Why Worldbuilding is Bad
Page 1 of 191 123456789101151101 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 1902
  1. #1
    Potassium-Rich Moderator
    Hydra (Lvl 25)

    I'm A Banana's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Brooklyn
    Posts
    15,847

    Why Worldbuilding is Bad

    Sci-fi writer M John Harrison tells you why you don't need to spend hours crafting your campaign setting:

    Quote Originally Posted by M John Harrison
    Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over worldbuilding.

    Worldbuilding is dull. Worldbuilding literalises the urge to invent. Worldbuilding gives an unneccessary permission for acts of writing (indeed, for acts of reading). Worldbuilding numbs the readers ability to fulfil their part of the bargain, because it believes that it has to do everything around here if anything is going to get done.

    Above all, worldbuilding is not technically neccessary. It is the great clomping foot of nerdism. It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isnt there. A good writer would never try to do that, even with a place that is there. It isnt possible, & if it was the results wouldnt be readable: they would constitute not a book but the biggest library ever built, a hallowed place of dedication & lifelong study. This gives us a clue to the psychological type of the worldbuilder & the worldbuilders victim, & makes us very afraid.
    From here. Discuss.
    Last edited by I'm A Banana; Tuesday, 17th April, 2007 at 04:21 PM.
    [RIGHT]Jacob J. Driscoll
    [B][I]Astral Plane Campaign[/I][/B]: Take [URL="http://www.dmsguild.com/product/193314/Hereos-of-the-Eternal-Classes-of-the-Astral-Plane"]your heroes[/URL] and [URL="http://www.dmsguild.com/product/190331/People-of-the-Eternal-Races-of-the-Astral-Plane"]your people[/URL] and come to [URL="http://www.dmsguild.com/product/198238/The-Athar-Citadel"][B]The Athar Citadel[/B][/URL], where those who reject the gods learn to wield divine magic!
    [/RIGHT]
    XP Doug McCrae gave XP for this post
    Laugh Tony Vargas laughed with this post

  2. #2
    Member
    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)



    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    12,490
    Utter crap.


    RC
    XP Azgulor, doctorbadwolf, Simon T. Vesper gave XP for this post
    Laugh Mistwell laughed with this post

  3. #3
    Member
    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

    Kestrel's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Posts
    523
    Heh...I was just considering posting this...saw it on William Gibson's blog.

    Never create beyond the surrounding hexes or the next session. Crude outlines sure, but anything more detailed can limit your creativity.

    (This has been my big hangup with published settings lately, they are great for ideas, but stifle you in the long run)

    IMHO, YMMV AAF!

  4. #4
    Member


    Ry's Avatar

    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Yonge/Bloor Toronto
    Posts
    3,608
    This is very relevant advice for a sci-fi writer.

    This is terrible advice for most DMs.

    This is somewhat appropriate advice for a small number of DMs with a very particular kind of style.

  5. #5
    Member
    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

    robberbaron's Avatar

    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Wellingborough, UK
    Posts
    955
    He's quite right - if you want the players to move through the world without really being in it.

    Personally, I like to know that there is more to a gameworld than a series of dungeons, a list of maidens to be rescued/deflowered (depending upon alignment), etc. Games I've played in which had no depth seemed little more than multiplayer Fighting Fantasy books.

    It would be interesting to have a poll on this subject.
    XP haakon1, pukunui, Simon T. Vesper gave XP for this post

  6. #6
    Member
    Enchanter (Lvl 12)

    wingsandsword's Avatar

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Lexington, KY (USA)
    Posts
    2,642
    There is a world of difference in creating a literary work like a sci-fi novel, and creating a campaign setting for a roleplaying game. While there might be a few similarities, you have to treat them as separate creative exercises.

    Worldbuilding helps build the illusion of a complete world for the players, the idea that there is more to this setting than this one adventure with the one town and the one dungeon and maybe some nearby places that are nothing but names on a map. When playing in a newly built world, or a world the players are unfamiliar with, my players ask lots of questions about the setting so they can understand the world they are playing in. While I could deflect some of them by requiring knowledge skill checks (and sometimes do if I think that a starting character shouldn't be able to know that), many players want to know what their characters would know about a setting so they can come up with character concepts, backgrounds, ideas for how to play their character.
    XP EvanNave55, Tallifer, Simon T. Vesper gave XP for this post

  7. #7
    Potassium-Rich Moderator
    Hydra (Lvl 25)

    I'm A Banana's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Brooklyn
    Posts
    15,847
    So, people are saying it doesn't apply in D&D. Why not? Does it not still literalize the need to invent? Does it not give unnecessary permission for the acts of game writing and game playing? Does it not numb the ability of the player to do their part of the bargain, because it believes it has to do everything around here if the job's to get done?

