Tag: immersion

Using P C Wrede’s World Builder questions in setting design.

by Gary Whitten

Patricia C Wrede is a fantasy author that, in the infancy of computer networks (FIDONET), posted a number of questions and guidelines over time to be used in creation of fantasy worlds for authors. They also are handy for the creation of game worlds. For the full story of the questions and Lars Eighner’s efforts to pull them together, go to Lars’ site.

I have used these guidelines to add immersion to my game worlds in the past, and they are quite helpful. Lars has organized them into 36 topics, with a number of questions being in several different topics.

The topics are:

Arts and Entertainment
Architecture
Calendar
Crime and the Legal System
Daily Life
Diet
Fashion and Dress
Eating customs
Education
Foreign Relations
Gestures
Government
Greeting and Meeting.
Language
Magic and Magicians
Magic and Technology
Manners
Medicine
People and Customs: Ethics and Values
Physical and Historical Features
Climate and Geography
Natural Resources
General History
History of a Specific Country
Politics
Population
Religion and Philosophy
Rules of Magic
Rural Factors
Science and Technology
Social Organization
Transportation and Communication
Urban Factors
Visits
War
Wizards

When you’re working on your game setting, these can be used to spark imagination, break writer’s block and fill in gaps in your setting. You should pick and choose which categories to work with based on what your current needs are. I have caught myself working on some of these for my own Valley of Aesri setting when I really didn’t need to do them, and some other areas of campaign work with more immediate needs were pushed aside. So keep a firm eye on the categorized and prioritized list I talked about in my previous blog entry.

It’s also important to realize that when you pick a category to use that you don’t have to answer every question in it immediately, or even, at all. The questions are guidelines, nothing more. Some of them, such as Rules of Magic, are likely going to be much less useful as you’re likely going to be using a game system with the magic systems already defined.

Some of these I definitely recommend be considered as you design or enhance a setting.

Climate and Geography
Architecture
Daily Life – interesting questions you might not think of
Religions and Philosophy – When doing Pantheon
Calendar – Probably not used when modifying an existing setting.
Natural Resources –

I’ll be doing some additional posts regarding the use of these, each one exploring one or two of the sections. When I do so, I’ll be altering the questions some towards adding immersion. I’d like to start with Climate and Geography:

* What is the arrangement of planetary bodies like? How do these differences reflect in the culture, climate, flora and fauna?
On Earth, we clearly have diurnal and nocturnal creatures because we have clear day and night even on the brightest moonlit nights. With the questions below, the light may be different. With multiple suns, there may be two ‘nights’ per day, no complete darkness at all on the surface or some other effect. How does this affect plants and animals? How does this affect ‘normal’ species like deer and foxes? What about nocturnal creatures like possum? What effect does this have on fantastic creatures like faeries, dragons, etc?

* Is it like Earth with a sun and a moon, maybe multiple moons? Multiple suns? Or what about no moons and a small distant star providing little warmth or light?

* Do the moons have any tangible impact aside from gravity like in the DragonLance world of Krynn where they altered the strength of magic?

* Is the world your on actually a moon of a planet, which in turn orbits a sun?

* Are other planets clearly visible?
On Earth, a number of planets were visible with the naked eye but often mistake for stars and were mentioned when they were visible during morning or evening. “I’ll be back when Mars is an evening star again.”

* How are all these bodies treated? Are they ‘just there’, associated with deities, or perhaps demons or personality traits? Are they real or just fokelore
“I hear he was born when Hrice was ascending, beware of his temper!”

* Are conjunctions and eclipses portents of certain things, either good or ill?
“Be careful on your trip, it’s only two days until Kolzin crosses Qes!”

* Have human activities affected climate, landscape, etc. in various regions? How? (Example: Growth of the Sahara Desert has been increased by over-farming.)

* Where are mountain ranges? Rivers and lakes? Deserts? Forests, tropical and otherwise? Grasslands and plains?

Even in a LSSC, terrain can be highly varied. The Valley of Aesri is only 20×30 miles but it’s between two mountain ranges with much dense forest. Still there are the source of two major rivers, some marshland and even the forests have some sections where the normally dense deciduous trees thin some and have small orchards.

* If there are imaginary animals (dragons, unicorns, etc.) how do they fit into the ecology? What do they eat? How much and what kind of habitat do they require? Are they intelligent and/or capable of working spells, talking, etc.? How common are they? Are any endangered species?

