Worlds within Worlds


Wiqd made a very interesting post yesterday, Choose your own Adventure, which essentially discusses the possibility of “modular”-type worlds of different genres and playing systems all somehow held together by a common core — a sort of MMO-Metaplace, or a Metaplace with more 3D gaming I guess!

I don’t have as much time to delve into the whole concept as I’d like, but I wanted to make a placeholder-type post and link to Wiqd’s article in case some of the people who read this don’t also follow his stuff.

It’s so rife with possibilities (and pitfalls, and — I’m sure — hellish design problems) that I barely know where to start imagining what this could be and do, and it seems that the various commenters on Wiqd’s post so far all have slightly different visions of it too — which, treated the right way, is a benefit rather than a problem.

The first thing the many-worlds-in-one idea made me think of was that I might actually, finally, be able to play the same game with my myriad online gaming buddies, even if we’re not always in the same world. The thing is, if I was playing FantasyRealm03 and they were in SciFiUniverse01, I could go and visit them with the same char … or at least, with some variant on the same base persona.

Which is where things get complicated, of course. I’m not sure whether I would want to have ONE avatar that got modified depending on where I went, or whether I’d rather have a set of sub-avatars that were based on the central one but weren’t identical — a set of world-specific clones, I guess you could call it. One of the things that interests me about this is the idea that somehow (depending on design), *I* would be readily identifiable as me wherever I was playing. (Sure, I have my hermit moments like anyone else, but a system can accommodate both sociability and anonymity — it’s not rocket science.)

I’m also not sure whether I would want one central game system or lots of smaller separate ones. On balance, what I’d probably prefer would be a common base system with tweaks — house rules, so to speak — depending on what world you’re playing in. That way, picking up new worlds/systems wouldn’t be an entirely new process each time, and you could switch between worlds without having to spend time trying to remember what system that world used.  Back when I played a lot more PnP than I do now, I ended up adapting the skill-based, level-less system the Ars Magica game uses to several different backgrounds, not all of them standard fantasy: one of them was based on C J Cherryh’s “Merovingen” stories and a couple were straight-up science fiction. (They didn’t last long, but the point was that the system was quite easily adaptable to several different kinds of genres.)

It would no doubt be difficult to design, and I’m sure people will come up with a million reasons why it can’t be or shouldn’t be done, but the idea was immediately appealing to me. I’ll return to it when I’ve a little more pondering time available.

7 responses to “Worlds within Worlds

  1. Aye, I think the only way to make it practical would be to have a set of “core” rules, with a layer of complexity added within each world. Effectively, a mechanical version of the same sort of shifts that would happen visually. The core identity of the player’s avatar (and core game mechanics) would be consistent, and each world would be like putting on a different set of clothes, whether that’s literally a new outfit for the avatar, or a new set of world-unique rules that are all built on the core ruleset. (Say, Psychic abilities are only available in the Mentat world, but they are simply local applications of the universal toolset.)

    It’s a bit like MTG that way; there are universal rules for the game, but each expansion has its own quirks and twists on the rules, lending flavor and interest.


  2. I was about to write April Fools post about this very topic, writing a commentary on a fake announcement for an MMO where the developers did not do anything except the engine and some base assets – a few empty landmasses of various types named Westworld, Futureworld and Fantasyworld 🙂

    Everything else was to be created by the players themselves. I had not quite worked out how I should describe the economy and what would be the most plausible way for the company to make money though.

    But I realised I actually wanted someone to do it and headed off to sign up myself for Metaplace beta.


  3. @Manamar
    I was just thinking, “GURPS MMO!” Of course, it wouldn’t really be worth it unless they managed to work in Abraham Lincoln the mutant ninja president of the Union and his arch nemesis, Jefferson Davis mad scientist and provocateur.
    Ahh the power of GURPS.


  4. The reasons that Never Winter Nights didn’t take off as a pseudo-MMO-of-many-worlds thing is that

    1) You couldn’t transer your character between most worlds
    2) Each world had its own house rules, and given the complicated nature of most RPG’s, you had to completely re-define what you thought you should be doing with your “build”

    So, I think a multi-world approach could work, but *not* with house rules. The underlying combat system of each world should be identical, but the looks/layout/story/societies/laws (societal laws, not laws of physics) of the world should change. Imo.


    • So essentially you change the “flavour” of each world whilst the “engine” remains the same?


      • Exactly. There may be a few things you find different from one world to the next, but the underlying systems that govern those things is the same. Example:

        high fantasy = ballista

        renaissance period = cannon

        modern day = icbm

        future = mini nuke

        All different weapons with different results, but the underlying system is a siege system that allows the character to use the weapons the same way. You may require new skills to use it, but you won’t have to go in one world, do “foo” to launch a siege weapon while going to another world and executing “bar” to launch the weapon. Launching both would require one or the other sequence.


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