5E Whatever "lore" is, it isn't "rules."
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  1. #1
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    Whatever "lore" is, it isn't "rules."

    So like an idiot, I dipped into the last few pages of the Setting Canon thread, which seems to have long since gone off the rails, slipped the tracks, careened into the wilderness, and barrel-rolled two or three times before catching on fire and exploding. That said, though, something startling came up in recent posts that was so alien to my experience that I had to make sure I was reading it right: The idea that if gameworld "lore" (specifically of monsters in the discussion in question, but presumably exapndable to all other aspects) isn't utterly consistent, it's useless, and that if you allow exceptions for some aspect of it you might as well throw the whole rulebook out, cats and dogs living together, &c., &c.

    In short, I was flabbergasted to find a subset of my fellow hobbyists who want setting lore to be another kind of rule.

    Which, dude, I am not about to declare BadWrongFun on however you choose to relate to your gaming materials, but that seems to me like a setup for heartbreak. And I confess I don't understand the absolutism behind it. It feels like a misreading of the intent of that content - asking that a piece of the game does something it wasn't intended to.

    To me, "lore" seems like it's meant to be more of a starting point than an end. It's a general understanding of how things are in the setting - or, at most, default assumptions that may or may not be valuable to your own version of the gameworld. Even as "canon," it's a way of saying "This is what's known to be true, except when it isn't." If it's done well, it should suggest things that could happen in the course of play, but not dictate them. Adhering to or ignoring the lore ought to depend on what's going to make a more interesting play experience.*

    Expecting lore to operate as if it were another set of rules feels like mistaking (to use a couple of loaded and decidedly imperfect terms) fluff for crunch. Tipping the hat to the late Sir Pterry, the Lore is not the Law, even if your ideolect pronounces them the same way.

    Or at least that's how I see it. If you disagree with me, I'd love to hear what experiences inform your different expectations, and what you feel it serves to treat that part of the game that way. I'd also be interested to learn what compromises, if any, you'd be willing to make as part of a table that views lore in a, well, fluffier way than you do. I don't know that I'll ever really grok this way of thinking, but I'd at least like to get a sense of how it looks from the perspective of someone whose default settings are so different from mine.

    Because:
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    *Words deliberately chosen because some of you out in forumland seem to be allergic to the word story, but that's what we're talking about here.
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  2. #2
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    You did not go into the can of worms that is weaving fluff into crunch. Now there is a path of discussion that can lead to madness.
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  3. #3
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    I view lore just as important and as much as a rule as an ability in a statblock (to use monsters as an example). I.e., both tell you how the baseline monster should be run and how it would act in combat, but you're not forced to adhere to either if you don't want.

    Like the (in)famous ogre thread. The lore has them partnering with other humanoids whenever possible, and they behave very stupidly and violently and love treasure. The statblock has them attacking with a club and javalin. Those are both rules for the general ogre, so I can expect to encounter them with other humanoids and using those weapons.

    HOWEVER....

    I'm not forced to have them traveling with other humanoids just like I'm not forced to give them a club and javelin for their only actions in combat. I can just as easily have a wandering lone ogre rampaging through the countryside as I can with an ogre that flings goblins (like in SKT).

    The only issue I have is when someone says one is the only thing important, and the other doesn't matter at all. They are both actual text in the book that tells you what to do, so they are both rules of equal importance. But like every other rule, it's a guideline you're not forced to adhere to.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eubani View Post
    You did not go into the can of worms that is weaving fluff into crunch. Now there is a path of discussion that can lead to madness.
    Maybe so. But without contradicting myself,* it seems to me they certainly ought to inform each other - though I would have thought it uncontroversial to suggest that they can do so without being mistaken for one another.

    *I am infinite, and so forth.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sacrosanct View Post
    They are both actual text in the book that tells you what to do, so they are both rules of equal importance. But like every other rule, it's a guideline you're not forced to adhere to.
    This strikes me as an enormously sane and reasonable way of threading the needle - indeed, though it's not the way I would have thought to put it, it pretty accurately describes my approach as well.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sacrosanct View Post
    I view lore just as important and as much as a rule as an ability in a statblock (to use monsters as an example).
    Yes, I agree, but in perhaps an odd way - I would not have called either of those "rules".

