Sunday, 13 May 2012

New Worlds, New Ideas

Yesterday afternoon I sat down with Patrick and noisms to start world-building and character generation for a game of Diaspora that we will be playing over the coming months. noisms is going to be DMing, and he has the Diaspora pdf so lead us through the generation part. It took us about three hours to get up to the point of having characters, and it was a really interesting process. noisms has already posted about it over on Monsters and Manuals, and one thing that I'm 100% totally behind is his assertions about creativity through constraints. Creativity is not straight-jacketed by constraints, it thrives in them, in the sense that being completely open to all possibilities leaves us swamped and unable to see the wood for the trees.
...I was describing one of the worlds, in one of the systems we were creating, as being a water world, populated by Melnibonean-esque decadent epicureans. One of the players cut in, "Do they live on the surface in big floating cities, or under the water, or what?" And I was forced to think, "Well, where do they live?" And in answering the question more detail was added to the setting: creation by question in action.

There is a lot of power in this, and it applies not just during shared setting-creation type games like Diaspora: it applies in any kind of game...

It's something that I see a lot through work as well: you ask a totally open question and people look really stumped, and inevitably give vague and general answers. Follow up with more focused questions and they say a lot more; having to think about things which are deep beneath the surface can be really valuable. In games - especially story games (I think) and with world-building it can go a long way.

I'll write tomorrow about the character that I ultimately generated (and the process, which has given me a lot to think about), but I'll finish by saying a few words about some of the cluster of systems that were generated. First, I really thought that the random generation (using a Fudge dice system) was great; it's amazing how generating three numbers (relating to Technology, Environment and Resources in a system) can then go such a long way to detailing what the system is like.

Second, I liked how the layering on of details really started the ball rolling - and like lots of creative endeavours, started connections forming. Humans look for patterns. We have no choice, we try to make sense of the world. For example, one of my systems, Feynman, has neighbours which have either better technology or nicer worlds, so as I start to think about the political and social structure there it makes sense to think that they would be jealous of their neighbours. My other system, Temperance, has extremely high tech but environments that are slightly hazardous - which lead me to think that the citizens might be dispersed in artificial habitats throughout the system, rather than mostly residing on a particular world.

Now we have to make the time to meet up and play!


  1. This is wonderful stuff! I'm so sorry I missed seeing it back when it was posted.

  2. Thanks Brad! We had mixed feelings about the game, but were all agreed that the world-building system was great.