On the surface, the sheer scale and variety of tabletop RPG systems makes it seem as though your story – your world – is meant to be tailored to just one of them. That it’s your world which needs to conform to their rules in order to be brought to life…
Today’s Worldbuilding Monday post aims to help reverse that line of thinking. The various sets of rules in those tabletop systems aren’t roadblocks to your worldbuilding; they’re pillars in its creation!
A Foundation For Playability
Tabletop RPG systems/rules exist to empower us to play stories together. Making stories playable allows us to collectively – and concurrently! – experience everything that story has to offer. So naturally, the system’s ruleset is foundational to empowering its corresponding playability.
But a foundation and the house that sits atop it are two entirely different things. The foundation allows the house to be built, to exist, and for people to live inside. The house would not exist, would not be livable, but for the well-laid foundation beneath.
Every tabletop role-playing game’s set of rules are that foundation which allows your playable story world to exist upon it. They are not roadblocks, hemming your world inside a hyper-specific framework. They are simply different approaches to empowering your “house” i.e. your story to exist in a playable space. Shifting that mindset makes a big difference!
A TTRPG System’s Feature Set
There are many, many different tabletop RPG systems out there. Some are complex and intricate – i.e. Shadowrun, Pathfinder, and Dungeons and Dragons. And others cater to newer/intermediate players – i.e. our StoryNite system. And at their core, each of these systems have different features, groups of rules which accentuate certain styles of story play.
These sets of features come to represent each of these tabletop story systems. Dungeons and Dragons for example, offer highly tactical episodes of combat in a detailed, high-fantasy setting. There’s a wonderfully pre-baked world to live in via the Forgotten Realms and myriad nuances to its politics, intrigue, and treasure. StoryNite on the other hand isn’t a world-based system a la Forgotten Realms. Instead, it’s a hyper-accessible platform to any story world of any significant depth and complexity.
Naturally, each and every system out there has their chosen crucial features baked into their core by design. Exploring these features and experimenting with how the rules mesh with your story world is a lot of fun!
Which System Is Right For You?
Naturally, there’s no one right answer to that question. What’s important is that there most definitively is a system out there which will work wonderfully for the story world you’re trying to bring to life.
So as the tabletop RPG worldbuilder, the first step for you is in examining the system’s features. Familiarize yourself with what they each bring to the table. And see how other tabletop RPG GMs/DMs have built story worlds using each system as its foundation. Ask yourself: what are my priorities when I’m making my story world playable?
Those priorities are your governing values when you’re selecting a system. Creating an in-depth Cyberpunk story for intermediate & expert players? Shadowrun is going to check a lot of boxes. Have a high-fantasy setting that’s been building and building in your head for years? Dungeons and Dragons and Shadow of the Demon Lord are excellent choices. Need a genre-less system which can cater to new and experienced players alike while providing customized depth and support just about any story? If you don’t mind me saying, our StoryNite system would make a great choice.
Once you’ve realized that tabletop RPG systems are here to support your world, not control them, then selecting the system that’s right for your story is a piece of cake. Just look at the features, look at real-live examples, and start building your own amazing story world! If you have any questions throughout that process, just shoot me a note. Good luck – and happy building!