"What defines the depth, background and consistency of your invented world?"
The weight of things I can carry in my bag. About three to five kilos back and forth to the Nerd Cafe is the most I can move without it becoming a stress.
(A factor in moving away from 4th is that the books just physically weigh too much.)
So, two LOTFP rulebooks, Realms of Crawling Chaos, Vornheim, Isle of the Unknown, a folder of one page dungeons and info to tie it all together. Dice, many many pencils and a bottle of water. If it doesn’t fit in there then it probably wont be forming a firm part of the game background.
"So if you dropped the water bottle and took something else then the world could become more dense by a measurable extent?"
Yes, but that leads to another problem. Energy levels.
The extent to which I can connect different parts of these sources as meaningful aspects of the living game depends on my state of mind as the game is being played. This is affected by the amount of food I have eaten and how recently, how thirsty I am, how much caffeine I've consumed and where I am on my depressed/maniacal cycle.
Caffeine makes me more aggressive and intent, for about half an hour, then leaves me more isolated and lethargic. Then I need to go to the toilet. I'm pretty sure Mountain Dew got more than one character killed when I was playing Cyberpunk. So when I was MC'ing Apocalypse World games would peak in violence and danger as I got caffeinated, then undergo a period of distance and ennui, then break for 5 mins while I went for a piss. Like a Michael Bay film turning into a Werner Herzog film, then just stopping for no reason.
I try to moderate my caffeine intake to ride this wave.
Being hungry makes me monomaniacal and emotional. Emotional in a bad way, like a 13 year old girl who had a birthday party and no-one came. Never DM hungry. Gives you decision fatigue. (Though sometimes the impaired self-regulation can lead you interesting places.
“What about the weird shit that comes out when you run out of stuff to say and just start free-styling?”
Some of that comes from stuff I daydream about at work. So if the flow of calls at Argos is low then the game should have more colour and original incident. If its high then the game gets more derivative. Other stuff is fragments of books I'm reading. Like Werner Herzog is the grand Duke of the Isle of the Unknown because I was reading an autobiography when I was putting together the tables. Other stuff is just from dreams or the silent moments between events.
“When does the Quantum Ogre come out?”
Good question. When does stuff get moved around behind the scenes? Only if it can happen so quickly that even I can't think about it. Two or possibly three seconds from conception to statement. Something else I noticed MC'ing Apocalypse World is that if you invent something very quickly and as part of a rapid interaction with one or more players then it doesn’t feel* like railroading.
The same thing goes for reincorporating stuff that’s already in the game, or that came up in tables but that the players don't know about. So one of the random NPC relationship tables is Scrodd, a place the PC's are visiting, came up that one NPC wanted to consume another one. This made no sense to me. But then one of the players used the word 'vampire' and I remembered a dungeon I have with a vampire in it. So it became part of the game. It happened very quickly. It didn't feel like making something happen, it felt like discovering something or allowing something. Iain Mcgilchrist has a lot to say about that sort of thing.
But if you think for longer than about 3 seconds, the nature of the choice seems to change. Almost as if different parts of the mind were coming online and trying to assume control of the situation. Forcing it to make sense in a different way.
The nice thing about dice is that they are a kind of gateway between the parts of you that hunger for control and want everything to be logically consistent and the parts of you that love to abandon control and experience new and inconsistent things. So the whole thing becomes a kind of continuous tennis match between the different parts of yourself, and more than the parts that make it up.
A DM gets to make more of those kind of choices than players which might be why a good game leaves me with a vaguely ecstatic feeling.
“How do you know if you are fucking the players out of a meaningful choice?”
I actually don't know. I believe that I'm not. But I wouldn't win a public debate with myself on the issue. I trust to the silent parts of my mind to arrange the patterns so that they remain true to themselves
*Cue Nerdstorm. Man obeys feelings. Betrays REALITY.