Using a Detailed Published Setting - How do you make the most of it?

I'm involved in a very interesting conversation with a gamer friend of mine, and we're comparing GMing notes, so to speak.

He tells me that he, unfortunately, doesn't have time anymore to develop a complete and detailed setting on his own, so he's started using the standard published D&D setting (in his case, it's the Sword Coast of Faerun).

He likes how using all that information allows him to leverage player knowledge, backstory information, and details of history, NPCs, and so forth. Makes sense, right?

In my experience, however, that's never panned out. Players aren't interested in reading a setting book and then bringing it into their play; what matters to them (or us, if I'm playing) is the material we're dealing with in the game - not random encyclopedic information about the larger setting. I've very rarely seen a player sit down and consume and remember such background information absent being really in love with a particular story. It just becomes extra for the GM which is rarely rewarded by anything meaningful in the game.

However, I can imagine a group leveraging this kind of information and getting something out of it... I've just never really seen it in action. For instance, the hypothetical group of giant Lord of the Rings/Tolkien mythopoeia nerds, who create a completely internally consistent roleplaying game within Tolkien's Middle-Earth, and use their absurdly vast knowledge of Middle Earth trivia for good rather than evil.

My own experience has been that I've gotten more mileage out of a more "story game" approach to background and setting information:

* Create what you need to provide context for the characters and the story which is taking place.

This means that you're only creating the setting detail which augments your play, and (usually) only *when you need it*, so it's as close to 100% effective as possible. There's no chance of it being "wasted", and little chance of it not supporting the themes, stories, or characters you've got going on.

* "Show, don't tell" - define and deepen the setting by bringing out elements in play, not listing them in an encyclopedic tome. (Basically, like a good film or book does it - try to keep the exposition short, and *show* what you want the audience to understand through dramatic scenes and character action.)

This means that all (or almost all) of your time spent on the game is play time; exploration time, or creative discovery time, instead of some of it being "homework".

* Get the players to participate in the creation of the Setting and Situation, so they have a vested interest in those details, backgrounds, or details. For instance, the player of a religious character might be given the liberty to define the tenets of the religion (likely satisfying the two criteria above).

This means that everything which is created is, at some level, shared, and always relevant to play. No one is "forced" to learn information which may turn out to be irrelevant to your play; instead, we all do it together and, if we do end up with a deep and encyclopedic knowledge of a setting, we do so after a long period of play and have all bought into it together (because we were all equally interested in it, not because one player was trying to push it on the others).


This is an interesting conundrum. On one hand, I love setting detail and getting people on the same page, learning about an imaginary world, and so forth. On the other hand, when I recently joined a D&D game with this friend and he sent me a copy of the "Sword Coast: Adventurer's Guide" book... I don't find I have any real motivation to read it.

What have your experiences been like? What do you recommend in terms of practical techniques and play?

Feel free to take a strong position on any side of this question, or simply discuss your roleplaying experience when it comes to background setting detail.
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Comments

  • Glorantha is the setting you need to examine if you want to understand the phenomenon you're trying to figure out. What is it about that setting and it's presentation? Because it does have the player/fans you describe in your post. That's where I'd start looking.
  • This is a big question, and I am definitely not willing to simply throw the idea of a pre-made setting overboard. There's too much potential in the technique to do that.

    One simple principle I've flirted with in this regard in a GMed game is to be very conscientious about basing actual Situation in play on the greater setting precepts. In my experience people usually fail in this simple fundamental: you're playing Warhammer or Exalted or a Middle-Earth or Glorantha game or whatever, and it's always "you set up an adventuring party and journey through wilderness from point A to point B, and then while on the way you're attacked by the local orc equivalents". Very little interfacing between the GM's vapid adventure imagination and the actual setting they're supposed to be using. So instead of doing that, figure out what the setting is about, and do that as your adventure. Of course this often means freeing yourself from the shackles of the adventure game structure, because despite what rpg books teach you, many settings aren't best experienced through the viewpoint of an adventuring party.

    A trivial example: when we played a Glorantha game with the Solar System a few years back, the chosen subject matter of the game was to follow the lives of Orlanthi teenagers on the brink of adulthood. This works much better than "adventurers in an inn" for showcasing the setting, as the teens is the age when Orlanthi choose their gods and their place in life; it's a topic where you simply cannot avoid the things that make Glorantha interesting and flavourful. Matching the topic of your game with the topic of the setting is simply the smart choice.

    To bolster the idea of actually using the setting in developing the situational material, I've developed a technique wherein I start every session of play with the "day's epistle", a short interactive sermon by the GM on the setting. For example, if we're playing a Glorantha game, I might start the game session by talking a bit about the wider cosmological beliefs of the player characters, or about the everyday things they do on the farm during this time of year. The epistle needs to end with an interactive portion where you ask the players to apply your chosen material to the game at hand: "Given what I told you about the dominant religion of this land, what does your character think about this stuff? Do they care, are they heterodox in some way, do they refute the religion of their ancestors entirely?"

    Note that the epistle can settle ambiguously between being a sermon and being actual play, depending on the nature of the game activity. In many games it's not difficult to simply decide to start play by talking about an epistolary topic. In our Orlanthi teenagers game, for example, I would usually start a new session by talking about the daily routines of life in the Orlanthi household, the households of the player characters, which would then naturally segue into talking about the player characters' roles in the lifestyle, from which we would then get into the actual dramatic and adventurous elements of play. So while the epistle portion of the session can be distinct and detached from practical play, it can also be nearly invisible to players who don't realize that the GM is infodumping on them [grin].

    Obviously enough, your epistles should reflect the content of your adventures thematically. If the adventure is about ghosts, then perhaps the epistle is as well. But it is even more important for the epistle to be about the player characters: the player character in a deep setting game is necessarily a shallow being to begin with, because the player doesn't know the setting. It is important to build up that characterization over time, and I have had some indications that the epistolary technique works well in this regard. At least it works much better than front-loading the work; it's not realistic to ask the players to read 200 pages of setting spec as part of their character creation work, and most games don't provide nearly enough payoff to justify pre-creating a deep character anyway. It'll be much more fun to work out who the characters are as you go along, through epistolary dialogues and relevant in-play activities.

