The Achilles Heel of Many World Builders

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0979

How can players change your world?

How do you want it changed?

I’ve shared GM advice saying you should make your worlds dynamic. Players should have a stake in your setting. And character choices should effect change.

If we refuse to allow change in our creations though, these are just hollow notions.

That kingdom, thieves’ guild, villain lair? All changeable.

Just let them go.

Do your best to create cool world elements for gameplay. Build with your players in mind. Build with your ideal kind of adventure in mind.

And when you unleash them they are free. Free to be changed. Free to be warped and broken. Free to be uplifted!

Allow your world to devolve or evolve based on what your players do and ideas that hit you at any time.

The goal is not to create something awesome that is static and rigid.

As soon as something become immutable you risk railroading.

Railroading questions hit my inbox often. My definition of railroading is removing all player choice in an adventure.

The nuance there is choice over time.

Sometimes you will need or want to bottleneck. Sometimes players only have one direction to follow by your design.

That’s ok. It’s the removal of choice over the long haul, or the frequent removal of choice, that to me makes games unfun.

With that definition in mind, we can’t hold onto what we create in the world as so sacred it cannot be changed by the players.

Soon your group will say, “Why bother?”

They’ll focus fun on activities you might not want, such as bickering, murder hoboing, and meta gaming.

Here’s a quick activity you can do right now….

Think about the elements you’ve created for your world, campaign, and adventure.

What are you most proud of or excited about?

Are you willing to let the players change those things? Can they break, twist, mould, tweak, interfere with, enable, or otherwise take it from you and make it their own?

Anything that’s a “no” is a flag.

Why won’t you let players change it?