In world-building, it’s easy to get caught up in history. After all, the world that we’re building is based on everything that’s come before, and today’s conflicts are the results of yesterday’s conflicts. But crafting all that history is a trap, and here’s why:
No one cares.
Okay, there might be a Tolkein-style obsessive fan out there who can’t get enough backstory, but by and large, your audience wants the story that’s happening RIGHT NOW. They couldn’t care less about the stories that led up to this point.
Now, am I saying you should ignore your world’s history? Of course not. But you should treat it like dirt: It’s the soil, the ground, the rock that everything is built on… but no one thinks about it much. It’s just there. Still, dirt is important. It’s where you plant story seeds to grow the stories that your audience actually does care about.
No one cares about the field, but they love the crops it produces.
If you want to listen me ramble more on the subject of world-building, I’m running a class April 25 through May 16 in Denver and we’ve still got some slots available.
(If you want to read another RPG designer’s thoughts on history in RPG, check out Asparagus Jumpsuit’s blog posts on the subject.)