In the Plotonomicon, creating a world is, much like creating a character, a series of Questions. Where creating a player’s character is generally a dialogue between the GM and that player, creating a world is one that involves everybody around the table.
Before starting, you’ll need to decide how much detail you want to put in your world – there’s no limit to how much time you can spend creating a world, if you enjoy doing so, but maybe you want to use that world immediately.
Quick Start World
The story has started. You have promised an epic of sword & sorcery, the characters are ready, you just don’t have a world upon which to unleash them. So let’s spend the least amount of time to get the story rolling.
Let’s start with a simple Question: Where do we start?
- Player A draws
Player A: “Obviously, we start with some kind of forest. Fading into myth? Maybe some kind of mystical forest that has somehow vanished from time and space.”
Player A: “I wonder: What happens in the forest?“
Player B draws
Player B: “Since this Earth is square, I believe that the forest works with different laws of physics than the main world. That’s not very surprising, as this is a mystical forest. It is also a Stationary Earth, so… for some reason, the forest has stayed in the same place while the world was moving. Perhaps due to different laws of physics, it only appears in some season, when Earth is in the right position in its orbit around the Sun?”
GM: “All of this is useful, but don’t forget to answer Player A’s Question!”
Player B: “Oh, yes, what’s happening in the forest. Well, New life into old ideas. Or instead of ideas, this could be spirits. So, the spirits of the forest have been dormant for a long time, and they are returning to life.”
GM: “Very well. That’s almost sufficient to get started. I just have one last Question: What are the heroes doing here?“
Player C draws
- Player C: “We’re following rumors of a monster. Actually, we’re following the tracks of some kind of monster. This lead us here. We’re probably lost now.”
There are numerous things that you do not know about this forest. What do the spirits look or sound like? What do they want? How will they react to the heroe’s intrusion? What does the monster look like? Why are the spirits asleep?
All good Questions, which may be answered during the story, as the characters encounter these inhabitants and the monster.
Right now, you have enough to get the story rolling.
The game is world-building
Sometimes, the story is about the world itself, rather than its inhabitants. Or perhaps, you enjoy a session to build the world before telling stories in it. If so, you have more time ahead of you.
In this case, let’s play Question ping-pong.
Player B: “I wonder: What caused the spirits to wake-up?“
Player C draws
Player C: “Great Progress. So, we are talking about Earth, our Earth or one that looks very much like it. Somehow, scientific discoveries are awakening the Spirits of Nature trapped in the Forest. Probably something related to space, maybe satellites?”
Player C: “I wonder: What trapped the Spirits of Nature in the Forest?“
Player D draws
Player D: “Old age, simply. The Spirits of Nature were born with Nature herself, and progressively grew old. They went to the Forest to die, until that satellite woke them up.”
Player D: “I wonder: How long have the Spirits of Nature being trapped here?“
Player A draws
Player A: “Since the fire lizards came out of the seas.”
Player A: “I wonder: Where is the Forest, exactly?“
Player B: “Mmmh…. Some kind of street performer? Also, I don’t know enough about statues to be sure, but it looks like it’s from South-East Asia. So, I would say… Hong Kong. The Forest now covers the city of Hong Kong! Also, it’s gracious and deadly… I’m not sure exactly what that means, but for some reason, people are attracted to the Forest.”
Player B: “I wonder: When did the Forest show up?“
Player C draws
Player C: “Oh, that one is tricky. I see a bat-winged serpent-woman, a man in armor, a window, also We need to talk, etc. Any ideas?”
Player A: “Wasn’t there a year of the dragon? Or a year of the serpent?”
Player B: “Something related to a breakup?”
Player D: “The retrocession of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China?”
Player C: “I think I’ll go with the breakup, but figuratively. Say, there was an earthquake somewhere in South-East Asia a few months ago. One of the worst in history, and it caused massive Tsunamis. That’s when the Forest arrived in Hong Kong.”
Player C: “I’d like to return to the Spirits of Nature. I wonder, What are the Spirits of Nature going to do?“
Player D draws
Player D: “Obviously, they are going to cross the water. They are going to colonize Mainland China, because No Obstacle is Too Great?”
Player D: “I wonder, What is the situation in the People’s Republic of China?“
Player A draws
- Player A: “Too much of a good thing? This could be nature recovering, or the country being so rich that it can’t cope with internal societal changes. Actually, why choose? This is a period of social reforms, where each day is full of promises, where pollution decreases, life expectancy increases… and in this setting, nobody cares all that much about Hong Kong.”
Let’s stop here. We have our Earth, nearly unchanged. We have a mysterious forest, peopled by entirely alien Spirits of Nature. We have a huge earthquake, which may have been caused by the Forest, or may have caused its reappearance. We have one of the largest and richest cities in the world, essentially vanished. We have the People’s Republic of China, ignoring the threat that grows in its own South. We have some Fire Lizards, which may return at some point in the story. It is quite possible that adventurers of all sorts are converging on Hong Kong, hoping to rescue survivors, plunder its riches or study its ecosystem.
In other words, we already have a rich seed for a setting, and we may continue as long as we have Questions.
How did we do that?
As usual with the Plotonomicon, once we have the right Questions, everything else fits nicely.
Among starting Questions, we recommend something along the lines of:
- “Where do we start?”
- “What does this place look like?”
- “What does it feel like?”
- “What is the main problem?”
- “How did that happen?”
- “What is going to happen now?”
- “What are people doing about it?”
- “What can the heroes do about it?”
…and from then, if you have time to proceed, Question ping-pong!