World building tools that also build story

edited August 2011 in Story Games
There are more and more games that have world building as a part of set-up play. The group usually does this together, and the output is more and more focused on story, instead of building random events that create a life or setting. I'll start of with some examples.

The Blossoms Are Falling (Burning Wheel) has a few different "questionnaires" depending on the framework of the game the group is interested. Most, if not all, the questions also add game elements to character sheets, such as relationships.

In A Wicked Age has oracles which randomly determine seed ideas for the story at hand. It can be interpreted very loosely, but it's just concrete enough.

Diaspora uses random generation to determine some big variables, and each player takes on filling in the details. There isn't much direct story connect (IIRC) but I still count it because it's not one person doing the world building alone, and the act of doing as a group builds ownership. (In contrast to many games of the 80's or 90's where random tables seemed to be more about idea generation for the GM, without concrete ties to a group story).

What other games do this, and what do you think of how successful they are at getting a game started and helping to create interesting stories?

Comments

  • Have you played Microscope?

    (And knowing you're a local -- at least, at the moment -- I'd be down to show you if you haven't played.)

    It's history-building played out, rather than a questionnaire made for another game.

    - Ryan
  • No! I think I heard a bit about it, but forgot. That sounds pretty awesome (and also an idea for a game a friend and I had years ago, but never really started work on).
  • We should play it before I move to Seattle.

    - Ryan
  • Awen is: You build your character, and the world around them, at once. So, er, a touch of 'your story' in there. The newer stuff for it includes things like you putting your culture on the map and then going "The leaders of these people often trade children with those of another culture, as hostages to create peace. Which other culture is it?" - which the other players will answer.

    I'm not sure if that's the kind of thing you're looking for, though.
  • We haven't touched much on it in the Ganakagok thread but Ganakagok has some nice mechanics for this. Not just the drawing places on the map (which is good) but defining cultural taboos and beliefs of the tribe (great) and putting how characters feel about these beliefs as part of the relationship map (awesome).
  • Microscope, dogg, the badass not-a-roleplaying-game RPG!

    I think Fiasco also meets your requirements, on the micro- rather than macro- end. You start with pretty tight constraints but acting within those constraints results in a different output every time.
  • My game Final Hour of a Storied Age (currently in playtesting) has some similarity to other oracle games like IAWA but it explicitly embraces the idea of building an overarching plot first and fleshing out the setting and characters around it.
  • Great suggestions so far, don't be too concerned whether it fits my criteria.
    Posted By: Levi KornelsenI'm not sure if that's the kind of thing you're looking for, though.
    To be clear, the kind of thing I'm looking for is wide open and non-specific.

    My agenda is: I haven't really paid attention to "story games" or developments in the world of role-play for almost two years (outside of a few things that break into the Twittersphere or the local Endgame crew, like "Smallville" or "Apocalypse World"). Just before I disconnected, the collaborative world/setting/character creation was just hitting it's stride in many and varied great ways. I've done some searching for discussions of this nature, didn't come up with much, so I wanted to start a thread to put it all in one place.

    What I'm looking for is this: show me your awesome finds, favorite bits, and indie darlings that have this collaborative building element. Whether it's the whole game or just a small piece. Tell me (and everyone) about how the collaboration works for you.

    Sub-note: I have a follow up ulterior motive for personal advice to incorporate, but that will be a separate thread. I don't want this thread to be as much about what I'm looking for, I just wanted to set some limits so I didn't get talk about random tables of the likes of early Traveler or Marvel Super Heroes that are just random without direction (not that that can't be fun!)
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI thinkFiascoalso meets your requirements, on the micro- rather than macro- end. You start with pretty tight constraints but acting within those constraints results in a different output every time.
    I see this very true with playsets like Will Hindmarch's All The Damn Time, which I've played twice. We make up the rules of time travel during the game, using the couple bits of framework that Will supplies in the set.

    I could see that with another playset that deals with other non-normal settings.

    - Ryan
  • Macklin, how many awards do you have to win before you feel entitled to toot your own horn?

