In recent times, for our D&D game, I've been thinking rather a lot more about the world the players inhabit and their role within it. It's something I somewhat intentionally didn't do in the beginning, since I firstly wasn't sure how long we were going to play and secondly I also wanted to give the players and the story an opportunity to form the basis for what the world is—it is a collaborative storytelling game after all.
Along with that, due to us now having better tools for playing the game—we switched to Foundry from Roll20, along with me getting Dungeondraft, the use of which was enabled by the increased storage I have available through a self-hosted option like Foundry—I have also been preparing the maps and places the players might visit more thoroughly than before, and consequently having a better idea of what might happen in the future—staying open to surprises and what the players decide to do still of course.
These two things have meant that while there is still always a certain level of stress associated with the anticipation of the next session for me, it has been markedly reduced since I notice how much better prepared I feel to handle whatever they decide to throw at me and I also feel more able to create a more interesting story for them to explore and influence because I have the opportunity to think about the potential outcomes and twists more.
Despite this, I think I do end up improvising as much as before during the actual session—partially because I often end up forgetting what I had planned beforehand and not remembering to read my notes—but I think, hope, that the increased confidence if nothing else provides for a better experience for my players—that is, assuming they notice anything different at all, since it was mostly a case of pre-game anxiety rather than something that affected me during the game itself.
Another thing, with worldbuilding specifically, that makes it fun for me, is that while the time and opportunities to play the actual game might be limited, and as such the utility of any direct content I create for the game, expanding my knowledge and understanding of the world is somewhat evergreen and as such feels a lot more useful. It ends up being things I can reference again and again during the game, or something I can use to build the content and stories within the game. This makes it a lot easier for me to just create when I feel like doing it and as such it's easier for me to stay motivated while doing it, as opposed to planning the next session or the future parts of the current story arc the progression of which is limited by the available time to play.
The only problem with this type of creativity and creation, is that the opportunities to share aren't as obvious and abundant, and I'm not sure if my players are as interested in all of this as I am, which might end up feeling somewhat demotivating—no matter how much one tells oneself one is creating purely for one's own pleasure and consumption, I think there is always that underlying hope for someone else to see and appreciate what one has created.
Still, creating remains fun, and if the only use of all the worldbuilding I do is for it to be easier for me to think of where the story goes next, I think that's a worthwhile cause as well—and it does mean the players will inevitably encounter it as well, maybe in a more exciting and interesting format as well.
Back to thinking about the history of the world then...