Recently, talking to one of my players1while considering how to troll him about the campaign, I came to a realisation about a new way I could build worlds. I tend to start with very loose factions, which are really more ideas about things that groups of people want. When I fill those in, I add people, and then things like their secret reasons why they are doing a thing, and their motivations. However, it occurred to me I could slice that banana a totally different way.
Rather than letting the secrets be the last thing defined, I can let them be the first thing I create. I can have a secret place, and then define the farm or cave or meadow. I can have a secret murder and then define the victims, the perpetrator, the actions.
Sometimes I do this, but generally it’s for an entire plot at once, and I’m thinking more of seeding a tula with secrets. Those don’t need much action. Some will take a roll on Homeland Lore to discover. Some will need luck. Others will be social. Temples should have secrets, and so should fields. So should people, and maybe even wyters. I tend to define ‘secrets’ a bit weirdly, because they can also be secret weaknesses or things that can destroy the keeper, but I’ll probably leave that part aside for now.
An example would be that there’s a forest on the edge of the tula, and its secret2and there may be more than one is that a bandit lives there. That gives us extra things to work with as soon as the PCs learn about it, because of course there will be patrols in the forest, as it’s on the border. We already know, presumably, where it borders. But now we get to define why the bandit lives there. Is he friendly with the warriors, or does he dodge them? Does he work alone? How does news of him get to the PCs?
Looking at every place on the tula as a potential location of a secret means I can add in extra details as I always do, when the PCs investigate them, but I’m not working in the usual way I’d work. I’m working in a way that world-builds physically and emotionally, rather than emotionally and politically. It’ll certainly give my tula more of a sense of place, which is a thing I want from this area.
If people are interested in this, or have any ideas about it, or do it already, please add comments. I’m looking at this and seeing a lot of potential, and I’d like to see what others can do, or what they think might happen.