Living World/World in Motion

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BedrockBrendan

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For those who run campaigns, particularly sandboxes, as living worlds, what does this term mean to you, and what techniques and prep methods do you use to maintain the sense of a living world?
 

Vidgrip

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I'm not certain if I'm interpreting your terms correctly, but I'll describe that they mean to me. For my campaigns it includes the following:

1) Maintain a calendar so players can see when their deadlines are and mark upcoming events and holidays, or days of ill omen, to plan around.

2) News bulletins of some sort that describe events happening in the world around them, many of those are events that players can interact with. Others are just to maintain the atmosphere of the setting. In a modern game, newspaper headlines work. In a fantasy game I do the same thing but describe them as "what you hear in the taverns". The extent to which players show an interest in some headline lets me know if I should develop it into an adventure for a future session.

3) I establish numerous factions that operate in the game world, often in opposition to each other. Let players know the status of those conflicts by headlines if not more direct means. Many of Kevin Crawford's games use detailed mechanics for running these factions with die rolls. I just decide myself how the conflicts will ebb and flow and only inform players if I think their characters would be interested. Of course if players get involved, then they might be able to push events one way or another. In many sessions, players will show no interest in these factions at all, and that's fine.

4) NPC's that players enjoy interacting with (either as allies or adversaries) don't fade away after the adventure that introduces them. Players that help an abbot at the monastery may, in future sessions, get a letter from him asking for monetary donations to rebuild the roof of the orphanage, or maybe they hear in the tavern that the abbot recently died in mysterious circumstances or has been arrested for some unspecified crime.

While this does take some prep work (writing headlines, thinking about factional conflicts, and updating the calendar), it also saves me time. If players show little interest in the news about the abbot, then I will not waste one minute thinking about what really happened to him, much less create an adventure out of it. By only developing on ideas in which players express interest, I avoid having a notebook filled with unused adventures.
 

BedrockBrendan

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I'm not certain if I'm interpreting your terms correctly....

I think these terms are fairly flexible and mean slightly different things to different people (one reason I posted the question). So everyone should feel free to provide their answer to what they think living world/world in motion is.
 

Fenris-77

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I do living world stuff based on ideas about focus. I always prep the close stuff pretty thoroughly, and that includes the things that happen in the background. The further 'away' you get from the players, the less focused my prep and background movement gets. For stuff that's close enough for the players to interact with given reasonable travel I'll often have it prepped to the point that if the players push that button I can start it moving without having to make a lot of decisions. I'll be the first person to say that when I use the word 'prep' or 'prepped' I mean something different than a lot of guys, as I do a lot more random tables and off-the-cuff work than a lot of GMs are comfortable with. I want to foster a sense of verisimilitude, of course, but the real benchmark is what do I have to do beforehand to be able to do that at the table, and that's a question that every GM has to answer.
 

TristramEvans

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For me it means a type of Sandbox campaign wherein the world exists and has its movers and shakers beyond the perception of the characters in the game. Generally this means NPCs are pursuing goals of their own design, and these proceed until they come into conflict with the goals of other NPCs or the player characters interfere in some way.

Generally I start with a few charts dilineating the power structures of several groups in the world, including political alliances, criminal organizations, and familiarity between more powerful individuals/creatures. I'll then assign goals to the major NPCs and create a series of flowcharts that demark the steps towards achieve these goals. Comparing the flowcharts for various characters, I find points of potential intersection and mark these as shift points. I then draw a series of dividing lines that mark the passage of time needed between points. In the middle of any time period without a marked subgoal or shift point I add in "chaos points".

As the game progresses I mark off the advancement through gametime, until I hit upon either a goal point, shift point, or chaos point.

Generally I will roll to resolve these. Chaos points are times when something completely unexpected may occur that could have a ripple effect or cause an NPC to either temporarily divert their attention, overcome an unforseen obstacle, or pursue their next goal in a new way.
 

xanther

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It means to me the world changes and evolves based on the machinations of PCs etc.; it means PC actions can certainly have consequences on the world and most assuredly provoke reactions, it means very much an internal consistency to the world.

