have ways to find out what that might entail. I'm not a fan of gotchas. No fun in gotchas. I much prefer a bit of foreshadowing, it creates much more paranoia.
 


Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
If I'm a player I don't want to world build. It's the one thing I hated about Dungeon World.

"You find an inn in town. What is it like?"
"I don't know, it's your f*cking world! YOU tell ME!"

Your mileage may thingummy.
This is why people should play different games if they want different things. For example, for me it would take me completely out of the roleplaying experience to be expected to describe a place my PC has never been, because the game or the GM or both expects player-authored details of that nature. Nor would I expect or want the game to explicitly tend to my or my PCs emotional or dramatic needs.

Other people really want that, though. Different games for different folks.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Another discussion -- largely between @Hussar and @Micah Sweet -- got me thinking about the idea of the responsibilities for world building versus the responsibility for the game. In short, the thread title: in most campaigns, the GM is responsible for the world, while the players (of which we can call the GM one) are collectively responsible for the state and flow of the campaign.
GM can also be not-a-player. Positioning themselves among the means of play, rather than playing. One question I think this points toward is not who among players wishes to take responsibility for the game world, but whether and when creating the game world is designed to be part of play versus standing as game elements to be employed / addressed / explored in play.

An approach I'm trying in my campaign at present is a kind of modality switching, where play focuses in some moments on creating elements of game world, and at other times "steps into" those elements to employ / address / explore them. In none of this am I, as GM, a player, but seeing as world creation is part of play it is my job to see that done according to the rules and principles we've agree to uphold. And then to control adversarial elements, specifically.
 
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Reynard

Legend
I have been listening to the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings and some of the Silmarillion and dammit if that isn't what I would love to make for players to explore: deep lore with a strong internal logic and consistency that suggests adventure with nearly every sentence. Obviously no RPG campaign world can approach Middle Earth in that regard, but it is still a target to aim for.
 

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
I have been listening to the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings and some of the Silmarillion and dammit if that isn't what I would love to make for players to explore: deep lore with a strong internal logic and consistency that suggests adventure with nearly every sentence. Obviously no RPG campaign world can approach Middle Earth in that regard, but it is still a target to aim for.
campaign goals.
 

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