    When you're consciously working out gaming scenarios that showcase the setting, and including snappy epistles about the setting into the session routine, there's a good chance for the setting to actually get into play over a few sessions. It's still not going to work for a one-shot, but given a few sessions, chances are that the players will get into the setting as they learn more about it.
  • edited December 2017
    I'd love to hear more about the Glorantha phenomenon, since I've never encountered it personally (never played in any Glorantha games or with Glorantha fans). What makes it work? How is different (or better than) other setting-heavy games?

    Eero,

    Of course, when I was writing this, I immediately thought of The Shadow of Yesterday and your work on the world of Near. TSoY is, more or less, the top end of setting-heavy-written-by-someone-else that I would tolerate, and one of the only settings I've ever considered running straight-up and whole cloth.

    It's always been clear to me that the reason it appealed is precisely because of what you're describing (and Clinton wrote it this way intentionally):

    All the setting information exists to create thematic positioning for potential characters. Being of a certain race or from a certain country says some strong things about your role in society, your search for meaning in the imaginary world, and what kind of role your character will likely play in the story, too. This means that, indirectly, choosing something like your character's culture is a way of communicating to the other players what kind of game you want to play.

    I like the idea of the epistolary/sermon technique. Although it's handy to start sessions with this kind of exercise, it seems to me that it could be used at any point in the game, whether earlier or later. More broadly, I would take this away from it:

    * If you're looking to play a game where the setting detail really matters, look for opportunities to explore and/or expose details of the setting in play. Create opportunities where setting knowledge is the way to succeed or get ahead, or opportunities where they demand the players and their characters to take a position relative to the issue at hand.

    Simple example: you want to showcase that, in your setting, there's a tension between those who believe in the power of faith and those who think it's all nonsense. So, you create two NPCs, one who is a fervent believer and the other who is a fervent atheist. The two NPCs then come into conflict and need a PC to help resolve it.

    Which side will the character choose? In order to do so, they must confront, explore, and understand what's happening, and then take a side (or try to find a third way). No matter what they do, they are now enmeshed in an important aspect of the setting and have a vested interest in learning more.

    This is *play* rather than info-dumping, and, in my experience, much more likely to create investment in world-building.
  • Paul_T said:

    I'd love to hear more about the Glorantha phenomenon, since I've never encountered it personally (never played in any Glorantha games or with Glorantha fans). What makes it work? How is different (or better than) other setting-heavy games?

    I think it's just that Glorantha has considerably more literary merit than most settings. Probably the single best work that came out of the US west coast fantasy scene of the 20th century (with the possible exception of Elfquest). The sheer merit causes an effect where a gamer encounters the setting, reads up on it, and falls in love. Then they go to the effort of gaming with it simply because they like it so much. Other compelling settings get a similar effect. Consider Exalted, for instance - I don't think that people really play that for the rules [grin].

    If you want to see for yourself, I recommend checking out the video game King of Dragon Pass, and the HQ setting books Thunder Rebels + Storm Tribe (they're sort of a pair, what with one focusing on the physical milieu and the other covering the religious mythology). If those work for you, the dense magnum opus Silmarillion-equivalent crown jewel is King of Sartar.

    I don't think that there's much else to the phenomenon, really - you read some of that stuff, and either like it or not. It's not particularly easier or harder to use for a roleplaying game than other settings, although it does obviously have its own peculiarities. Where it is particularly usable (such as the fact that the entire setting's been recently hex-mapped), it's because of having been under the attentions of roleplayers for so long and so intensely, and not because of anything in the setting itself. On its own merits the setting is only barely more usable for gaming than Middle-Earth, really.
  • I'll totally mess with the premise of OP and say : cut up. I know the places and characters from different settings. I cut them up and make myself a gallery of faces, bios, places, backscenes, etc. And I fastdraw them when I need. So : cut up.
  • Good stuff, Eero. That makes sense to me.

    The issue of a published setting that a group is using in play is still somewhat odd to me in certain ways. For instance, I just joined this D&D game (which is what, in part, prompted this thread). The GM is using a published setting, and shared the book with us, so we can take a look and get familiar with it. It's a giant book with hundreds of pages.

    Personally, I have very little interest in cracking open this tome and reading about a random assortment of things which seem to have (mostly) no relevance to the actual game we're playing. (After all, the book covers an entire continent's worth of events, places, and history.)

    But it's more complex than that, too. You see, a conceit in this D&D (5E) is that characters can be proficient in skills that given them knowledge, like "History". This distinguishes certain characters from others - their knowledge. To access that knowledge, you make an ability check; you might roll a History check, for instance, to see if the GM will tell you anything about the history of a certain place.

    So, now, I have the option of opening up the book and reading that information - which may prove relevant to the game and perhaps even be useful. At the very least, I could bring it up at the table as something my character knows, enriching the game. Right?

    But, hang on... my character isn't proficient in the History skill. That's another character's schtick, presumably. So, by cracking open the book and reading that content, am I not...

    * a) effectively "cheating" by bypassing the standard procedure of making a roll to see if I know something?

    and

    * b) cheating another player/character out of their supposed ability/niche which they have consciously chosen to excel in?

    That's a weird position to be in. I know, for instance, that at this table another player has been admonished for reading the Monster Manual and referencing that information, because it's "metagaming", and presumably ruins things for them, at least a little bit. Would not the same logic apply here?

    On the other hand, though:

    * How do I know how much of this information is relevant? Did the GM read some bit and discard it, because it didn't interest him? Did he decide to come up with something entirely different, merely somewhat inspired by a detail - e.g. the note on mists inspires the GM to create an infestation of water elementals, or some such other D&D-ism, because he was bored of the undead theme. Or, perhaps, hey: it mentions Red Wizards, but those don't really feature in our particular campaign, so s/he mentally scratched that out and focused on other aspects.

    * Just as importantly, how do I know how much of it might have been changed? If the GM was uninspired by some of it, or wished to surprise us, it might not be correct information - I might be wasting my time, or misinforming myself! If I then apply the information at the game, am I cheating? Or am I, at the other end of the extreme, arming myself with *incorrect* information, which is, at best, a waste of time, and, at worst, actively shooting myself in the foot?

    One could counter that a contract could be established: we could all agree that EVERYTHING in these books is canon and correct and accurate. Even in that case, though, is it realistic? Does it give the one player who's got too much free time and could memorize the entirety of the book an unfair advantage (or otherwise skew the game)? What's the purpose of all those knowledge skills and proficiencies, then?

    More likely, is it really possible that the GM has *read and memorized*, and then directly applied all that info to the game we're currently playing? What if our GM read most of the book, but skipped that particular bit - or did read it, and then just forgot about it? That seems likely, given any particular bit of text we can find in there.

