Thursday, 26 February 2015

A world is like a child, nurtured, until you let it free

Its Been a big thing for me the last few years, setting up multiple games mastered situations, and seems that recently started to become the next big thing.. I've been asking around and getting some interesting feedback.. so heres my 2 cents

A world is like a child, nurtured, until you let it free

I, like many GMs, built my own world. I based it off Terry Pratchetts Discworld, I even called it 'The Coyn' I wrote the physics of the world, the Laylines, built a few game mods for Civ so I could determine the larger extent of who lives where. but the more I developed it, the more I found one factor eating into my thoughts..

I'll never be able to finish this.

In what seems like a completely unrelated theme.. I ran a game where my cousin played an assassin whom had infiltrated the group, learnt what he could and then assassinated two of the other players before escaping with half of the last major treasure. While it wasn't very pleasant, and no-one trusted my cousins characters again, its still something talked about to this day.

Back on topic

I think I let my cousin try his hand at gamesmastering my world first, but it was also his first GMing so it was good and bad, but later I met other GMs while travelling<link missing> and we dicussed my world, and how I would love others to GM my game. I met some nice guys in germany who wrote to me 3 months later, asking if I would send them links to the documents. back then, there was no google doc.. so I wrote a few extensive emails (which I have no copies of) and they wrote back about their game..

Wow!

It was so different to hear about how these people were travelling to cities, I had invented, shopping in markets that my own players had travelled. It was such an exhilarating experience.

My Next roleplay session, I included their characters as NPCs that 'passed through' and the players were 100x more interested in who these other heroes were, than just any old NPC.. they felt more 'real'.

So for a while I added far more detail to my NPCs, little things that might later crop up in conversation, felt more alive to the players.. did the barkeep have a family? was the old beggar who recently died, anyone of importance? maybe it mattered, maybe it didn't but if someone asked the right question, it was no longer "Oh um, lets see.. ok.." and I make it up.. now, now I had a lot of prepared information.. Was my first introduction to good Gamesmastering.

but still that thought lingered.. those other players, they created something, that made it easier for me to use, made my play more 'alive'. So I started to experiment.

I was teaching English in Russia at the time, and running a small group of RP for some students. its a great way to practice, rather than the boring lessons of language, you engaged in conversation and quickly had to phrase things to be understood. I needed a BBG that was more interesting than just me.. mostly I think my clever students were second guessing me, they could 'sense' what it was that was going to happen at each step, because they'd gotten to know me (was I so predictable?) so I contacted my cousin again.. hey cuz!, can you drag out your old 'evil' character and play the bad guy?

Once a week I would write to him, tell him what he had discovered through his henchmen, contacts, cronies and crystal ball, he would tell me what he would do with that information.. and in the next gaming session, the heroes would sometimes face off against the next set of guards or monsters sent their way.. but as often as not, they'd hit a quiet patch, and realise that the BBG had lost their trail. Taking advantage of it, they set up some ambushes or false trails and it became its own kind of game.. players vs player.

Then I got a second group. They also were on the trail of the BBG.. but none of them knew that there were 3 sides.. My cousin, would learn of a group of heroes killing off his henchmen in the town of Orcust. so nearby in Ruthergos, he's have some spies, and then a rider to send to a local squad, who'd hopefully hold them off until his Ogres would arrive on scene. but group #2 had no intention of going towards the BBG's base.. because they'd heard rumours of some battle of the BBG forces to the east.. where 2 weeks ago, the first group had recently dispatched a large group of forces. group #2 was chasing group #1s tail, thinking it was BBG, while he, was expecting group #1 to come towards him and instead found his forces chasing group #2, and group #1, hearing the rumours of BBG forces amassing in two groups.. coming from behind, were fleeing to what they felt was a safe enough distance so they could dispatch of the BBG forces, guerilla style.

When group #1 and Group #2 got close.. I arranged for them to be physically at the same location for one larger session, and once established that it was possible. each groups cliffhanger was the arrival of the other group at the same locale. they BOTH thought they were going in for the semi-final confrontation with the BBG's number 1 force of evil heroes!

