Monday, June 18, 2012

Designing a Planet Part 15 - The Future of the Planet

I admit it.  I'm a sucker for shout outs.  Just today CanHammer tweeted about the blog and I couldn't help but put a link of their show on the side (you should notice it there if you look under awesome links).  I listened to their show as well (at least episode 1) and it seems really well done.  Good sound quality, intelligent conversation, excellent music, all in all one of the better podcasts I've listened to (and I listen to about 15 or so).  The show has actually gotten me a little interested in Fantasy just so that I could understand a little more of what they were talking about.  You guys should check it out if you can and are interested in Fantasy with some glimmerings of Flames of War and 40k.  If any of you give the blog a shout out elsewhere I will check out whatever you do to see it for myself and then give you a plug (Its pretty much guaranteed that I'll plug you, just want to check to ensure that you are legitimate and not some badmouthing whiner that I really don't want to be associated with *cough cough Stelek yesthetruthhurts cough cough*).  So just make sure you actually are supporting the hobby and not just b$#%#ing and I'll help you out (as much as a blog with 5 readers can).

On to the grand finale of Designing a Planet!  In this exciting post you'll see words that reflect my infinite wisdom and inspire you all to great things as you worship the divine author who spouts nothing but genius for the masses because of the goodness of his holy heart.  Ahem.  So what to do now.  You've created a finished product and are done with your planet right?  No.  What good is the planet unless you plan on doing something with it?  Now you have to decide where you want to take it in the future.  Do you have any back up issues that could be resolved by your heroes in the role playing party?  What about those details that you didn't use initially because you wanted to save them for later in your adventure.  Yes there was a reason that they did not play a major or any part at all in the current events.  Why was that?  Were there some details that were missing?  Did something about the concept of it strike you as 'off'?  In essence ask yourself what you could do to spruce it up and make it into a desirable addition to your world in the future.  Granted you could have done this when deciding the current events, but the beauty of this is that you didn't need to!  You already devoted so much work and material to it that you had plenty of material to make an interesting world that will foster a compelling narrative just by being what it is.

An additional part of designing the future to the planet involves more brainstorming.  This could be related to your planet as it currently sits or could come out of nowhere.  Curveballs are always a good thing (not to be confused with non sequitors in movies and stuff.  When there is no rhyme or reason for something that just sucks.  Make sure your curveball does actually come from some path or another and would fit the concept for the setting you are designing your planet for, whether it is starwars, 40, etc.).  A new development can really hold the interest of players in an RPG because they don't feel like the adventure is blah since they can't predict stuff that you haven't given them hints about!  Be careful when doing this though, don't overuse this strategy of adding to a story or campaign as it will in fact lose its luster because it will start to feel like the players are simply there for the ride and aren't actually solving anything when they can't do anything but wait for more tidbits from you since they can't read your mind.  The strength of this is its weakness, so make sure it is infrequently used.

But how can you brainstorm these ideas for things to add to your planet or to happen to it?  Lists often help, the thinking web I mentioned last time also functions well.  Look for inspiration from anything and everything.  If a thought occurs to you, file it away for later use (generally by writing it down.  If you are confident you will remember it then don't.  I won't criticize you on your personal habits regarding memory).  Books are always a good place to look, talk to friends that aren't involved and ask what kind of thing would be cool if it happened to a setting that they are familiar with (using star wars for instance since people not in 40k generally know that setting: if your world was a hoth-like world or somewhat similar ask what your friend would love to see happen to it just for fun or entertainment.  You might get feedback of things such as more exposure to those weird yeti things we see in that room for no apparent reason, perhaps a resurgence of the CIS from some cave that was unexplored, perhaps a mini-adventure as an underground rebel cell continues the fight against the empire after the rest of the Rebellion has fled the planet).  You may not have thought of any of these ideas and they are perfectly valid for your battle reports or so.

The final question is how to implement these ideas.  This is the tricky bit as I can't predict every scenario in which you can implement every possible idea for every possible planet that might be created.  As such my answers must be vague or else it might limit your creativity or put a cap on your courage to try something new because I said otherwise.  When a moment seems right to have something new happen, that is (obviously) when you can add something.  If you are writing a story oftentimes authors get hooked on just the main plot and don't go into any side stories and they avoid adding anything beyond what is necessary for the main script.  I've always enjoyed the most complex of books (Game of Thrones, Wheel of Time for instance) that have all sorts of perspectives, intrigue, and plots going on simultaneously so that you never know what is going to happen next and it is just fascinating to watch how everything interacts and unfolds despite or because of the different interests involved.  This may not be best for a RPG unless you plan on running one that involves multiple different parties that will interact with eachother through you mostly because of their actions.  This would take a very skilled GM who has a LOT of free time to devote to keeping the adventures all interesting for both players while logically keeping the parties separated so that it doesn't just become one massive party that joins together just because they all have giant PLAYER labels on their forehead.  Or on the other side of the token they could all kill each other and then no one wins and you are left with an awesome story to tell but no survivors or way for those survivors to get it done.

Another method of implementation could be using a random chart you create.  If you feel the need to add something you could compile all the ideas you have, assign each of them a number, and randomly determine (through dice, calculator, coins, random number generator, random number chart, etc.) which one will come to play or light at that moment.  This has its risks as well since it may not seem logical for something in particular to happen, but you always have the option of trying again and deciding on something that would clearly be a better idea.

Ways to tell that it is the time to advance your planet farther is when a campaign in an RPG is drawing to a close you can throw the players another hook so that they keep on going and the energy doesn't die (timing is key in case you didn't notice).  If players seem to be getting off topic and having side conversations that is another clue.  For a tabletop campaign if one side is beginning to dominate with no obvious end in sight you can throw in new abilities, technology, what have you that you created for the future of the planet to support the losing side so that it isn't just a slaughter-fest.  As I have always said just go nuts if you are writing a story.  Too many potential situations, so the only advice I have is run with it.  If it feels good keep going, if not get rid of it.  If you can't tell ask someone for their opinion on it.  Sometimes just pushing through the awkwardness you are feeling will solve the problem, or at least show you the way to fix it.

Jungle planet… I can't give you an example because that would be spoiling where I want to take it and we can't have that now can we? ;)

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