    The whole thing is kind of fascinating to me.
  • I think Ron Edwards wrote an interesting article on how to use settings. I'm not sure it will answer some of the questions you have, but it might be useful? If I find it, I'll link it. :)

    I think Malcolm Shepphard's Codex game is also interesting in the context of this topic seeing as setting is an intrinsic part of character creation for that game.
  • Ron's setting essay is here: Setting and emergent stories

    As the title indicates, it isn't about any and all uses of setting. I read it a long time ago, and I remember that my impression was that I enjoyed it but that it didn't talk about a lot of my favorite things about settings.
  • As for making the most out of a detailed published setting, I see two options:

    1) Celebrate a setting everyone knows.

    2) A setting only the GM fully knows acts as both inspiration and source of plop-in content for the GM. My high school group used Rifts this way.
  • Your questions and concerns about how to use a setting have answers, Paul, but those answers depend on the creative agenda of your campaign, and the particular techniques you're using to play. There could be some taboos in place that cause obstructions in the way of using a setting (even further on top of the effort required to read the book), but then again maybe not.

    I personally have no compunctions about reading the book and bringing the relevant stuff to the table to enrich the play, putting it to the mouth of whichever character in the scene happens to have the History skill. "Hey, surely your learned character knows thing X... Quite interesting, thanks for telling us." The practicality of the information coming from your reading instead of that player's is a mere formality, as is the narrative flair of putting words to another character's mouth; the important thing is that the reading was done, the relevant information was disseminated and the game was enriched by the setting.

    Players who go to the effort of reading a setting sourcebook are so rare that one can't rely on that as a GM, but I for one wouldn't mind if that happened in D&D - the setting books don't usually have any noteworthy big secrets, unless one considers the spell lists of important NPCs, and I think it's sort of obvious that you're not supposed to be making notes of those as a player to utilize them later.

    Then again, D&D setting books are so deadly boring that I can't bring myself to really read them as a GM or hobbyist. I think that I personally would be more motivated if I was a player in a game that used one, but motivation doesn't seem to work like that for most people.
  • One thing to note is that for the forgotten realms there is a vast collection of additional materials that players might have experience with which can make them knowledgeable about the setting without having to read a literal setting book. EG. all the novels set in the forgotten realms, the computer games set there etc.
  • For the groups I play with. The won't take the time to read a setting book. If I like a setting and the players don't know it, then I use Lifepath and Faction sheets to give players the details they need.

    I have run games in settings that they already know though (e.g., Star Wars). In these cases, the deep setting being established and shared knowledge has been very beneficial.

    One thing I am trying now is I wanted a deep superhero setting with a shared player knowledge of it. So we used Microscope to setup the history of it and are making characters in that universe on Thursday.
  • I wrote a 90-some-page "Player's Guide" for my City of Brass dungeon crawl setting. I have about 12-15 players who rotate in and out of irregularly-run Tuesday and Thursday two-hour evening sessions. I filled it with evocative art I stole off the Internet. (There's a 63-page, free, published version without the stolen art on DriveThru if you want to follow along.) If anyone wants to see the pretty one with all the art, just email me at adamdray@gmail.com.

    The guide I wrote focuses on what players need to know about the setting. I avoid large walls of text. You'll find I break things into topics that are 1-3 paragraphs each. A lot of the guide is rules stuff players have to know about: differences in how races and classes work, for example.

    Most of the players read it at least once. They refer to stuff in it during the game. Embarrassingly, sometimes I don't know what they're talking about and have to go look it up to refresh my memory.

  • Fascinating! I'll have to check that out.

    Eero,

    While I follow you entirely in *theory*, my experience at the actual table has been quite different.

    Kind of like what you said: "I enjoy reading that stuff... but I can tell actually stomach the D&D books", or Dave's "my players have never actually read a setting book". That's always been my experience in practical terms, on both sides of the coin.

    It's cool to hear that Adam has had a different experience! I wonder how much of that has to do with the unique/unorthodox nature of the game? (That is, your game pitch alone may be selecting for players who are interested in the first place.)

    Furthermore, Eero, again, if I were running a game, I would have no problem coming up with some rationale or guiding principle for how we will use reference materials... but here I am at an actual game table and I have no idea which tack to take. So I have just asked the GM. However, he has not responded after many days: I suspect he doesn't know the answers to the questions either.

    In practical terms, how would you handle introducing background material your character shouldn't know, but one of the other characters should?
  • edited December 2017
    Stealing spotlight. Don't.
    Calling it "metagaming" is an insult to the meaning of words.
  • edited December 2017
    Paul_T said:

    It's cool to hear that Adam has had a different experience! I wonder how much of that has to do with the unique/unorthodox nature of the game? (That is, your game pitch alone may be selecting for players who are interested in the first place.)

    You mean people join games they're not interested in? Why would they do that?

    My pitch does say that there's no commitment to play, but that to play, you need to read the guide and make a character that fits the setting. That automatically selects-out people unwilling to read the guide, but I found like 10-12 people who are willing to read it.

    ETA: My setting is only somewhat unorthodox. It's a giant desert city with dark-skinned people and weird takes on fantasy races. The rest is pretty much stock fantasy tropes. And it's a megadungeon campaign.
  • I buy a lot of settings in PDF format, read them once, and never open them again.

    Some of them, I skim quickly because they are boring. Giant walls of text with no immediate relevance to anything I could ever imagine doing.

    I use these experiences to inform how I write my own setting guides. How to organize the text? What topics to cover? How to convey setting?
  • Paul_T said:

    In practical terms, how would you handle introducing background material your character shouldn't know, but one of the other characters should?

    "It occurs to me, Paul, that your character would probably know about this thing. Let me tell you the story of this thing as it was laid out for you many moons ago by the wise men of your tribe..."

    That is, I would do it exactly like a GM would. The GM's presumably there at the table, they're entirely able to interrupt me if I get something wrong or start talking about something that he's assuming the characters wouldn't know, or if they simply think that it's boring if the players jack on too long about setting stuff instead of doing something concrete. Generally my experience is that GMs are happy enough to let the players talk at each other about game stuff, and all the better if they have some setting lore mixed in their discussion, rather than just talking about intraparty stuff.

