Earlier today, my pal Yan was telling me how much he liked the fact that I took players ideas and in-game decisions to shape the campaign world’s past and present. It’s true. From campaign to campaign, the players also occasionally glean events, places or people that were shaped by the adventures of prior characters.
Like many DMs, I’m a bit of a failed writer (well not so much failed as untried… But I don’t have a closet novel!!! Much less one featuring a Quirky Thief, a Dour Dwarf, an Atypically good Dark-skinned Elf and a Noble Barbarian… honest!). What I lack in stories and campaign notes I make up in oral legends that stands for my game world’s continuity. Most of my fantasy campaigns of the last 20 or so years have occurred on the same map whose land masses are roughly the size of Europe. The stories we swap about old games there are part of the world’s legends. When I refer to past events, my oldest players remember being part of this. (I guess Old-school Grognards play a lot like this). And that makes their attachment to the current game so much stronger.
A lot of the things that have shaped my home-brewed world were created by or strongly influenced by players character concepts or actions. A few examples:
- I have an order of Elven Mages that still lead the Elven Kingdoms. Said order was a creation of Math more that 20 years ago.
- I have a tribe of Barbarian warriors that rear and train wolves to accompany them (Before D&D 2.0). Also created by Math.
- When a world-wide alignment-based war broke out in our first D&D 3.5 campaign, each character was given the choice to decide which alignment he would champion and the collective choices of the player shaped the alliance won that war.
- Yan’s creation of a Pixie belonging to a Fey noble house (a type of creature I have never liked or played with before) is currently sparking new plot hooks and new opposing organizations that will play an active role in the campaign. And I look forward to it!
- One of Franky’s character had a long evil period in which he purposely spread a Demonic Plague that still threatens the world today.
Let the players build the world. The DM should be the gardener that tends it.