Why Worldbuilding is Bad - Page 138
  1. #1371
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelSomething View Post
    Wait, you were serious?
    Yes. I'm serious because the only posts I find useful, are the posts in which people apply their principles to specific examples. If the specific examples available are MLP, then I'll work with that.

    The posts asserting that the extremes are bad - "Without sauce, pasta is no good!" and "You've got it all wrong, without pasta, sauce is no good!" - aren't helping me. If they're helping someone else, fine.

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelSomething View Post
    Well, if I was running an MLP RPG, the most likely scenario is that I would be running it for a bunch of Bronies. Therefore, I would assume they all would be at least fairly familiar with the world lore.
    My players would be a mix. no hardcore bronies (so far as I know) but some with zero lore and some with partial lore. In some cases, a player might ask what a Winter Wrap Up is, because the player doesn't know, and this provokes the question of whether another player should explain, out of character, catching up the player on what their character should already know; or whether it's more fun and/or plausible for that character to ask, out of honest ignorance and lack of previous experience with that part of their own culture. And then, if a player gives an in-character explanation, which differs from my understanding as Stable Master, what do? Perhaps that PC is mistaken, and they'll all find out the hard way? Or do I correct the player? Or do I change the setting to match the player's and their character's understanding?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
    Ok, specific criticisms of world building:

    • It takes away time from the DM that would be better spent on developing adventures. We do not have unlimited time, and much of the world building stuff that goes on has little or nothing to do with the specific adventure that the players are doing.
    • Worldbuilding replaces more practical elements in supplements. I mentioned earlier the old Dragon Magazine Ecology of articles. Replacing them with a more here is a page of information and three to four pages of plug and play adventure material is far more useful to a DM.
    • Worldbuilding and particularly game lore, becomes deeply entrenched and virtually impossible to change. The Great Wheel and attending arguments is a perfect example of this. New ideas become judged, not on their actual value, but on how well they toe the line with what came before.
    • Much of world building is what I called before "Six page treatises on Elven Tea Ceremonies". As more and more world building gets piled on, less and less of anything of actual use at the table gets shoved in.
    • DM's sometimes mistake world building for adventure building. The "Tour Des Realms" example that I brought up earlier where the campaign was more about showing off the DM's beautifully wrought urn rather than an actual adventure. ((Note, this probably applies double to fantasy genre novel writers))


    How's that for specific criticisms?
    Those are, indeed, specific criticisms! So specific, that one can disagree with them on specific grounds, with examples from actual experience! At least they're not vague vapor.

    Some counter-observations:

    How much time I've spent, over the last twenty years, pondering a setting that I'm actually running, this year, for the first time, is *not my player's business*. I was not on their payroll during that time. If I chose to spend an accumulated total of 500 hours, over those ten years, writing notes on Setting Q, and now they demand that I should have instead spent only 100 of those hours writing those notes, and 300 hours preparing box-text, and 100 hours statting up monsters - too bad for them. They have no authority on how I spent *my* discretionary time before I even met them. Our time together at the table, is the only time they get to negotiate.

    "[*]Worldbuilding and particularly game lore, becomes deeply entrenched and virtually impossible to change. The Great Wheel and attending arguments is a perfect example of this. New ideas become judged, not on their actual value, but on how well they toe the line with what came before."

    How the funk do my players, or you, know which elements of Setting Q are deeply entrenched? The map of the Afterlife which I spent hours drawing? They won't know unless one of the PCs dies, and even then, the PC won't know how much of that map they've explored, and how much more they could find if they spent ten sessions exploring it, unless that's what they actually want to do, as a party, for the next ten sessions.

    New ideas from whom? From the players? How the funk do you know that I won't shelve my 20 pages on What Dwarves Know About Metallurgy (And What They Got Wrong) if a player wants their PC to become the first dwarven smith to ever make high-grade steel? I might even handwave some transition, in which those 20 pages were the dwarven "De Re Metallica" in the previous generation, and then somehow they made exactly enough progress, during the PC's childhood, for the PC take that last breakthrough step to high-grade steel.

    "Six page treatises on Elven Tea Ceremonies"
    I already posted about that GM who wrote six pages (or more) about Elven Heraldry. The one player (me) who was interested, got a copy of those six pages, and enjoyed them, and I designed a heraldic device for my PC's shield. No other player at the table spent ANY time on the topic. Their gaming experience was exactly the same experience that they would have had if those six pages never existed. The DM enjoyed writing it (once I wrote an elven sage PC), I enjoyed reading it and applying it to my character illustration, zero cost to anyone else. I call that Pareto-optimal. What's your beef?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Imaculata View Post
    World building is an important part of adventure prepping.
    Quote Originally Posted by TheSword View Post
    Is one side really advocating winging it on the day with little or no prep?
    Well, I am saying that RPGing can be done in this style, and produce an experience that is different from one based on worldbuilding. In my own view the experience is more fun. Others obviously take a different view.

