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


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jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
Honestly, Ive read the Similarian, I cant recommend it. It is not that good. Tolkien didnt even want to release it for years.
I've read it too, and I'm glad I did. I can cut it a lot of slack because it wasn't left in a format intended for publication when Tolkien died. But it's absolutely not a novel, and anyone who goes to it expecting an experience similar to The Hobbit or LOTR is likely to be in for a shock. It's more like an in-universe history book.

The best way I found to get through it was to treat it as a book of short stories: read a chapter or two, then read something else, then come back and read another chapter or two. And the genealogical charts in the back were an absolute necessity.
 


TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
This is ENWorld. Someone is going to say they read the Silmarillion first and were passionate about it and that's what led them to what they view at JRRT's lesser works after that.
Maybe not that. But when there's some overarching lore available I generally dig into that first to get a feel for the world, whatever if it's for a book, show or new game setting. I started reading some of Howard's Conan short stories, and the first thing I did was read his short (and quite racist) essay on the setting of the Hyborian Age.

But most DM I know are that way. They enjoy worldbuilding for worldbuilding and like to dive into it and weave it in their stuff when they become player. I've rarely seen regular players act that that.
 

Vyshan

Villager
I found world building can be wonderful, but it needs to be in small amounts when telling it to players.
Feel free to share more in depth if the party is interested, but be careful how much you overshare.
Unless the players are very social for the roleplaying, I just assume they are more combat & puzzle leaning.
 

Northern Phoenix

Adventurer
Some people really enjoy as weird and out there settings as possible, but for everyone else, i find "generic fantasy" is perfectly serviceable. To the people who do not have learning about a setting as their primary form of fun, i find that the game world broadly (as opposed to the exact parts the players interact with directly) is, for better or for worse, like the sound design aspect of a movie. You'll know when its bad or wrong, but otherwise, it just "is" without being "good" or "great".
 

Immoralkickass

Explorer
I fully admit to having short attention span, and lots of times i do forgot which setting i am playing in, which NPC i am talking to, etc. Thinking about it, an interesting game world/settings doesn't interest me as much as being put in interesting situations.

But in the end, its a game, and nothing wrong if people treat it as such. Everything is there to facilitate fun, and everyone's fun is different.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I fully admit to having short attention span, and lots of times i do forgot which setting i am playing in, which NPC i am talking to, etc. Thinking about it, an interesting game world/settings doesn't interest me as much as being put in interesting situations.

But in the end, its a game, and nothing wrong if people treat it as such. Everything is there to facilitate fun, and everyone's fun is different.
I’m like that with immersion. I don’t think it exists. I don’t see how it can. At no point have I ever forgotten that I’m at a table playing a game. It get that lost in a book feeling all the time when I read. Lose track of time and where I am. Get off at the wrong stop, late to things, walk into things, etc.
 

reelo

Adventurer
Honestly, Ive read the Similarian, I cant recommend it. It is not that good. Tolkien didnt even want to release it for years. It actually has very little to do with Lord of the rings, its mostly a very long a drawn out history of the origin of the phile of light Frodo got from Gladriel, and the white tree of Gondor. Gondor itself is barely touched apon but if you want to know the family lineage of the TREE the book has you covered. Most of the things you would be curious about are covered in the appendixes not in the similarian. I think the Similarian has some good content but its pretty impenetrable and allot of it is not really worth reading. You can definitely tell that Tolkien wrote the LOTR so that any one could enjoy it and he wrote the Similarian for himself.
I've read it too, and I'm glad I did. I can cut it a lot of slack because it wasn't left in a format intended for publication when Tolkien died. But it's absolutely not a novel, and anyone who goes to it expecting an experience similar to The Hobbit or LOTR is likely to be in for a shock. It's more like an in-universe history book.

The best way I found to get through it was to treat it as a book of short stories: read a chapter or two, then read something else, then come back and read another chapter or two. And the genealogical charts in the back were an absolute necessity.
I absolutely love the Silmarillion.