Most preparation is in my head, and only write it down ahead of time for areas the PCs may interact with and certainly take notes of any such interaction. Mostly when making notes on NPCs I note their goals & inter-relations and resources, then sketch out their "plots" as in what they are plotting. In a dungeon/fixed location setting I set up a simple schedule of where various important NPCs are normally at different times of the day and any patrol schedule and general ideas of what creatures do with their down time.

Goals and interrelations means I do not need to script what they do and can adjust and react on the fly to PC action.

Some NPCs and creatures may get a "backstory" like two sentences, just to give context.

Noting their resources keeps me honest as it is easy to just give the orcs on level 2 thirty more members so they can have 5 guards at every entrance and wandering patrol of 10. In fact, the limit on NPC resources is a driver of their strategy and tactics...they have to make use of them as they see fit...or I may back calculate and say I wish to have 4 guards here...so that means 12 guards in 8 hour shifts each, etc.
I also make sure the resources I give a follows the internal logic of the setting, if there are 12 guards the have a place the "live," eat, etc. they have a source of food, and a necessary. This makes a place or lair come alive.
It also lets my players use their minds, if there a 400 orcs in a valley and there are no signs they are not stripping the area for food....something is up....this isn't a computer game where they just exist.

I don't strongly script the advancement of NPC plots, I keep it pretty general and personally do not like the clock is ticking adventures so don't really craft them.

The above is pretty easy to do, just a simple note and part of adventure design. All of it I keep short, a few sentences max, unless I'm feeling a creative urge. I try not to invest too much into any one thing, that way to plot protection leads, and plot protection leads to the dark side.
 

robertsconley

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For those who run campaigns, particularly sandboxes, as living worlds, what does this term mean to you, and what techniques and prep methods do you use to maintain the sense of a living world?
One thing I do that is effective is that I develop a patter to describe what going on particularly in urban areas. I don't attempt to describe everything unless asked. I limit it to things that "caught" the attention of the PCs.

I made a graphics to illustrate what it is I do using the City State of the Invincible Overlord. The party is current eating breakfast at the Seahawk Tavern. They decide to pay a visit to the Sorcerer's Supply House. I look at my map and figure out it would take four minutes to get there. Each square is a 120'. The party can move two squares a minute.

The urban encounter table I use has you rolling every minute. I will making six rolls: one to see if anything happens in the tavern while leaving, one to see if there anything going on outside of the tavern. Then four more to see what happens along the way. I rolled the following.


1) No Encounter
2) Foreigner Urchins/Children To/from market/church/work Seeking/In a duel/fight/etc.
3) No Encounter
4) No Encounter
5) No Encounter
6) Lia-Kavair: Pursecutting/Stalking a mark/etc.

This how it would play out.

World in Motion.jpg
The players can deal with or ignore each of these as they see fit. It not uncommon for one or two players to decide they want to check out or deal with something while the rest of the party moves on. In which case I handle the split using a round robin technique. I will spend 5 to 15 minutes with a group and then turn my attention to the next group. Going back and forth as needed.

The Dots on the right hand map roughly marks where I would pause the party (or character token) and describe something.

It take some practice but highly effective in giving the players the sense they are part of a larger world. For rural or wilderness travel, the patter is similar but but I make a rolls per four hour watch. I have recently radically altered how I handle overland travel as result of my experience with Adventure in Middle Earth. I roll a number of encounters based on the length of the journey using a logarithmic scale. The encounter table is not really an encounter table anymore, it more an event table. I will then look at the results and sprinkle them in throughout the journey. In some cases they get packed into one section with the rest of the journey relatively uneventful.

For AiME the journey encounters were pitch perfect. BedrockBrendan BedrockBrendan and Baulderstone Baulderstone experienced it when I ran a session of AiME for them. I am still working on how the details shakes out for my stuff.
 

The Butcher

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A sandbox where (1) NPCs have plans of their own and act to carry them out, which results in changes on a time table and (2) PCs’ (and NPCs’) actions have lasting consequences.