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All content Copyright 2009-2015 Gary Whitten

Adding Immersion by Using Supply Chains

by Gary Whitten

Ever go into a shop and see the selection of goods and wonder how they all got there? It’s likely that we’ll never know all the people behind the loaf of bread in the plastic wrap or the box of frozen peas. In a medieval-era fantasy setting, however, it’s much more likely (but not a given) that at least some of the other people involved will either be known or at least accessible.

Supply chains can be used for a number of things in a campaign. They can simply be used to add depth to the game by dropping a name or to, as an adventure hook, or as a lead to introduce an NPC you’ve been wanting the party to meet.

Picture an encounter where the PC’s party is in a general store stocking up before their next adventure. Instead of the normal rummaging around, writing in the new purchases and adjusting a number in the ‘coin’ area of the character sheet, you throw in:

“While you are seeking out the next item on your list, you notice a tall, strapping young man with intense brown eyes walk in with a large sack over his shoulder. He quickly scans the shop and approaches Fesli, the shopkeeper, and proffers the bag to him. Fesli looks in it briefly, then counts out some coin and hands it to the young man who departs immediately.”

One of your players may approach Fesli, asking “Who was that?” Fesli replies, “That was Oteri, son of Ehlen the ropemaker delivering my latest ropes to me. Say, was it you who was looking for that 100′ length?”

In this brief encounter, you’ve added two new names to the list of people that the players know about in the area. To some, this won’t matter, but to others, they’ll file it away in case someday it does matter.

If you wanted to add in a hook to this encounter, you could change the last sentence to this:

“You know, this rope isn’t as good as he normally makes, and I heard a rumor a couple times in the last week that nobody has actually seen Ehlen in quite a bit. I didn’t even think to ask when Oteri was just here. I wonder if something is wrong.”

This might peak the interest of those who wish to help (or meddle as the evil-doers often say) and take a wander out to visit Ehlen’s shop where they might find Ehlen sick, missing, replaced by a shape-shifter or maybe just simply hitting the bottle, forcing Oteri or others to try and pick up the slack.

Lastly, if the PCs have been managing to avoid meeting that NPC that you really want them to meet and you don’t want to overdo it by clubbing them with a +3 Clue Stick, you could add something like this into the encounter:

“I hate to impose, but I’ll give you 10% off all those rations you’re buying if you could maybe do a small errand for me? I need to get this small bag to this person named Disol. He lives a bit off the beaten path north of here but it wouldn’t take you long at all and I’d really appreciate it.”

Obviously, there are many other possibilities available with things like this. I hope the few I’ve put out here will be of use to you and that they spark additional ideas.

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All content Copyright 2009-2015 Gary Whitten

by Gary Whitten

The three primary topics that will be covered in this blog are Local/Small-Scale Campaigns (LSSCs), Home-Base Campaigns (HBCs) and increasing campaign immersion.

LSSCs and HBCs may be some of the lesser-known or used campaign styles, so let’s take a quick look at them.

LSSCs are campaigns that, by design, are going to be run in a very limited geographic area. The one I run is about twenty by thirty miles in size in a location called the Valley of Aesri.

HBCs are campaigns that have some sort of central location at the heart of the campaign, almost like a meta-character. The campaign I mentioned above is also, at the moment, an HBC based around an abandoned and dilapidated manor estate whose owner perished in a battle between his loyal staff and those who wanted his money.

Campaigns run in either of these styles are not necessarily permanent, as it’s totally possible for a campaign in its normal evolution to change into one or both of these type, or to start out as one and morph into something else.

LSSCs lend themselves to increased immersion simply because the campaign is spending so much time in a small locale, so that almost anything the GM creates has the potential to be re-used any number of times. When this happens, the additional content begins to layer upon itself adding detail and depth to the setting, regardless if it’s one of your creation or if you’re enhancing one you purchased.

HBCs often are, but are not exclusively, also LSSCs. This is because the players are usually anchored to the central location to one degree or another. Like a campaign that is just designed to be in a small area, the GM of an HBC will often end up writing additional content for the setting creating better immersion.

Over the coming months, various things to help a GM with each of these types of campaigns will discussed.

Ok, so we talked about the campaign styles but what is Campaign Immersion? A gaming synonym you probably heard of is ‘Suspension of belief’. One on-line dictionary puts immersion thus: involvement, concentration, preoccupation, absorption – “long-term assignments that allowed them total immersion in their subjects”. Some people learn languages in this way, going into a school or even the society, where they only speak and live the language instead of just taking it in a class.

There are some really simple things that you can do to add to immersion to your game and in this blog, we’ll be talking about more than a few of them in the coming months.

 

All content Copyright 2009-2015 Gary Whitten