The GM's World, the Players' Campaign

loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
Ummm....
Suspicious Monkey GIF by MOODMAN
While it is pretty tongue-in-cheek, seriously: in a week between the previous session and this one, anything other than Super Important Details (tm) will just evaporate from memory, to be replaced with stuff like cat gifs, conversations with friends, work, art projects and anxiety over the looming apocalypse.
 

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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I would probably say that worldbuilding is a fun pastime in of itself, that is largely separate from the actual process of play, because nothing would break if GM would just... not do it. Players don't have object permanence and forget what you were saying five minutes later anyway, and even if they don't forget, gaslighting them into thinking they did is a trivial task.
What an optimistic world you live in.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Outside of Microscope I'm not aware of any game that uses a collaborative worldbuilding process that involves players defining setting elements their character would not be aware of. The vast majority of time they call upon GMs to build on those details.

I am a big proponent of what John Harper calls the line when speaking of custom move design in Apocalypse World (wherein a player can speak to the things their character has experienced, but not outside of that). I am also in favor of this coming either from game prompts at setup or prompts during play by the GM. I view setting design and situation framing as primarily the GM's responsibility, but that doesn't mean they like own it any more than players own their character. Once play begins these things are part of the shared fiction.

For me personally some degree of collaboration on setting details (if only on things like organizations player characters might be part of, mentors, allies, rivals, family, lovers, etc.) is necessary for the setting to feel like a real place and avoid what I call the isekai effect (wherein you feel like your character might as well have been transported to a different world they have no connection to).

Usually for more traditional games I prefer to do this during setup and between sessions as needed. I like the at the table experience in such cases to be largely oriented around playing out the scenario. We do sometimes need to establish details in motion though.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
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?
When I run games, I'm in charge of the world and the players are in charge of their characters. That's our roles. There shouldn't be any overlap unless invited by the person controlling a given thing. If the referee asks the players to help worldbuild, awesome. If the player decides on their own to worldbuild, that's overstepping. Likewise, if the player asks the referee to help with their character, awesome. If the referee decides on their own to "help" the player with their character, that's overstepping. The world is the referee's; the player characters are the players'. Period.

As mentioned, this helps with discovery and exploration. Really, it's the only way discovery and exploration can happen. If the players can just drop elements into the world, they're not discovering or exploring anything, they're just deciding the thing exists. To discover and explore there has to be surprise. There's no surprise when you dictate what's there.

Without the referee there's no game; without the players there's no game. It's a cooperative hobby. If anyone drops the ball, it doesn't work. Though the players have a far, far easier time. Their workload is orders of magnitude less than the referee.

Railroads are anathema to the collaboration required to play tabletop RPGs. Linear adventures, as boring as they are, are infinitely preferable to a non-game railroad. Sandboxes in the sense of the referee designing a world and dropping hooks throughout and letting the players decide which to engage with, is the best way to go as it gives maximum freedom to everyone involved and allows/requires the collaboration that everyone keeps talking about.
 

Reynard

Legend
When I run games, I'm in charge of the world and the players are in charge of their characters. That's our roles. There shouldn't be any overlap unless invited by the person controlling a given thing. If the referee asks the players to help worldbuild, awesome. If the player decides on their own to worldbuild, that's overstepping. Likewise, if the player asks the referee to help with their character, awesome. If the referee decides on their own to "help" the player with their character, that's overstepping. The world is the referee's; the player characters are the players'. Period.

As mentioned, this helps with discovery and exploration. Really, it's the only way discovery and exploration can happen. If the players can just drop elements into the world, they're not discovering or exploring anything, they're just deciding the thing exists. To discover and explore there has to be surprise. There's no surprise when you dictate what's there.

Without the referee there's no game; without the players there's no game. It's a cooperative hobby. If anyone drops the ball, it doesn't work. Though the players have a far, far easier time. Their workload is orders of magnitude less than the referee.

Railroads are anathema to the collaboration required to play tabletop RPGs. Linear adventures, as boring as they are, are infinitely preferable to a non-game railroad. Sandboxes in the sense of the referee designing a world and dropping hooks throughout and letting the players decide which to engage with, is the best way to go as it gives maximum freedom to everyone involved and allows/requires the collaboration that everyone keeps talking about.
Emphasis mine: a quibble, if you will indulge me.

