GM Tip Request – How Do You Track All the Details of a Living World?

Living World

Details game worlds - how do you track all the details?

O Wise Sage of the Northern Hemisphere,

I come to you with an all-consuming question and have emptied my cup and am eager to learn.

There’s a world that’s been created and lovingly populated with all manner of things.

There are continents with plate tectonics and zones of subduction and hotspots and rift valleys.

There are ocean currents and trade winds, and mesothermal climate zones and arctic wastes. If you look closely you’ll even find fossils.

There are gods and people, with culturally diverse practices and dimly recollected histories. And there are monstrous creatures of bewildering kinds (although there are no monks ’cause the Creator doesn’t believe in monks [of any edition]). There are clans and aristocracies, with socio-economic statuses, chivalric codes, complicated guild statutes and unbelievingly confusing calendrical systems.

There are constellations and planets and lunar phases, and there are philosophical thought systems and diverse magical practices.

There are herbs with names and functions, and mysterious ley lines that nobody knows about. There are kingdoms with subsistence systems, power centres, rulers and outlaws, secret societies, hamlets and cities, road networks, maritime activities, ecclesiastical policies, and crystal-like beings that shoot lasers from their eyes.

There are people with names and jobs and titles and political affiliations and personality profiles and motivational idiosyncrasies.

And the Creator looked at all of this and saw it was pretty OK.

And sitting in the wings, with historically consistent backstories filled with trauma and triumph, are impatient and sceptical PCs.

The world is poised to explode in a flurry of action and dice rolls, politicking and attacks of opportunity, social climbing and critical hits.

There’s a horse-loving swordsmith about to set up a shop in Cam-for; a rogue who pretends to be a marquis who pretends to be a minstrel and who dreams of owning an air ship; a handsome mage who is a pencil-pusher in the family apportation business; and a bald blue-eyed mystic who is out to slay the gods. And there’s an insane Aranite high priest who wants to kill them all. All, I tell ‘ya.

However, it’s all dead. Or rather, it’s all static. And I have no idea how to un-pause it.

It’s all good and well to know that in Kalderesh, in the spring of 4719 AC, old King Jeffry of Kalder dies, peacefully in bed. And in the summer of the same year, a calamity strikes Barban in the form of an anomalous magical event. These things are fated to happen. After all, its 4650 AC now, and I can tell you what will happen in the winter of 4805 AC (= 933 MC = 1277 G).

So that’s my problem. I’ve got a world with a history made-by-fiat. It’s rationally constructed so there appears to be a sensible dynamic explaining what such-and-such did or how whats-it came to be.

Last winter, Lord Hocequin the Wise of Coldbridge was at odds with the skrags and was going to annihilate them. Did that happen? Is he dead and Coldbridge is now a sink of iniquity? Or are the skrags on the run and Hocequin is now a true member of the peerage? Did the Agopean navy manage to find a passage to the Galentene Empire? And what of the Ursinican rebels?

How does a poor DM keep track of who is going to do what to whom, and when, and what the outcome will be?

It’s driving me nuts! I’m terribly happy to ad-lib and off-the-cuff and impromptu and thumb-suck. I’ll even throw in a sleight-of-hand or two. BUT there has to be a way to keep track [on some scale] of the dynamics of a world.

“Make the world a happenin’ place” was an article written by Rick Underwood ages ago. I’d love to read the follow-up: “What’s happenin and how to track it”

Any advice?

Yours sincerely,
Beleaguered in South Africa

(Picture courtesy of mrbill.)

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