    The really postmodern observation on this stuff is that it doesn't seem to matter whether I've read the setting sourcebook or not: it is still a meaningful, rewarding experience for us players to talk about the setting when half of the content is assumptions and the other half straight invention. The GM gets to interrupt if they feel like it, and the process of setting discovery progresses even when the players actually know little or nothing at all about the setting. I imagine that this would be different if the GM was really pedantically into some canon-heavy setting, such that their blood pressure goes up when something non-canonical gets mentioned, but this is pretty rare in my experience.

    For the sake of curiousity, test this out at your table: at an appropriate juncture of play, tell the other players something evocative about the setting. Invent it if necessary. Maybe tell them about something that the druids of the northern forests believe in, that pertains somehow to the adventure at hand. See how the GM reacts to you sharing setting lore, and you inventing it. I would expect them to not go into an immediate stroke over it.

    This being Forgotten Realms, I would probably entertain myself by telling smutty anecdotes about the Harpers or some such. (I only barely know that there is a middle school era player character stand-in organization called "Harpers" in the setting.) Titillating rumours about their habits, some tin-foil stuff, their dungeoneering lore. I'd invite the GM to bring in some Harpers into the campaign. Be constructive and entertaining at the same time.

    Or better yet - Drizzt Do'Urden, maybe my character would be the biggest fan. The biggest.
  • Adam,

    I'm really looking forward to checking out your materials. That sounds promising!

    As for "interested", I just meant players interested in engaging with an oddball premise out of curiosity and willing to read some material in order to do so, as opposed to the typical gamer who just wants to cast their cool spell and kill Orcs. (For instance, making the setting all weird and different from "default D&D" telegraphs to the player that they can't just show up with their favourite paladin character/build.)

    I remember a recent conversation somewhere (maybe it was you, in fact?) about someone explaining that the way they always had awesome games with great players was to make their game pitch as obscure and unappealing as possible - as a result, they said, only really hardcore, creative, and curious players would sign up for their games.

    This seems somewhat similar, or at least related.

    Eero,

    I love those examples. It sounds very tongue-in-cheek, but I may experiment with some of those techniques. (I'm a little confused by the first example you outline - did you mean that expose' to be read "in-character"?)

    My gut sense is that much of it would be met with angry comments about "metagaming" ("Would you character know about Drizzt? Really? He's not even from the same part of the world!" or some such), but it will be fun to try a few different ways.

    Your post entertained me a great deal, thank you! I'd love to be at a D&D table with you doing that kind of thing, just to see it in action. (Perhaps someday!)

    Update:

    I heard back from the GM in question about the setting detail questions. He agreed that I was making good points and said he didn't particularly have any good answers to them.
  • Paul_T said:


    I remember a recent conversation somewhere (maybe it was you, in fact?) about someone explaining that the way they always had awesome games with great players was to make their game pitch as obscure and unappealing as possible - as a result, they said, only really hardcore, creative, and curious players would sign up for their games.

    This seems somewhat similar, or at least related.

    Um. Hey!
  • Adam, do you mind if I ask how different things are when you run City of Brass at a convention? I could swear I've seen you mention running it at a con at least once, and I assumed that it wasn't something you organized with interested players beforehand to the point where they all agreed to read the setting document (if I'm wrong though, sorry for the pointless question).
  • As Eero said above, it depends on your creative agenda. In my case I noticed that it didn't matter how complex of a setting I'd build or use, no amount of infodumping would get everyone at my table in the same page, except when used scarcely and in moments in which said info was actually relevant.

    Brainstorming a full setting with all the details a la Burning Wheel sounded more interesting but it was still definitely too much for our group, too much time, too many questions, too much info that wouldn't probably come into play. So I ended up making a list of 8 questions that included a couple of rolls to guide group brainstorming of the setting and even the adventure if you're just doing a one-shot. It takes less than 20 min including making a map for an area roughly the size of a kingdom, that could be drawn over hex paper.

    I use this method both when playing a trad sandbox or a lighter PbtA-like game, as it gives me and my group just enough information to get things going and have a clear picture of what kind of game we're playing.

    However, for the rest of the campaign, you still need to come up with tons of stuff. Here's where DeReel's advice stands up: cut up.

    But using the setting as it is is perfectly viable too. You can either handle the book to the players, ask them to read the novels or merely explain what it is about, giving them just enough information to pique their interest and later show them what it's all about through the game. Starting the game with a full-developed, interesting setting will definitely save you time trying to make everything coherent and making it feel fresh and new on every step. It will be more fair and most probably better balanced in term of encounters, enemies, etc. And for new DMs, it will certainly teach them a lot about what kind of things could be created and how to present them through the game.
  • @WarriorMonk What do you want for the Eight Questions of Setting ?
  • edited December 2017
    Ask and you shall receive, here they are.
    Edit: I forgot I had added three more :P
  • WarriorMonk and DeReel - that's fantastic stuff, but also entirely the opposite of what we're talking about here. I think it would be fun to discuss it further (for instance, why does NPC creation and History come after creating the party and their quest?), but let's take that a separate thread, please.
  • Adam:

    I downloaded and read through the Mirrorrim guide you put together. That's some really good stuff! It does a great job of orienting players without giving too much information. Somewhat similar to Apocalypse World in terms of drawing evocative and colourful imagery (instead of cataloguing, encyclopedia-like, details and details), and The Shadow of Yesterday in terms making everything quirky, memorable, and rife with thematic focus. (Which, notably, D&D lacks completely, to my eyes.) Very nicely done, sir.

    I consider that to be different from what we're discussing, though, unless you have a "GM's version" which runs for hundreds of pages. What I'm seeing in the Guide is roughly at the top end of my patience for setting detail, and, notably, would be about half the length if it just didn't have SO MANY D&D races and classes to talk about.

    It's rare for me to see a setting which is so highly gonzo in nature and yet manages to be artistically and stylistically coherent (much like "Dark Sun"). Reading through this shows me that it's possible to achieve that goal! I'll ponder further.

    I think the density of information, as well as the exciting prose (not in terms of writing so much as in terms of content - there are little gems in almost every paragraph), make it very user-readable. I'm not playing in your game, and I just sat down and read the whole thing nevertheless. An accomplishment (for you, not me)!
  • Paul,

    Thanks for the praise. I worked hard on that to convey exactly what you took from it. (But you think Mirrorrim is gonzo?)

    Basically, if a paragraph doesn't contain a little gem, why bother writing it? I understand the aversion to encyclopedic setting guides. Reading encyclopedias gets old quickly.

