What Story Games have your Favorite Set-Up Procedures for Creating a World, Genre and Tone of Play?

edited April 2017 in Story Games
What Story Games have great and quick set-up procedures to help players collaboratively create any world, any genre, and any tone of play?

For clarification:
Microscope's Palette mechanic would be an example of the type of thing I'm thinking of.

Comments

  • Misspent Youth leads you through the creation of a dark science fiction setting, including themes and "ratings" (stuff you don't want to see for whatever reason), including the opposition (The Authority) and useful NPCs, and a coherent group of characters. I typically can do it in 30 minutes with a focused group. By prepping a little and limiting choices, I've done it in 10-15 minutes.

    Fiasco. Enough said!

    Coming at this sideways, The Quiet Year and Microscope are games that are entirely about collaborating to create a world and genre, etc., right?

    I have an unfinished, broken cyberpunk game rotting on a shelf, and it has super slick setting-creation rules, but I won't plug it here.
  • edited April 2017
    Misspent Youth leads you through the creation of a dark science fiction setting, including themes and "ratings" (stuff you don't want to see for whatever reason), including the opposition (The Authority) and useful NPCs, and a coherent group of characters. I typically can do it in 30 minutes with a focused group. By prepping a little and limiting choices, I've done it in 10-15 minutes.

    Fiasco. Enough said!

    Coming at this sideways, The Quiet Year and Microscope are games that are entirely about collaborating to create a world and genre, etc., right?

    I have an unfinished, broken cyberpunk game rotting on a shelf, and it has super slick setting-creation rules, but I won't plug it here.
    Thanks for all of these examples :-) I'm glad you brought up Microscope, because I think Microscope's Palette mechanic is a good example of the type of thing I'm looking for...I'm looking for games that have universalizable procedures that work well to help players decide on any type of world and genre they want to play in...or single games that contain the entire process to do so...I haven't checked out the stuff in Misspent Youth yet, but it sounds really interesting and very worth checking out; it's "ratings" sound somewhat similar to the Palette mechanic :-) Thanks again :-)
  • In A Wicked Age!
  • In A Wicked Age!
    Cool, I will check it out :-) If you have a sec, do you mind giving a quick synopsis of the procedures in case others are interested in this sort of thing :-) Thanks :-)

  • edited April 2017
    I like the questionnaires in Dread. You just ask each character leading questions (sometimes very very leading) and you have both contributed significantly to the world. And its simple and flexible. You can ask more vague questions and get more input from the players more leading and you get specifics. Place character specific questions at the top and broader world questions at the bottom and they have a chance to organically create a world inside out.
  • My favourites are Fiasco (which requires a prepped playset, however, and doesn't necessarily - depending on the playset - define much about the world) and my own procedure I use in Inconceivable. I should write that one up; it generates a very flavourful relationship map and tends to give a strong sense of genre.

    John S. ("jenskot") had a "make your own movie" game for a while, which supposedly had a brilliant way of zeroing in on this stuff. I never played it, but I understand that he would lay out cards with labels of genres on the table, and you'd gradually whittle away at them until you were left with three. I think there were also questions for the players, to identify why they were interested in a particular genre or why they wanted to avoid another, helping to set the general vibe at the table.

    This meant that you would end with a fairly unique combination each time. Perhaps "Western"+"Science Fiction"+"Conspiracy Thriller", or "Horror"+"Family Drama"+"Historical" or something like that.
  • At the start of In A Wicked Age, players choose from one of four "Oracles", which are lists of 52 evocative phrases assigned to playing cards, then draw four cards and look up the associated phrases. (The included Oracles all have a sort of ancient-Sumerian fantasy feel, but there are a ton of others online in other genres.) Each phrase describes a place and/or a person and might mention others too.

    Then you get together and list all the people mentioned, and start fleshing them out and finding connections between them. One might be "a high priestess, mourning the massacre of her tribe", another "a cruel war-leader riding home in triumph", so was he the leader of the massacre?

    Finally every player but the GM picks a character to play; the remaining characters become NPCs run by the GM. You stat up the characters and you're off...
  • (I should add that I've had great success playing "In a Wicked Age..." without a prepared oracle, too. I just have everyone write up one or two "Oracle entries", and then we draw four out of hat. If you do this long-term, you end up with a "hat" full of these entries - your own IaWA Oracle for that setting or genre. So long as all the players have a general understanding of what a good oracle entry is like, it works like a charm.)
  • All of the above, some of which I sort of hacked to make this. It's free, so I dunno if it counts as a shameless plug -in which case, I'm totally ashamed but just trying to be of help.

