You walk into a room. It has some walls and there are some figures in it. What do you do? Sound familiar? If you’ve ever played a role-playing game, you’ve undoubtedly heard countless iterations of varying detail along those lines. Some may have been incredibly memorable, while others as vague and unappealing as the one written above. If you suffer from lack of attention to detail, or symptoms of poorly descriptive writing, just ask your favorite podcast Monkey if Episode 13 is the right prescription for you.
This week the podcast crew is talking about what (in our opinions) are some of the ins and outs of successful worldbuilding. Everything from visual props to novel length world history, we look at some of the various aspects of world-building and campaign management that we think will help breathe some long-lasting life into your adventuring party’s world. Strap on your ears, take some notes, and enjoy this week’s discussion on bringing a setting to life.
(00:44) – So, Jersey Shore came back this week and Ramses couldn’t be more excited. However, he does have to work rather than get his guido on 24/7, so, when he’s stuck fighting the 7th circle of Hell that is Southern California traffic he entertains himself with what else, podcasts! Comedy Bang! Bang! and The Pod F. Tompkast with Paul F. Tompkins have been added to his ever growing list of subscriptions. We think Ramses is going for some sort of podcast listening record.
(04:55) – Sometimes, being an adult gets in the way of being a geek, which was the case for Matt this week. Between his normal job and home remodeling projects, he’s been up to his substantial eyebrows in drywall dust and website reboots, but has had his faith in humanity restored. Special thanks go out to Eric and the crew at GamersTable.com as well as Kommander K and the guys at The Ugly Couch Show for their support! Oh, and Germany… please come back!
(07:42) – Despite our stubbornness, we all (and we mean Robert) eat crow, courtesy of Kommander K regarding the pronunciation of Conan (Koh-nin) the Barbarian, but we blame Marvel and Robert E. Howard. We also have a historio-geographic debate over how far north Ireland is.
(10:00) – Robert, unlike Ramses, avoided drywall projects at Matt’s house and instead completed the xbox 360 version of The Incredible Hulk (2008). Additionally, he’s been able to focus his media whoredom to a single task and catch up on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Surprise, surprise!! He has problems with it… Ass(pberger’s)…
(14:46) – Karen takes a page out of Robert’s playbook and goes and works proverbial “media corner” herself with a week full of movie viewing – Bridesmaids, Thor, Captain America, Suckerpunch, Battle: Los Angeles, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, and Super 8 all get a turn in Karen’s Blu-ray player (innuendo??) – and we find out about the likeability of the characters in Kevin Smith‘s Red State. It’s right up there with Anson Mount‘s Bohannan in Hell on Wheels…
(17:02) – Not only was she a-courtin’ all manner of movie, Karen also got around (get it?) to finishing off some books – The Green River Killer and the first book of The Hunger Games make their way off the nightstand and back onto the bookshelf. In her media-whoring, Karen got beyond verklempt… It’s the word of the week, kids!
(19:40) – Topic time is here! Matt reveals how Robert’s hate for the Western RPG genre submarined Matt’s Deadlands campaign before the book even arrived, despite his intention to use great modern westerns like Tombstone and 3:10 to Yuma and not the John Wayne classics, for inspiration. Consensus – The Duke can suck it while the Man With No Name is awesome.
(22:57) – Campaign world history IS important to creating a game, but when you have an INTJ historian like Matt world-building, things can get out of hand. With Deadlands derailed, Matt has been all talk and no show for three years with his supernatural Victorian steampunk game that the group is waiting to play. While he’s been putting in work, as seen here – The Society of Odin – everyone thinks it’s time for Matt to put his dice where his mouth is. 3 years, seriously??
(26:23) – Karen, the veteran GM that she is, has a far better handle on fleshing out her campaign world. Bullet points and player input help to establish a more organic worldbuilding process for her and her players while Matt requires hard, fast structure to help make the world believable and functional for himself. None of that matters though, because it’s all about the players, right Robert?
(29:28) – Does your (game) world lack substance? Map it out and spice it up! The group discusses the importance of gaming maps in helping to flesh out the visual game world and making the game world more “real” for the characters. Equally important is flavor text when describing the setting. Show the players, don’t tell them. Details, details, details!!!
(32:28) – Running a game isn’t solely the realm of homebrewers. Ramses points out that even when using a published campaign world, it is necessary to add your own twist. We reflect on our experiences with the chain of The Laughing Ass Inn throughout The Forgotten Realms and Kioska, the DMV-style information NPC. Also, Karen was “thinking with portals” before Portal.
(35:18) – The goal of gaming is to have fun, so why not add some levity? No matter how dark and dreary a campaign world can be, having laughs with your friends is arguably the best part of the gaming experience. We also talk about the importance of familiarity between GMs and players and how Matt suffers from”Frustrated GM” syndrome.
(39:17) – Ramses broaches the topic of alternate universes, time travel, and different planes of existence and how they can all help to vary setting, but each pose their own set of unique challenges. Robert has apprehensions over the effectiveness of time travel (gasp!) and use of the device drives Karen nuts. Meanwhile, Matt vagues it up with his sentences within sentences within sentences much like the dream worlds of Inception. If anyone can figure out what he’s talking about, please let us know and continuity is a bitch!
(44:05) – What good is a thoroughly crafted world without people to fill it? PC’s are the life-blood of a campaign setting, but what happens when the world itself takes center stage? We discuss the importance and pitfalls that exist with writing with passion and the fact that a game doesn’t exist until it’s played…
(47:10) – Ok, we’re pretty sure Matt gets the point that his game needs to get off the ground. Let’s hope he doesn’t distract himself with more reference material like our next topic, gaming props! Props give the players something tangible to interact with, plus they’re really cool! We relive the good old days of non-combat LARPing and Karen’s awesome props and discuss Ramses’ pictograph note taking. Hieroglyphics, FTW!
(52:55) – NPCs are as equally important to a campaign setting as the Player Characters and world itself. We talk about the role they play and the archetypes they fill as well as some do’s and don’ts when interacting with high-level and well known figures. Sure, your character can allude to biblical relations with the archmage’s mother, but don’t be surprised when you start rolling up another character 5 minutes later…
(58:22) – So, if you’re anything like Matt (and we feel sorry for you if you are), you’ve created a massive game world. The question Ramses poses is, how are you going to use it? We close the discussion with some thoughts on the layers of locales and utilizing different in-world settings. Variety is the spice of life, and terrain modifiers can really screw with PC’s!
Intro Song – Monkey Wrench – written and performed by The Foo Fighters
Closing Song – Roll a D6 – written by Connor Anderson