    I also kinda get the appeal of them. It produces this illusion of a world so big it needs an encyclopedia, and serves as a reference for GMs who need to know little things about the world. I think Jason Corley talked about using material like this to run a campaign. The trick is that you don't use it all, but the GM picks a thin path through it.

    The other thing about deep setting material is that, after playing a long while, players have mental space for more material, and they might go back to a setting encyclopedia to mine it for information. Without that giant tome, you have to ask your GM, "What do I know about rare metals in Faerun?" and hope they have an interesting answer.
  • yukamichi said:

    Adam, do you mind if I ask how different things are when you run City of Brass at a convention?

    City of Brass has two incarnations: The "Squatters Campaign" and the "Megadungeon Campaign."

    I have run the Squatters Campaign in two-hour and four-hour slots at a local bar, and in four-hour slots at Dreamation / DEXcon in Morristown, NJ. I never asked players to read anything for that. I did all the exposition in small bursts during character generation or play. This is the campaign where characters are destitute and optionless, forced to live in a squatter's commune, and the play focuses more on social issues than fighting orcs.

    I have run the Megadungeon Campaign mostly in two-hour slots on Roll20. We're in our 12th or 13th session. This is the same world (same city), more or less, with a totally different focus (brave adventurers exploring a forbidden dungeon) and very little between-dungeon role-play.

    I guess there's some irony in the idea that I got through the socially-based campaign without getting people to understand the setting that much, but get people to read 90+ pages of setting to crawl a dungeon. I think that the dungeon campaign offers fewer opportunities to ME to inject the setting stuff, so I front-loaded it a bit more. The squatters game was full of opportunities to hit people up with the setting during play.

    Also, the organization of the games was different. I took the squatters game on the road to other people. It literally was designed to be used in a no-commitment-required "open table" environment. I usually took a pile of pregenerated characters to choose from, but half the players showed up with their own characters (and I'd have to tell them, "Oh, but in this world, see, elves are very short-lived, but there's this memory tree in the city--but you're too poor to ever see it, probably").
  • Paul_T said:

    Adam:
    I consider that to be different from what we're discussing, though, unless you have a "GM's version" which runs for hundreds of pages. What I'm seeing in the Guide is roughly at the top end of my patience for setting detail, and, notably, would be about half the length if it just didn't have SO MANY D&D races and classes to talk about.

    There's no GM's version. Sometimes the little gems are reminders to me about things in my head, so there's ostensibly more to the setting than what is in the guide, but that's true of any campaign, right?

    The race & class sections are really reference material, not reading material. The rest of the guide is more "read this to understand the setting." A player probably skims the races and classes and only reads the bits that apply to whatever character they want to build.

    This is basically a "playbook" or "splat-book" model, only all in one book, yes? I mean, I could break those things into separate little books for players, and they could download just the ones they care about, and just put a synopsis in the Player's Guide. This was just more convenient for what I was doing.
  • Yeah, all of that makes sense to me. It's a pretty fascinating project, and I love how you've put it together.

    I hope you didn't take my use of the word "gonzo" as some sort of offense. The kind of "gonzo" we see in Mirrorrim isn't that different from typical D&D material, after all. "Gonzo" is a personal taste thing, in the end. However, your setting has animated statues, floating Beholders, ant-orc hybrids, flying carpets, three types of magic, dungeons, politics, immortal tree-beings, magical items everywhere (like eyeballs floating around the city!), genies in a bottle as a playable race, ratlings, giant centipedes, flying ships... and that's just what I can remember off the top of my head.

    You handle it well, and it all hangs together (which is quite an accomplishment!), but if that's not gonzo, I don't what is.

    Do you ever try to combine the two play-modes in a coherent sense (squatters who make trips into the underworld)? Or is it always very consciously almost like two different games, one about social trouble and one about dungeon crawling? I find the idea of having two different "modes of play" in the same setting quite fascinating and fruitful.
  • Paul_T said:

    I love those examples. It sounds very tongue-in-cheek, but I may experiment with some of those techniques. (I'm a little confused by the first example you outline - did you mean that expose' to be read "in-character"?)

    This is a somewhat difficult topic to discuss in the abstract, as we're basically talking about the minutiae of human face-to-face communication. I'm trying to think up evocative examples of how I might communicate - or have communicated - and you're forced to try to read between the lines for non-verbal nuances that may even be completely different due to cultural differences for all I know. This would be much easier if we could play together a bit, and you could judge the non-verbal cues for yourself; I don't think that my table behavior is that peculiar, it just might seem exotic because of the way I describe it myself.

    For instance, here my narrative modality would be neither in-character or out-of-character, because I would not establish either conclusively before laying out my piece. When a non-GM player in a relatively traditional game decides to share a speculative anecdote about the setting, while framing it suggestively as the thoughts or feelings or memories of a different player's character, what does IC/OOC even mean there? Is it in-character, except for another player's character upon whom you don't really have any content authority? I personally think of it as dramatic irony in action: words have been spoken, but the players understand that they do not carry the in-born authority of a player talking about their own character, or the GM talking about whatever it is that GMs talk about. They're merely words, to be heeded or ignored at will.

    As an example of stuff a player can do in a non-GM, non-character role at the game table, let's consider something I did in an occasionally on-going trad fantasy campaign earlier this fall. (This is the same campaign I was talking about in that Ukraine thing earlier, if you remember that.) What I did was, I made a dwarf lose their beard.

    The game's very basic and traditional adventure fantasy, no need to explain it in detail - I'm participating basically to fill a seat, and to encourage the GM to up their game. The important bit is the dwarf character of another player in the game. I like to heckle them because their enamourment upon dwarves is so cute.

    In the first session of the campaign it so happened that the GM of the game had just returned me a copy of Earthdawn that I'd loaned to them due to the rough similarities between the game and his own fantasy world. I leafed idly through the book during the slow character generation process, stumbling upon one of the color pages in there (the 1st edition book has these color signatures inserted here and there in the book, with pretty fantasy art). The art featured an ambiguously gendered dwarf who amusingly had no beard, and looked rather less like a short fascist than is usual for fantasy dwarves. (One of the best things about Earthdawn is that its elfdwarf critters are supposedly relatively human in an effort at an universal humanist message. Thus, dwarves who aren't all chainmailed, axe-wielding grotto vikings.)

    OK, so I get inspired by the art, show it to the other players and exclaim my decision: this is obviously the picture of the other player's dwarf character (who has predictably yet to show any personality at all aside from being a "dwarf"), and isn't his lack of facial hair truly tragic for a prince of the people. A great personal tragedy for him and his kin, upon whom he's bringing such shame with his bald cheeks.