When I discovery write -- for example, which creating a setting I am going to GM -- I am often surprised at the things that come out of my brain and I drop onto the map or page. As a lifelong writer I can say with absolute confidence that just because you are the one doing the creating doesn't mean you can't be surprised at what you find.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Emphasis mine: a quibble, if you will indulge me.

When I discovery write -- for example, which creating a setting I am going to GM -- I am often surprised at the things that come out of my brain and I drop onto the map or page. As a lifelong writer I can say with absolute confidence that just because you are the one doing the creating doesn't mean you can't be surprised at what you find.
As a lifelong referee and writer, I can say with absolute confidence that they are fundamentally different processes. There's a world of difference between 1) being a writer in the zone and letting it all out...whatever it is, and; 2) being a player at a table and declaring that there's a keep on yonder hill with a vampire count that's friendly and wants to serve you tea and crumpets. The writer may be surprised in the moment and the referee may be surprised in the moment. But once the sentence is uttered by the player, those elements are set. There's nothing in them to discover. We now know that there is in fact a keep, on that hill, owned by a vampire count, who is nice, and is waiting to feed you. Other elements may be discovered...if they're supplied by the referee. But the player, by definition, cannot be surprised by those elements that they themselves provided.
 

Reynard

Legend
As a lifelong referee and writer, I can say with absolute confidence that they are fundamentally different processes. There's a world of difference between 1) being a writer in the zone and letting it all out...whatever it is, and; 2) being a player at a table and declaring that there's a keep on yonder hill with a vampire count that's friendly and wants to serve you tea and crumpets. The writer may be surprised in the moment and the referee may be surprised in the moment. But once the sentence is uttered by the player, those elements are set. There's nothing in them to discover. We now know that there is in fact a keep, on that hill, owned by a vampire count, who is nice, and is waiting to feed you. Other elements may be discovered...if they're supplied by the referee. But the player, by definition, cannot be surprised by those elements that they themselves provided.
My point was that they can be surprised when they provide them, which is much the same.
 


Aldarc

Legend
When I run games, I'm in charge of the world and the players are in charge of their characters. That's our roles. There shouldn't be any overlap unless invited by the person controlling a given thing. If the referee asks the players to help worldbuild, awesome. If the player decides on their own to worldbuild, that's overstepping. Likewise, if the player asks the referee to help with their character, awesome. If the referee decides on their own to "help" the player with their character, that's overstepping. The world is the referee's; the player characters are the players'. Period.

As mentioned, this helps with discovery and exploration. Really, it's the only way discovery and exploration can happen. If the players can just drop elements into the world, they're not discovering or exploring anything, they're just deciding the thing exists. To discover and explore there has to be surprise. There's no surprise when you dictate what's there.

Without the referee there's no game; without the players there's no game. It's a cooperative hobby. If anyone drops the ball, it doesn't work. Though the players have a far, far easier time. Their workload is orders of magnitude less than the referee.

Railroads are anathema to the collaboration required to play tabletop RPGs. Linear adventures, as boring as they are, are infinitely preferable to a non-game railroad. Sandboxes in the sense of the referee designing a world and dropping hooks throughout and letting the players decide which to engage with, is the best way to go as it gives maximum freedom to everyone involved and allows/requires the collaboration that everyone keeps talking about.
But what are we interested in discovering when we play? I may not be as interested in discovering the world you lavished over as I am in discovering my character. I may very well be discovering my character in the process of adding details to the world as a player even if I am not discovering your world that you built for your own self-gratification.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
While it is pretty tongue-in-cheek, seriously: in a week between the previous session and this one, anything other than Super Important Details (tm) will just evaporate from memory, to be replaced with stuff like cat gifs, conversations with friends, work, art projects and anxiety over the looming apocalypse.
And that's why we have an online game log, so things both relevant and not can be recorded for posterity.

And so, any memory issues at the start of a session have a three word solution: "Read the log".
 

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