Roleplayer #5, August 1987

Designing a World?

. . . why not let your players do it for you? In any large world, the GM is hard put to provide all of the necessary background material that he might find he requires. For example, my own campaign is based on the popular Dray Prescot / Scorpio series published by DAW. Central to the series is a popular order of wizards with mighty, though undefined, powers. While I defined these powers for the player who wanted to be a brother in this order, he also wanted background info on the mysticism attached to the brotherhood. By inference, a great deal of mysticism exists, but I knew little of it and didn't have the time to compose a multi-page essay on the subject. The player offered to do it himself, and the resulting ten-page write-up was surprisingly thorough and a welcome addition to the lore of my world. It took a major job off my hands.

Similarly, histories and descriptions of exotic cultures and foreign lands might be enthusiastically addressed by your players. I did this for two large sections of my world, hitherto unvisited by characters, giving the writers what information I had previously written about those regions and providing cautions about how the texts needed to dovetail with the histories of adjacent areas. Again, the write-ups provided useful background information and valuable perspectives on the world other than my own. Players' insights can be quite helpful to a GM and this approach addresses those areas which most interest them.

This is loosely excerpted from a letter which no longer has a name attached. Please try to include your name on each page of anything you send us, because letters often end up divided according to the different topics you address, and we're better than we should be at losing track of who sent what letter.

Continuing the subject of player participation in world creation, I've heard of a campaign in which the GM knew how he wanted a new magic system to work, but couldn't figure out why it worked that way. He sent his players to a previously unexplored island, on which the new system operated, and led them into investigating why the magic worked as it did. Drawing on their guesses and suggestions, he stayed one step ahead of them as they worked out his explanation for him!

–David Ladyman

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