How little can you get away with?

I’m going to run a BW one-shot over skype with some folks I met on the livejournal role-players group. Someone started a thread, asking what games they’d like to play but won’t et a chance to with their local group. The first two of three or so were people saying they’d like to play Burning Wheel.

So, we decided to keep it to human lifepaths, just to keep it simple and I bounced the idea of a city-based campaign. And then I wrote the following in an e-mail:

“Here are some vague-ass city ideas that we could flesh out:

Labyrinth – a city made by The Minotaur with a religion worshiping the choices we have in life, a place that welcomes all monsters and gives them homes.

Rose – once the capital of a tremendous empire, now a crumbling beauty with vast abandoned regions and nobles with nothing left but their name and some crumbling lace and half-dead magicks.

Urban Rex – the largest city in the world, built by sorcerers when they were driven out from the holy lands as witches, now the holy lands are a colony of U.R.’s empire. A spired city with a tremendous thieving community…

I just vomited these out. I’m not married to any of ’em.

Thoughts?”

We circled around these three for a while, tossing ideas back and forth and settled on Rose with its surrounding tower-forts that are known as the Thorns. One of the players is considering taking Faith and being the bastard son of a noble family, so we’ll flesh out the nobles and the religions. Another player is taking a former city guard turned Fence.

Neat stuff.

I enjoy big ole dense settings. Houses of the Blooded has been good fun. Midnight’s original hard-cover was chock full of inspiring paragraphs that were dense with game-y potential.

But what’s on my mind is creating settings for RPG’s not with the mindset of a frustrated writer, writing as much as you can but figuring out how little you can say in order to get everyone inspired to leave their mark and on the same page to play. As a GM who often creates worlds for the games we’re playing, I have often written pages of setting material. Then I paired it down to a few paragraphs.

Now I’m fascinated with the one sentence blurb, filling in the rest as we need it, answering player’s questions as they come up and plenty of blank space on the map.

33 thoughts on “How little can you get away with?

  1. (I’m the player of the bastard temple acolyte turned criminal.)

    I am often the guy who does most of the setting work (and GMing) for my group as well. In the past I’ve spent hours writing up pages of text for my games, all about nations and deities and everything else. The dynamic was such that I did all the setting work and players had little say until the game actually started. I think we all just assumed that was the way it was “supposed” to work.

    I much prefer the way we’re approaching this BW game. The players and their characters are more attached to the setting from the get-go if everyone has some say in it.

    My group has recently started playing a game of Spirit of the Century, and we’ve been switching GMs every session. (The pulpy, comic-book style of the game lends itself well to this.) This leads to a similar situation in which everyone is involved in developing the setting (and the villains!) and it’s working great so far.

  2. (I’m the player of the bastard temple acolyte turned criminal.)

    I am often the guy who does most of the setting work (and GMing) for my group as well. In the past I’ve spent hours writing up pages of text for my games, all about nations and deities and everything else. The dynamic was such that I did all the setting work and players had little say until the game actually started. I think we all just assumed that was the way it was “supposed” to work.

    I much prefer the way we’re approaching this BW game. The players and their characters are more attached to the setting from the get-go if everyone has some say in it.

    My group has recently started playing a game of Spirit of the Century, and we’ve been switching GMs every session. (The pulpy, comic-book style of the game lends itself well to this.) This leads to a similar situation in which everyone is involved in developing the setting (and the villains!) and it’s working great so far.

  3. (I’m the player of the bastard temple acolyte turned criminal.)

    I am often the guy who does most of the setting work (and GMing) for my group as well. In the past I’ve spent hours writing up pages of text for my games, all about nations and deities and everything else. The dynamic was such that I did all the setting work and players had little say until the game actually started. I think we all just assumed that was the way it was “supposed” to work.

    I much prefer the way we’re approaching this BW game. The players and their characters are more attached to the setting from the get-go if everyone has some say in it.

    My group has recently started playing a game of Spirit of the Century, and we’ve been switching GMs every session. (The pulpy, comic-book style of the game lends itself well to this.) This leads to a similar situation in which everyone is involved in developing the setting (and the villains!) and it’s working great so far.

  4. skype

    I’d love to hear a little bit about your practical advice on gaming with Skype. We’ve only done it once (with one player remotely), and it quickly became clear that we needed some way of audibly cuing the absent player. How do you keep your Skype sessions from becoming massive talk-over fests?

      • Re: skype

        Do you have any conventions for the players letting each other (and you) know that they’re done speaking, or anything particular to not having visuals of the players while you play? (when we played, we brought up a photo of our absent friend.)

      • Re: skype

        We haven’t had that problem, as all of the players are over skype and it is just three of us.

        Two of the three people are podcasters and the other is a guy I’ve known for a long time, so we know each other’s rhythms, so that could have something to do with it.

      • Re: skype

        Ah, I bet it does. I suppose practice makes perfect. Apropos of nothing, enjoying listening to one of the SoK podcasts about recycling characters.

      • Re: skype

        Ah, I bet it does. I suppose practice makes perfect. Apropos of nothing, enjoying listening to one of the SoK podcasts about recycling characters.

      • Re: skype

        Ah, I bet it does. I suppose practice makes perfect. Apropos of nothing, enjoying listening to one of the SoK podcasts about recycling characters.

      • Re: skype

        We haven’t had that problem, as all of the players are over skype and it is just three of us.

        Two of the three people are podcasters and the other is a guy I’ve known for a long time, so we know each other’s rhythms, so that could have something to do with it.

      • Re: skype

        We haven’t had that problem, as all of the players are over skype and it is just three of us.

        Two of the three people are podcasters and the other is a guy I’ve known for a long time, so we know each other’s rhythms, so that could have something to do with it.

      • Re: skype

        Do you have any conventions for the players letting each other (and you) know that they’re done speaking, or anything particular to not having visuals of the players while you play? (when we played, we brought up a photo of our absent friend.)

      • Re: skype

        Do you have any conventions for the players letting each other (and you) know that they’re done speaking, or anything particular to not having visuals of the players while you play? (when we played, we brought up a photo of our absent friend.)

  5. skype

    I’d love to hear a little bit about your practical advice on gaming with Skype. We’ve only done it once (with one player remotely), and it quickly became clear that we needed some way of audibly cuing the absent player. How do you keep your Skype sessions from becoming massive talk-over fests?

  6. skype

    I’d love to hear a little bit about your practical advice on gaming with Skype. We’ve only done it once (with one player remotely), and it quickly became clear that we needed some way of audibly cuing the absent player. How do you keep your Skype sessions from becoming massive talk-over fests?

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