    The other players considered the gag amusing (as in, the sudden intrusion of a visual reference to a highly abstract and largely flavourless process, plus the fact that the piece in question is pretty funny-looking), and it was creatively relevant to our interaction, because the player in question needs to and enjoys being challenged: to either defend their ideas, or expand them. The player's relatively new to rpgs, but has taken to them like a fish to the water, so this sort of sparring with me is always an exciting opportunity to learn about how to act and react to various situations.

    Anyway, the dwarf player obviously was taken aback at first at the very notion that their character would be a beardless effeminate dwarf, because of the sort of stuff that goes on in the heads of people who would play dwarfs in a cliche fantasy game in the first place. I obviously dropped the gag for the moment, because you don't overstay your welcome as a comedian - the point is to enliven the social moment and give people things to think about, not to brow-beat others.

    As the game progressed, though, I continued building the mythology of the character background. The dwarf player contributed mostly as a passing authority, acknowledging and adopting ideas they liked, while resisting suggestions they didn't like. The idea I'd floated early on that the character is some sort of dwarf prince was adopted, with their becoming an adventurer far away from home being a tantalizing mystery. Later the beardlessness thing matured on them, too, as something that puts the character apart from other dwarves.

    Things started really cracking on the character development front when I realized that the dwarf's beardlessness was due to their being a half-dwarf, half-elf. Oh the shame upon the family, how could a prince of the people, his father, ever rut with a lowly elf. Of course such a beardless half-blood would be forced out of the tightly knit life of the dwarf clans.

    I communicate this sort of material in actual play in drips and draps where appropriate. Sometimes my own character engages in some sort of interaction that illustrates some point (for example, they might comment upon the dwarf's lack of a beard). Sometimes I suggest that the player act in some way that reinforces my big picture. Sometimes I simply discuss e.g. the dwarven cultural mores in general. The overall effect of this idle character-development (or assassination?) campaign has been that both beardlessness and being a half-elf have, over three sessions of play, been adopted as pretty much canonical facts about the character. It's good stuff (as far as a campaign like this goes), and nobody really has any better ideas, so this stuff stands by default. It particularly stands when the dwarf player uses and reaffirms these ideas.
  • The question that a traditional rpg theorist needs to answer is this: when did the dwarf lose their beard? When did they become a half-elf? Both factoids started as "unauthorized talking", harmless joking or commentary upon another player's character, but at some point they became true. My own viewpoint is that there simply is a lot of talk at the rpg table that you can't categorize outright as authorized or illegitimate, IC or OOC, canonical or whimsical. It's more powerful rpg theory to understand the collective thought-stream (the "shared imagined space", as we used to say) as unowned and uncontrolled, weakly chairmanned font of ideas that are picked up and authorized by various moves of the various players. The talking is free, giving it labels like "this is metagaming" or "you have no authority to establish that" or "I allow that" come later. And that means that there simply is a lot of space at the gaming table for primordial talking, simply opening your mouth and saying things.

    I have no idea if that was enlightening at all. I guess that what I'm trying to communicate with these interminable descriptions of table-talk minutiae is the idea that these trad games prove to be much more fun and intense if you get out of the shell we learn to build early on while playing them, and instead just be yourself at the table - the smart, creative person you are. This necessarily includes a great amount of "stepping on toes" as trad gaming power structures view it, but I've found that the friends you play with ultimately don't seem to shut you down - rather, it's more common that they allow you to do your stuff out of courtesy and consideration first, and out of genuine excitement with the creative impact you're having on the game later on. Of course one can fail at doing this sort of thing by being rude or annoying or disruptive; I suppose that's a big part of why roleplayers learn to sit quietly and passively in the first place, really, because it takes a lot of social maturity to be e.g. funny without being disruptive of the proceedings. We learn to play as teenagers, but perhaps some of the table habits (such as being quiet and socially unengaged by default) we learn then aren't useful as creative techniques later on.
  • I feel I'm at risk of derailing this thread with me babbling on about my setting. If you agree, just start a new thread and ask questions. =)
    Paul_T said:

    I hope you didn't take my use of the word "gonzo" as some sort of offense.

    I took no offense. I was just surprised! I generally consider myself to be pretty opposed to gonzo stuff. To me, gonzo is Blades in the Dark and its steampunk city with an electric ghost wall powered by ghost whale oil. I felt like I toned down the stuff that was already in D&D and made it hang together better than it usually does! Have you read the Eberron or Planescape settings? I think you'd find most of my setting elements in there, plus many, many more weird things.

    I mean, the main character for the new D&D supplement (on the cover, and as narrator) is a floating beholder named Xanathar who has a pet goldfish. Gargoyles (living statues) are my take on Warforged (constructed statue warrior race from Eberron). I hardly introduced flying carpets, ratlings, or flying ships to D&D. Older editions of D&D already separated magic into various types, as I do.

    My key creative bits might be ant-orc hybrids (half-orcs), genies in a bottle as a playable race, and floating eyeball surveillance.

    Mirrorrim is basically almost everything in the Player's Handbook, plus flavor from Arabian Nights, plus cyberpunk.
    Paul_T said:

    You handle it well, and it all hangs together (which is quite an accomplishment!), but if that's not gonzo, I don't what is.

    Gonzo to me is Daniel Levine's setting that had us riding a ship in Hell on a sea of liquid Ennui, powered by making slaves care somehow.
    Paul_T said:

    Do you ever try to combine the two play-modes in a coherent sense (squatters who make trips into the underworld)? Or is it always very consciously almost like two different games, one about social trouble and one about dungeon crawling? I find the idea of having two different "modes of play" in the same setting quite fascinating and fruitful.

    They are two completely separate takes on the same setting. I have not combined them.

    I did introduce a small dungeon (basement with giant vermin) under the squatter's building and regretted it shortly thereafter, as the game became about all the wrong things.

    I mean, how can you give a shit about your friend's drug addiction or the two teen boys getting into trouble with the local crime boss, when you're fighting for your life in a dark tunnel?
  • Adam,

    Yeah, I think my reading for "gonzo" is not calibrated as yours is. For me, basically that anything that wouldn't seem to hang together in a typical novel, TV show, or movie is "gonzo". Like, if someone took Lord of the Rings and added dinosaurs to it, that crosses my line (or just about). Modern D&D, to me, by the book, is definitely "gonzo" (and one of the reasons I don't like playing it). Old-school D&D, a la AD&D, is more reasonable and makes a little more sense to me.

