Game Master's Handbook

Your Own World

Welcome to GUTS+!

GUTS+ is a role-playing game system, which means that it only provides a framework and general rules for how to play within a game world. As Game Master (GM) it’s your job to control that game world for your players to play within, and most of the time, it’ll be your responsibility to provide that game world as well.

What It Means

Whether or not you’ve created a world before, it’s easy to know that it’s not a small or particularly easy task. It’s important to understand what creating a world implies before you dive in and start creating them.

The Burden

Worlds have things, places, and people in them, and it’s your job to specify where all of those things things, places, and people are within the world. Things, places, and people within worlds have different appearances and behaviors, and it’s your job to be able to describe them. Places, people, and even some things have different personalities, and it’s up to you to keep that consistent enough to make your players feel comfortable exploring.

The best worlds have persistence and change over time. As GM, you’re responsible for controlling how your world behaves whether the players are involved or not, but it’s most important to be able to allow things in your world respond to your players’ actions. Creating a world that not only exists but reacts is essential to controlling a GUTS+ game, and it takes a lot of work, imagination, and note-taking.

By accepting the job as the GM, you are telling your players that you will guide their experience in a way that allows them to play, even if playing includes doing something you don’t expect. Using the world you’ve set up, the personalities of the characters you’ve created, and the physics and possibilities of the world your players are in, you need to make the world react to what happens.

The Freedom

At the same time, you are free to create your own world! That world can be anything you want—whether it’s completely built from scratch with its own evolutionary history or whether it’s a clone of the city you live in with some slight changes, it’s your world to create. As GM you can be as creative and wild or as orderly and mundane as you want when it comes to creating your world.

Using a place that already exists that you are familiar with is a great way to get a quick start on creating your game world. If you live in particular neighborhood of a large city, that can provide an easy framework to build upon—you can even use people you’ve seen walking around as an easy place to start for building non-player characters for your players to interact with! The amount of detail and work you put in is completely up to you, and it’s very much recommended that you use an existing framework when creating your first worlds.

What is and is not in your world is ultimately completely up to you, and that an be very freeing.

Building Your World

Once you understand what your world needs to be able to do for you and your players, you can start piecing together your world. This process will be different for everyone, some people preferring to think big first and work down to the specific details and others preferring to build one piece or room at a time. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but it’s important to find a way that works best for you so you don’t lose your mind.

The Big-Picture Process

Here is one method of creating a world that might be helpful to new world builders:

  1. Start with an environment you know well, maybe a house or a neighborhood, depending on how much work you want to do.
  2. Try to think of everything you know about the environment you’ve chosen—rooms, nooks, crannies, where things are placed in those places.
  3. Strip out or tidy up things you don’t want to have to keep track of—crumpled up paper in the trash, messy closets filled with things, other things like that.
  4. Think of some people who live in that environment, if anyone, and how they act within it.
  5. Flesh out those peoples’ personalities, even if just a little bit, create character sheets for them, imagine what they might do regularly in your environment, and place them where they belong.
  6. Marvel at your little world.

Getting started is that simple.

As a general rule, the better you know your way around your world, the firmer your grasp on its reality, the better you will be able to guide your players through it. The more you know about your world, the more you will know how to describe things to your players and where to hide things for your players to find and how things within it will react to whatever your players might do. It’s all about giving your players a place to play.

Modifying Another World

The GUTS+ System is provided as a blank slate, but sometimes that’s more intimidating than freeing. Fortunately, it’s designed to be very flexible, which means that existing settings or scenarios shouldn’t be too hard to adapt to a GUTS+ adventure! It might take some extra work, but the overall principles should remain the same, only changing some of the mechanics.

For example, if you want to use something from a system like Dungeons and Dragons, then the maps, conversations, and stories should remain relatively unchanged, but you’ll need to modify how some of the specific checks are made and decide how spells work. This is where your power as the GM comes in, though! If a hidden compartment has a particularly high difficulty check, you could require a Positive Impact Thought roll to see if they find it! Or if someone plays a magic user, you can give them spell slots to use! Many of the spells have some flavor text that explains what they do, so you can use that to help you understand what it would be able to do so you can determine the results rather than having them just deal damage.

The GUTS+ System allows for all sorts of possibilities, and changing an existing adventure just take a bit of time and thought.

LAST UPDATED: July 24, 2019
  • Add note about getting knocked down in combat
  • Add advice for awarding experience points
  • Add note about downgrading Injuries to Status Conditions
  • Add section about modifying existing worlds