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Author Topic: What is a Living World to You?  (Read 634 times)

Bedrockbrendan

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What is a Living World to You?
« on: April 27, 2021, 09:47:42 AM »
For those who run living worlds (or worlds in motion), what does that term mean to you?


Greentongue

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2021, 01:25:01 PM »
To me it means things are continuing along whether the player characters engage or not.

The effects of good or bad harvests. The movement of nomadic tribes and herd animals.
The plots of those in power or trying to be.

S'mon

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2021, 01:59:54 PM »
Yeah, I think it's just stuff happens that is neither (a) triggered by the PCs nor (b) the adventure of the week.

So eg Skyrim is a sandbox but not a real living world because by and large nothing happens at location X until the PC visits X and triggers the set events. There is no real sense of time progressing in a larger world.

RandyB

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2021, 02:17:29 PM »
To me it means things are continuing along whether the player characters engage or not.

The effects of good or bad harvests. The movement of nomadic tribes and herd animals.
The plots of those in power or trying to be.

And, conversely, PC actions have persistent and commiserate effects on the world and the flow of events.

Omega

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2021, 03:54:05 PM »
For me "World in Motion" is exactly that.

Stuff goes on wether the adventurers are there or not. They might hear of it. They might not.
Also things the PCs do and do not do will have impact, or not, on these things.

As opposed to "timed events" that happen irresponsive of what the PCs did. "On monday a dragon will attack the town" is not world in motion unless the PCs can derail that. If they can not then its a "timed event". This does not include things like natural disasters that the PCs can not normally prevent.

Timetables are fine as long as you can toss a wrench in the works and impact it. They can help to organize, or are part of organizing, world in motion stuff.

Oriental Adventures again has that great little system for rolling up a whole years worth of world in motion stuff ranging from things that can only be reacted to, like natural disasters, to things that can be curbed or even prevented going badly like banditry, wars, diplomats and so on.

thedungeondelver

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2021, 07:47:43 PM »
It's a world in motion, flavored by events and actions of other players.  I've had players meet others who've played in my Greyhawk setting in the past, as NPCs, etc.  I have on occasion bent those rules somewhat, but by and large it is, to me, having everyone who plays in your world making a permanent mark on it.

Some things are evergreen.  The Tomb of Horrors will always be there, always waiting for the foolhardy.  Acererak is not so easily quiesced!

But others?  When they're done, they're done.  The Giants threatening Geoff will never raise their heads again once the party puts them down (and their Drow fomenters).  The Slave Lords perish - the Pomarj falls back in to chaos, or perhaps is invaded and pacified by the various free cities and states nearby once the aforementioned agents provocateurs' doings are undone.  Plus a myriad of other adventures that can't be re-run.  But it's a big world, and there's plenty to do.

That's what a "living" world is to me.

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moonsweeper

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2021, 08:12:57 PM »
Pretty much agree with the consensus here...

a) world moves on whether PCs engage or not.

b) PCs actions can have effects on the movement. (whether they want to or not)

c) inserted modules/adventures are done when they are done.  (I would also leave S1 as a constant  ;) )
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Lunamancer

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2021, 09:36:13 AM »
I am going to preference my post saying I have exerted conscious effort towards making my worlds live and breathe ever since highschool, so getting on 30 years now. Before the term was ever coined, I suppose. I'm not a fan of nerd jargon. So I tend to think of things in terms of my understanding of their plain English meaning.

That said, the world going on whether the PCs do or do not engage? At one time that was a consideration in what I did. And sometimes it still is. I just don't see it as a vital characteristic to creating a living world. I ask the following question: If the stuff that happens in the background does not affect the PCs at all, if they do not engage it, if the players never experience it, does it even matter?

To the players? Not at all. To me? It might. So the relative importance of this characteristic seems highly dependent upon how I balance out whether you're I'm creating the living world for my players or myself. It might be one, the other, or a little of both. But how I balance this out seems to be a side consideration separate from the question of what is a living world.

