log in or register to remove this ad

 

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

nevin

Adventurer
In my experience if they have good backstop and feel that thier characters are able to change things in the world then they get interested very quickly. If the DM keeps everything the way they want it and it's just a backdrop for adventures then usually they dont
 

log in or register to remove this ad

nevin

Adventurer
After reading other posts, I think I need to clarify things a bit further with two examples.

I ran OotA thrice; once with both of my groups and once with our Friday night dungeons. The first group was going with the flow, acting and reacting to stimuli but never initiated anything of their own beyond what was asked of them or what the situations warranted.

The second group, made alliances with Grey dwarves, Mithril halls, Triboar and the Lord's Alliance. They went to build a castle on the entrance to the underwater that led to the trading outpost, controlling the flow of trade towards that trading post and used the castle itself as a staging ground to their forays into the underdark.

The third group is mainly for show, but they too, to a lesser extent, used politics and alliances to get their way and improve their chance of success.

Of these, only the second group succeeded. The first one was obliterated by Demogorgon and the third ended in the Labyrinth through a streak of bad luck and very poor, but entertaining decisions.

I should point out that I am on the hard side of DMing and all my players appreciate it. I am also very democratic and all rules, house or optional are voted upon by everyone. I roll on the open, so no fudging from me. All of this makes games particularly hard games where attrition can be high, buy the feeling of achievement that comes with a successful endeavor is hard to beat. Like @Paul L Ming I am often seen by external players as an adversarial DM. That is far from the truth. Nowadays, hard is considered adversarial and this is a loss for our community. I DMed for a few of those that were scorning my style and guess what? They liked it in the end.

Hard does not mean no RP.
Hard does not mean no explorations.
Hard is simply that, hard...

And when you know something is and will be hard, you often try to find every single little advantage that will help you tip the sales in your favor. Be it tactics or politics or even simple historical knowledge, you will try to use those to your advantage. And thus, because you want these advantages, you will interact with the game world a lot more than if you do not need that advantage to succeed.
But if everything is hard then hard is an average day and it's not really hard anymore it's just the new normal
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I think it is very important for a DM to make their players care about the world. If they don't, and you could swap the world to any other setting for all they care, then something is wrong.

There is nothing wrong if they have fun playing that way.
 

There is nothing wrong if they have fun playing that way.

There is nothing wrong with the fun in and of itself. But I think if you're running a campaign, and the players don't know the name of the world, nor the name of the town they are in, nor the names of any deities or characters... then something's off.
 
Last edited:

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Throw a squad of battle mages at them and suddenly they care. If you use the distinction between foreground and background, the players (and their PCs) generally only care about what's in the foreground. The background is irrelevant...right up until you bring it to the foreground. Another way to say it is unless it directly matters to the story at hand, it doesn't matter.

And, do remember that this is sensible behavior for the player.

It isn't like any of our players are lacking for things to do, right? Sessions are busy with stuff. If they did care about background stuff... where would they find time to interact with it, without letting the foreground stuff bite them in the butt?

They don't know which background elements will become important. If they happen to choose the things that you weren't planning to bring forward, then they are wasting their time with trivialities. And, GMs are likley to complain about that, too.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
There is nothing fun with the fun in and of itself. But I think if you're running a campaign, and the players don't know the name of the world, nor the name of the town they are in, nor the names of any deities or characters... then something's off.

I disagree. Something is not as you prefer it.

As a GM, your worldbuilding should be a means to an end - that end being entertaining play. If the players get entertaining play without your worldbuidling, the only thing "off" was your understanding of what the players wanted or needed.
 

But if everything is hard then hard is an average day and it's not really hard anymore it's just the new normal
Pacing my friend, pacing is a key element of any games. Are there easy fights in my games? Of course there are! Deadly fights? Sure as he'll! But not everything is easy, and not everything is hard. The hard part is in playing monsters/foes in an optimal way, just like the players play their characters to the best of their abilities. For that, you need varied encounters that avoid mono type foes. Why send 12 hobgoblin warriors when 6 would do it and then add 2 hobgoblin cultists with bless spells and 1 hobgoblin apprentice with a few magic missiles or even sleep spells? This amount mote or less the same challenge but the varied type make it much more interesting and challenging. Use tactics, do not les the foes stand in their assigned area until the PC challenges them. Let their foes hunt them when the players go to rest. Put up traps and hazards that were not there their first time around. Make patrols more deadly as their foes learn from.thwor mistakes. Too often, I hear less experienced DM say, ok you go to sleep and you wake up the next morning... This is not often the case in my games...
 

jgsugden

Legend
No player is going to care about your homebrew as much as you do. The DM spends hours making something and the players are mild to meh about it. There are times where one or two will be, that was cool. Mostly you make something cool and unique and a player will say, "That sounds just like such and such show that I remember".
This is false. Watch Critical Role. Liam cares as much about Matt Mercer's world as Matt does.

I've also had quite a few players that were hugely invested in my setting. In the 1980s, one PC established a small keep and took control of the lands surrounding it. In the 1990s, that keep became a pivotal landmark in a war, and the descendents of the PC ended up ruling over both of the resulting merged Kingdom. Then it grew into an Empire of Confederated Nations, before an evil descendent managed to pull off a coup and take control of it. The last time I played an in person game with that player was 2015 before he moved to Texas. His PC, a great descendent of the original PC, walked down the halls of that ancient keep, now a forgotten relic of an age past, and achieved a major turning point in the campaign by completing a 25 year old (real world) / 380 year (game time) storyline. You would not believe how invested he was in that part of the campaign world.
I switched to FR Sword Coast for 5e and played in Nentir Vale for 4e. This is partly work related reasons since I found that I could spend my limited time planning adventures and not world building so I could get the biggest bang for my time. There is also a part of having a world already built for you being better than the one you can make by yourself. I'm not saying that me or you do not have good ideas for a world or campaign, but generally they tend to mimic the ones already made.
The difference between a homebrew and a published world tends to be information access for players.

Whether you're DMing a homebrew of the FR, as a DM you can spend a lot of time building up your knowledge of the world, either by creating it or reading it. To that end, it doesn't matter if you create something good or use established materials. If you invest 3 hours before you play, you'll have enough time to build a rough framework, whether that comes from someone else's words or your own mind. If you invest 30 hours before you play, you can have a detailed framework. If you invest 300 hours over a year building a campaign world before players set foot in it, you can have an immersive detailed picture of the setting, figures and politics of the world - regardless of whether you wrote it, or you read it. If, like me, you've played in a setting for decades and have over 3000 hours of time devoted to it, you likely know it intimately and can answer oddball questions with established answers. This is true whether you started running games in the FR once upon a time and have continued to do so for decades, or you built up a homebrew.

As a player, the big difference is whether you can just look up lore in books/internet, or if the DM is the gatekeeper of all the lore. Players can only come to know a Homebrew via the DM. They can't go out and read the FR novels, go to the Candlekeep site, etc... To me, this is similar to the difference between watching a show without seeing spoilers, and seeing a show after having the big plot twists spoiled.

If you make an immersive and cool homebrew, and you lure your players in, and they want to explore more, they'll have to come to you to learn what they want to know about the world. The question is whether the combination of your approach, and the interests of the players, mesh to get them interested.
 
Last edited:

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I think the most pragmatic expectation to have is that they won't care and to work on world-building to the extent one finds it a fun and/or useful activity on its own. If it's not very fun or useful, leave a lot of blanks and fill it in when a player is inspired to add to it during play. Over time, this will help build a sufficiently fleshed-out setting that comes with player buy-in. With the expectation that they won't care, it'll be a pleasant surprise if they do care rather than bitter disappointment if they don't.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Also, here's a tip: Many generically named fantasy towns and NPCs aren't very memorable. They will go in one ear and out the other.

So I suggest actually naming your starter town something like Startertown and make the villain's name "What's-His-Face." Come up with succinct reasons why they are named this. Perhaps Startertown was once known for its sourdough bread (before the orc invasion some years ago which killed every future adventurer's parents) and What's-His-Face is known to be a shapechanger.

I guarantee you the players won't forget those.
 


Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Also, here's a tip: Many generically named fantasy towns and NPCs aren't very memorable. They will go in one ear and out the other.

So I suggest actually naming your starter town something like Startertown and make the villain's name "What's-His-Face." Come up with succinct reasons why they are named this. Perhaps Startertown was once known for its sourdough bread (before the orc invasion some years ago which killed every future adventurer's parents) and What's-His-Face is known to be a shapechanger.

I guarantee you the players won't forget those.
One of my favorite comedy sketches is about what to name identical twins so that they develop different personalities. I believe the suggestions were "Jennifer Ann and Mr. Pus". Now I'm wondering what kind of justifications could be used to actually make those fit a plot point without being gross on the second one...
 

Aldarc

Legend
Also, here's a tip: Many generically named fantasy towns and NPCs aren't very memorable. They will go in one ear and out the other.

So I suggest actually naming your starter town something like Startertown and make the villain's name "What's-His-Face." Come up with succinct reasons why they are named this. Perhaps Startertown was once known for its sourdough bread (before the orc invasion some years ago which killed every future adventurer's parents) and What's-His-Face is known to be a shapechanger.

I guarantee you the players won't forget those.
Or just have the players name the Starter Town. Even if it's Villagey McVillageFace, it will go a long way to help give them a sense of ownership and stake in the town's fate.
 



If you have some other goal than entertaining play, why should the players care about it?

I'm not saying "other than", but I'm suggesting that there may be other goals in addition to mere entertainment.

Look at it this way: if a person reads lords of the rings, and ends up entertained, despite not remembering any of the characters names, or names of locations, does that matter?

For some, entertainment of any kind may be enough. But I have higher expectations of how my players are entertained. If my players don't remember anything about my world, despite being entertained, I would still feel that I had failed as a DM to some degree.

I want to give my players more than just simple entertainment. I also want my players to be immersed, and to remember the world that I've crafted. I want them to be entertained on more than just a superficial level.

And I think a lot of players do care "how much" they are entertained, and how immersive the fictional world presented to them is. I think that makes the difference between a good DM and a great DM.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm not saying "other than", but I'm suggesting that there may be other goals in addition to mere entertainment.

Look at it this way: if a person reads lords of the rings, and ends up entertained, despite not remembering any of the characters names, or names of locations, does that matter?

Not especially, no.

For some, entertainment of any kind may be enough. But I have higher expectations of how my players are entertained. If my players don't remember anything about my world, despite being entertained, I would still feel that I had failed as a DM to some degree.

You are thus putting requirements on other people about how they have fun, and if they don't have the "right" kind of fun, you say there is a problem.

I want to give my players more than just simple entertainment.

Who said "simple"? Look back - did I use the word "simple"? No, I did not.

So, you are now arguing against a position I did not take. Great strawman there.

I also want my players to be immersed, and to remember the world that I've crafted. I want them to be entertained on more than just a superficial level.

So much judgement based on your own assumptions and nothing that I said.

Let me know when you're done making things up, and are ready for real discussion with a person, rather than your own imagination.
 


You are thus putting requirements on other people about how they have fun, and if they don't have the "right" kind of fun, you say there is a problem.
Woa there! I didn't make any such claim at all. But remember what this thread is about. I'm taking the position here of someone who does care a great deal about the main topic.
Who said "simple"? Look back - did I use the word "simple"? No, I did not.

So, you are now arguing against a position I did not take. Great strawman there.
Chill out! Why are you so antagonistic? Can't we just have a relaxed friendly discussion about the merits of having players care about world building?
So much judgement based on your own assumptions and nothing that I said.

Let me know when you're done making things up, and are ready for real discussion with a person, rather than your own imagination.

So much antagonism. I assure you, there is no malice in my posts. Why are you taking this so hard? At this tone, I don't think I want to continue this discussion with you. You are being incredibly hostile and unpleasant.

Are you having a bad day perhaps? What got you riled up so much? It can't be my post.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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?
I wouldn’t play in a group of players who don’t. The world is as important to me as any given other PC, when I’m a player. I refuse to play a character who isn’t built from the world I’ll be playing them in. If I can make the character without knowing what setting it is, that character is completely boring, to me.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top