My Journey into Worldbuilding for a Tabletop RPG Setting
After my last game group ended its campaign last year, I was itching to get back into tabletop RPGs, this time as a DM. I reached out to a friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time due to COVID and discovered that she and some of her friends were avid roleplayers, but they lacked a DM. I offered to take on the role, excited to jump into a new challenge to become a Worldbuilding Dungeon Master.
The Beginnings of Worldbuilding
As an experienced tabletop RPG player, I was familiar with the basics of game mechanics and storytelling. However, when I took on the role of DM, I realized that there was a whole new world of responsibilities and challenges that I hadn’t fully explored before. Despite my experience as a fantasy terrain crafter and having some ideas for the world, a plot, and some adventures, I quickly realized that I had much to learn about how to effectively combine all these elements into a cohesive and engaging game session.
Growing into the Role of a DM
As a player, I was used to following the DM’s lead and reacting to the situations they presented. But as a DM, I had to be the one creating those situations and driving the story forward. It was a steep learning curve, and one of the most challenging aspects was figuring out how much to prepare for a session.
At the beginning, I found myself overprepping like crazy, feeling like I had to have every detail planned out and accounted for. I would spend hours painting maps, jotting down ideas on pieces of paper, and scouring the internet for rules, monsters stats, and item details. I even started a physical folder to keep track of all my notes.
But as I gained more experience, I learned to strike a balance between preparation and improvisation. I discovered that the key was to have a general idea of what I wanted to accomplish in a session, but also leave room for the unexpected and allow the players to take the story in new directions.
With each session, I grew more confident in my abilities to craft compelling narratives and challenges for my players, and I started to enjoy the DM role even more than I did as a player.
The Evolution of the 1000 Isles
As I continued to develop my skills as a DM, I also continued to build out the world my players were exploring: the 1000 Isles. It started out as a simple island chain, but with each session, it grew and evolved into a complex and dynamic setting with its own history, culture, and political conflicts. Creating this world became almost as satisfying as playing the game itself.
One of the great things about the ocean setting of the 1000 Isles is that I have the flexibility to drop in as many islands as I want. If the islands were missing from the world map, it could simply mean that the cartographer had not found them yet. This enables me to create a sandbox-style exploration game with my players. To make this possible, the campaign began with the players as travelers on a merchant ship, and later on, they acquired their own vessel.
In the beginning, I prepped an overall plot involving old gods and a new god. The worshippers of the new god want to kill the old gods to give their power to their new god to make it stronger. Meanwhile, the players can engage in this plot or do just what they want. After some time, they established a bar on a pirate island. Their own agenda is to keep supplies running for their bar while pursuing the greater plot and some small plots on islands with different factions on them.
It’s been exciting to see how the world and the characters have evolved over time. The players have influenced the direction of the story and the development of the world, making it truly collaborative. And with each new session, I’m excited to see where the players will go next and what new challenges they’ll face in the ever-expanding 1000 Isles.
Looking back on my journey into worldbuilding and DMing, there were certainly some bumps in the road. But each challenge I faced taught me something new about the game and myself as a player and storyteller.
One of the most important lessons I learned was not to overprepare for sessions. Initially, I would spend hours painting maps, writing down ideas on pieces of paper, and looking up rules and stats. But I found this left me feeling stressed before a game session. Over time, I learned to improvise and come up with names, items, and voices on the fly.
I also discovered the value of fleshing out my world island by island, after each session. This approach gave my world more depth and allowed me to adapt the story to the players‘ actions.
Recently, I’ve started using ChatGPT to help me with wording, particularly for texts I want to read out to the players. I feed it with my ideas and it helps me create a polished and readable text much faster than writing it out by hand. The best part is that the words are still mine, and only the writing is done by the bot. This has been a real game-changer for me as a DM.
The journey into worldbuilding and DMing has been a challenging but ultimately rewarding experience. I’ve learned so much about storytelling, improvisation, and collaborative world-building. It’s been amazing to see the 1000 Isles grow and evolve into a rich and dynamic setting, shaped by the actions of my players and my own creative ideas.
What’s surprised me the most is how much I enjoy the freestyle parts of the game. Sometimes the ideas that come up on the fly end up being the most exciting and memorable moments of the campaign. And, of course, working with ChatGPT has been a huge help in crafting engaging descriptions and dialogue for my players.
Overall, I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore this new aspect of tabletop RPGs, and I can’t wait to see where my journey takes me next. Building this world together with my players and a bot is a fun way to spend my free time, and I look forward to seeing how the 1000 Isles continue to grow and evolve in the future.