How to use Collaborative Worldbuilding

Last Saturday saw the release of The Travelers Guide to Collaborative Worldbuilding, a booklet designed to bring a more interactive storytelling style to your tables and bring your players into the actual process of creation.

One piece of feedback that we received is that for folks that aren’t familiar with a collaborative style, they weren’t sure how it actually worked out at the table. So here is a transcript taken from one of our Actual Play sessions. Read on!

If you are familiar with the Candlekeep Mysteries, we are playing through Mazfroth’s Mighty Digressions, and they are on the road to Baldur’s Gate from the library. In the adventure, they are attacked by a wererat and some minions. Session 2 started with a Collaborative Worldbuilding Scene to lead directly into the combat. None of the players knew what was coming, and the prompts generated straight from their rolls.

Storyteller: Kes a D 20 roll (Kes rolls a seven). As you’re on the road, a wandering minstrel begins wandering past your camp and offers a song or a story. What song or story do they perform? And are they any good?

Kes: They don’t handle their instrument with a high degree. Of competence. So I asked them for a story and they’re a really good storyteller. They tell a story about a mysterious werewolf-type creature called Bisclavret.

Storyteller: Fabulous. What’s the short version of the story of Bisclavret?

Kes: A Nobleman is happily married and his wife asks him, what’s his secret? Why does he always disappear? And he tells her I’m actually a werewolf. And I had my clothes here and she takes another lover and they steal his clothes and he’s caught as a werewolf forever.

Storyteller: Excellent. Ilidaz please, A D 20 roll. (Ilidaz rolls a three). You are startled by a rider-less horse, careening down the path towards you, how do you react?

Ilidaz: If we’re kind of relaxing at camp, I’ve probably taken all of my heavy armor off and I’m kind of perched up on the fence staring either into the flames or into the night sky. I’m going to jump out in front of the horse. I know I’ve taken my armor off and it’s probably risky. I just jumped out and stick my hands out and hope that I can come the

Storyteller: give me an animal handling roll, please. (rolls a 6). You are not able to calm the horse and he continues storming down the road. There is an empty saddle with saddlebags on either side. This seems like somebody was on it. You are a skilled horseman, so you recognize that the horse has the trappings of having been written recently.

Alorai, you are next. (They roll a 12). So you heard this commotion and saw Ilidaz, trying to stop a horse that was galloping out of control down the road. That reminds you of something that you miss from where you are from. Tell us about it.

Alorai (they sigh) My own little pony. I had a pony back when I was a little girl back at our village and I loved her. For the rest of her life, since horses only live about 30 years, she had been my older sister’s horse and then my horse and she was already old by then. And boy, I miss that pony.

Storyteller: Great. Sprocket, a d20 roll please (they roll a 15) You catch the eyes of something in the wilderness. What sort of animal is it?

Sprocket: So Sprocket is sitting there kind of leaning back against the rocks. He’s kind of set it up exactly. Like the armchair he’s talking about. He puts out a little box that starts to smell of fresh baking and bread. They pull out a slate board and start working on the schematics while studying the music box itself and tinkering with it. And he happens to glance up. And see two eyes glowing in the darkness, right behind Illidaz in those trees on the other side of the fence, just reflecting the firelight, just to his right. Sprockets leans forward, no longer looking at us all gadgets. And he goes, “ILIDAZ! I think there’s a bear behind you.”

Ilidaz: One of the bad bears or is it a friendly bed? Does it look friendly?

Sprocket: I don’t know. It’s a bear. I haven’t met many bears, but I’ve heard they’re not overly friendly.

Storyteller: Sprocket and Ilidaz. I need an investigation check from both of you. (Sprocket succeeds, Ilidaz fails) Sprocket, you are convinced in fact that there is for sure something behind Ilidaz.

Sprocket: Seriously, dude, stand up casual and move this way.

Ilidaz: I guess I’m trying to like very carefully get, like, get off the fence slowly, even though all my is right there.

Storyteller: Yep. Are you glancing behind you?

Ilidaz: I am keeping my eyes on Sprocket and just trying to focus on him right now, walking very carefully forward.

Storyteller: All right. Alorai, Would you give me a perception roll please? (They succeed) You are now convinced that the bear that Sprocket saw is in fact, in that clump of trees beyond the fence.

Alorai “It doesn’t look like a bear. It’s far too sneaky…” I’m going to draw my bow. And maybe whisper. “It doesn’t seem big enough to be a bear. I don’t think it’s a bear, but it’s something…”Sprocket: It’s Bisclavret, that werewolf story! Oh, my god! Sprocket leaps to his feet.

Storyteller: The rest of you have distinctly heard something move through those trees. And as you are, you are now sure that whatever Sprocket saw behind you, there is definitely something in those trees.

Ilidaz: …And I’ve left my armor and all my weapons over there….

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