    The material you're referring to is outside of my familiar genre media altogether!

    I like your insights about the two divergent modes of play. I'll start a new thread about that. After all, the City of Brass isn't the kind of "deep setting" I was talking about here in this one; it's quite a manageable amount of information and detail which leaves lots of gaps (as your Player's Guide demonstrates so well).
  • I'd say that Gonzo revels in extremes. If your weird shit is treated both in-fiction and out as just natural features of the setting, then it ain't Gonzo.
  • edited December 2017
    I've had or have seen some success in communicating lots of setting information by pointing players to novels or, better yet, collections of short stories about a given setting.

    For Warhammer's setting, the Old World, three of my players read a bunch of "Gotrek and Felix" stories.

    Back in the day, I and my friends read the collections of short stories provided for Shadowrun and, in some cases, for the various World of Darkness games. The stories are hit and miss - and I would not recommend them to someone not interested in the setting, mind you - but a pretty effortless and fun way to get the gist of the setting.

    *-*-*

    Also, as a tangential data point, one of my friends has devoured every scrap of material (rules, sourcebooks, novels, newsletters, videogames) about Aventuria, the setting of the German RPG "The Dark Eye". He's internalized all the lore -- to the point where I wouldn't feel comfortable running the game with him as a player because he knows so much more about the setting (forms of address for different classes of noblemen, any and all connections between NPCs - who feature strongly in the official modules - and their background etc. etc. etc.). I have no problem with this as a co-player, but as a DM, I'd feel intimidated.

    I've resolved that if I ever run "The Dark Eye" or "The Forgotten Realms", the first thing I'd do is kill off Nahema and Elminster, respectively - the creators' uber-powerful pet NPCs - and wipe some major city off the map -- just to communicate with 100% clarity that the game's setting would be *my* version and that I will not be bound by canon down the road.
  • I hate running giant, detailed, published settings because I hate being corrected by players who know the setting better than I do. I don't want to be bound to canon. I want to be inspired by it and informed by it, but not feel constrained by it. As soon as I announce I'm running a Forgotten Realms game, I'll have that one player who has read every novel and every source book and every apocryphal Ed Greenwood forum comment about Faerun and I'll be fighting an uphill battle just to run a game.
  • Adam_Dray said:

    I hate running giant, detailed, published settings because I hate being corrected by players who know the setting better than I do. I don't want to be bound to canon. I want to be inspired by it and informed by it, but not feel constrained by it. As soon as I announce I'm running a Forgotten Realms game, I'll have that one player who has read every novel and every source book and every apocryphal Ed Greenwood forum comment about Faerun and I'll be fighting an uphill battle just to run a game.

    And heaven help if you run a game like Traveller where the game has become synonymous with the "official" setting...

    When I next run RuneQuest, I will point out that the only things that are canon are things introduced in play. You may offer something you know from some source, and I may or may not accept it into my Glorantha. If you're known to be an expert, I may ask you a question, and again, I may or may not use your answer. If that's going to be a problem for you, don't play in my game...

    Frank
  • edited December 2017
    Paul,

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned it but WotC makes books that take place in the Sword Coast and Faerun generally. They are young adult fiction and not very good from what I understand, but maybe—a big maybe?—they would be a somewhat enjoyable way to get a feel for the setting, if you don’t want to read the Sword Coast Adventure’s Guide, and would rather read some crappy fiction.
  • I kinda like having whoever at the table knows the setting best be the authority on the setting in general, and having the GM just be the authority on the particulars of what happens now.
  • To my surprise, most of the games I actually run are set in some version of what Ken Hite thinks is the best setting ever, i.e., this world -- Call / Trail / Whatever of Cthulhu, Dresden Accelerated, even Kerberos Club and Young Centurions.

    And there are tons of setting manuals for this world. I usually try to summarize or draw on shared knowledge. Sometimes, a player will do research on their own, but that's never something I can count on. (That said, I am still shaking my head in awe at the player who sent out a quick follow up to apologize about discussing a particular bar, because it closed a couple of years before the game year of 1937, but here are some other examples to reassure a different player that their character concept works just fine with everyone else's. Have I mentioned I have awesome players? I have awesome players.)

    And there's the internet, which is wonderful and terrible. I can mention something that, by all rights, should be obscure to the characters, but unless I VERY quickly say, "Please don't google that yet", the players will figure it out in seconds. (Well, except when they surprise me by not googling it for weeks when I didn't put in that request.) And our Young Centurions game had several digressions each session as we fell into rabbit holes while looking something up -- not precisely for historical accuracy, although that was a factor, but more for the weird and lovely details that pop up to prove this setting is weirder than any fictional one.

    On the whole, I prefer settings, however closely tied or not to our world, where the it isn't essential for players to read the material (at least, not more than a page or so), but where I can hand them an entire setting book if they do want to read or skim it and know that there is nothing it it that will cause things to break if everyone reads it.
  • ffilz said:

    And heaven help if you run a game like Traveller where the game has become synonymous with the "official" setting...

    Right?!

    I almost never run my Traveller games in the Third Imperium setting, though. I've managed to run all Alternate Traveller Universe stuff and have a lot of success with those games at TravellerCon and other conventions: a Nova Roma setting, a far future AI time travel setting, a gritty "generic space" setting, my Independence 2776 setting, and so on.

  • Adam_Dray said:

    ffilz said:

    And heaven help if you run a game like Traveller where the game has become synonymous with the "official" setting...

    Right?!

    I almost never run my Traveller games in the Third Imperium setting, though. I've managed to run all Alternate Traveller Universe stuff and have a lot of success with those games at TravellerCon and other conventions: a Nova Roma setting, a far future AI time travel setting, a gritty "generic space" setting, my Independence 2776 setting, and so on.

    That's cool. Maybe it doesn't happen as much with actual play as when discussing Traveller, though I have some players in play by post who have referenced 3I specific setting bits, but I haven't run into a die hard 3I player yet...
  • I expected TravellerCon to be full of the worst grognards, but most of the folks I met there were happy to try something totally not 3I. On the other hand, the COTI board has the worst of the worst, in terms of cranky grognards, but also some of the best.
  • TravellerCon sounds really cool, but cons are pretty much out of the realm of possibility for me now...

