As far as I'm aware, the two most common ways to choose a setting for your campaign are one of these:
- The GM makes it up pre-game, or
- the GM has some source book containing the desired setting.
Also, when the players make characters, one of these two ways are most often used:
- The players bring filled out character sheets to the first session, or
- the players create their characters in the first session of play.
I'm a big fan of creating the PC group as a collaborative effort, each player having final say over his own character, but having the advantage of getting inspiration from others. It also serves well for avoiding the awkward "trust building phase", since it is easy to establish how PC's know each other pre-game.
What I want is a way of letting the players have the same kind of influence on the setting, meaning that also the setting will be created as a collaborative effort.
The more successful campaigns I have run always let the players choose the purview of the campaign, before we actually started playing, meaning the players (not necessarily the characters) have some sort of incentive to actually play along. "We want to take the throne from Bob the Cruel. He needs some killin'!"
Oftentimes people seems to believe that the GM has a mandate over the type of campaign. If he invites to a specific kind of campaign, then I guess it's true, but if he just invites people to play, without specifics, then I believe that everyone should have an equal say.
This should go for settings as well. If I host a D&D campaign, some people might dislike Eberron as a setting, for example, but wouldn't mind Forgotten Realms. Forcing a setting on the players seems to be a good way to disconnect the players from their characters, making gaming sessions pretty dull.
So suppose I want to host a new campaign, but I want the players to connect to the setting as well as their characters, by letting them have some kind of say over it. How would you go along doing this?
So far, I have thought about the following:
- Giving players the opportunity to establish helpful/hostile NPC's that his character knows,
- Giving the players the opportunity to establish locations that in some way matters to the character.
Is there more I could do? I have a hard time coming up with more than this. For that sake, I could use a solid method for doing the above, without pushing players to discomfort. It is important for me that the world doesn't feel flat.