While I agree that parts of it are...difficult, the 3 central stories, "Beren and Lúthien", "the Children of Húrin", and "the Fall of Gondolin" are absolutely worth it, and Tolkien absolutely intended to release those 3 at some point. He just never came around to it.

For anyone finding the Silmarillion too dry to read, I recommend the standalone book of "The Children of Húrin" which is a lot better than the Silmarillion version.
 

turnip_farmer

Adventurer
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....".

A thought to consider:

The above paragraph sounds like you parodying a DM who expects his players to care about the irrelevancies he dreams up, But I think you meant it seriously.

The number of players who are going to remember something in a paragraph in a handout from weeks ago is negligible. If you have players who are that invested in your setting, then that's great! But it sounds like you don't. Which is normal. Because such players are not normal.

If something about your world is important in play, then you need to bring it up in the course of play. Repeatedly. No one knows what was written in some handout you shared a few weeks ago.
 

DNDElise

DM's Guild and DriveThruRPG writer
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?
If your world is not having the effect you want on your players, have them travel to another city or plane and have them help build the locations and NPCs. This will help give you an idea of what kind of terrain, locations, and possible story hooks your players are interested in. Players are much more invested in a world they help create. Also don't be afraid to ask players for feedback or what kind of game or encounters they are interested in. Also expect players to go way off the rails. Sometimes you plan a big epic storyline and battle for the session and they spend the whole time trying to befriend a random critter or NPC you tossed into the game that does not play a huge role. Let them have their fun!

If your players are more into combat than the politics or role play of the world you built, create some battle arenas they have to survive through for their freedom or a mega dungeon where they get to smash monsters and there is still room for you to splash in some story.

Also check out Web DM's player style video. Different players want different things out of the game and as DM's, it is helpful to build around their interests.
 



pemerton

Legend
"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.
I've done a lot of play in the WoG (multiple decades). What are Keolandish colours?

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 why not tell the players? If you're proceeding on the assumption that they will recognise this "clue", why make it depend on the players' memories of a handout?
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!

@pemerton Well, black and red, obviously (black lion on red field). :)

As for "why not tell the players"...at what point does something change from "background fluff" to "important clue"? When running my games I do so with "I'm the DM. I'm Neutral and Fair...or at least strive to be". Because of that, I guess my 'failing' is that I don't point out what is or isn't "important for the PC's to remember for later". Hell, half the time even I don't know what's important yet! ;)

Because of this, Players in my game are expected (from my perspective) to always be paying attention. Making notes. Drawing maps. Asking questions...a LOT of questions. To help them remember 'stuff about the world', they need to actually engage with it. Meaning they need to "get into the setting, situation, and vibe of the moment". Players that sit down at my table and expect me to just feed them one crumb at a time as the gobble them up like some kind of crazed fantasy Pac Man so they can get to the end, fight the BBEG, and 'win' are in for a rude awakening. LOL!

For example, if I say they see a small encampment around a large fire...a few hundred feet away. Maybe a dozen horses plus 3 wagons. And the sound of men singing along to some sort of wind instrument and drum. From that I'd expect my Players to either just leave...totally viable, but they may miss some info. If they do...not my fault. Or maybe they send the Monk/Druid/Ranger/Thief/whatever in to do some scouting. At which point I describe the crest and maybe let them make an Int Save to see if they recognize the language (unless they speak it). "They seem to be lightly armoured and armed soldiers... light horsemen probably. They have the standard of a red background with a black lion reared up facing left/west. They are singing some Keolandish song". Now they have info. A player may be keen to narrow down what they saw... "Do I know the Keolandish coat of arms? Is that it...red with a black lion"? (me... [rolling some dice]...) ... "Yes, it is. You've seen it off and on all through your life, having grown up in the Yeomanry, though never in person".

