Outsourcing world building

Here’s a tip for all lazy GMs, outsource some or most of your world building to your players.

Today I ran the first session of my d12 play test campaign with approximately 1 hour of preparation. I think this will go down a lot as the campaign gets properly underway. To use this approach you need lots of random encounter tables and lists of names and other useful things.

For example today I needed to lay down the basics for the campaign. During the character creation session I sketched really rough map where we had one large city in the middle, river going from eastern mountains through the city to sea at west with one large lake on the way.

Add names for the city, lake, make up couple of additional cities (port, mining town in east) and name them. The world is ready.

Now comes rumor list. Rumor list is basically a list of small adventure hooks, one or two sentences that tell something interesting that is happening in the world. I aimed at 20 rumors but time run out and the player started to show up so I had only 18. I put those on a list to roll on and at the start of the session characters made information gathering rolls. On success they could roll from the rumor list to get adventure hook.

At this point things you just start listening what the players are talking and take real or mental notes about stuff. When they decide to do something based on the rumors you have heard something they thought about the rumor and quite likely gave you more ideas for the game. Based on all this you just go with the flow and see what happens. The players get to drive the play forward and you don’t have to spends hours preparing an adventure the players are not interested in.

Another component of this style of play is to have random encounter/event tables (lots of them). I had Vornheim and Runequest Cities on the table and they both contributed to the session. Another thing was lot of names.

The plan is that after couple of sessions the players have enough adventure hooks and loose ends from the sessions that I don’t have to do any preparations, the players take care of that.