I find collaborative world building can be great for the beginning of campaigns or silly one-shots, where the importance of world building for plot doesn’t really matter, or doesn’t matter yet. Collaborative world building is great because it lets your players feel like they have control over the world. They change the composition of the world with their actions and ideas. Also, as a GM, collaborative world building takes the pressure to build an entire world off of you and lets everyone enjoy the process.
Sometimes collaborative world building is unavoidable, especially when players like to change plot and go of-the-rails, because it forces the GM to adjust the world to fit things they never thought would happen. For example, perhaps your PC manages to break open the sarcophagus that was supposed to be decoration. There now needs to be something there, and the composition of the world has changed.
Another great way to incorporate collaborative world building is in a character’s backstory. I often try to get backstory from players before I start a campaign, making sure it fits within the world and changing my world to fit the backstory. For example, in games involving fairies, I often change my world to fit a player’s description of their character’s time with the fairies. Also, contacts, such as family and co-workers can change the world that PCs inhabit.
Do you like collaborative world building? How do you think it changes the dynamics of tabletop role-playing games? Let us know, by either commenting or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d like to play Theatre Noir, or want to try collaborative world building in the system, consider becoming a playtest GM.