World Creation/Exploration as Play

One of my explicit design goals with Heroes Fall is to have play be a creative exploration of world building. Players should start with the seeds of a world and fill in the details as they go through a campaign. The rules of the game should encourage players to make declarations about the world, reward them for taking ownership, and get them invested in the game. The design thoughts I’ve mused about in recent posts have me thinking about this through a different lens.

World Creation as GM and Player

Moving the structure of Heroes Fall such that each player acts as a GM when their character is not the protagonist changes the nature of world creation for that person. I’ll have to revisit the principles, agendas, and moves for both players and GMs to make sure they suit my principles and agendas as a designer.

Player agendas might be something along the lines of:

  • Seek adventure, explore ancient ruins
  • Explore the world, encounter other cultures.
  • Follow your passions, both loving and vengeful.
  • Obey your Drive.
  • Carve out your own place.

The players are being directed to be adventurers in a classic pulp sense. Conan was a wanderer who followed his whims, seeking adventure, fame, fortune, and love. He hewed his way to the throne of Aquilonia but in many of his adventures he was simply seeking a treasure, a woman, vengeance, or a salve to his pride.

GM principles will need to explore different things. Whenever take part in a scene as a GM, follow these principles:

  • Address yourself to the character, not the player.
  • Threaten the character’s place in the world.
  • Show the world through a dark, weird, fantastic lens.
  • Name your NPCs, push their needs.
  • Ask questions and build on the answers.
  • Respond with adversity and rewards.
  • Be a fan of the protagonist.
  • Follow the fiction.
  • Hint at the fall that is to come.

As a first draft this is a start. I think the principles will need to highlight more clearly what a GM’s role in this multi-GM story will be but this is my starting point. I do worry that telling the GMs to show the world through a dark, weird, fantastic lens will push the game in a gonzo direction, though it does speak directly to building the world.

The GM agenda is another place I need to consider how to guide play. Don’t have time to get into that now, but will dive into it in a later post.

About PK

PK Sullivan is a game designer and writer living in Chicago.
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