    I.e., both tell you how the baseline monster should be run and how it would act in combat, but you're not forced to adhere to either if you don't want.
    Agree.

    The only issue I have is when someone says one is the only thing important, and the other doesn't matter at all. They are both actual text in the book that tells you what to do, so they are both rules of equal importance.
    I think calling these things "rules" is a point of potential confusion...

    But like every other rule, it's a guideline you're not forced to adhere to.
    ...because then you go here and you are sweeping them up with other things that I really would call rules, which, at least in terms of social conventions, are different. I mean if I take your statement precisely, then you are certainly correct - all rules are guidelines; you can do as you please, DM empowerment, etc., etc. But there's an implication here that seems off.

    If for instance you are going to mod the combat mechanics, I think players are going to want to know about that beforehand, you probably should right the mods down, you need to think about things like balance (assuming you care), and undoubtedly other stuff, but that's enough to make the point. On the other hand, I would not expect any prior notice or deep though needed about having an ogre throw a cow carcass(*), whether or not I thought that was implied by the MM entry. And even if I did think it was somehow inconsistent with the MM entry, I would not call it a "house rule".

    Ultimately, I think I agree with you conceptually; I just think your terminology is a bit funky.

    (*) Even though, for reasons I don't understand, this concept seems to disturb some folks.
    Last edited by Harzel; Saturday, 14th January, 2017 at 12:53 AM.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ProgBard View Post
    In short, I was flabbergasted to find a subset of my fellow hobbyists who want setting lore to be another kind of rule.
    I think I would fundamentally disagree with your premise. How can you have any kind of setting lore without it becoming a rule of some kind.

    Take Spelljammer for example. The Lore is that you can fly your Sailing ship between worlds which in turn creates rules that you can fly your Sailing ship between worlds even if it is something as simple as now you have more then one world or that if you get into space you will not instantly die in the vacuum.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
    I think I would fundamentally disagree with your premise. How can you have any kind of setting lore without it becoming a rule of some kind.

    Take Spelljammer for example. The Lore is that you can fly your Sailing ship between worlds which in turn creates rules that you can fly your Sailing ship between worlds even if it is something as simple as now you have more then one world or that if you get into space you will not instantly die in the vacuum.
    Well, as I said above, isn't it enough to say that rules and lore inform each other without conflating them?

    The issue that I have with this terminology is that a "rule" can be broken. Lore, OTOH, may, depending on circumstances, be true and/or false and/or meaningless in any of several combinations; it's subject to different influences.

    So let me turn it around: what is it you gain by treating them as the same thing, that's worth the cost of flexibility that comes of thinking of them as related but discrete spheres of the game?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
    I think I would fundamentally disagree with your premise. How can you have any kind of setting lore without it becoming a rule of some kind.

    Take Spelljammer for example. The Lore is that you can fly your Sailing ship between worlds which in turn creates rules that you can fly your Sailing ship between worlds even if it is something as simple as now you have more then one world or that if you get into space you will not instantly die in the vacuum.
    In my world Dwarves are fairly racist against most other races. This would never be converted into a solid mechanical Rule, where I roll for racism.

    IMO, while all rules should fall under "Lore" not all lore should be a rule. This of course leads to the obvious result of Lore first, everything else last.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ProgBard View Post
    So let me turn it around: what is it you gain by treating them as the same thing, that's worth the cost of flexibility that comes of thinking of them as related but discrete spheres of the game?
    For a start it is easier to make exceptions then it is to make everything unique.

    In my Spelljammer example you could have a particularly deadly Sargasso that consisted of a vacuum or even magic dead area as an exception to rule that a Knight could survive on the deck of his Spelljammer.

    As opposed to, for example, a Spelljammer campaign that required completely enclosed ships and space suits to survive space like you find in Pathfinderspace or Numeneraspace.

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