    Here are three first sessions GMed in such a fashion: Burning Wheel; Cortex+ Heroic Fantasy; Classic Traveller.

    Here's a 4e first session which uses Dark Sun to set up a basic framework, but used "kickers" to actually establish the action. I can't find the email I sent to my players, but it said more-or-less that Dark Sun is ferociouis desert, swords-&-sandals, with psionics, and city-states ruled by sorcerer-kings and their vicious templars. That's enough set-up to get a game going.

    The posts linked to in my post just upthread of this one indicate, I think, how backstory/framing was established.

    Here's another example: the basic floor plan of the Mausoluem, the riddle, and stats for creatures and some tricks/traps were written in advance. The other descriptions (eg statutes, mosaic, grave goods) were established during play.

    Quote Originally Posted by Imaro View Post
    @pemerton doesn't play a strictly no myth game. He's stated that he uses pre-authored content including geography, deities, names, places, etc. I think the confusion arises because he then creates a distinction (which honestly I'm still not necessarily clear on where the line is actually drawn) between the things he pre-authors and world-building. However my understanding on no myth gaming (and I don't claim to be an expert) is that everything is created during play.
    In my experience, when talking about RPG techniques on these boards, a significant hurdle is that many assumptions are made by many posters without even noticing that they are making those assumptions.

    For instance, when one posts about resolution of a player declaring "I search for a secret door", many posters take it as going without saying that the GM will, either in advance or via some on-the-fly technique (such as a die roll) decide whether or not there is a door there to be found. Similarly for attempts to meet up with NPCs; attempts to find libraries; musings about the purposes of the gods; discovering whether or not a NPC is willing to accept a bribe; etc.

    "No myth" is not a religious doctrine, despite the words! It's an attempt to describe a technique that, at its core, rejects the above assumption. This blog gives a reasonable account of it. That particular author writes

    The overall goal here is pretty simple: make more cool stuff happen per unit time. This system (at least in theory) facilitates that, with the cost that it relies on having a clear understanding of the genre you're working in.

    There are all sorts of ways to establish genre. One is to pull out Dark Sun book, let the players flip through and see the illustrations and the PC theme names, and run from there. Using a GH map to give a location to places like "generic swords & sorcery city" (ie Hardby), archtypical ruined mage's tower in some arid hills (the Abor Alz), abandoned homeland of the elven princess (Celene), etc, is in this context a way of managing genre.

    What makes the contrast with worldbuidling? Here are some examples: how do we know the starting town (Hardby) has a wizard's cabal? Because a player wrote that into his PC's backstory? How do we know the world contains balrogs, and that one has possessed the PC's broher? Same answer. How do we know that there is an important leader of the cabal called Jabal? It was established by way of an action declaration by the same player. How do we know that there are catacombs? Same answer.

    Why did I, as GM, describe the bazaar in Hardby as including a peddler trying to sell an angel feather? Because the same player had authored a Belief for his PC that said PC wouldn't leave Hardby without an item useful for confronting his balrog-possessed brother. Why did I, as GM, establish the feather as cursed? Because the player declared an attempt by his PC to read its aura, which failed - so the aura he read wasn't what he was hoping for! Why did I, as GM, establish that Jabal lives in a tower? Because the same player had authored an instict for his PC, cast Falconskin if I fall, and so it seemed appropriate to introduce a high place into the action.

    Etc.

    I think it is quite obvious that this is a different way of establishing setting, and a different approach to the role of setting in framing and in adjudication, from what @Imaculata describes. Whether you want to label it "no myth", or "the standard narrativistic model" or simply "story now" doesn't seem that big a deal.

    (Strangely, the main poster who seems to want to argue this point has me blocked. Hence my lack of reply to that particular poster.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jhaelen View Post
    I think that just means you haven't yet found a setting that completely sucked you in.

    Alas, it's true that most campaigns fizzle after a year or two. But my D&D 3e campaign lasted for over 12 years and our group agreed it was a awesome experience.
    It isn't the length of the campaign that's important. It's if you feel you've fully explored the setting.

    I kind of agree that a setting is at its most exciting when it's still fresh. It's why I prefer standalone novels over long series.
    Not really. I've played in lots of them over the past thirty years or so. I've obviously had fun.

