Creating Worlds (On Tabletop) Part 1: The Theme

When a group of people get together to play a tabletop game a lot of decisions must be made.  First, the easy one, which game to play.  This comes along with character creation rules and group composition.  Before that can begin, the most important decision must be made.  Who is going to run the game.  One player must put aside his wants and needs for the betterment of the few.  A singular person who must take it upon themselves to create a world for his/her players.  A person of vision and creativity.  A person with a will of steel and the self loathing needed to herd cats around as they gain levels and find loot.

The GM (Game Master for the non D&D types) or DM (Dungeon Master for those that love Wizards and TSR) is the chosen one.  A player that wears this hat stands at a proverbial fork in the road.  Should he/she create a world or run a module.  This series of articles will hopefully shed some light upon the choices and how to make the one that best benefits both player and GM/DM.

Each system comes with a lot of reading material.  This can be a lot to take in at times, but when the task is done you will have the knowledge needed to start.  For those with little time on their hands, a module with an already established setting is a great place to begin.  There are those that strive for more, wanting to put their ideas to paper.  Letting them flow from mind to keyboard or pen, a world is born.

The First of these many decisions for worlds builders after gaming system is the theme.  No matter the system, your game must have a theme.  Will my vampire chronicle be a horror mystery?  Maybe it will be a political struggle with the players caught in the middle?  You will never know until you start making decisions.  Most of which are easily made due to the system.  With enough GM creativity anything can be modded or changed to fit your needs.

The theme will drive your story and give your characters something to identify with.  It will be the tack board you start pinning ideas and small doodles to.  The theme is the central idea needed to build a truly wonderful world.  An easy way to find your theme is by asking a few questions.

1.  What is my world like?  What is the flow of politics, the level of technology, or even the assortment of races you have walking around.  Steampunk D&D can be great fun.  Just try to flesh out the world a little first before you write your story.  Throw around some ideas and it will come to you.  Once you have a slight idea of what your world will be like move on to the next question.

2.  What major powers are at play in my world?  This will give you a great idea of how the story will flow and where your players will want to cause trouble.  Is Cthulhu on the verge of return? Does the city’s prince might need some young vampires to run errands for the local sect leaders?  That kinda thing.

3.  What kind of game are you running?  A dungeon crawl doesn’t need much focus on the world, just the dungeon.  A political based game will require a lot of city and country generation.  Starting small will help focus your vision and make things easier in the long run.

Always ALWAYS find the starting point for your adventure first.  Create that one spot and take a look at it.  That will tell you what your world and local area are like.  That’s almost always where I’ve found my theme.

Every painting starts with a single stroke of the brush, and every world starts with a single idea.  Find that theme and let your creativity do the work.  Find your inspiration and bring a world to life.


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