For me, the defining characteristic is does the world conceptually behave as a living creature would. Consider the following questions. For it to be a "living world" I think the answer to the first two has to be "yes"--the last two are sort of extra credit. Think of it as stretch goals. Or advanced living world design.

Does it react and respond to stimulus (player action)?
Does it have have a "personality" of its own that persists in spite of what the players do?
Does the world have a "will" its own, such that its evolution is not strictly deterministic?
Is the world capable of having a "soul-changing" experience, where the unfolding of extraordinary events can alter the world's underlying "code"?


One definition I've encountered to the term classifies "living world" as being a type of  "sandbox" where "sandbox" is defined as being open to destruction of the premise. That seems to imply a strong "Yes" to question #1 but seems to fail question #2. And so it doesn't quite jive with what a Living World is to me.

Omega

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2021, 03:16:20 PM »
Hilariously enough alot of the "meta plot" settings that so many here detest are just a type of world in motion attempt.

So apparently world in motion stifles the player...

Bedrockbrendan

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2021, 03:28:57 PM »
Hilariously enough alot of the "meta plot" settings that so many here detest are just a type of world in motion attempt.

So apparently world in motion stifles the player...

I think part of the issue with meta plot was 1) it was primarily about setting new books and boxed sets (not a bad thing on its own, it was cool once in a while, but it became annoying when it became the focus). 2) It tended to focus on just a few key strands (kind of like following a marvel universe story) rather than giving you a regular update of where the setting was at in terms of development.

S'mon

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2021, 04:45:55 PM »
Hilariously enough alot of the "meta plot" settings that so many here detest are just a type of world in motion attempt.

So apparently world in motion stifles the player...

To avoid railroading I generally prefer not to schedule events in advance, or only a couple months, and mostly do procedural generation.

Omega

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2021, 05:40:40 PM »
I think part of the issue with meta plot was 1) it was primarily about setting new books and boxed sets (not a bad thing on its own, it was cool once in a while, but it became annoying when it became the focus). 2) It tended to focus on just a few key strands (kind of like following a marvel universe story) rather than giving you a regular update of where the setting was at in terms of development.

That seemed the problem for some. The publishers were trying to emulate world in motion but some just did not seem to grasp it.
Though could be the focused metaplots were deliberate. Like "this is the thing thats moving along. And the rest is free for you all to break.
Or could be that was what they deemed worth moving forward.

Others though were moved along by the players. So probably some of that was like in so many other things that get complained about now... turns out was something the players created.

Shawn Driscoll

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2021, 02:55:44 AM »
For those who run living worlds (or worlds in motion), what does that term mean to you?
The world doesn't wait for the players. Events happen whether players are around or not. A huge sandbox that can be explored or ignored by players.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2021, 02:59:16 AM by Shawn Driscoll »

S'mon

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2021, 04:42:01 AM »
Hilariously enough alot of the "meta plot" settings that so many here detest are just a type of world in motion attempt.

So apparently world in motion stifles the player...

A Metaplot by definition can't be affected by the PCs and the players will be Railroaded if they try to affect it. So yes it stifles the players.

I'd actually forgotten about Metaplot. But yes it makes the nothing-happens-till-you-go-there approach look positively benign in comparison.

Living World design definitely allows for PCs to affect the world, without artifical constraints (Metaplot) and it benefits from minimal pre-scripting. While I do roll up some events in advance, I'm always ready to discard them if they are negated by player actions before they arise.

Lurkndog

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Re: What is a Living World to You?
« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2021, 10:06:34 AM »
I think of something similar to the "Garrett Files" books by Glen Cook, where there is a mystery of the week happening in the foreground, but in the background Glory Mooncalled's rebellion was going on out in the boondocks, playing out a bit at a time, following its own story arc, and occasionally impacting the story of the week. When the background storyline reached its crescendo, it was a big deal, and a big payoff.

I think the payoff part is important. There needs to be a reward to the players for paying attention to the world plot, and it's not just getting to talk to the GM's pet super-NPC.