State of the Game

As we mark the three-month anniversary of Brightshore, I find myself simultaneously proud and nostalgic. If you’ll pardon some indulgence on my part, I’ll reflect on where we started, what has been happening, and where the game might yet go.

On June 2nd, I made the first roll of the first session ever ran in Brightshore. Marty was DMing the first adventure in Brightshore through what was to become the Fog. It was a perception roll, a nat 20. It seemed like a good omen.

The DMs that would become what we now know as World Weavers had met up a handful of times: first to discuss this crazy idea of a multi-store persistent campaign with multiple DMs, then to flesh out the backstory of the world, and then finally for that first session. I wasn’t sure any of this would actually work.

At the outset, what would become Brightshore started off as a game built around the West Marches campaign model. It was originally going to be a simple roam around the wilderness, find neat things, go back to a static town sort of setup. Then, slowly, it began to evolve.

Rebecca created and named the town. Marty made the wiki and built the first full district, and started adding locations and NPCs. Then Rebecca built out the entire council and added more NPCs. James built an entire pantheon single-handedly. Jude made the maps, built the cosmology, and started placing lore.  Shaun created a stack of the history. Ben ran our worldbuilding session. It was (and remains) the most incredible collaborative project I’ve ever worked on with anyone in any context, the World Weavers are an incredible group of people.

Our first public game happened on June 9th. I was the only DM, and after waiting around for about ten minutes, I experienced that feeling that all DMs dread, the letdown of being ready to run a game and having no players. I stuck around for a bit and then drove home, all the while fervently hoping that our efforts weren’t going to be for nothing.

Our first public session with players happened three days later. In Middleton, I had a grand total of two players, Errol and Ezra, who against all odds survived the Fog and brought back an ancient, cursed Dwarven ship that was later cleansed and eventually featured prominently in the Battle of Brightshore. Jude had a near full table (our table max back in those days was 7) in Sun Prairie. Eshel, Galvan, Irato, Maevis, Sir Maximillian von Tibblesworth, and Zren also braved the Fog, and harpies and a feral elf on Lookout Island as well.

At that point, I settled in a bit and figured we had plenty of time to get things in order, and that this might just be a small side project for RPGs at I’m Board. I figured if we only had one table a week at each store, I’d be happy.

And then it just blew up, and I’ve been holding on for the ride ever since. Instead of a small, leisurely, side project of a persistent world, I started getting demands for more DMs and more tables. Players starting asking for rules, rulings, and expansions into other areas of worldbuilding that didn’t yet exist. Players started wanting to own property, run businesses, make items. We spun up a Slack instance so players and DMs could talk. Downtime activities proliferated. We very quickly moved from me being happy to get one full table a week to the uncharted territory of running a high-demand game that is made in a game style that no one has ever attempted anywhere.

I give this background as context for just how far this campaign has come in only three months. Our first session had zero players. This past Sunday, we had 29 players playing in our weird homebrew store setting that’s never been advertised.

Because no one has ever made a campaign like this, we have constantly had to make new rules, tweak existing rules, and as Rebecca put it, lay down the tracks as we’re driving the train. This has definitely at times given players whiplash or caused confusion. I’ve tried to communicate as much as I can about changes and the rationale behind them, but quite a bit slips through the cracks. This means that what you as players are seeing now is very much an unfinished product.

As Brightshore has grown, we’ve also started to run into practical considerations of DM time. All the DMs save myself are volunteers. They run the world, but they do have a life outside of it. As more players became more engaged with the world — a good thing! — we’ve started to look at ways to streamline rules and rulings and otherwise deal with the practical reality of a campaign world as complicated as this that also has well over 50 active players. What you’re starting to see now with recent rule changes (like limiting characters and the new guild rules) is a compromise for things we want to keep available to help expand on the story of your character and help place your character in the world, and the recognition that DMs do not have infinite time to handle everything that was being asked of them.

Which is where we are at now, trying to streamline things and then use time leftover to build out business rules, magical crafting rules, and future plot lines (there’s some good ones!), all while running regular sessions at both locations. We are trying to add as much as we can to the world, but it will take time to get there, and the Brightshore you see now isn’t the Brightshore that will exist in six months’ time.

I appreciate your continued patience as we figure out mechanics and continue to tell the story of this fantastic world. The harrowing adventure, the narrow escapes from death, the heroism, and the antics — all of it has been incredible. I’m thankful to all of you, DMs and players, for making Brightshore what it is today. It is truly humbling, and I can’t wait to see what will happen next!

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