This is just normal play for us. Players ask questions about the world and situation, I fill them in. If they don't remember something specific, I usually allow some kind of roll to see of their PC remembers....but I'm not going to just ask out of the blue "Make an Int Save...." ..."Got a 19"... "You recognize the Keoland standard". No roll, just "This is what you see...". It's up to the players to do stuff with what I describe. If the Players don't even blink an eye when they see someone with a tattoo of a "black, '+' sign with wavy lines in stead of straight ones"... I'm not going to ask them to make any check or roll. When they get ambushed by Scarlet Brotherhood assassins and monks the next night...well...sucks to be them. (oh, for the record, my players wouldn't do that; if I mentioned a tattoo, they'd know it or they'd be asking questions or talking to NPC's to find out what that tattoo means...because, as I said, that's just how we role/roll ;) ).

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

pemerton

Legend
As for "why not tell the players"...at what point does something change from "background fluff" to "important clue"? When running my games I do so with "I'm the DM. I'm Neutral and Fair...or at least strive to be". Because of that, I guess my 'failing' is that I don't point out what is or isn't "important for the PC's to remember for later". Hell, half the time even I don't know what's important yet! ;)

<snip>

For example, if I say they see a small encampment around a large fire...a few hundred feet away. Maybe a dozen horses plus 3 wagons. And the sound of men singing along to some sort of wind instrument and drum. From that I'd expect my Players to either just leave...totally viable, but they may miss some info. If they do...not my fault.

<snip>

If the Players don't even blink an eye when they see someone with a tattoo of a "black, '+' sign with wavy lines in stead of straight ones"... I'm not going to ask them to make any check or roll. When they get ambushed by Scarlet Brotherhood assassins and monks the next night...well...sucks to be them.
Why would it matter if the players (and their PCs) don't know anything about the encampment? And why would the Scarlet Brotherhood monks be pursuing them of all possible targets? (And why would they be displaying their tattoos?)

It seems that you do know what is important, and expect the players to pick up on it based on your clues.
 

pming

Legend
Why would it matter if the players (and their PCs) don't know anything about the encampment?
Maybe it doesn't matter. Or maybe it does.

And why would the Scarlet Brotherhood monks be pursuing them of all possible targets?
I have no idea...that's what dice, DM notes, and campaign consistency are used for.

(And why would they be displaying their tattoos?)
Because they were dead? ;)

It seems that you do know what is important, and expect the players to pick up on it based on your clues.
Nope. As I said...maybe it's important...or not. I don't know. Not until it becomes important. If it does become important there are a hundred different ways the Players/PC's can deduce this information.

My games are very much in the "Here's the story idea. Ahem... 'Someone is eliminating various Thieves and Assassin guilds all along the Wild Coast'". Done. That's the basis for a year long campaign story line right there. That's about as far as I go sometimes for entire storylines. How important that becomes depends on what the PC's do or don't do. So, when you say that I "do know what is important", not really...at least not in any specific sense unless it has already 'started' or became a 'thing' in the story.

If the Players, for example, fight off the Scarlet Brotherhood sent after them, then keep on travelling deeper into the Crystalmist's...ok. I make a note about the Scarlet Brotherhood failing to "take them out". Then, 10 months later, if the PC's find themselves in Naerie City in the Principality of Naerie, and a random encounter with "Scarlet Brotherhood Envoys" happens... well, dice come out. Maybe the PC's are top of the list for SB's Most Wanted...or not. A Player who is not 'invested' in the world/setting probably won't have a clue about the "wavey + symbol" that they have on their belt buckles...but a Player who is 'invested'...it might just ring a bell. Then, depending on the random "reaction dice" I just rolled, we get into all that roleplaying stuff and just go with it. The Players may play up the "OMG! We're gonna get spotted! They're gonna get us!", or maybe they'll go the bravado route with "Heh...hey you? Scarlet Brotherhood, huh? We ran into a few of your so-called 'expert assassin monks' almost a year ago. Our condolences to their families... snicker...", or something in between. But how "important" it was for the Players to remember the symbol....didn't come into play until just now.

That's what I mean by "Players should be invested in the setting to some degree, because it helps with keeping things interesting...and their PC's alive, potentially at least".

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

I will say, caring about worldbuilding and the lore of the world is something I like to think I actively look for in my choice of players-- it lets me do a lot more if they do care enough to become aware of the rules of the fictional setting, its mysteries, and flavor. But that also makes sense for the exploration heavy games I think are my forte.
 

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