Which really should be the only type of sandbox.
 

EmperorNorton

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Honestly, to me, it just means that the world moves and changes both based on what the players do and what the NPCs they encounter do... but also what happens in the world outside the player's view.

I'm actually not sure that it even has to be a "sandbox". Even if the players are "boxed in" to a specific premise for the campaign, the world can still be a living world.
 

Silverlion

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Honestly, to me, it just means that the world moves and changes both based on what the players do and what the NPCs they encounter do... but also what happens in the world outside the player's view.

I'm actually not sure that it even has to be a "sandbox". Even if the players are "boxed in" to a specific premise for the campaign, the world can still be a living world.
Pretty much what I do, the world moves on, one way or another, the player's deeds may get heard about, and bring trouble, or welcome. The things the players don't engage in possibly will get worse, and so on.
 

Baulderstone

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From the GM side, a campaign is a living world if I have playing pieces I can move around the world. It's the opposite of a story path, where the encounters in a campaign are laid in a relatively straight path, with me springing them on the players as they advance. In a living world, I have a number factions and notable NPCs that can take action at any time in response to the events of a session. Sandboxes are not necessarily living worlds. I can make a large sandbox for the players to explore, but if the encounters remain static, staying put in the keyed location, it's not a living world.

As for prepping, you need to make NPCs that have big goals, hopefully with some at odds with each as well as the PCs. Take some time to think about how they feel about each other and what history they have. Think about the kind of actions they take to further their goals. One NPC may use whisper campaigns against their enemies, while another goes for brute force.

Make a concise list of the NPCs/factions, along with their goals and methods, that you can have in front of you when you run the game. You can glance at it periodically to look for opportunities to bring them into current scenario. Between sessions, you can update what NPCs will likely be up to in the next session.

You don't need to go overboard with this. Players are going to get confused if the game has too many moving parts. You'll also be adding more factions once the campaign starts, so starting with just a handful should be enough.
 

AsenRG

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For me it means a type of Sandbox campaign wherein the world exists and has its movers and shakers beyond the perception of the characters in the game. Generally this means NPCs are pursuing goals of their own design, and these proceed until they come into conflict with the goals of other NPCs or the player characters interfere in some way.
Same, but I'd say "beyond the immediate perception of the characters, and even when there aren't movers and shakers around, the world still keeps moving":thumbsup:.


Preparing is another matter, and shall be dealt with later in the thread.

A sandbox where (1) NPCs have plans of their own and act to carry them out, which results in changes on a time table and (2) PCs’ (and NPCs’) actions have lasting consequences.

Which really should be the only type of sandbox.
Hell yes:shade:!
 

Winterblight

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It depends on how well the setting is fleshed out. If I'm GMing something like Earthdawn that has a well established setting then I will use a calendar and the PCs can look forward to certain annual events such as the Founding Tournament in Travar or the Selection in Iopos. If its a homebrew setting, that kind of thing might happen over time if the game lasts long enough.

In general, the PCs actions matter, and consequences both positive and negative continue to reverberate in the local setting. That is if the PCs kill the local necromancer whose presence was stopping trade, then trade will resume. However, increased trade might eventually attract brigands. This isn't likely to have much consequence outside of the immediate area, but if the PCs killed a noble they mistook for the necromancer, then the reverberations would echo more widely.

NPCs should be reoccurring and the PCs should encounter them outside of just pumping them for information and they should have goals of their own that can make them both helpful and unhelpful depending on what the PCs are trying to accomplish. NPCs can also be pumped for information they might know about the PCs.

I often use countdowns so the PCs know they only have so long to solve certain problems, and sometimes others solve them if they dither too long or get waylaid.

Open World - by this I don't just mean the PCs can go anywhere (which they can) but that they can also encounter anything. If the 1st level PCs realise they have stumbled on to a dragons lair while searching for something else, they are welcome to go in and take their chances, or just move on knowing that they can always come back or sell that info.
 
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