Posted in Tools & Techniques

Let the PCs Build the World

I’ve just finished running a short-term campaign with long-term in-game consequences. The PCs stopped the BBEG from completing her ritual to recreate the world (well, the continent, really) as she saw fit. Instead, they completed the ritual themselves and we worked together to create a new world from the player characters’ conscious and subconscious desires.
Only a session or two earlier, I had asked the players what their characters’ deepest darkest desires were. I framed it as if they were able to wish for anything. What would their “dark side” or subconscious wish for? At the finale, I asked them to tell me their concsious desires for the new world. I then took all the answers into account and began building the new world in my mind.
As I said, we had three PCs. Etna was an evil sorceress who repented at the very last second after her companions didn’t judge her too harshly when her secrets were revealed. Larissa was an overly sweet druid infected with an alchemically enhanced disease that made her rage like a rabid animal.
Finally we had Blaine: a short, bald, very angry man who it turned out was actually a dragon trapped in human form (which was why he was so angry… one of the reasons, anyway). So, when all three of these characters touched the crystal to remake the continent the results were very interesting.

Etna’s desire was to fight back against the evil technology-based organisation that had raised her and forced her down her dark path. Deep down, she didn’t want this organisation destroyed in the blink of an eye; she wanted to do it herself.

Larissa wanted humans to live in harmony with nature. Deep down, due to her disease (and the fact that she was in the form of raging bear at the time), she wanted to bring civilisation to its knees and watch nature take over.

Blaine just wanted to be a dragon again. Deep down, he wanted the thrill of chasing people down and killing them for their loot. But he didn’t want humans to try to kill him either.

So, on the spot I described the basics of the world they were creating. It is a world at peace with nature, where humans live simply and work in harmony with the natural world. Some technology exists, but most settlements shun clockwork or anything else too advanced. Bone and ironwood are used where possible, rather than steel.

Only a handful of cities exist. Larissa is now known as Lashira, a greater guardian spirit of the forest. Etna – taking the name Nenya after her transformation – has become an angelic being and is the avatar of the god of justice and protection. She is building an army to combat the evil organisation – who are the source of any advanced technology.

Blaine became a god and is referred to by his dragon name, Vervesh. He is now the ruler of the Storm Coast, flying through the sky causing thunderstorms. Treasure-hoarding monsters are abundant in the wilderness, thanks to Blaine’s wish – he can kill these monsters without being frowned upon.

I added many side effects of the ritual and additional details. Larissa was screwed over by a group of alchemists and so in this world alchemy that goes against nature – chimeras, altering one’s body, etc. – is one of the greatest taboos. Larissa’s connection with nature means that now each town has a guardian spirit and an oracle that “sees” this spirit and crafts a likeness of them to serve as an idol of worship.

The Storm Coast only exists because Blaine was a Storm Dragon. I decided that seeing as Vervesh was actually present in the world, what if all the gods – or Ordra as I ended up calling them – were “earthbound” and roamed the mortal world. It fitted well with the primal nature of the continent and because of the “rewrite” of the world, these ancient primal beings have been here since the dawn of time in this reality.

Etna’s wish to take down the evil organisation is actually the entire basis of the new campaign. The players have created new PCs and are gathering forces for Nenya’s army, to fight back against an impending attack.

It isn’t appropriate for every campaign, but if you ever get the chance, let the players – and their characters – help build (or rebuild) part of your world. You might be surprised at the results. I’ve always wanted to run a Nature vs. Technology game, but I didn’t think it would happen in this way.

One of the greatest advantages of this technique is that your players will be instantly invested in the setting because they helped build it. Watch your players suddenly start playing very close attention whenever you mention something about their old characters who are now the big movers and shakers in the world.

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Author:

I live in Canberra, Australia. I love games and stories.

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