As the Dungeon Master in my game, most of the world is mine. I’ve drawn up maps and dungeons, created political structures, enemies, allies, and campaigns. The challenge of a DM is really to make the entire world, every aspect of it, an interaction with players who experience it. Granted, there’s the trap of falling into making more things than your players could possibly interact with, or even whether you have the type of players that want the depth of interaction that delves into political structures anyway. While most of my goal in running games is to tell stories and entertain my friends, it really wouldn’t be the same without the creative few that come to me at the end of the session, or in the middle of the week, with something more.
A new chapter in the game has started after a brief break, I’ve implemented a few more of the rules that I’ve been posting on the blog. Classes were updated, new character sheets were printed, and a new directive for these players has been laid on the table. I’m not the only one engaged in making this game a deeper and more thoughtful world, their character has some agency to forge their own path. In the past, this has happened more or less based on their reactions with encounters and events. Attaining titles for saving settlements, fighting off great evils, or establishing a base by clearing a dungeon and turning it into a new home. I’m pushing players to take it a step further.
Load the bullets into the gun, and I’ll take aim.
Many of my players have been around this continent to know a lot of backstory through various lore skills without my need to prompt them. I can roll with just about any situation and the players know it. They have many ways to inform me of the intent they have and long term goals they wish to achieve, which gives me the ammunition I need to throw character specific plot elements at them.
Our Wizard is interested in becoming an Oracle of a medium sized town, so in her downtime she invites people to her home to find answers to their problems using various divination magics. This allows me to plan out an event based on these interactions to take this a step further. Our Templar has engaged in writing a holy book based on his interpretations from his deity, literally. He’s writing it. I get a few paragraphs every time we play, and it’s wonderful. They don’t even have to be relevant to anything that had happened at the game session, it’s just his ramblings of interactions with his god that I have the ability to intervene with. It gives me the ability to create along with him to drop in some hot knowledge that only he is aware of to act on. Our Shade managed to break up one of the thieves guilds in a major city through discussions we’ve had outside of game, and now he has a splintered faction following him around mostly engaged in Shadow magics. What mysteries they uncover is another open aspect that I can exploit in-game.
The more players are involved in their own story, the more they become engaged in every game. It’s a level of metagaming that actually exists in-game, for each player at the table. It serves to inspire other players as well that might not be taking that initiative currently. It is a chaotic mess, but glorious in its own right. I’m not ceding any sort of control over any given situation, just allowing it to play out in more interesting ways that adds that depth we’ve all imagined in our heads. Where so many levels of the game are alive and active between sessions. Building the illusion that the game is alive, whether or not a session is even being played. When I have to compete with modern gaming, MMO’s in particular, my own personal creativity isn’t going to cut it. Letting the players themselves write the story as we go along is something they really cannot experience anywhere else, and I’m proud to serve as their conduit to a true fantasy realm.