A lot of roleplaying — particularly heroic fantasy roleplaying — is about changing the world. Whether it’s as simple as ridding the world of evil, or ruling it you — change it. Shape it. Bring it to its knees and bend it to your will.
And other such metaphors.
Here’s the thing. At any given time, I think a game master should be able to spring for a dozen NPCs, settlements (and/or factions), and dungeons. With a little work, they should be able to produce twice as many.
And I am all about creating tools to make that easier.
Why is it necessary to produce so much content so quickly? Well, I think the players should be able to dramatically alter the landscape with a some effort.
My game is largely based around the idea of changing the world.
Four distinct areas of the game — with some additional options explored in subdivisions of these — enable the players to change the world in some fashion, and for the game master to anticipate and even guide these machinations.
Character advancement is the most straightforward method of changing the world — because with a character’s advancement come new additions to the world in the form of cities, armies, and entire new philosophies.
Advancement is held in check by treasure, but there’s a minimum amount of treasure players should expect for their endeavors.
Secondary to advancement, there are the ritual and magic item systems. Now rituals can be used to straight-up change the world, the most fundamental of these changes being the creation of new permanent magic items.
Various RPGs have charged experience points, life points, and/or currency for magic item creation, and I think I’ve found the sweet spot. Currency is used to advance your character so you’re presented with the option to either advance your character or spend the money on item creation rituals.
Magic items are permanent (including consumables, until consumed), so you’re trading future hit points (and level advancement perks) for magic items now.
Factions and settlements are the next means of changing your world. Factions and settlements have power and money, and players have ideas. Through the manipulation of key NPCs the players can effectively wage war by proxy.
There’s an associated “economy” minigame, because factions and settlements don’t use money or items as PCs do. They wield Assets — Goods, Labor, Favor, Magic, and Land — beyond what a single PC can typically produce.
Plots, Quests, or Rumors — depending on your preferred delivery method — up the ante wherever the PCs are involved, by engaging the interest of one of the secular Powers That Be. These NPCs are clothed in immense power — each one essentially representing a 30th-level character in the game world.
These NPCs aren’t necessarily out to get the players — but they might be. By simply involving the characters in their plots, the way to advancement (and altering the face of the world itself) is made open.
Dungeons. Mysterious complexes unto themselves, dungeons are neither necessarily real nor even entirely here. Why? Well, they’re constructs made possible by reality-warping entities with unknowable goals and ideals. If you wonder whether I mean the dungeons or the entities, the answer is “yes.”
Every dungeon harbors a world-altering secret just waiting to be let out by the wrong person. Sometimes that person is an NPC, but it’s more likely to be the work of unwitting (by unwitting I mean downright conspiratorial) players.