Content of the article: "Running a large living breathing open world."
My players have suggested I share a little of how I run my worlds as it is apparently different to most DM's.
The first I will say is that I run a completely open world, there are stories and threads and adventures and campaigns but the players are free to do what they wish, how they wish and when. But the thing I do that apparently is different is that my world lives and breathes and evolves off screen.
By that I mean that stuff happens out of the players existence. I don't leave all my plotlines static untoil players stumble on them. If the uncle of a young king is plotting to overthrow his nephew, then there is a timeline for that, preparations have happened and, if the players happen to be in the area they might get involved, or, they may only hear about it in passing. The world around them will change. The uncle may be a despot where his brother and nephew where good. Like a stone the ripples will impact the world.
A town the party passes through may be raided by barbarians, people killed and captured. Again the party may not find out until they return to be told the barbarians were hunted and killed 3 weeks ago. The party were busy doing there own adventure killing a dragon.
The big bad is trying to get a magical scroll, the party doesn't find themselves on the path that prevents it so they can't stop him, he is stronger and harder to defeat.
Managing these plotlines is not as hard as it appears and is far more realistic. The bad guy doesn't just stop and wait to be stopped, the world is not peaceful and safe when the players are not around. The players are heroes, but they are not the only ones and they can't solve every issue in the world.
I keep a spreadsheet I think of events I add them to this spreadsheet and every session I update the real world timeline. 6 sessions may encompass 2 days, or a month depending on events. At any point I know where in my players calendar they are, even if they don't. If an event is due to occur I think they might enjoy I give them a chance to be in that location for it without railroading them. I also track smaller events. They may disrupt the big bad without knowing it by stopping that slave train. That may delay that other event happening 3 months as he sources a new supply of slaves.
When the event occurs I mark this down and then I indicate how important it is the players hear news and how long it would take to get to them.
As part of my session prep I update the spreadsheet, and make a note of anything they might find out or hear. I also refer to it when they are travelling through my world, if there route will take them through a place where something happened I build it into my narrative. If they happen to pass through at a time to be able to impact that is built into the story. The spreadsheet is maintained and kept as a living breathing document a history of the changing world.
To the players this gives a sense of a world happening and growing and changing around them. It gives a sense that there decisions matter delay in this city then this thing over hear will progress regardless and not wait for them. It allows them to decide the story they want to tell. There have been instances of main antagonists never being met, completing there plans and carrying on with their lives. Or being met early and being dispatched with before any plans came to fruition.
It is also fun for divination wizards. The first my players knew of how detailed I kept this was when a divination wizard tried to scry the future and I presented 3 alternate timelines, each one involving the party getting involved in a different event, forcing them to decide who they saved and who they ignored not knowing if the others would live or die. The fact i could do that on the fly led them to realise that I track and manage the whole world not just the bit they see and they love it.
I don't just do this for DnD, I have a cyberpunk campaign I am running and a legend of th e5 rings and I do the same with all of them
Anyone else run there world this way?
- Response to Kaptain Kuba’s Video Regarding Ragnarok
- The ERC Method: A work-in-progress DMs tool to organize and execute
- Atleast let your players plans go off (RANT)
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