    Thing is, the "feel you've fully explored the setting" is not something I've ever been interested in. Don't care. Nor, IME, do players care in the slightest either.
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  5. #1375
    Okay this has probably morphed into a few different debates into one.

    - No Myth vs Some Prep : I suspect this is a whole different argument than the one the original poster and article refers to. It sounds like the improv theatre equivalent to an adventure. I donít doubt from the examples give by Pemerton it can work for some groups. Probably isnít my cup of tea but I can see a lot of advantages.

    - No Myth vs World Building : By this I refer to detailing half a continents worth of races, cultures kingdoms, gods, locations etc, to the point of giving names, locations, and some details. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. It seems like people are trying to compare apples and oranges to me. Like trying to decide which is better a Chaucer play or a piece of improv comedy. It will depend entirely on your tastes. Criticising No Myth is like criticising comedy for not being serious enough.

    - Adventure Building vs World Building : this is the position that the the original article is making I believe. That by codifying the extraneous details of that half a continent and defining them as more than a general idea you are setting artificial limits to the story going in that direction if it feels natural. For instance if you decide the elf PC has a very interesting plot line you want to follow up about an eleven artefact. Then you can have a major eleven settlement be relatively near rather than 200 miles away like you originally planned.

    At the beginning It is enough to say Ďthere are elvesí. If you have an elf PC then you might want to decide more, if the PCs have good reason to visit an elven settlement then sure detail it and work out how elves live and what one or two of the gods are etc. This is adventure building rather than writing a campaign setting.

    I think too many of my campaigns take the form of journeys. Showing off the world. By focussing on tighter adventure building itís less likely players will want to cross the mountains just to see whatís there. I think you can instead spend more time making sure there are lots of things on this side of the mountains to keep them interested. While at the same time keeping space in the campaign world for something cool in the campaign world on the other side.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheSword View Post
    <snipped a good summary of the thread's progress>

    I think too many of my campaigns take the form of journeys. Showing off the world. By focussing on tighter adventure building itís less likely players will want to cross the mountains just to see whatís there. I think you can instead spend more time making sure there are lots of things on this side of the mountains to keep them interested. While at the same time keeping space in the campaign world for something cool in the campaign world on the other side.
    All good points except for the "showing off the world" bit, which might not be the motivation behind a journey-based campaign at all.

    I suspect many campaigns are or resemble journeys because journeys are a central theme of some of the primary inspirations. The Hobbit is largely about a journey there and back again. LotR is largely about a journey which later splits into several journeys. The entire Belgariad series is about, at its core, a journey. And so on.

    I completely agree about putting lots of good stuff on this side of the mountains. Unfortunately that doesn't mean the players are going to have their PCs stay there.

    A further complication is that the DM or players might later want to run or play an adventure or series in a setting not provided on this side of the mountains...which is exactly what happened to me in my current game: my idea going in was that most if not all the adventuring would happen west of a mighty range of mountains, but in my worldbuilding I somewhat foolishly didn't put any large deserts west of said mountains and then some years later came up with ideas for a series of adventures that were set - you guessed it - in a large desert.

    We - as in the players and I - made it work, but it took some contrivance.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxperson View Post
    This isn't even possible. The most detailed setting out for D&D, the Forgotten Realms, has maaaaaybe 5% of the world pre-determined. A city the size of Waterdeep would have dozens of inns and taverns, but we know a small handful of them. It tells us the names of the Lords of Waterdeep, but only a few names of the rest of the nobility. People on the other side like to accuse us of pre-determining everything for some reason, but it's far from true.
    How about ďover predeterminingĒ then? Yes, itís a bit hyperbolic to say ďall detailsĒ, but do you really not get whatís being said? A world isnít needed before a town. Or whatever other smaller location might be in order.

    Now, I understand the value of preparation, but that doesnít mean that I canít overdo it. I used to do exactly that....maps and elaborate histories describing dynasties and noble houses and their secrets. I stopped doing that mostly because I no longer had the time to devote to it, and I found very little change in my game. If anything, things got better because my prep tome was by necessity focused on things that were actually coming up in play.

    So even though I value preparation, I can recognize the criticism of the article, and other potential pitfalls of over preparation.

    Does that make more sense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maxperson View Post
    I end up defending against the misrepresentations of the other side more than anything else. It's a real shame, since I'd rather just have a discussion. Discussions are hard when the one side refuses to understand what people on the other side are trying to say.
    Sure, I get that. Little side discussions have come up, or specific points or examples are offered, and then people argue about those. But yet very little progress is made, it seems.

    And thatís because both ďsidesĒ are doing the same thing you mention.

