Monday, August 6, 2018

Making the World Real (#RPGaDAY2018 Inspired)

The RPGaDAY 2018 chart

An August tradition, I suppose, is to respond to the prompts for RPGaDAY, and the 2018 prompts have a lot going on. I figured something I could do today is use one of them as a prompt for a blog post, because it's something I've been thinking about, too.

Today's prompt is How can players make a world seem real?

Two character sheets, one labeled The Lover, the other labeled a Snake.
Character sheets from a game of Turn I'm currently playing. 

I think this can be a bit of a personal thing, but one way to do it for me is to give everything reasoning and give everything a story. NPCs, events in game, etc. all should have some flavor to their existence. It ties directly into collaborative worldbuildimg. This has been really growing for me while working on Turn, a game where everyone has loads of narrative control, and while playing D&D with my partner Dillon.

I'll talk about Dillon first, because it's super exciting to me. I'm not naturally a huge D&D fan - honestly, it's a big game and a lot of the fiction bums me out. But, in the game I'm playing with Dillon, we've been rewriting a lot of it. The mechanics mostly remain the same, tho were using house rules and I'm playing cosmic horror investigation type fiction instead of the average adventure. But the fiction!

Two guards in front of a castle door. Overhead, a figure silhouetted by the moon creeps on a parapet.
Credit: John W. Sheldon CC-BY 4.0.
Dillon let me be a part of the world building for the main setting. This is something I once did in a game run by my husband John, where I got to make up dieties and religions and contribute to the fiction for the different species. Dillon is letting me do much the same thing! Collaborative worldbuilding means I get to see things I'm interested in integrated into the world I'm playing in, which inherently makes it more real to me.

For example, we were building up my character's family and Kelt, my PC, is half tiefling, half half-orc, and I was talking about Kelt's dad being a cleric. I said how it felt to me, due to some of the other background stuff we've done for the game, that tieflings aren't demonic, they're more druidic, nature based.

A black and white goat, photographed up close.
You know, more mountain goat than Black Phillip. Photo by Brie Sheldon.

Dillon and I discussed it, and he liked the idea, so we changed the way teiflings work in the game to have them even physically be more based in nature with antlers and ram horns rather than demonic horns, and it suited their culture that we'd developed, too. Now I have more knowledge about my PC's dad's history, the world around him, and I have a personal touchstone because I got to be a part of it!

And it reflects in that "everything has a reasoning, everything has a story" too - my character takes public transportation as we're set in a near-industrial world, so Dillon had a newspaper I could read and gossip I could listen in on, but also he does something that's important: when I suggest a frivolous detail for the scene, NPCs, etc., he considers it and often accepts it!

Like if I were to pass by someone and they rudely bump into me and I say,

"I bet they're rushing off to a meeting with their mistress!"

Dillon runs with it, something like "actually, it's his boyfriend and it's their anniversary!"

I may never encounter that NPC again, but it feels real.

A green tinged campfire site where someone wearing an antlered mask calls out to a dog running towards the viewer, while another dog sits at their side.
Credit: John W. Sheldon CC-BY 4.0.
This is likewise with how Dillon's treating Kelt's dog, Orion, who is his familiar and tied to the Void (Kelt's patron). It's awesome when I play knowing that I'll get to have my character deal with stuff like making sure Orion gets enough play time, or that his leash works in spite of his magical ability to phase through objects (lead lining helps!). Things like how Orion always wakes up to bark at the window-knocker and trolley actually make my in-game experience feel real!

So as a player, I engage back with these things, bring them up, ask questions, offer input. Making the world mine is part of the experience!

And this is all relevant to Turn. In Turn, I've tried to design some of this in. The worldbuilding you do with the town creation gives players deep engagement to the roots of the town and all its trappings, letting you understand the relationships and founding and themes before you start play, and you can add to it.

A town map from Turn, just circles and lines with text
A town map from Turn.
You also have vignettes each session with NPCs and the town dealing with real life needs that can be stressful and risk exposure of your shifter identity, even if it's just going to pick up milk at the farmer's market or trying to have coffee with your cousin. When players are engaging with Turn, I'm hoping they'll ask questions of the town and NPCs too, and give reason to things that might seem otherwise random.

As a player in Turn, I've been lucky enough to have all of these experiences. John is often my GM in games and in Turn he does a spectacular job executing these ideals I have for a "real" world. He is the source for my researching the Storyteller section of Turn, and will be consulting heavily on it.

I'm so lucky to have two partners who are such amazing GMs and who let me make the world real from the role of a player!

Hope you enjoyed the post today and that you find it useful!

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