For many, when describing a world and seeking ways to describe and systematize it, the task and the work can seem daunting, as each crevice provides a little spark, and around each bend is a new vista, and there is always something that you did not notice before and that you realize anew.
Wyrlde is a Starting Point. From here out, all the adventures and actions and consequences and lots and schemes and dreams and desires will shape and change and grow and deepen the world as the Sisters may allow.
For Adventures, the common thing forgotten when planning them is the whole “what happens after?”. People spend hours and hours figuring out the particulars of their “boss fight” — the scenario, the locale, the lair actions, the powers, the tactics and strategies. They will pour energy and time into figuring out the perfect path or the perfect hooks and baits, to get the PCs into that final confrontation.
And not have a clue what happens afterwards in the world — either should the PCs succeed or should they fail.
The following is a set of commentary regarding the assorted roles, tasks, and functions of the Dungeon Master, or DM, within the game as it pertains to Wyrlde and the running and creation of campaigns and adventures.
Types of Games
There are several broad types of games that can be played, even though Wyrlde is generally designed and intended to work with only some of them. It can, however, be used with all of them.
A Linear story is like a video game, a movie, a book. It is a story that follows a direct line, however wavy that direct line may be (as in the case of time travel stories). The Protagonists do this, then this, then that, and finally these things, and then they all have a happily ever after.
Linear stories generally tend to require some degree of “railroading” or forcing players to react or behave or operate in a fixed way. In a video game, the game designers create a limited number of set paths. In a novel, film, or TV show, the writer(s) create the path that the protagonist takes. The railroading is built in. Wyrlde, however, as a roleplaying game, does not generally limit the paths that a PC can make, and seeks to give them the freedom to do as they will (within the constraint of consequences).
There is, however, a form of linear storytelling that Wyrlde is great for. This is generally called a Dungeon Crawl. The PCs enter a location that has a fixed series of rooms and spaces that need to be explored. This is very familiar to those who played D&D in the early days, as most games were little more than a dungeon crawl full of chaos and wanton wildness.
A Non-linear story does not have a set sequence of events, a defined path that moves forward and onward towards an inevitable conclusion. They are built around sequences, and while there may be connections between the many sequences, it is only when all of them are linked together that one becomes aware of the larger story, and the role of the Protagonist within it. Non-linear stories do not have a fixed ending – they remain undetermined, open, but with a marked change to the environment in which they occur.
Wyrlde is designed for non-linear storytelling, which is what Wyrlde’s creator feels is the ultimate form for stories in this format. Later we will talk about how to build a non-linear story, but basically, a non-linear story is developed from the plans and actions and activities of someone other than the PCs and happens without regard to them unless they interfere.
A West Marches game is structured so that PCs come from a fixed location and then journey out into the world around that location, and return after each adventure, which takes place away from the fixed location (the eponymous West Marches).
The key to a West marches game is that it consists of several different groups of PCs who are available at different times, and all of them engage in the same world at the same time. They are ideal for large groups with limited time to play and no fixed time to do so.
Wyrlde is structured well for such a style – the world is large and diverse, and you can even have different groups in different locations, linked by the mighty Adventurer’s Guild.
A sandbox is a world that is open to exploration, where everything in the world is able to be interacted with and has no regard for a story as a foundation for the world. Gulliver’s Travels is a fictional version of an Open World, as is Brave New World, with all the wonders in it.
A Player Driven world is a world where the events and activities and occurrences are all determined by the actions of the players, the world around them reacting to their decisions and choices.
Wyrlde is designed to be a Player Driven setting.
A Story Driven setting is one where the story drives the decisions and choices of the players. The story is what defines what is possible, and how it is possible.
Player Characters (PCs)
The first thing one must understand when playing the game is that the game is the story of the Protagonists, or Heroes, and that means the Player Characters, or PCs.
Wyrlde is a game where PCs are encouraged to be heroic, and at times outlandish, and to take chances. It is their story, and it is the Players who are telling that story. Your role as DM is to create the backdrop and challenges for that story, not to tell it for them.
Unless the Players themselves opt to decide otherwise, there are no deuteragonists or tritagonists. No one is secondary or tertiary to another PC – they are a group of protagonists.
Sometimes, one player will seem to feel that their character is the Main Character of a given game and begin acting as such. The role of the DM in this case is to remind them, pointedly, that all the PCs are equally important, and to ensure that all the PCs get equal “time in front of the camera” so to speak.
As the Protagonists, it is the role of the PCs to break things, to make a mess, to screw up the plans of the Villain and deny them the success they crave.
With this it is important to understand that no matter what you think a PC will do, the odds are more in favor of them doing something you did not think of, no matter how well you may know the Players behind those PCs.
