How Much World Do You Build?

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0962

The best part of chocolate chip cookies are the chocolate chips, right? The dough is just a way to keep the chips together for amazing, still-oven-warm mouthfuls of delicious texture and taste.

I’ve often advised you to build only what you need for gameplay. Create just what matters to your players.

However, recent world-building efforts make me rethink this common advice.

I find there’s more to gameplay than just the current encounter write-up.

So let me rephrase.

Start by building only what matters for gameplay.

As I develop my Duskfall setting I create things I doubt will ever enter gameplay, thus violating my old advice.

But I’m finding these details give my milieu an inspiring scaffold I can hang my gameplay ideas upon.

The extra context is like the cookie dough that delivers mouthfuls of chocolate chips.

Create encounters just of chocolate chips and you still get something very tasty.

But mix the chips into cookie dough and you get a much more filling and richer-tasting experience.

For example, there’s a chaos magic hex in the sandbox area. Magic use creates unpredictable and dangerous results.

Chaos magic zone. Cool. Great for an encounter or Five Room Dungeon.

But the extra work I put into figuring why it was there, and working backwards from there with a couple of additional Whys, dovetailed into a great backstory that’s inspired more world details.

With all this extra cookie dough of world details, I can pour a helluva lot more chocolate chips into the game.

So, when pressed for time, start with creating just what matters to your players. Then carve out time to mix more cookie dough. There are always chocolate chips aplenty to add when there’s dough around.