    Yea, COTI is quite a place...
  • Paul_T said:

    Adam,

    Yeah, I think my reading for "gonzo" is not calibrated as yours is. For me, basically that anything that wouldn't seem to hang together in a typical novel, TV show, or movie is "gonzo". Like, if someone took Lord of the Rings and added dinosaurs to it, that crosses my line (or just about). Modern D&D, to me, by the book, is definitely "gonzo" (and one of the reasons I don't like playing it). Old-school D&D, a la AD&D, is more reasonable and makes a little more sense to me.

    The material you're referring to is outside of my familiar genre media altogether!

    I like your insights about the two divergent modes of play. I'll start a new thread about that. After all, the City of Brass isn't the kind of "deep setting" I was talking about here in this one; it's quite a manageable amount of information and detail which leaves lots of gaps (as your Player's Guide demonstrates so well).

    I've had these discussions many times. I feel like either you like gonzo and don't talk about it, or you dislike it and see it in many places. I want very focused settings compared to most trad roleplayers.
  • Very true. Anyway, back to the topic at hand:

    Eero, above, encouraged me to find ways to work "background information" into the game at hand. I frankly don't have the interest or patience to read the several hundred page long book the GM shared with us on the setting ("The Sword Coast"), but he mentioned offhand that the castle we were going to explore had a history, and he thought it was interesting that none of the players had inquired about it. (Particularly since they all had access to the setting book, and could ask for History rolls during the game, as well.)

    I wasn't sure what to do, but I decided to use it as an experiment. I read the section about the castle, which was somewhat interesting and not too long. Now, how to work it into play?

    My character wasn't "from around here" (it's part of the character concept that he doesn't know what's going on, to make it easier for me to join the campaign-in-progress), and it has been established that he doesn't know much about history (my attempt to afford niche protection for another player whose character is doubly proficient in the History skill, and I don't have the stats for this, anyway).

    I couldn't think of some terribly coy and clever Eero-ish way to bring about this conversation, but during play my character suffered a sort of fear/depression effect, so I decided to use that as an opportunity. I complained to the group that I was worried and scared about this apparent "adventure" we were on - it didn't seem quite as fun and relaxing as I'd imagined, and all our horses got killed two days back, so we had to do it all on foot.

    On top of that, I explained, I had a terrible dream last night... thereupon I proceeded to describe a rather vivid nightmare I'd had, where I interlaced all kinds of imagery related to the history of the castle.

    No one seemed too interested, but eventually some combination of table chatter led the GM to call for a History check and then he read the castle's history section to us out loud from the book.

    Then we proceeded with the adventure. I can't tell whether it was in any way a useful contribution to the game or just a boring side conversation where someone read out of a book. So far, nothing from the description therein seems relevant to our current adventure, although that could change, since we're finally at the gates to the castle itself.
  • Interesting (in a data-addict sort of way, I mean), that. Do tell us more when the game develops. See where this is going, in terms of setting use.

    GMs often suffer from the big, fat sin of not truly using the setting that's there. It's interesting, but people like to keep the ready-made material at a bit of a distance, to make creative room for their own operation. You never play with the One Ring, you never get to fly the Millennium Falcon, that sort of thing. Goes for ready-made rpg settings, too, in my experience: there's a lot of that setting stuff, but the adventure's still going to be about some relatively generic fantasy thing the GM's working through, that might as well occur in any other fantasy world. Their personal little setting suffers from a disconnect with the big official one, and on top of that the adventure is often simply not that important to anything. Maybe GMs just take a lot of time to work through stuff, you need to first run a hundred adventures before you start being more ambitious about making your stuff really memorable.

    (If I sound pessimistic, that might be because I just spent Sunday afternoon sitting through one unbelievably boring session of pointless dungeoneering, while the big NPCs were off doing the potentially/vaguely interesting things happening in the setting.)

    It'd be interesting to see how it goes in your campaign - does the adventure grasp at some setting issues (yeah, I know - it's Forgotten Realms, not like it has any), or is the whole setting thing just a big fat red herring, and you should be paying attention to something else.
  • Eero,

    It's very hard to say, in this particular instance. On one hand, the GM's introduction of the campaign world and premise seemed to be very focused - there was a historically significant event, and the characters are all involved in trying to collect items which could change the world (or at least a small part of it).

    This particular castle, and its history, are very much relevant to what we (the characters) are doing, although there's a sideplot (the evil encroaching army) which may or may not be involved in that. I can't tell if it's two separate plots or if they are combined somehow.

    On the other hand, as far as I can see, the game and the setting both work against the idea of placing characters at the centre of some meaningful dramatic events.

    First of all, the Forgotten Realms (again, as far as I can see) don't have any kind of central thematic focus, but, rather, combine a wild grab-bag of various setting ideas, races, conflicts, monsters, and milieus. I don't see any kind of central theme; rather, as you say, a hodge-podge of generic D&D-like fantasy elements.

    On top of that, we have the conceits of D&D (and particularly so in the Realms): a) that famous characters and important people are tremendously high-level adventurers, b) that there is a huge range of power and ability to challenge adventurers strewn about the landscape, and c) that player characters begin at 1st level and then very slowly "level up".

    This makes it very hard to structure a campaign which places the PCs in any kind of centrally dramatic role. Lord of the Rings managed it by giving the most powerful and important item to a lowly hobbit, but doing so in D&D is somewhat impossible, given how the game's mechanics work.

    Unless you're very, very clever, it seems to me that you are basically mandated to send the characters on many many many relatively unimportant adventures (possibly for years of real-time play - at the speed this group is progressing, I'd expect it to take about 6 years, for instance) until they level up sufficiently to take action in some sort of larger overarching conflict.
  • Paul_T said:


    He likes how using all that information allows him to leverage player knowledge, backstory information, and details of history, NPCs, and so forth. Makes sense, right?

    In my experience, however, that's never panned out.

    ffilz said:


    And heaven help if you run a game like Traveller where the game has become synonymous with the "official" setting...

    Not gonna lie, hearing this sort of talk makes me a little sad. I love using the 3I setting. But then, I never encountered anyone who played continuity cop, nor did I ever really bank on the players knowing much about the setting.

    But it (and a few other settings like this) inspire me, and have a large body of work I can draw from for ideas and content. And everything is settled. I don't have to make snap decisions about the setting that suddenly don't work because I didn't consider them long enough.

    That being said, my patience for adopting new settings in this vein is not the same as it once was.
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