At the opening of the session, people arriving at my office, some of them though the others were students hanging on from classes, still chatting to their teacher.. others knew of each other, but not that they all gamed. I asked everyone to sit down different sides of the room, and it dawned on them, I quickly interjected with "SO, here you are heroes, facing off against each other.. what do you do?"

The room was aghast with Russian language.. too fast for me to keep up.. I quickly calmed them, chastised them for breaking language in the 'class' and they continued in English.. until they remembered to roleplay.

The Paladins of the same order (no less) started in on each other "how dare you wear the colours of honour.." "me? how dare YOU, I am a Paladin of the holy.. " What? how can you work for BBG and be a holy" "I DONT WORK FOR HIM!"

It was a fantastic moment. they soon discovered that they were indeed working on the same side, that they should work together, until they heard cackling...

The fire burst into purple flames and there was the EVIL BBG speaking to the heroes! (I turned on the TV screen that my computer was plugged into, SKYPED back to Australia for my cousin.)

AHAHAHAHA, he laughed, you fools.. your concentrated 'good' within my realm has allowed me to find you.. and now you will die!!!

a Large army of Black Orcs, Trolls, Ogres, witches and a hellspawn broke through the forest, and attacked the party. we lost 1 hero and everyone was so heavily wounded, they had to retreat. They went seperate ways to ensure the BBG would not, could not find them again.. but now, they began to leave notes in taverns for each other.

But what next?

After that session ended.. I knew I was onto something. I could not be the only person to have tried this, maybe there are other GMs who have done the same.. so I got onto some forums, and found some GMs who agreed to give it a go. 

This blog is getting long enough, so I'll leave off the stories for another day, but the basics was, we ran a new campaign, new players for me, but the others formed a group in Moscow, using the same world, the same system, their GM collaborated via email & occasional meetings, My cousin began a game in Adelaide, and my friends in San Fran started theirs, I had three other GMs that started around the same time, same world, same places.. different groups.

While we didn't get as heavily into the same plot, there were enough goings on that affected each other, that made the world more enjoyable for all of us.. I had GMs saying that they felt they were playing too now.. not just 'running' the game.. because each week new things would crop up between teams.. 

Simple things like, leaving notes for each other if they came to the same town weeks later, dispatching major enemies, which allowed other groups of lower levels to mop up the lower level monsters, One guy sold his magic sword to a blacksmith, who on-sold it to the next group, who traded it to a third group, who met the first and he noticed his old sword -"where did you get that? that's my old sword!" he asked..

Multiple groups playing the same region, was by far the best roleplay I've ever had.

Sure there are logistics. If you don't roleplay any given week, you'd characters have to have 'time out' resting in a tavern somewhere, or laying low, so the time-line doesn't get too messy.. some GMs ran catch up sessions, some did quick missions.. I think the San Fran GM had his players go fishing for two weeks.

But now new things were coming in.. we had 7 GMs, 7 sets of NPCs.. when one GM invented an NPC for a tavern, he had to write it all down, because if any other group came in here, it needed to match. After that session, some of the GMs felt it was too much..

So we broke into two types.. Contributors, and Participants.

Contributor GMs would record things, write notes, leave them in a google doc, that we could read up on, and use, if our players were going to the same region later. Participants would 'use' the docs, but not leave a trail as it were.. the players would have the experience of being in a living world, but not be leaving their own mark on it. (although, I got to hear their stories, and integrated some of it into my own players world, added those 'rumours' to the mill)

I've run two more multi-gamesmastered events.. I ran a seminar on doing the same again when I returned to Australia.. I've been busy with studies for the last 2 years, but am emerging in June, and am hoping to start all over again.. but this time, armed with an interactive database for the Contributors.. because at the end of the day, half of the Participant GMs were eager, but didn't have the tools to record the main points, and forgot the rest.

So, maybe.. with a few hundred other GMs, I might finish my world.. 
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