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

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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
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?
It depends on the group, the DM and the individual players within the group.

My Dad wants to get the life story of every NPC. My son just wants to murder stuff. My daughter has a long list of things she wants to encounter in the fantasy world (she was thrilled there was a second Muk coloring book, in case anyone's wondering if there's an audience for those books).

My play by post players, who go at a much slower pace, are deeply invested in the lore and NPCs.

My in person players, who might only get to play one or two times a year for about three hours, want action, and they want it now.


Magic Wordsmith
I discovered quickly that players only care about what the campaign world does to (and for) their characters.

I've played D&D for 41 years with home-brew worlds that fit on 2-3 pages of description.

As long as you have a detailed starting location, interesting villains and a god for the cleric you are set. Everything is on a 'need to know basis' in relation to what the characters are trying to do.

Setting depth is developed over time. Not beforehand.
You win the thread as far as I'm concerned.

38 years as a DM with connections with many tables. So far I have seen the following trends:
1) If the players are or can be in the major league, they will care a lot more about the politics and the gaming world. If they can build castles and upgrade to kingdoms, the involvement in the gaming world will grow to almost epic proportions. But this is not the cup of tea of many players. One of my groups is really into this and builds castles, cathedrals and what not. The other prefer to go from adventure to adventure and will go wherever the wind blows.

2) If the players feel that they will never make a big impact on the world they are much more enclined to keep interactions with the world with what directly will influence their character on the right now. And it is not the kind of We saved the world but more like the kind of political powers a 1st level character could achieve if the player really get to it. If at 1st level, players feel they can influence some decisions makers in the world. They will be more inclined to try it. If even at 20th level they feel like the:" Don't call us, we'll call you". As mercernearies are, then their interactions will go down.

Also, a lot of that is in the hands of the DM. If the DM do not play the political and historical part, his players are much less enclined to do themselves. It all a matter of pacing.


Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
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.
A lot of the worldbuilding we DMs do is just self-gratification. mapsturbation, if you will.


5e Freelancer
As others have said, but more simplified, players care about what matters in the campaign and to their characters.

A part of the world that can matter is the Quori conflict in Eberron, with the Dreaming Dark's goal to keep Il-Yannah from gaining control of Dal Quor ever again, but that only really matters a) if the players are playing in Eberron, and b) if that specific part of Eberron plays into the plot/characters in that specific campaign. In my current Eberron campaign, Quori spirits are where Warforged Souls come from, as well as the sentience of Docents. My campaign's Warforged Artificer wanted to figure out how to create docents in order to gain more rank in House Cannith, so this part of the world's lore mattered a ton. They currently don't care about the Lords of Dust, Lady Illmarrow, the Eldeen Reaches, Dolurr, or Argonnessen, even though they're fairly important parts of the world of Eberron, and they don't care because they (currently) don't matter to the campaign. There's a ton of interesting lore about all of those parts of Eberron, but the players don't care about all of that because a) it didn't come up when making their characters, and b) it hasn't mattered for any of their adventures so far.

In my new small Ravenloft campaign (one-on-one campaign with the player being a Survivor from VRGtR with the Squire character trying to escape the aberrant wasteland of Bluetspur), the player could absolutely not care less about the Domain of Dread for Strahd, even though the setting is named after his castle. It doesn't matter, even though it's technically part of the same setting.

So, yeah, that's really what it boils down to, in my experience. Of course, this is a generalization, and certain players may want to learn as much about the world as they possibly can even if their character or campaign doesn't involve that part of the world, and there may be other players that don't care about any of the lore as long as they get to go places and kill monsters and get rewards for doing that (treasure, levelling up, allies, etc), but most players seem to tend to care about the world to the extent that I have described in this post. I've also noticed a similar phenomenon for the mechanics of the game, with players only caring about the mechanics of the game if they matter to creating/playing their character or if it comes up in the campaign (ask your players how much you fall during your turn, and when you fall, and you're likely to not get any accurate answers the answer is 500 feet, and you fall as soon as you are no longer flying/standing on ground, and then again at the end of your turn, using the rules from XGtE).
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Trust the Fungus
At the risk of just reiterating my game mastery/design philosophy here, my experience is that players tend to care a lot more about the parts of the gameworld they feel like they can change. They get invested in things where their investment is rewarded with agency.



Completely depends on the Player and the Players "mood" that day. For me, as a Player, I like to know stuff about it. Stuff that lets me imagine the scene... colours, smells, and sounds mostly. If the DM can 'paint the picture' by using words that describe aspects to his/her world, I'm in! :)

Example: "The architecture is very similar to old Baklunish, but many of the onion-dome tops are painted with Keolandish colours and styles". I can imagine that easily. It takes moments for the DM to describe...and the only way I know what it looks like is because I know what the Baklune people of Greyhawk 'are' and what 'Keolandish colours' means. Without that knowledge, the DM would have to take longer to describe, and that description could be used for any D&D world setting.

So yes. I think at least SOME info about the world needs to be presented to...and retained by...the players. If I've been playing with a Player for a few months, and I say "You can barely make out the kilts that the men wear as they sit around the fire, drinking, but the colours indicate a Keolandish clan. One tent, off to the back, displays a single banner, baring the coat of arms from Geoff"...and the player looks at me and says "Huh?"...I die a little inside. :( The Players should know that this is...odd. Why? Due to the world history and all that stuff. Players that don't recognize the significance (or potential oddity at any rate) may very well end up in a world of hurt later on. Then I get the "But how were WE to know they were pretending to be soldiers from the Dutchy?"...and I point out the kilts versus banner thing, and they go... "What?! You didn't tell us that was important"...and I point out the handout I gave them three weeks ago that shows the Grand Dutchy of Geoff's banner and the brief, one paragraph, history of why the Dutchy has been so safe...other than that one little 'war' with Keoland. Then they go "Oh...crap...yeah...well...hmmm....".

Bottom line: Some players really get into it. Some don't. Most are somewhere in between. As long as they at least read and keep the notes, hand outs, etc that I give or point them to, I'm happy. The Players who are into the world/history/politics will point stuff out to the "less informed" Players. This plays out nicely in game most of the time, with the supposedly uncultured Barbarian having to explain to the Cleric of Boccob, "How in the Oerth can you be so well-read...yet so obtuse when it comes to the very country you are traveling through?!?". ;)


Paul L. Ming

That's not a question you should be asking at the beginning of the campaign.

You need to ask it at the end. Of course player's don't care about the details of your world at the beginning. It's like having strong feelings about a recipe before you've tasted the end product.


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