    The Story Now/ No Myth style can certainly work. It can create a game world just as rich as any other. The way it does so is not by the quantity of detail but instead the quality. The details such a game focuses on are generally more relevant to the players than the major export of Calimshan ever is in 90% of games.

    Now, thatís not to say that it must always be so. Iíve played in such games that sucked. Iím not so invested in the style that I canít acknowledge it has weaknesses that go along with its strengths. And in my experience, most such games still use a fair amount of prep...itís just that more of that is shifted to the players. But I think anyone who claims they donít understand what preparation...worldbuilding, in this thread....has to offer, then theyíre full of it.

    I think both techniques have something to offer, and each ďsideĒ would be better served by listening and considering rather than simply insisting that their style creates a better or ďrealerĒ gameworld.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
    Not really. I've played in lots of them over the past thirty years or so. I've obviously had fun.

    Thing is, the "feel you've fully explored the setting" is not something I've ever been interested in. Don't care. Nor, IME, do players care in the slightest either.
    Clearly players do care, and quite a bit, or it wouldn't keep being brought up here in these threads. YOU may not care, and the players YOU play with may not care, but other players very obviously do care about exploring the setting.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    How about ďover predeterminingĒ then? Yes, itís a bit hyperbolic to say ďall detailsĒ, but do you really not get whatís being said? A world isnít needed before a town. Or whatever other smaller location might be in order.

    Now, I understand the value of preparation, but that doesnít mean that I canít overdo it. I used to do exactly that....maps and elaborate histories describing dynasties and noble houses and their secrets. I stopped doing that mostly because I no longer had the time to devote to it, and I found very little change in my game. If anything, things got better because my prep tome was by necessity focused on things that were actually coming up in play.

    So even though I value preparation, I can recognize the criticism of the article, and other potential pitfalls of over preparation.

    Does that make more sense?
    It does make more sense. I also don't have as much time to prepare as I used to. Back in the day, I created my own worlds with maps, history, etc. These days I'm so busy that it's all I can do to do a bit of prep on adventures now and then. That's the main reason I run my games in the Forgotten Realms. It already has all the prep work I need done and allows me to focus on adventures within that world.

    That said, I do find that there is a difference in my games. I have to improvise a lot more which is pretty clear to the players. My improvisation is pretty good, but it's not so smooth that you can't tell at times when its happening, which does bring down the quality a bit from where my game used to be. While my players don't mind, I'm sure my game wouldn't be one that @Lanefan would want to play in.

    Sure, I get that. Little side discussions have come up, or specific points or examples are offered, and then people argue about those. But yet very little progress is made, it seems.

    And thatís because both ďsidesĒ are doing the same thing you mention.
    I thought I'd bold that to emphasize it. I agree completely. For my part, once I get frustrated with someone who continually misrepresents what I am saying or doing with my style of play, I'll begin to toss back all the same "twistings" at that person to show that it can be done to their style as well. My hope is that they will see as they start defending what they perceive as an incorrect application to their playstyle, and come to the realization that what they are doing accomplishes nothing.

    The Story Now/ No Myth style can certainly work. It can create a game world just as rich as any other. The way it does so is not by the quantity of detail but instead the quality. The details such a game focuses on are generally more relevant to the players than the major export of Calimshan ever is in 90% of games.

    Now, thatís not to say that it must always be so. Iíve played in such games that sucked. Iím not so invested in the style that I canít acknowledge it has weaknesses that go along with its strengths. And in my experience, most such games still use a fair amount of prep...itís just that more of that is shifted to the players. But I think anyone who claims they donít understand what preparation...worldbuilding, in this thread....has to offer, then theyíre full of it.

    I think both techniques have something to offer, and each ďsideĒ would be better served by listening and considering rather than simply insisting that their style creates a better or ďrealerĒ gameworld.
    I agree with this as well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxperson View Post
    For my part, once I get frustrated with someone who continually misrepresents what I am saying or doing with my style of play, I'll begin to toss back all the same "twistings" at that person to show that it can be done to their style as well. My hope is that they will see as they start defending what they perceive as an incorrect application to their playstyle, and come to the realization that what they are doing accomplishes nothing.
    I can only speak for myself on this matter, but this may be why your posts sometimes come across to me as simply argumentation for argumentation's sake, no matter how twisted the logic to get there. This is why, at times, I have chosen to disengage with you: as I say somewhere upthread (or in the other worldbuilding thread), I don't feel this technique proceeds with intellectual honesty. You say you *infer* others are misrepresenting your words (as if you can, with 100% certainty, read their motives) and so you *deliberately* misrepresent back at them.

    This doesn't make for fruitful discussion/analysis!

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