GM Tips: Start Small… And Big
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Okay, that is an odd title, but bear with me. When you start building your brave new world, you and the players only need to know the local area. For the first adventure, you might have fleshed out what lies beyond the Old Forest, perhaps described the next town along and detailed the contents and creatures that live in the basement complex of the crumbling Black Tower. Similarly, your would-be space farers need only to be able to get to the nearest spaceport or perhaps just the old mining facility that is the first step in their intergalactic adventure. My point is, that you only need to build as much as is required to move the adventure on.
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The point about starting small is that first, it saves you from doing too much work on a region that the players might totally ignore. Secondly, you might be the god of this fledgling world but through gameplay and conversations, new ideas will emerge. The actions of the players might lend themselves to the creation of something that you might not have even conceived, anything from a new local foe to a vast, distant Empire. Leave yourself room to evolve the map and expand the world for the betterment of the storyline of the campaign, planned or otherwise.
Again building a whole new world might seem to be a big ordeal, especially if you are planning a science fiction-based, world-hopping, galaxy-spanning campaign but all you need to do, to begin with, is go big/small. That means, think of the big picture, make some notes, and perhaps create a few people, places and events which will be important to the backstory, but all you really need to fully flesh out is the area around the initial scenario, which could be as small as a bar in an out of the way spaceport in the mining system of Artutta IV. The world will grow as you need it to and often its evolution will be prompted by the events taking place in the gaming session. Oops, the players accidentally insulted a passing Non-Player Character (NPC)…who just happened to be the daughter of a very protective local gangster and she ain't happy!
Similarly in your dystopian world, it pays to know what cataclysmic event changed the world. One set in the aftermath of a nuclear war will be different to one where plague-ridden zombies forced the population into hiding. But you don’t need to know what’s over the hill until the players head over the hill!
Just as a 12-course meal is enjoyed one bite at a time, make sure you savor every morsel of your worldbuilding experience rather than try to eat it as quickly as possible.
How do you approach worldbuilding? Let me know in the comments below!