Sunday, December 3, 2023

How Much World Building Do You Require to Become Engaged?

How Much World Building Do You Require to Become Engaged?
Today I had the opportunity to watch a movie.....the type of movie I generally like even if they're bad (the genre isn't actually relevant here), but I was only able to get maybe half-way through when I had to nope out. I thought this movie just sucked and the suckage kind of sat in my head and I spent a few hours just stewing as to why I thought this movie sucked. I clearly didn't like it, but I just couldn't quite grasp why I didn't like it.

Eventually, after a bit more of an expenditure of brain-power than I like to waste on this particular form of entertainment, I realized that this movie tried, and failed, to be set in what should have been a recognizable location, within a world that shouldn't need a lot of explanation. It felt like a ton of disparate details just being crammed together and the audience was just supposed to ....I don't know, get it? It was maybe halfway through the movie, maybe 10' before I turned it off, when I kind of confirmed what country this movie was set in. It felt like the audience was expected to simply absorb all of the exposition and enjoy the ride.

To me it wasn't too unlike many Anime movies. They tend to just drop the audience in and run with the story and you have to figure it out as they go along. The thing is most Anime that I've seen doesn't go so heavy-handed with the details.

It quickly occurred to me that most convention/tournament games kind of do the same thing, but it's not the same because while players may be thrust into a completely unknown setting (heck, even sometimes completely unknown game mechanics!) player at least have some level of agency and can work at their own pace to learn about the setting they're in for a few hours. I'm sure the fact there is some amount of interactivity instead of just passive viewing helps.......

I'm honestly wondering just how much world-building players require in their games, not just the convention game but the home game as well. I'd like to think I'm more easy going myself, but I distinctly recall an online tournament game that essentially started each player all alone in some kind of void, kind of like some existential sensory deprivation tank. One minute your PC is doing their thing then nothingness. I have no clue what the GM was trying to accomplish, but I basically sat silent for 10' then noped out of the game.* For all I knew, from my PC's perspective, was that I was dead and in purgatory. Why would I try to do anything about it, especially since I basically have no sense of, well any senses....

When I'm writing an adventure I really don't like to write a novel for the GMs to have to read and comprehend. If there's more than a single page of backstory I think I've failed. I want to set something up, but I'm not able to anticipate everything the player may want to know and I hope that if there's some kind of framework the GM can decide what the player needs on the fly. I had a quick "learn-to" game that I had to add two paragraphs to for the two most-encountered left-field player actions that I ran into, mostly because players doing a learning session have no desire to see their PC live and want to push the envelope until the PC was dead or the clock ran out (as in convention time-block, not a timed game otherwise).

I think I need to go through an assortment of written adventures and see how widely the world-building parameters are. The aforementioned movie clearly didn't have enough, and when the entire movies was an entire arsenal of Chekhov's Guns....

*One of the hardest lessons I've managed to live in my half-century of learning can be summed up from a quote from one of my favorite cheesy PCs: "If we don't like it we can always leave." I don't know why people....ok, younger me....feel like they have to throw good resources after bad when things aren't worthwhile. Watching a crappy movie, stop. Not enjoying your meal, why finish it? You know, stuff like that.


  1. Why all the explanation but not naming the movie? It would make understanding what you mean much easier.

  2. How much world building? Great question that never got answered. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that at least 30% of everything you say during the game should have a world building component.


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