Reflecting on it, while I have harboured the romantic idea that I would one day have a long-term committed roleplaying campaign, I’ve never really created any World with that specific intent in mind. Generally, my games are quickly arranged affairs that require a starting location and an adventure. They rarely last… occasionally something sticks.
The idea that one should start small is a good one: the opposite extreme, that you would create the whole World before you begin to play, is patently absurd. One would never begin actual play. But it seems to me that the effect of not truly planning for the long-term growth of a World is simply poor design.
I suppose that, in truth, while I harboured the romantic ideal of “my own World”, I never really believed that I was good enough for such ambitions. Internally there is a self-limiter that I have learned to challenge over the past couple of years, the parent-like voice in my head that says, “You’re not good enough. You’ll never amount to anything, young man.”
If we are serious about wanting to present a World ready to accommodate longer-term play then it seems we would need to design for this. Having some larger vision of the World and what it might contain is necessary if one is to avoid the eclectic accumulation of mismatched pieces that is so often the product of my GMing.
Not that there is anything wrong with short-term play, nor with the eclectic mish-mash of Worlds such as Mystamyr – which started with the D&D Red Box “First Adventure” and grew from there. It’s just that the romantic allure of building a place for many parties of player characters to explore and adventure across over an extended period of play is a strong one.
To put it another way, when I hack together a starting location and a first adventure for play there is a tendency to grab the tried-and-tested. The same tropes get recycled and the path of least resistance always leads to the same kinds of places: small dungeons which exist within a fairly generic backdrop. It’s no wonder that I get bored with my own creations.
It seems to me that taking the time to imagine the grand sweep of the whole World – what makes it your particular vision for a fantastic setting – would allow for a greater cohesion as you build the first places and then add to them over time. This is the kind of top-down thinking that GURPS Fantasy and GURPS Space excel in guiding but which I have generally been too scared to follow.
In my endless circling, spiralling towards the games I really want to play, I feel that this intentional design mindset is something that I would benefit from practicing. Holding back the rush to get to the table and taking the time to ask the big-picture questions would undoubtedly lead to some different outcomes.