Hands the Captain a mop to clean up his brains
When I am making a setting write up, I am making something that should be complete. It should be enough for every player to walk into my game cold and be able to join in without a real problem.
The question I ask is "Why aren’t your GMs doing things like this for your game?"
If you are going to run something that is something more than "generic fantasy", you need to make sure your players understand what his going on. With very little effort, you can plop into a generic fantasy game, and once you figure out what you are supposed to be doing just do it. For example, Kerren is not "Just another fantasy world". Even with the shorthand of "It’s Pern, but different", if you assume it is Pern in the wrong place, you will die horribly and take your wing with you. The same thing could be said for Arth, Tekumel, Talislantia, Nipponese fantasy, or any number of settings that have any real depth.
Players need to know that is going on. If you don’t, the results… for your campaign… can be disasterous.
When ever you are setting up a campaign and creating a game environment, the GM should create a world pack. A world pack is a packet of information that explains the details of the campaign and the game setting. One section of the world pack should be dedicated to the game setting, including information that the players will need to know about their character’s world.
One of the problems with creating a unique game environment, especially a more exotic world, is that you can leave your players "out of the loop" because they do not know the culture and the world. You think the game is whizzing along while the players begin to look at you blankly because they don’t know why things are happening. Sometimes GMs get too wrapped up in the creation to forget that they have to communicate their world to others. They need to create a world pack, or have narrative moments of some kind, to explain these things to the players.
When you create a packet, it will include game mechanics as well as setting materials. In many cases, a well crafted game environment may exceed the stated rules of the game being played. Modifications to classes/ templates for each species or group, gifts/ flaws only available to people from a certain region, attribute modifiers for each country, odd skills, and changes in the costs of certain skills, are all quick easy changes tied to the game environment. Always make sure to note in the packet any rule changes from the printed rules.
A good portion of the packet should be information explaining the campaign setting. This should all the information they the players need about the game environment and the world it represents. This does not have to be in large, long, encyclopedia like sections. It can be a collection of important pieces of information, in simple short sections. GMs: Include as much as you are able, as it will save you having to explain things in the future.
One thing every world packet should include is Visceral Elements, concrete things about life in the world. Birth, Death, Eating, Sleeping, Family/ Marriage, and Work/ Leisure, are some of the most important visceral elements. Every world pack should include sections on these topics. Note: Short and brief sections (that people read) are sometimes better than long, complete entries (that people tend not to).
Sometimes players don’t know something about the game world and the information is not in any world pack. (Sometimes, the information might be in the world pack, but you want to bring it to the player’s attention.) The GM can start the game with a Narrative Moment. This is a moment in the beginning of the game, when the GM can explain some aspect of the world. They can be little mini-lectures on some aspect of the game environment, or some cultural knowledge (myths, legends, history, etc) that the characters might need to know. GMs: If you make a habit of having narrative moments every game, then the players will not automatically know something is "special" or important when you mention it. Also note what you say in a narrative moment in your notes, so it can be added to the world pack in the future and you won’t contradict yourself in the future.
Note: New Cast Members: New players do not know the campaign’s back story. The GM should recount the campaign, usually with the help of the other players, so the new player knows what is going on. The GM should review any "world packs" that were created for the campaign. After all this is done, the GM must take extra care to help them create a character that not only fits the campaign, but fits the troupe of adventuring characters. These steps take extra effort, but will help the new cast member to join the game with a minimum of inadvertent disruption.
I create a world pack for every campaign I run. These campaigns run from 4 sessions to six years. The packs ranges from four to sixtyfour pages. Being of the game designer persuasion, my packets tend to be everything you will need to run the game from scratch (If not they quickly evolve into that as the campaign goes forward.) Overkill? A little. However my players know what the world is like, what is expected of them, what they should expect, and the style of play I am looking for. My games have few, if any, of the issues that most gms have in their games because my players are in the know.
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CodexGetting players information... World Packs ( Articles ) Campaign - Game Mastering
World Packs are the ONLY WAY TO GO!