So now, for the most important question, why should you care about Tabletop? As an author, artist, game designer, anyone making a fictional world why would TTRPG be important?
RPGs pop up everywhere from Community, Freaks and Geeks, to Adventure Time and Gravity Falls. Matt Mercer has recently risen to, not inconsiderable, fame creating amazing video content of folks sitting around a table playing D&D. It’s great. For the most part us TTRPG players were the guys the other nerds made fun of. At least when I was in high school this was more or less the case (Jon’s a whipper snapper though he might have had a different experience).
I started doing TTRPGs with my buddies when I was in highschool. It was such a blast exploring the worlds my friends would create and to join them in that creation as a player character. It changed the way I think about collaborative worldbuilding and laid the foundation for this podcast among many other things.James
RPGs are a ‘we’ thing
The cool thing about Tabletop RPGs is how they force you as a creator to include other people in your creation. It demands a different type of world, one that is flexible but robust. As a GM a player’s actions must have meaningful consequences but you have to constantly be aware of what your world (and your own note taking and mental faculties) can handle. Your solutions also shouldn’t just be plausible and realistic, they should be dramatically meaningful.
Whew, son! Try that sometime! Make your world with an invested live studio audience*.
Even as a player you should be thinking about your GMs carefully crafted world and trying to fit within it. Which means making a backstory that’s flexible. Sure, you can be a knight of noble lineage, but what family you’re from might have to stay blank for a minute until you know more about the world or the GM sees a good place to shoehorn that in. This means on both ends of gameplay you’re collaborating, trying to make something that’s meaningful and coherent. Making worlds as a team is a fantastic practice of putting your darlings to death in the face of a larger goal. This is supposed to be fun and it’s only fun if you work together.
I believe my first TTRPG session was being invited to a level 15 one-shot, and I became hooked. I went on to play a few other systems and genres before I started gamemastering; craving to throw players into unique worlds. The desire to blend genres together developed the practice of fleshing out how different elements and tropes worked together to build a world my players haven’t adventured through before.Marcos
Keeping the main thing the main thing
This is where the practice of Fairycake comes in. Remember, this core reality in your world can be extremely flexible. Think Scott Pilgrim with the Vegan Police, very silly, but plausible because it fits the world thematically.
This is one of the things you learn early. As a GM decide on the core themes of your world and actively build around them. As a player decide if what the GM is making is your jam and graft your character into that world. Keep on building together with this central premise in mind. This is going to save you hours of work trying to shoehorn in incoherent things. Basically, don’t make incoherent things by making your central themes broad enough for other players to join in. Any musicians out there? It’s like a protracted jam session. Nothing beats improvising with a group but in order for it to work some folks have to do the hard work of keeping the beat consistent and establishing melodic themes for different musicians to riff off. If all of you start wailing right away you’re gonna get lost with everyone trying for the spotlight. When everyone agrees on the fairycake your solos fit. Play TTRPG to learn this truth in realtime and your worlds will see the benefit.
The Final Analysis
In short, all of us WorldCraft collaborators branched out over time, I like to write, Seth definitely likes to write, Marcos does incredible art work and Jon is engaged in a number of creative endeavors tied to this unique, creative hobby. We still have our first love, though. Sitting around a table with friends goofing off and making worlds limited only by our collected imaginations, on the fly and with dice in the mix. We wouldn’t write this content if we didn’t think it would help you, though. Whether a writer, artist or game designer we want our content to connect with you. Remember that even as we make stuff that relates more specifically to TTRPGs you can definitely benefit from it and adapt it to your chosen craft.
Who knows, you might even pick up some dice and play with us some day.
*ya’ll should definitely join us on Patreon where Seth and I make Quick Worlds, a game where we make a world using a few key concepts we both bring to the table. It’s wicked fun and only available to our Club Members.
Stay tuned for more writing from the WorldCraft Club as we explore worldbuilding and the crafting of fictional settings to inspire your creativity.
James wrote this! James is a host on the Worldcraft Club Podcast. He loves tabletop rpgs, running and drinking too much coffee. He lives with his wife and young son somewhere in Central Pennsylvania.
We’re happy to host guest blogs on here whenever we can, it gives James a break and let’s other people contribute their ideas. Let us know if you have a worldbuilding concept or strategy to get off your chest, we’d love to hear it.