Posted by: Opinicus | May 9, 2010

Protean World Setting

Opinicus here with an idea to tickle you brain with. This is linked to the comment I left on AHT’s post about player built world settings.

So, imagine a game like this:

The players start out in what is essentially a dry, barren place, it has pretty much nothing. Perhaps it is some underground room with no exits. Perhaps it is an abandoned tower out in an endless saharan desert. Or let’s say it is like the Myst game, and you wash up onto a strange island, filled with strange curios and structures.  Either way, there’s not much going on for them there. I’ll now refer to this place as homeland.

Now on Homeland, there is an intricately made map with the homeland carved in miniature likeness on it. Next to it is another bit of land, perhaps a forrest, or some ancient ruins, or even a town. When the PC’s touch this part of the map, they are transported there, and it is a separate world, or perhaps it is part of the same world, but either way it is very different from their homeland.  On this new place they will find adventures and challenges.  Now among the rewards for finishing the quest, the will find two, items.  One item will teleport them back to the homeland, and the other one can be used to add a new land to the map. This can be a completely separate world or be connected to the other places.

Now is where the fun comes in, and a bit of hassle. The way I would do this is, I would get out a large sheet of paper, the sturdier the better as it may undergo lots of wear and tear.  Then you give the PC’s a smaller piece of paper and ask them to draw a map of the new land they wish to make and give some notes on it as to what they want in that land.  Now, remember, this is being done in character, which means that the characters are the real ones making the world, their goals and wants are what designs the new land. Keep in mind that they are not making a link to a preexisting place, but are forming something entirely new from nothing, and of course, the PCs don’t fully know how to use this powerful magic, so it is up to the GM to decide how true to their plans the actual world will really be.  If they decide to fill a word with stunningly beautiful disease free hookers, throw in something bad into it, perhaps all is fine and good, but the next time they show up, they find that a society of hookers can’t support itself and has collapsed into anarchy and despair.

Now, I’m not saying always make something bad happen, just warn the PC that if they try to make a paradise that will fulfill their every need, you will throw a wrench into the works to keep the game running as an adventure game.

Now comes the part that I like. You’ve given the PCs plenty of places to make, and perhaps they all think that the places are separate worlds. That’s when they find out that if you put two places next to each other on the map, they’ll influence each other.  The desert full of raiders? Well, that tropical rain forest next to it has started dumping lots of water into the dessert and it’s not so much a desert anymore, oh, and the raiders found the forest and have raided the villages in it.

This is where you can start having fun with the politics of this land the players have devised.  The kingdom of good finds out about the blasted land of the undead and are going to prepare for war, but to do so they’ll have to march through the centaur forest, and the centaurs don’t like intruders, so they have to fight.  Or what happens if you ended up landlocking the costal port area? All sorts of fun at your fingertips.

Another fun plot hook, is after the party is a bit higher level, they come to their homeland to find that someone has been using the map, there are new lands on it that they didn’t put there.

If you want moral dilemmas, perhaps, later on, they find an artifact that is in essence a map eraser, and they can erase parts of the map, but doing so would pretty much mean sending all the inhabitants of that land into oblivion.

This game will probably require a lot of time out-of-game on the PC’s part. You can give each one a sheet of paper and they can each come up with world ideas on their own, and then they take turns exploring each one. Or perhaps they all can corroborate on one world at a time. Either way, I hope that this game will be an extremely memorable game for anyone that enjoys world building, like I do. I am also a big fan of maps, and since this game is all about the maps, having a big map that is the brain child of the whole group would be awesome in my book.  This game also will probably require a lot of cooperation between the players. All it takes is one asshole player to make a world that is there just to piss off every other player.

I’ve had this game in my head for over a year now, but I’ve never had the right opportunity to run it, so I have no idea how well this game will actually work, so here I am, throwing it out to the swirling mass of chaos and ideas that is the internet, perhaps someone will read this and get the inspiration to run a game based off my words, and hopefully this awesome person will post back and tell me how it went. Either way, I felt that I should try to give this idea a bit more life before I lose all hope and enthusiasm for it.

Opinicus out.



  1. Hookerton has fallen into chaos and violence! The Madame is dead! Long live the Pimp!

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