    Is it technically necessary for D&D in a way it isn't for writing? Is it not the great clomping food of nerdism, trying to exhaustively define a place that isn't there? Why would a good DM so exhaustively define something that doesn't exist? Is it ever really possible? Do players interact with everything the DM designs? Doesn't the worldbuilder's "psychological type" still imply that their setting is a hallowed place of dedication and lifelong study?

    Spoiler:

    My own view is that it's more necessary in D&D, because you don't lead players by the nose in the same way you lead readers by the nose as an author, so you do need to create more than what's right in front of them. Specifically, you need to create what's all around them, so that they can go back or to the side and there's still something there. Though I do think the idea of exhaustively cataloging a place that doesn't exist leads to immense volumes of effort that is largely wasted in the game, and is more about the DM having fun creating than about the needs of the campaign.
    Last edited by I'm A Banana; Tuesday, 17th April, 2007 at 04:32 PM.
    [RIGHT]Jacob J. Driscoll
    [B][I]Astral Plane Campaign[/I][/B]: Take [URL="http://www.dmsguild.com/product/193314/Hereos-of-the-Eternal-Classes-of-the-Astral-Plane"]your heroes[/URL] and [URL="http://www.dmsguild.com/product/190331/People-of-the-Eternal-Races-of-the-Astral-Plane"]your people[/URL] and come to [URL="http://www.dmsguild.com/product/198238/The-Athar-Citadel"][B]The Athar Citadel[/B][/URL], where those who reject the gods learn to wield divine magic!
    [/RIGHT]

  8. #8
    Member
    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

    Kafkonia's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Ottawa, Ontario
    Posts
    1,403
    Wow. If I actually cared what M. John Harrison thought about things... anything... this might have some effect on me.

    Unfortunately, I don't. So it won't.

    Moving on...
    XP Simon T. Vesper gave XP for this post

  9. #9
    Member
    Magsman (Lvl 14)

    Desdichado's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    With your mom
    Posts
    19,182
    Quote Originally Posted by rycanada
    This is very relevant advice for a sci-fi writer.

    This is terrible advice for most DMs.

    This is somewhat appropriate advice for a small number of DMs with a very particular kind of style.
    QFT. Although some of my favorite sci-fi and fantasy authors defy that advice--Edgar Rice Burroughs, for instance. J. R. R. Tolkien. But I can see his point for an author. It's not really relevent for GMs. Running a game takes place in something closer to "realtime" than writing a story, so you need to have some details already in place when your players encounter them, becuase if you have to stop to think about them when they get there, that makes for a really boring game. It works for writing a story, but not playing a game.
    XP Simon T. Vesper gave XP for this post

  10. #10
    Member
    Lama (Lvl 13)

    Pbartender's Avatar

    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    The Suburban Frontier of Chicago
    Posts
    6,366
    Quote Originally Posted by wingsandsword
    Worldbuilding helps build the illusion of a complete world for the players, the idea that there is more to this setting than this one adventure with the one town and the one dungeon and maybe some nearby places that are nothing but names on a map. When playing in a newly built world, or a world the players are unfamiliar with, my players ask lots of questions about the setting so they can understand the world they are playing in. While I could deflect some of them by requiring knowledge skill checks (and sometimes do if I think that a starting character shouldn't be able to know that), many players want to know what their characters would know about a setting so they can come up with character concepts, backgrounds, ideas for how to play their character.
    On the other hand, my preferred method of world building is to keep most area rather vague, and fill in the details as they become relevant...

    My players also ask lots of questions. When it involves building the characters, I usually tell them, "These are the basics of that area and culture. Feel free to come up with details and I'll use them." when It comes up in-game, I usually have a good idea ahead of time and I'll add deatails as needed. If I'm not ready for it, I'll come up with details on the spot (based on the vague notions I've already got) and make certain I write them down so I don't forget. It's fun, since it gives the players a hand in the world building, and there's a greater sense of discovery since the players don't necessarily have all the details at the beginning.

    You can still have the illusion of a complete world without actually having a complete world.
    XP Tallifer gave XP for this post

Similar Threads

  1. Worldbuilding class - looking for ideas
    By Mercurius in forum *General Roleplaying Games Discussion
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: Thursday, 11th March, 2010, 12:13 AM
  2. Worldbuilding Starting City
    By Raven Crowking in forum *General Roleplaying Games Discussion
    Replies: 38
    Last Post: Friday, 8th August, 2008, 01:31 AM
  3. Why Worldbuilding is Bad II
    By FireLance in forum *General Roleplaying Games Discussion
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: Friday, 18th May, 2007, 04:26 PM
  4. Blogging worldbuilding
    By GuardianLurker in forum *General Roleplaying Games Discussion
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: Thursday, 11th May, 2006, 04:29 PM
  5. Blogging worldbuilding
    By GuardianLurker in forum *Pathfinder & Starfinder
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: Thursday, 11th May, 2006, 04:28 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •