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D&D General Do players REALLY care about the game world?


Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
Players care about what's important about the world.

Nobody gives two shits about a king ruling a place on the other side of the world, or where Tabaxi live.

They do care about Misfar, that one-armed village elder who gave them a place to hide while they were on the run from Alshiriyr's Five. They do care about the city where their families live.

Long story short, they care about things that are organically became important.

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* The majority of the players in my experience* are going to respond to what you give them as a DM at the table, regardless of what you've done away from the table. What do I mean? If you tell a good story, you can draw them in and hook them. If you don't tell a good story at the table, regardless of how well you craft the world, they're not going to bite.


My experience as well. It doesn't matter how, detailed, deep, flavored etc. The world is if the DM doesn't /can't convey it to his players.


A suffusion of yellow
My experience as a player is that it varies absolutely freakin' hugely.

It can be anything from "Ooooh this is mysterious and fascinating!" to the point where I'm really wanting to know more, to "Okay fine w/e let's kill stuff".

Two things which make people care more in my experience as a player are:

1) The setting has some kind of central mystery/big premise to it.

2) The setting actually has stuff for PCs themselves to engage with and influence - i.e. it's not "too big" for the PCs to be significant.

A good example of a D&D setting where I, as a player, cared about the setting would be Dark Sun - there's the mystery of how exactly this happened and what exactly is going on, and the game is clearly set up so you're on the way to being one of the movers-and-shakers.

Two things which make people care much less about a setting in my experience as a player are:

Yes very much this, I very much prefer setting that engage my interest by allowing the PCs to both learn stuff through play AND actually influence and create things in it. Its why I allow PCs to add aspects to scenes (as per fate), always have PCs part of an organisation and use a Influence/wealth mechanic as well as asking for PC backgrounds to include NPC allies and patrons - in game bonds and relationships that can meaningfully impact play. Of course some players just use wealth to buy stuff, but some get into the influence minigame.


Doors and Corners
Anytime you group a hugely diverse number of people together and speak about them as if they're all the same, you're doing a disservice.
I completely agree with this. Which is why I only mention myself and my players in the OP. I dislike painting with a broad brush and was also why I asked for others' input.


Doors and Corners
If your PCs are not showing interest in your world, it may not be the world or players that need to change - it might be your delivery at the table. Maybe you're tired. Maybe you're insecure in your delivery. Maybe you've never spent any time learning how to build tension, deliver lines, or do all the other things that give players the rush at the table. After all, DMing is role playing - acting - and all the things that can ruin a good play can disrupt your game as well.

... plus more really interesting stuff.
I think I didn't express myself well in the OP.

My players are quite invested in the game and, typically, will ask at the end of the session when we can meet next. We are, as a group, very satisfied with the game, game-time and hanging out together

But I've come to believe that it's because the adventure was interesting and exciting. Not that Bob the Creator God hammered for three eons to make the Dwarves or some such.

It's probably my particular group, though. As we are very much Beer and Pretzel type gamers. :LOL:


Depends on what the game is about per Session Zero. If we're expecting exploration or investigation to be heavy, I care more about the world. If it's "We're playing Tomb of Horrors" or "Die Vecna" or something the world could be whatever generic fantasy grab bag as long as the fights and challenges are harrowing and feel gritty/epic (respectively).

While there's quite a mix, I'd say the majority don't care, but IME a lot of players just consider their character to be nothing more than numbers on a piece of paper. I care, as do most DMs or part time DMs, but also most serious players do so as well. I think the reason for this is that an immersive world lets the players choose how to impact it, rather than just being led around by the DM's adventures. Showing this interest about the character's plans allows the DM to then work these things into the adventures (or as inspiration for them).


Some do, some don't. I think it is that simple. Some players are very casual and just show up to roll dice and kill things. Others get into the full experience of role-play and exploration. A few go deeper. I find that among the latter, the interest to DM often arises.

D&D (and ttrpgs in general) is a strange past-time in that almost in-built is a wide range of interest levels. This can lead to frustration for DMs, who tend to be the most invested types, but it is also just the nature of the game and has to be worked with. I know that for myself it has been like pulling teeth trying to get some players to read handouts and write character backgrounds out of session - to them it is like homework. Others go really deep into their character concept and want to figure out what the world is all about, taking notes on everything.

I find myself caring about the world as both GM and Player. But as a player, you've got to help me care about the world. I find being in one place helps me care more. I've lived in this town for years and I've been doing my best to make it a better place for everyone. If the town reflects my efforts and NPCs acknowledge them, then I'm going to be much more invested. If, however, I'm hopping from city to city, plane to plane, and every NPC is an unlikable jerk, then I'm not going to care too much and slide into murderhobo-dom.


Goblin Queen (She/They)
Players care about things that are directly relevant to them. Most world building details aren’t directly relevant to the PCs most of the time, so players don’t usually care about them. But when/if they do become relevant, the players will care about them.


Sadly most do not seem to care much, or at least less than I would want them to.
Which is why many companies go for the "rule of cool", even when it hurts versimilitude and the internal logic of the setting. Because they know that most players will never interact with the setting in depth as long as they have a location to go to, things to murder and look good while doing so.
Paizo APs and Settings are one example for this, but it also applies to most D&D settings and adventures.


Doors and Corners
Which is why many companies go for the "rule of cool", even when it hurts versimilitude and the internal logic of the setting.
Which might be why I'm contemplating sticking the Keep on the Borderlands in the Savage Frontier on the Sword Coast in Faerun! LOL.


I care a lot about the world, both as a player and DM, and also regardless of whether the setting is homebrew or commercial. Part of that might be from my background lecturing in global politics, which makes me a bit of a sucker for campaign settings, but I’m also pretty keen on the inhabitants of the world and interacting with them.
Having said that, I have at least one player who prefers the chill of the adventures rather more, and that’s totally valid.


Over the decades of playing and running games and creating what I think of as fascinating worlds, I was informed in a non-insulting "yeah, cool. Nifty. Uh, when can we kick ass?" sort of way that my players don't really care about the world except in the context of having a place to adventure. The reasons why the world is the way it is are cool and all, but seem to not really have a huge impact (I have a reason why there are only three gods and a host of saints/apostates, for example). I could just as easily run using any world as long as the adventures are cool.

And I find, unsurprisingly, that I'm the same way. Oh, sure. I like cool worlds. But I'm also fine with bog-standard fantasy worlds as long as the adventures are fun. And, at times, prefer it as I don't want to remember all that esoteric stuff and just wanna play. Yah know?

Got me thinking about just running Sword Coast stuff and not taxing my brain anymore.

So, as PLAYERS (as DMs, sure, as that's where a lot of our fun comes from), do you really care that much about the game world?
Much like Wizards has discovered (and why there design philosophy shifted to bottom up), top down world features have little to do with the players. This often results in low buy in. After all, why should we care about things we may never see or interact with? Start from the beginning. A town where you come together. Build out from there, with the players discovering ever more information as they grow. There actions having some impact on the world around them, and the details emerging organically. They care more about a world that grows up along side them.


So, as PLAYERS (as DMs, sure, as that's where a lot of our fun comes from), do you really care that much about the game world?
I am interested in many things in the game world. I am interested in my PC, the other PCs, the challenges of our adventure, cool NPCs, and the elements of my PC's connection to the game world (enemies, loyalties, factions, etc.).

But the world itself, independent of my PC's interaction with it? Generally, no. It isn't that I can't get excited about the details of a setting--I have delved deeply into the lore of many fictional settings. But:

a) Before I care about a setting for its own sake, I have to engage with characters/story in that setting.
b) The setting has to be fleshed out and internally consistent. Many DMs are not good at this.
c) The setting has to have a "bible" that I can peruse at my leisure. When I'm at the game table, I am focused on the adventure at hand, not random backstory.
d) The setting bible has to be coherent, understandable, and concise. Most DMs really, deeply, terribly suck at this. Especially the last bit. And the more enthusiastic they are about the setting, the worse it gets.

And that's coming from a guy who loves world-building for its own sake. In my experience, most players don't. They simply do not care about anything beyond the adventure at hand. Any world-building that I do as DM is done for me, not for my players.


I find that the best way to draw players into my worlds is by writing a short piece of fiction to introduce each session. Nothing much, just a few hundred words in which a couple of NPCs provide some commentary on what's happening in the world.

Otherwise, no, players don't care much. When I'm a player, I don't care much either, at least not enough to give the world any serious thought in between sessions. And the more combat-focused the session, the less I care about anything else.


Game Designer
I like to compare it the difference in emotional resonance between being told there's a ton of people dying in a far away country and being shown a video or hearing a testimony. The first case is only numbers, it's a statistic, it's a fact. You go "Oh that's terrible" and then wonder what you'll eat for dinner. The second has emotional resonance, it pulls on your empathy, personal experiences, etc.

With the years, I've come to understand that players tend to care about the part of the settings that they can interact with. Characters they met, places they've been to or are heading for, etc. When you start talking about legends, myths, old kingdoms and stuff like that, if it doesn't feel related to something they're emotional bound to, it'll fall flat and they probably don't care about it. They'll listen to you, but think about what they'll eat for dinner.

So, I always strive to find the sweet spot where I can give them enough exposition so they know a bit about the setting, have information that allows them to make choices as to where go next, understand the major political situations of the places they visit, etc. But most of my attention is on giving them bits of the game world through characters they meet, places they go to, events they were part of, etc. Then, they care. And it can be frightening how sometimes they do.


I care about the game world quite a bit, and one of the greatest feelings (for me) is playing a future game in the same setting and seeing lasting impacts from those prior characters.

For example, one character invests a large amount of his treasure into a ship based trading company. Then, in a future campaign, discover the trading company is thriving and many of their ships are named after our founding characters!

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