  • John S. ("jenskot") had a "make your own movie" game for a while, which supposedly had a brilliant way of zeroing in on this stuff. I never played it, but I understand that he would lay out cards with labels of genres on the table, and you'd gradually whittle away at them until you were left with three. I think there were also questions for the players, to identify why they were interested in a particular genre or why they wanted to avoid another, helping to set the general vibe at the table.

    This meant that you would end with a fairly unique combination each time. Perhaps "Western"+"Science Fiction"+"Conspiracy Thriller", or "Horror"+"Family Drama"+"Historical" or something like that.
    This sounds absolutely awesome, Paul! Is it published anywhere? Or does anybody have it? Thanks :-)
  • Are there games that help players come up with ideas, and using ideas they are interested in play? Like in Shock: SSF for example. Other games?
  • Intrepid:

    http://www.rpgnow.com/product/121044/Intrepid-A-Storytelling-Adventure

    Sets up a world by having characters create linked elements on a flowchart. The elements need to be specific - eg a faction - each with its own box shape. There are rules about the order in which players add elements to the chart and their linkages. It works incredibly well.

    Then you roleplay an adventure in that world. I've played it once and it easily created a world worthy of its own TV series.

    Much better, however, is the fact that - for an experiment - someone once used Intrepid to create a Steampunk world with the specific intent of using it as a background to run games based on my Steampunk rules. He and a group of friends created the world in a single session of Intrepid but he's been using it - "The Victorian Colony of Mars" - as a background for scenarios ever since. Scenarios so good that I "acquire" copies every time I meet him.

    So, if you're looking to start a new campaign for any system, but need some ideas, I'd recommend running a game of Intrepid first to see if you can't get a world you'll love.

    (Not my game. Nothing to do with me.)
  • Ah, yes, Intrepid is quite nice.

    WarriorMonk, I like some of the steps in your procedure, like how rolling two dice on the map generates some creative constraints for a possible quest/adventure. That's a nice and fruitful procedure!

    Similarly clever are While the World Ends (generating themes, then locations, and finally drawing connections between them) and the "world axes" in On Mighty Thews.

    Shock's, uh, Shocks and Issues are fantastic, as well.
  • Intrepid:

    http://www.rpgnow.com/product/121044/Intrepid-A-Storytelling-Adventure

    Sets up a world by having characters create linked elements on a flowchart. The elements need to be specific - eg a faction - each with its own box shape. There are rules about the order in which players add elements to the chart and their linkages. It works incredibly well.

    Then you roleplay an adventure in that world. I've played it once and it easily created a world worthy of its own TV series.

    Much better, however, is the fact that - for an experiment - someone once used Intrepid to create a Steampunk world with the specific intent of using it as a background to run games based on my Steampunk rules. He and a group of friends created the world in a single session of Intrepid but he's been using it - "The Victorian Colony of Mars" - as a background for scenarios ever since. Scenarios so good that I "acquire" copies every time I meet him.

    So, if you're looking to start a new campaign for any system, but need some ideas, I'd recommend running a game of Intrepid first to see if you can't get a world you'll love.

    (Not my game. Nothing to do with me.)
    I checked out Intrepid, I really like how it has you choose themes, very cool :-)
  • I'm surprised Downfall wasn't mentioned. The whole first half of the game is focused on world set-up. Granted, it takes about .5 - 1 hr to get through, so I guess it depends on what you're looking for. You establish a "Flaw" that society hinges around (essentially the theme for the game), then build the aesthetic, and then define the traditions of society.
  • edited May 2017
    While the World Ends, and Svart av kval, vit av lust (Black of Despair, White of Lust)
    You create a theme and a relationship map together, and then develop that map during play.

    A Thousand Years Under the Sun
    You play out a thousand years of uprising and falling cultures. A nice way of creating a setting to Archipelago.

    This is Pulp
    My own creation, where the participants takes a map and fill it with pulp tropes inspired by the map's theme. These tropes are then used to create an one-shot adventure.
  • Brian Rogers is working on Sticks Improv, which he got generally positive feedback on at Metatopia. I want to see if I can figure out how to make it work for me.

    I like what Monsterhearts (and other PbtA) games do, and I generally like what Fate does.
  • I like it when players help to create the setting. In Psi*Run as the players remember their past they help to flesh out the world. In Uncharted Worlds (PbtA), the players can give the MC the Major Houses of the universe by defining Factions that they are in debt to and providing color on their planetary origins.
  • My game Inconceivable has a really fun "brainstorming" phase, and this reminds me I should type it up sometime.

