Cult of the Turtle

Joe Tortuga's musing on life,tech and gaming

Connecting the Players to Your World

January 11, 2010

You have a bunch of players, and you’ve got a world you know they’ll enjoy playing in? Awesome!  And when they get there, they don’t care about any of that history or story, it’s just killing and loot, and you wonder why you bothered? Yeah, I get that.  When I feel that way, I start running modules.

But I don’t like it, and when I do get the players to interact with the world through their characters, everyone has more fun.  It’s the thing they remember when they talk about the campaign later. Few people remember battles — although they may remember the loot.  The battles where we still talk about them is when some interesting interpersonal or inter-character conflict happened.

A good villain will do this, if the players are invested. This requires threatening something they care about. Early in the game, that’s just them, which is why so many video games have betrayal/revenge plots.  (Not that they are all equally successful.)  Since we’re not making a video game, though, we have more options (perhaps video games could do this too, though.  The Sims does.)

With Amaranth, the players are going to be Heroes of Legend. They’re going to save the world. Yeah. Ho hum. Who cares about saving a world that only exists to be saved?    The character motivation is already there, but the players need the boost.  So what we’re going to do here is to threaten the p layers creations.  Not the GM supplied world they live in, but the one they helped create.

Phil Menard (aka ChattyDM) sparked this idea with his party creation session template. That linked up with some of the Mouseguard RPG bits I was reading, along with the My Life With Master game I’m running on Wave.  In all of these games, part of character creation is writing sentences about your character, and creating relationships with other players and NPCs in the world. The latter almost always means the players create the NPCs to have a relationship with them. Phil even has them create specific places in the world that are their favorites, and tensions with other players.

So I will be creating a similar questionnaire for my Amaranth game.  It’s started, but user feedback is welcome. It’s a wiki so make changes, or comment here your suggestions, I’d appreciate it.