I am a story-teller at heart. And part of that means I want to, even need to, keep secrets. This is something that’s true for any type of medium. A movie, a TV series, a book, video game, and a tabletop role-playing game are all way more interesting when the readers, viewers, and players are kept guessing.
And I love unreliable narrators.
This presents me with a little bit of a challenge.
World-Building is inherently an act of an omniscient being for an audience of omniscient beings. The designer of a world knows all secrets of that world by default. And the Game Master of a role-playing game ought to know all the secrets of the world they are using for their campaign, too.
Of course I am aware that this isn’t always exactly true. As designers, writers, and Game Masters, we often throw plot hooks and hints of mysteries in without yet knowing where they may lead. It’s one of the “dirty secrets” of our trade.
But it does mean that I should spill all secrets as I write this blog as I design them.
As I was beginning to actually work on Enderra, I realized that that’s not something I actually want to do. I want to keep my secrets. I want to keep people guessing. I want there to be speculation by my players, I want them to try and figure out what the hell is really going on. And I want them to feel really good about themselves when they eventually figure it out.
So, what’s the solution?
During the COVID-19 Pandemic, I started a little experiment called Gibson City. Gibson City is a human colony in the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way galaxy, cut off from Earth. Basically, a sort of Cyberpunk-ish setting. For Gibson City, I wrote everything as “in universe” as possible. This was a lot of fun, actually.
I could do the same with Enderra, but then that makes the material less useful for others. It would move Enderra from “this is a D&D fantasy world for others to use” to “this is my fantasy world that I write stories about”. That’s not inherently bad, just not what I set out to do.
The only other idea I have is to simply omit all the actual, big, setting secrets. I am not sure how well that works, though.
Something I shall continue to ponder.