    Meanwhile, one thing I haven't seen explored a whole lot is how mechanics used in play can leveraged to create setting information.

    A good example I've seen is how AW's playbooks can lead the game in different directions. My favourite is the Quarantine, which has a list of "start of session" questions you take turns answering as you go along.

    The reason this is cool is because it means that, session by session, the group starts fleshing out the history of the apocalypse and we gradually, step by step, learn about what kind of game we're actually playing. It's especially cool in that you can internalize it as the *character* starting to regain some of their memories, if you're into that angle.

    That's pretty interesting, because we don't need to set up a whole lot *before* the game. Simply choosing that playbook means that things will develop in a certain direction as we play. The question prompts lead us to create more and more of this material, session by session, which feels like a process of *discovery*.

    I'd love to see more of that in game design.
  • I've used Quiet Year to set up an Apocalypse World campaign. More specifically I used Our Last Best Hope's Curse the Darkness playbook to show everyone the apocalypse, then we fast-forwarded to Quiet Year, then to AW after that. I'm tempted to bring that world forward again in time for AW2E, building further on what we established.

    We used a Quiet Year-ish method of making the campaign world for Dungeon World. I put in the capital city and its' deal, then got everyone else to take turns adding a landmark, a civilisation and a problem to the world map. We managed to tag in pretty much all of them, even if it was in players' backstories or unsolved mysteries which people did their best to avoid for their own sanity.

    Fiasco has a massively lengthy amount of prep time which is why it's great they made it really fun. Final Girl specifically suggesting starting by talking about your favourite horror movies is a good tone-setter, as is making a bunch of horror stereotypes you know will mostly be dead by the game's end.
  • Perilous Wilds for Dungeon World is pretty great; I also like Microscope & Questlandia are cool.

    I'd love to see the world-builder for Inconceivable.
  • edited June 2017

    I'd love to see the world-builder for Inconceivable.
    - yochaigal
    Paul, if you ever write the game out please send it to me and I'll have Story Games SLC playtest it. Sounds like yochaigal is interested in a copy too. :smile: Also, if you plan on playing it any time soon please let me know. It sounds fun! :smile:

    BTW we ended up playing Fiasco this week because there was 9 of us and Remember Tomorrow was going to be too complicated for me to facilitate alone with multiple groups; however, we'll be playing it fairly soon and I'll make sure to do a write up once we do. :smile:
  • Thanks, Jeff!

    The last few playtest sessions got cancelled, and we're having trouble getting together again. The game has been a fun experiment, but I'm still trying to figure out what it's intended to do, exactly. Each session has had us trying to do different things, but some of the big picture is still missing.

    I should really write up the setup procedure, though - that's an old thing I originally put together for another game, and it's always been very effective. It's a busy month but I'll see if I can get to it, and then try to remember to post about it here. Thanks for the kind words!
  • edited June 2017
    My take is that you should design the procedures to produce a game that produces the type of story found in the Princess Bride. The type of humor and world and characters etc. Not precisely, the story and world and characters should be the players own but they should be animated and inspired and emulate the movie's spirit. I think you should watch the movie again and take copious notes, and think about and playtest procedures that will result in the tone and type of story that is exhibited. It's worth doing and I'm not sure that it's been done, the more specific the goal, and the more directed and explicit the tone, the better the game is going to be, and the better the stories are going to be. Look at what Jason was able to do with Fiasco by being percise and making clear the type of story that was being told, and having the proceeders/mechanics to back it up. Anyway, that's my take :-) thanks :-)

  • Thanks, Jeff!

    I appreciate it. The questions I'm dealing with are procedural - not about content, but about the design of the game.

    Humour in RPG design is always an interesting problem; I'm not sure the tools for it really exist. Usually the players have to bring it themselves, although certain types of setup can encourage the right tone (like your example of Fiasco's playsets).
  • Thanks, Jeff!

    I appreciate it. The questions I'm dealing with are procedural - not about content, but about the design of the game.

    Humour in RPG design is always an interesting problem; I'm not sure the tools for it really exist. Usually the players have to bring it themselves, although certain types of setup can encourage the right tone (like your example of Fiasco's playsets).
    Ageed, you would set up the humor by explicitly stating the type of game you're aiming for and the type of tone, the expectations for the game etc.– Similar to how Fiasco does it but your aim would be The Princess Bride rather than the Coen brothers.
  • Sets up a world by having characters create linked elements on a flowchart. The elements need to be specific - eg a faction - each with its own box shape. There are rules about the order in which players add elements to the chart and their linkages. It works incredibly well.
    Is this similar to a relationship map, but applied more generically?
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