    Dresden Files City Creation creates a city with magical conflict about to explode, all kinds of insane people ready to murder each other. It's the perfect "glass house with a pile of rocks" setup.
  • My game Other Worlds does this. The first session is a dedicated group worldbuilding night, where you decide on the broad concept and genre of your game, then drill down to establish the finer details - history, geography, tech levels, magic, relevant factions, and ongoing conflicts. Then you start talking about character ideas and set the dial for how realistic the world is (trademark scope) and how important the characters are within it (power level), both of which have a mechanical impact on character creation. Then you talk about potential adventure ideas, create the supporting cast, create the opening scene, and finish off the PCs (including defining a temporary 'prologue' ability to introduce you to the story, and creating a preliminary NPC for you to talk to during the session). There's a lot of story-emphasis throughout the whole process.

    I've set up four campaigns so far using this method (a cyberpunk game, a victorian horror game, a WW2 zombie apocalypse game, and an epic fantasy saga with a 'four elements' theme) and it's worked out well every time.
  • edited August 2011
    My game concentrates on character building rather than world building.

    Probably though, its too much character creation in a vacuum. Its like: fill in these categoires, which, if done well, leads to a great character. If done poorly, leads to a poor character.

    Im convinced that a cast of great characters in a sketchy world is much better than a cast of poor characters in a detailed world, but Im not sure how to help players along in creating the former. Maybe some kind of questionaire or good old fashioned random table.
  • Does the map creation part of On Mighty Thews count?
  • Posted By: zircherDoes the map creation part of On Mighty Thews count?
    Absolutely.

    Also Burning Empires...
  • @Steve:
    I think you need to give an amount of setting information inverse to how much direct authority the players have over the game. Basically, if your character has a lot of agency, you need to fit the setting "into" the character, and if your character lacks agency, you'll need to fit your character into the setting or plot premise.
    There are different, more specific game designs which have figured this out in a different way.

    But I think offering very limited or clear PC concepts (Polaris does this well) can help with this. Additionally, when different PC roles don't matter much from a tactical or strategic perspective, it forces the natural tendency to differentiation (well, see, my landlord is like this, and your priest is like this..) to emerge on the social or community level instead of the level of skills or capabilities.
    HeroQuest does this too, but it offers moderate differences in characters' abilities and powers, but it puts enough emphasis on the social level that it points characters "toward" the creation of theme.
  • edited September 2011
    %&/%&/#%¤&/#¤%&#/¤%!"&!!!!!

    I hate it when SG logs me out while I'm typing a post! I just lost a bloody essay on Oracle based vs. Freeform world generation including examples from Fiasco, Burning Empires, TechNoir and Universalis to that misfeature.

    Anyway, it ended in an awesome sales pitch for my game While the World Ends, which has shared world building that leads to interesting stories. Check it out: wilper.wordpress.com/while-the-world-ends/
  • Posted By: Zac in Virginia@Steve:
    I think you need to give an amount of setting information inverse to how much direct authority the players have over the game. Basically, if your character has a lot of agency, you need to fit the setting "into" the character, and if your character lacks agency, you'll need to fit your character into the setting or plot premise.
    There are different, more specific game designs which have figured this out in a different way.

    But I think offering very limited or clear PC concepts (Polaris does this well) can help with this. Additionally, when different PC roles don't matter much from a tactical or strategic perspective, it forces the natural tendency to differentiation (well, see, my landlord is like this, and your priest is likethis..) to emerge on the social or community level instead of the level of skills or capabilities.
    HeroQuest does this too, but it offers moderate differences in characters' abilities and powers, but it puts enough emphasis on the social level that it points characters "toward" the creation of theme.
    Can you expand on "limited or clear PC concepts"?
  • Sure!
    What I meant by "limited" was that every player has the same basic concept, on one level (we're all knights, or we're all pirates, etc.). Basically, the PCs are either pretty close in archetype, and so have to distinguish themselves in other ways.

    Looking back, "clear" is not the word I really should have used, so I won't even define it. :(

    The big, important thing to think about is that PCs don't differ a whole lot tactically - the closer you are to the DPS/Tank/Healer setup, the easier it is to focus exclusively on characters as tactical-only, so if that's not what you're going for, you need to make the characters appear somewhat uniform from call-it-a-D&D-perspective.
  • Posted By: zircherDoes the map creation part of On Mighty Thews count?
    Almost certainly! What's that process play like?
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