So the first session of my Google+ GURPS Fantasy game just ended. We played for about two hours, had a couple of crashing and glitches, but all-in-all it was a fun session.
My preparation for this game started long ago with some world building. Most of it was big picture stuff:
What’s the religion like?
How does magic fit in?
What are the large-scale conflicts in the world?
I also wrote up a few short adventure hooks. When I wrote them, I didn’t even have players, so they were very general, and mostly they were ways I could introduce prominent people and places within the world to the party.
Well, I got players, four of them, and I got characters — and everything changed.
That’s not quite accurate. Everything didn’t change, but my perspective on the world changed dramatically.
I got four characters who were anything but stereotypical fantasy characters. Here’s a run down of what I got:
- a fairly powerful mage who is trying to leave his magical past behind him and peruse his career as a private tutor to the children of the nobility.
- a halfling, who is a failed haberdasher, and now works as a circus performer.
- a hedge wizard, with ties to organized crime, who is trying to put that life behind him.
- and a wealthy, handsome merchant who just inherited his dead father’s shipping business, who has designs on joining the nobility (as many wealthier merchants have been able to do).
Certainly not a “let’s go find bad guys and kill them” sort of party is it?
The other interesting thing what that several of the characters had some sort of tie to the thieves’ guild. I hadn’t even thought about a thieves guild at all when designing the world. Sure, I assumed there would be crime, and it would have some sort of organization, but beyond that, I hadn’t given it any thought.
Once I had the character sheets in hand, I began concentrating on aspects of the world I hadn’t considered at all. I decided, since so many of the PCs had ties to the thieves’ guild, I would concentrate on that. Instead of having one stereotypical thieves’ guild, I would have several families who ran various sections of the city of Arballa, where the game started, sort of like a fantasy version of the Sopranos.
Additionally, several characters spent points on advantages (contacts and allies) that are only applicable within this one city, so I decided to vastly expand the scope of the city of Arballa. It went from a walled city with perhaps a thousand inhabitants to this:
A vast walled city with perhaps 100,000 residents (maybe more), several neighborhoods (each controlled by a different crime family), and a political situation that is creating economic pressure on every neighborhood, making the war over turf and resources a real, serious concern, not only for the crime families, but the honest citizenry, the city guard and the nobles.
Not only did it cause me to rethink and expand upon several aspects of the world building I had already done, but it changed the scope and subject matter of the adventures and plot hooks I would write and run.
“So there’s a band of goblins that have moved into the nearby forest, and they’re marauding the local farmers? That’s terrible! Someone who knows how to use a sword should do something about that!”
Instead, the initial game started with a grizzly murder of a young boy who is somehow tied to a rival crime family. He was in another family’s turf, and he was killed in a very torturous way, and the party found evidence that the crime family with which they are affiliated may have been responsible. They do not know who the boy was specifically, but everyone in-the-know is worried that this is going to touch off a bloody street war. The local crime family wants to bring somebody in to placate the rival family. The rival family (once they realize what has happened) will want blood. And the constabulary seems disinterested and willing to let the families sort this matter out on their own.
The party believes (maybe hopes?) that the evidence is planted to frame their affiliated crime family, and they’ve taken it upon themselves to solve the mystery to avoid a blood crime war and perhaps stop an innocent man from being scapegoated for expedience sake.
This wasn’t the type of adventure I was intending on running when I started designing the world, but it’s certainly the sort of adventure this party would be engaged in.
And it be perfectly honest, this is a far more interesting story we’re telling that what I had in mind when I was world building.