This is what sets a role-playing game like Wyrlde apart from things like video games, books, films, television, shows, comic books, and related media. The author in those circumstances doesn’t have to deal with a group of unruly people who all have their own ideas and thoughts and emotions coming in and messing up all their plans and outlines.
A Player Character belongs to the player. Always. Even if the DM created the character and gave it to the player, that is a Player’s character from that moment on. There are no exceptions to this. You can kill off a character in your game, but that character still belongs to the player, and they can do anything they want with it, even take it to a different game.
The only control you have is what characters you allow into your games – that isn’t ownership, however, that’s selective permissibility.
Conversely, what happens to NPCs in your game, and a character in your game that is not a PC (say, the left in the middle of the game after a fight and quit your group) is an NPC, you can do whatever you want with them.
Non-Player Characters (NPCs)
A non-Player Character is anything that is not a layer Character. That includes monsters, animals, rocks, trees, wind, insects, weather, food, the planet, deities, the sun and the moons and the stars above, as well as every single person the PCs encounter on their journey other than PCs.
NPCs do not operate according to the same rules as PCs, in terms of how they come to be. They do not have classes, they do not level up, they do not collect milestones or experience – but they can also do things that the PCs cannot do, and their role can vary from being support personnel to being the Villain in the game.
Other NPCs of a sort that is rather commonly found or encountered are kinds of archetypes in and of themselves, and variations of all of them may weave in and out of the PC’s lives during the campaign or perhaps even just a single story.
These are not personalities, they are roles in the larger schema, and frequent sorta of people that one may encounter, each of them being different from others, but all of them having the same general role in the story of the PCs, giving the Heroes points of reference in the game.
These archetypes need not be people, but they are still characters of the DMs, still NPC. They could be monsters, books, messages, elixirs, spirits, muses, powers, and other assorted things just as readily as a person. There may be several of these that appear throughout a campaign, but generally an adventure will only have one appear during its period.
The big benefit to having rough sorts of ideas about these particular archetypes is that when they are called for, you already have them handy.
A character whose role is to help and support and stand by the PCs, even when it isn’t in their best interest. From loveable rogues to ardent fans, this role is often a key one that can be tragic, comedic, or inspirational.
A character whose role is moral and ethical guidance of the PCs.
A character whose role is to enforce the will or authority of someone with power, influence, and responsibility. From street thugs to consigliere to police, they are the
A character whose role is to test the PCs, to see if they are worthy, to challenge them and show them what they are missing, and they are not usually directly kind, not usually offering assistance, merely showing them that they have weaknesses and limitations.
A character whose role is to move the PCs away from the storyline. They are the folks who stand at the gate and turn the PCs away, and often the first and earliest of the beings that will test and challenge the PCs. They are not typically part of the storyline or the Villains team; instead, they are the people who remind the PCs of what they have to lose, what they have to overcome, what they will need.
A character whose role is to heal the PCs. Physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.
A character whose role is to move the story along by giving insight to the PCs, offering a metaphorical push in the right direction, and acting as a kind of omen of things to come. Heralds are great for adding in Foreshadowing.
A character whose role is to be innocent. Children, mothers, helpless villagers, the old, the ill; these are the innocents of the world, those the Heroes must defend and protect.
A character whose role is to teach, to guide, to prepare the heroes. From wise old men to smart mouthed kids, they possess experience and knowledge the PC lacks about the world, and about things going on.
A character whose role is to be, well, a merchant. They sell, they barter, they exchange, and can be anything from a traveling peddler to a girl working a market stall to an indolent trader in rare antiquities with some bad habits. What they sell can be information, goods, or just useless bauble that no one would ever want – except that one group of people who seem to believe it has importance.
A character whose role is to be the opposite of the heroes; the competition, the challenger, the bully, the mirror universe version. They are not always an enemy, and may even become friends, but they are always there to reflect back at the heroes their own shortcomings and answer the question “what if?”
A character whose role is to be a love interest. It is important that when you introduce potential romance sub-plots, that you inform the players and get their permission before hand, and romance should never be part of a mainline plot, only a subplot on the side. Paramours can be anything from a single person to a host of them, but typically there are two, in order to form a triangle or to provide competition.
A character whose role is to be the person who rules the area the PCs are in. They are, in their region, the major authority, and can be corrupt and wicked or wise and noble, but in all cases, they will be someone who can be scary simply because they wield so much social power.
A character whose role is to dangle a path away, to distract, to betray or to embolden the PCs. Tempters may be ally or enemy, but they are always engaged directly with the PCs, their actions based on their goals. Temptes can often be competitors to the primary Villain, and so seek to play both sides of the field, then striking at the PCs when there is risk to their own plans.
A character whose role is to shake things up, to inject spice, humor, and to throw off the normal order of things. Tricksters defy patterns and habits, disrupt tactics and strategies, and are counterpoints that appear when things become tough. A trickster may be helpful one time, and troublesome the next, or may even be both at the same time.