Master Mines

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locations, tiered plot and going overboard

In the ‘coming back to the kingdom’ post, I mentioned a location creation system that I worked into the Chargen. Basically, a sheet of paper is passed around along with the secrets sheets and players each create a location. I’ve refined this system a bit in order to make the locations matter to the narrative as much as the secrets do.Basically, players answer three questions about the location:

-What/where is the the location?
-Why is it/will it be important to the gathering?
-What is the conflict surrounding the location?

So as an example, an abandoned subway station (#1) that harbors a powerful Ragpenny (ragpennys are magical artifacts) the players will need to defeat a cobweb (#2) but is inhabited by a Gathering of mad religious zealots (#3)

So here’s the issue:

I’m getting concerned that I’m overdefining the creation process, but on the other hand, given the playtests I’ve run and listened to, people seem confused as how to get the game rolling. My hope is that by creating places that the characters will want/need to get to, but have some conflict surrounding them, it encourages exploration of the game world and gives them something to focus on as they work towards their goal of self discovery.

As it stands now there are three tiers to the plot:

The first tier is the subplot. This is the immediate threats and resolutions that would make up the substance of the individual games. Subplots are created by the locations, minor cobwebs, etc. In general, they’re introduced and resolved within a session or two, but they feed into the larger (more important) tiers, metaplot andpersonal plot.

Metaplot I talked about a few months ago, but just to quickly recap, it’s the larger story that lasts through the entirety of the game. It’s an amagamation of the conflicts and antagonists the characters faced in their previous lives, only with a different face. The purpose of the metaplot is to give everyone a reason to stick together and keep moving.
The final tier, and by far the most important, is the personal plot, the journeys of the individual characters to find out who they were. This is the point of the game, and at no point should the subplot or metaplot interfere with the personal plot. Which brings me to my worry.

I’ve had this sinking feeling I’m overdefining too much. Everything I’ve come up with in recent weeks I think makes the game work better, but it’s also kind of tough to get perspective on it as a whole. I may need to do an overhaul and see if there’s anything I can simplify or make cleaner.


December 13, 2007 - Posted by | Kingdom of Nothing


  1. Jeff,

    Why don’t you test out the location creation system and see what happens? It might work without a hitch. Many players need a kick in the pants. I’m that way in a con demo sense. How would you write an example of play using this system?

    I wonder if you were to run it without rules as the GM and push the players to see what emergent play develops. Then either codify that emergent play, or structure the instructions to encourage variants of emergent play that still define the locations in ways that give the players “something to do”.

    Comment by orklord | December 14, 2007 | Reply

  2. Situation creation like this is wonderful. It’s gold. GMs of indie games these days expect to be able to pick up and play without doing a bunch of story-before nonsense and this gives them the power to do that.

    My only concern would be how to present this in a way that people can easily grok it. If these are all on a single sheet of paper, doesn’t that get difficult to read?

    Generally I feel it’s probably better to over-design, then to pare away the stuff that doesn’t work.

    Comment by robertbohl | December 14, 2007 | Reply

  3. Jeff,

    Having come out of a Giants ashcan playtest where the players got into the game off the bat because of map creation, I think you should at least give this a try.

    I certainly have been the GM looking for a way to get things rolling. I think my previous game Last Generation really missed on that so I would strongly recommend giving it a shot.

    Comment by commondialog | December 18, 2007 | Reply

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