Thursday, August 24, 2006

On Gamesmastering and World Weaving

There is a distinction I would like to make between Gamesmastering and World Weaving. How one would Gamesmaster a scene happens to be based on a set of skills that are completely different than what it takes to World Weave one. I am thinking that this distinction has not been discussed yet and so I’d like to take a moment to bring the topic to light. I will start with World Weaving.

First, a clear definition of World Weaving would be the right place to start, so here it goes. World Weaving is the act of creating the background material for an RPG World, and it is very much like authoring a fictional story. It can, and usually does, incorporate historical backdrop, sociology, economics, politics and principal characters of the story and how they relate to one another and what their position in the World is. What skills go into World Weaving? Well, principally the same ones that go into story writing. An understanding of the above topics is a good place to start. It also requires creativity and probably good writing skills. I’m not sure what else, but that’s a good summary of the basics.

Gamesmastering, on the other hand, is a different thing all together and has to do with all of the activities that go toward running an RPG. A Gamesmaster need not be a World Weaver as he can use someone else’s World, such as the modules put out by TSR which comprised someone else’s World Weaving. But Gamesmastering is certainly an art unto itself. What skills are required? Well again, creativity is required, but of a different sort. In this case improvisational acting and a sense of plot development are good skills to have. A thorough understanding of the rules and the ability to manage a group of people with potentially conflicting interests, objectives, desires and personalities through the game experience. That can be more challenging than it sounds. Keeping a RPG going over a period of time is in and of itself a major achievement that many people do not manage to achieve. The ability to adjudicate is also a required skill of Gamesmastering that is not one required for World Weaving.

In other words, Gamesmastering and World Weaving are two separate things, requiring different sets of Skills, and it is possible, and not uncommon, that a person can be quite good at one, but not so good at the other. The LRPGSW is focused on World Weaving. RPG-Create, I sense, is focused more on Gamesmastering. Where the recognition of this distinction leads, I’m not entirely sure, but I thought I would mention it in case it gives anyone further food for thought in their endeavors, or helps to bring any issues or conundrums into a better light.


BaneStar said...

Thats a very good distinction, One that applies not just to RPG's but also CRPGs where most Crpgs cannot hold a candle to a real RPG because they can only provide a world without a sense of existence, i.e. the GM

I would ask the question, since, until the existence of an AI, computer games cannot properly adjudicate nor run NPC's in anyway other than cardboarded scripts, would GM's like a world weaver to exist for them? would you GM from a live world? using its dynamic changing events in your own story? being part of the greater events? or do we as GM's prefer to be completely in control of everything?

vbwyrde said...

Thanks BaneStar. You certainly went back a far ways in my blog! Neat.

As for your point about CRPGs, we're on the same page. There is no way that a CRPG can compete with a live GM in terms of story development. That is not to say that all GMs are better than CRPG scripts... but any live GM with story-sense is going to be better than a script overall.

As a GM I would hesisate to enter into an existing CRPG world and GM for it. It might sound like a good opportunity at first, but unless the system is designed to allow me to be in full control of my own world, I doubt I would find it satisfying. Some GMs might be willing to GM within someone else's world, provided that they already find that world compelling. But the odds are that most World Weavers are doing it because they enjoy the creative aspect of creating their own worlds.

That said, I am currently working on an Internet Application that will fulfill my vision of how this whole thing should work from a world weaving perspective. I'm very near completion. Once that is done then I will advance it to the next logical step, which is to link to a graphics engine for player enjoyment. I have the code required to do that, but in an older language that needs to be migrated. So I'm pretty far along with the implementation, but not quite ready for demonstration.

Checking out Dungeon World it seems like we're both working towards similar objectives. Your setup looks pretty nice! Best of luck on your efforts!!