Liking the setting so much you can’t stop talking about it

This is a follow-up to my post Ashen worlds and liking the scenario.

We had another session of Fantasy World today, and enjoyed ourselves a lot.

A cool thing happened: the dynamic that I was describing where I, as a person and not in my role as the World, highly disagree with the protagonists’ philosophy and agenda, is really starting to bloom.

At the beginning of the session, we left off where we were: our protagonists kicked out of Ratrock keep. Damian’s player decided to try to recall whatever information they had about the ancient Vi pearl and its owner the magelord Ail Kail — we ended up renaming the guy as the Italians had issues with the starting H-sound. He triggered the Recall Lore move and described how Damian’s contact from the Church of the Many-Eyed in the local village had given him the information. He also described that he was looking for useful information on the organizational structure of the Keep. 

Note: we had established that there was a church in the area, as they’re everywhere, but we hadn’t really established how they got the information about the Vi pearl. Damian’s player established that at this point in time.

One full success later, the move text tells me that I need to “give useful and detailed info, an explanation”, so I decide to give him anything that is not actively being kept secret. Fa, Seer of the Many-Eyed (a minor character in my prep) was their informer: he had observed the pearl being carried into the keep and decided to inform the Church. He had also observed and noted down any information about the keep and the size of the garrison, the amount of servants, the number of mages and their roles, and some general information about their personalities and what’s known about them and such.

At this point they went to visit Seer Fa, and we spent almost the entire session talking about the organizational structure of the keep, how the society of the mages functions, how mages are created, what is their relationship with the church (which hates abnormal uses of magic), and an endless amount of details about the world. Most of these, I had floating around in my head, quite decided, but hadn’t written them down beyond a few notes. In a couple of cases, I had to make assumptions based on what I knew: when a player asked me if there were any goods being smuggled on the railway, I realized there was no way that at least some of these mages aren’t coked up like Wall Street stockbrokers, so I said: “drugs”.

Very little in-game events happened, beyond the characters commenting on their new knowledge, asking for the Seer’s opinion, and meeting new characters the woodworker Ariadne and her son Jim. Despite that I found the session incredibly satisfying. Normally, spending so much time talking about what is and what to do would feel pointless and dragged on, but I’m so invested in this world at the moment that it all seems time well spent. The players voiced similar opinions, saying that this helped them understand how their character is oriented within the various philosophies of the factions.

In conclusion: I’m happy we really like the fictional content as much as we do, and I think this is excellent material to build on for future sessions.

5 responses to “Liking the setting so much you can’t stop talking about it”

  1. Exploring the Content is Still Progress

    Taking a time to smell the roses or explore the fictional content is IMO time well spent. It still progresses the game, especially if it gives a character a better idea of their character within the fictional content. And it builds (potentially) relationships or creates enemies and can make changes un the fictional content without necessaruly bringing system into it. This sounds like it has been a good experience for you and the players.  

  2. “selfish” play

    I'm fascinated by the dynamic you describe in both posts – where the players are aiming their characters at the world in one way, and you are playing the world from a very different set of assumptions.

    I'm thinking about this style as "selfish," as opposed to games/procedures that prioritize the group being totally on the same wavelength and in agreement. While obviously both approaches have their own unique pathologies when taken to an extreme, I'm personally learning to love a healthy dose of selfish play. In a recent session of Champions Now with Sam, we discussed how the game prioritizes players getting their visions of their Heroes across uncompromised. And in another way this ends up being freeing, because it demands the group absolutely respect each member's choices for their character.

    • Noah, I couldn’t agree more.

      Noah, I couldn't agree more.

      I always thought of GMing these type of games as a selfless role, even with the "bass player" approach,

      But you have to like the music. And sometimes, goddammit, I'll put a C# under your D major chord.

    • Yes. It’s bass player, not

      Yes. It's bass player, not four-bar recorded bass loop.

    • I have nothing to contribute,

      I have nothing to contribute, I just wanted to inform you that I laughed my ass off reading that.

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