So have you mapped your world? Have you mapped your major cities? Parts of me want to scream, “YOU HAVE TO MAP!” But other parts of me keep thinking - but if I fill in all the spaces, then I can’t continue to be inventive. After all, once the space is all filled in, then I have to send the PCs somewhere else.
I love maps in fantasy fiction. My best set of Lord of the Rings has fold out maps attached to the back covers, so you can read the book and follow along on the maps. (Oh come on, I can’t be the only one with multiple sets. You don’t loan your hardcover boxed set to friends do you?) As a GM I have felt that I needed to lay out the skeletal structure of the world: continents, mountain ranges, major rivers, major cities. As long as these were fairly sparse, there was always a ton of space between them that I could fill with details later on. In fact, there were times when I’d look at what I had done and thought - what the heck was that all about? and then I’d have to come up with a reasonable answer that didn’t tear the political structure of that part of the world apart. Usually - that worked pretty good.
My real problem is with the cities. Rhum was mapped out down to the 10’ squares. Then I needed it to be bigger, so I changed the dimensions and mapped it out to 20’ squares. Then I needed it bigger again. Now, all the tax districts are mapped; most of the main neighborhoods are fleshed out in some way, but huge parts of the city are completely undrawn. The result? I haven’t run an urban adventure in Rhum since.
Forsbury is even worse. The map looks like a badly drawn circle with numbers indicating where the major landmarks are. Yep, only the major landmarks. Now I can BS whatever I need, but I know my consistency is 0. Six months ago, there was a tavern across the street from someone’s house, and this month there could be a laundry. As long as the players are as forgetful as I am, this works, but their multiple brains always seem to remember what I forgot, and then the whole illusion is shot. I hate that!
The obvious advice is to write down the nonsense that comes out of my mouth so I can remember it for the next time, but that never works. I can’t stop in mid-BS to jot down notes, and the unimportant parts have fled my brain by the time the session is over (typically because I’m pretty much going to sleep right after the game).
So I remain torn. On the one hand - stability, continuity, the illusion of a real world. On the other - infinite possibilities, though most of them are ill conceived because you had to make them up on the spot. I know there’s a happy medium, I just don’t know if I’ve figured it out yet.