Friday, April 9, 2010

Worldbuilding and Whatnot

Okay, so as I wrote this obligatory "yes that was an April 1 post" paragraph, I noticed the last entry also had one paragraph which had been poorly-written and made no sense. That has been fixed now. D&D blogs are serious business.


I am going to try posting more often, but I found I couldn't bring myself to make an image-less post, so here is a man trying to power up his meat cigar. I'll try and work it into the post later.

So recently two of my games hit the one-year mark: The future-Earth-psychic-students-on-the-moon-with-mecha game I mentioned in this post, and Planescape Magical Girls, which I can't be bothered to find in my previous posts.

I'm not sure which surprises me more, actually having more than one game which lasted more than a year and successfully wrapped up a campaign arc (which both of those have) or the fact that a game about magical girls in Planescape which I started as a joke last April Fool's has lasted a year and is considered to be a genuinely good game by the players, or at least so they tell me. (Actually, one of them mostly tells me how much he sucks, since the others had a few critiques of his playstyle and that's easier than doing anything about it, but still!)

One thing that struck me a little later was that both of those were done in BESM in their own settings. I haven't actually played much of my "standard" Dungeons & Dragons setting lately.

I had one game in D&D recently, but it was set in a different steampunk setting I wanted to try out (and that also lasted a year and completed a campaign arc, but it's now postponed until I can sort out a better time.) There was also my 4th Edition game, but that doesn't count - it was to introduce some friends of mine who asked to D&D and to try out 4th Edition for myself, and it wasn't in my standard setting anyway.

In fact, it seems like I've been deliberately avoiding using that setting for a while. Why, though? I'm not quite sure, but I think I suspect - I feel my setting isn't compelling enough. When I'm picking a setting, I want something cool and interesting, and Otherworld does not seem to be either.

That's my fault, though - see, Otherworld started off as a homebrew setting for its own sake. When I first began DMing I felt a little awkward about using Forgotten Realms or something else - existing settings with a wealth of material on them I didn't know - because I feared I'd accidentally "ruin" them. So, I just created Otherworld and dumped everything I liked from other settings into there, fleshing out only what I had to in order to run my game.

Later, I decided to make it a "proper" setting - which, I felt, required having detail on a larger scale. I added quite a lot of things, removed other things, and added "placeholder" ideas until finally it was a working setting. Unfortunately, since I hadn't started with a clear idea of what I wanted to do, it was just a big mash of ideas, some of which made as much sense as an electric meat cigar. (Ha!)

I'd more-or-less fleshed out Otherworld according to the steps I've previously suggested are how most D&D settings are made:

  1. Start with an idea which was probably shit anyway
  2. "Borrow" or "pay homage to" things from other settings you like (read: steal blatantly)
  3. Toss a few more ideas you had on the way in there
  4. Do #2 again
  5. Complain liberally about the things about other settings you don't like, contemplate how these things could be better, put them in
  6. Have an original idea
  7. Make up something you can actually use as the plot of a campaign
  8. Watch your players ignore most of it
  9. Retcon things like there's no tomorrow
  10. Repeat steps 2, 4 and honestly pretty much every step including this one.

Do I just keep doing that? I don't know. Otherworld's problems seem tied into the setting itself - it lacks a clear theme, a purpose other than "generic fantasy setting", and if I want to make it compelling enough to want to run more games in it it needs those things. To get those things, though, I pretty much have to revamp everything.

Retconning the hell out of it didn't work before, though, so I should build from the ground up - identify what I want out of the setting, and then mold what I already have to suit that. Like adapting settings to fit new editions of D&D without the massive flame wars.

I think I'll take a shot at that this month. We can do it together!

It will be like a magical adventure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Meat cigar? It looks more like some kind of sawn-off ham cannon.