One of the hardest things to do is to get your players interested and knowledgeable about the gameworld. Lets face it, players are lazy and unappreciative of our work as GMs, so what can we do?
Pondering on this, here is my suggestion to eventually attain the “emersed PC” (I define this as the players being able to push the plot forward based on their knowledge of the world instead of the plot pushing them forward). I am basing this on my experience of trying to bring Eberron to life.
- Pick a campaign world (homebrew or published) as your long-term world. This will contain the majority of your campaigns (ignoring one-offs as a change of pace). For me, that is Eberron.
- Pick an area that will be the home base of most of your campaigns. For cities, you might want to pick a couple of iconic neighborhoods (in Ptolus, the Delver’s area comes to mind). In Eberron, Sharn is the likely home base of many of the campaigns. This will allow the players to have something familiar to them in most campaigns.
- The first campaign highlights the world. Tell the players up front that it may have a rail-road feel to it. The goal is for the players to learn the world through play (given that you can never get them to read up on your perfect world outside the game – useless players :) ). If you look at the initial modules for Eberron, they are very rail-roady in nature, but they expose the players to the cool parts of the world – the city of Sharn, elemental vessels, flying ships, lightining rail, the Mournland, and the politics of the Houses. The adventure structure introduces the world but it does not require the player to have extensive knowledge of the world to make the adventure fun or for the players to feel like they can make decisions.
Analogy: The first campaign is a fancy form of dungeon crawl. The “fun” of a dungeon crawl is to find out what is on the other side of the door, fight the monster, and interact with some cool magical gizmo (and loot, loot, loot!). The routes that are available are limit
- straight or right (’’cuz Left is Death”). So should be your first campaign in the world -give the players the easy links to the next part of the adventure so they can learn the world. Save the heavy machinations for the next campaign.
- After you have run a campaign or two (depending on length), then build the more complex adventures. In the first campaign(s), you show. In the following campaigns, you let them drive.
Lets use an examples from Star Wars – specifically Tatooine (we shall go in order of the release):
Eps IV: we are introduced to the planet as the home of Luke. We learn it is a desert, has Jawas (scavengers), Sandpeople (nasty), and a spaceport full of scum and villany. The rerelease does show us Jabba as well. This was all shown to us – no knowledge of the world is needed before for us viewers to “get” what is going on.
Eps VI: really introduces Jabba the Hutt and expands on the rough ‘n’ tumble world. Still pretty much a show, but we do not have the be told that the place is pretty rough. We just learn how rough and who is in charges (Hutts)
Eps I: So, did anyone need explanation of who the Hutts were and what they looked like? They are hardly mentioned (Qi Gon (sp) has an offhand comment of who rules the system) and they show them attending the pod race. But, we all know who and what they are and how they fit into the society. Also, it does not surprise us that Sandpeople are shooting at the pods.
Eps II: Lets take this from a player’s point of view. If you were Anakin and you were out to free your mother, would you as a player know what to do given that previous “adventures” of Eps listed above have been experienced by said player? It would play pretty darn close to the movie.
Step one – go to your old slavemaster in Mos Eisley (then kill him after you get the information ). Step two – go to the new owner of your mother after asking directions. Find out mother kidnapped by the Sandpoeple, who live in the desert. Step three – look for tracks, then slaughter tribe when you find your mother. Taking this approach, a player has experienced that world enough to make a logical plan of attack and can feel like they are driving the story. Lets compare that to Eps IV. The GM would have to feed player a lot of information – who is Old Ben vs. Obi Wan Kenobi, what are Sandpeople, where do they live.