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Is "A Wizard Did It" Acceptable Worldbuiling?

I make copious use of Dreamscapes and extraplanar funkiness, so if I need to justify something, I can say, "That's how the rules here work."

Respawning enemies? Yeah, the dungeon is in a demiplane bound to an eldritch clock that resets reality every hour. However, if you're wearing the right medallion, you're immune. If you lose that medallion, you'll loop too and forget you already did this. If an enemy gets a medallion, look out.

In War of the Burning Sky, there's an adventure inside the dreams of a psychic dragon, where you literally cannot progress until you're in the right mindset, and so some challenges are more about experiencing the right emotion by exploring one of the dragon's traumas than about just traveling in a specific direction.
 

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Saelorn

Hero
It would be inconsistent to not have at least, one rambling mega dungeon, in a world with no shortage of immortal(ish) Wizards.
Yes, but The Forgotten Realms has always been a kind of joke setting. Seriously, they have a city ruled by a council of archmages! That's not really something that would ever show up in a serious game/world.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
I guess that's the trick. Even "a wizard did it" or "chaos magic" is a sort of explanation. If you present that to your players as an actual explanation rather than a handwave, it still works to suspend disbelief.
Eh, "The Underworld is Chaos and thus inherently unpredictable" has a different problem. To wit: it discourages and/or prevents players from looking for/finding common threads to exploit.

Many of my dungeons end up with both internal themes as well as common shared design styles. Observant player groups can (and have) taken advantage of extrapolation and expectation.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Eh, "The Underworld is Chaos and thus inherently unpredictable" has a different problem. To wit: it discourages and/or prevents players from looking for/finding common threads to exploit.

Many of my dungeons end up with both internal themes as well as common shared design styles. Observant player groups can (and have) taken advantage of extrapolation and expectation.
I disagree. Funhouse doesn't necessarily equate to unpredictable. It just means that it doesn't make sense from a normal viewpoint.

For example, you could have a dungeon where every room has a different orientation of gravity. But there is a pattern to the orientation that a clever player can discern and exploit.

Admittedly, not the best example, but I think you can extrapolate the idea. You can theme the dungeon in such a way that seems nonsensical at first glance but has it's own internal logic.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
I disagree. Funhouse doesn't necessarily equate to unpredictable. It just means that it doesn't make sense from a normal viewpoint.

For example, you could have a dungeon where every room has a different orientation of gravity. But there is a pattern to the orientation that a clever player can discern and exploit.

Admittedly, not the best example, but I think you can extrapolate the idea. You can theme the dungeon in such a way that seems nonsensical at first glance but has it's own internal logic.
The original quote: "Dungeons - the Underworld - are the Realm of Chaos. Chaos doesn't make sense"

If it doesn't make sense, it can't be extrapolated from. Any learning from this location is inapplicable to any other except perhaps through random chance which means players cannot build expertise. Can the chaos riddle a theme and affect a locale but leave enough sense for the players to make meaningful choices? Sure. If the sense if left enough across locales then it is no longer the Realm of Chaos, is it?
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
The original quote: "Dungeons - the Underworld - are the Realm of Chaos. Chaos doesn't make sense"

If it doesn't make sense, it can't be extrapolated from. Any learning from this location is inapplicable to any other except perhaps through random chance which means players cannot build expertise. Can the chaos riddle a theme and affect a locale but leave enough sense for the players to make meaningful choices? Sure. If the sense if left enough across locales then it is no longer the Realm of Chaos, is it?
I did a chaos dungeon in one of my campaigns. It was the dream of a world seed left over from Creation.

Each level had a different theme. The logic of one didn't impinge on another. Yet they were each internally consistent.
 

Khelon Testudo

Cleric of Stronmaus
If a wizard did it, I'd want to be able to say which wizard, and what their motivation was. Even 'madness' has motivation: paranoia, rage, homicidal pleasure, etc. (Of course none of these have much relation to real mental health problems.)
"Oh, that's an owl-bear. You'll find a lot of chimeric creatures around here, from when old Archmage Halitosus Flemfromage used to live up in the castle. He was experimenting with combining unrelated biologies. The fish-squids in the lake are edible, but watch out for spiderbats."
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Goodness, I love "a wizard did it." Not, like, saying out loud a wizard did it, that's kinda lame, but introducing elements that are fantastical and strange and never, ever even trying to offer an explanation for it. How can you have a good swords and sorcery theme or a campaign set in the ruins of an ancient magical empire without using "a wizard did it?" The very point here is that things exist that are unexplained and unknowable to the PCs yet there they are.

This doesn't mean things should have some consistency -- I'm a big believer in consistency -- but explanations? Nah, not super interested in explanations. I'm also not really interested in a game mindset where anything that exists should be something the PCs can do. The PCs already do things that normal people can't, so I don't see why there can't be things they can't do, too. If introducing an element means I also have to introduce a way for the PCs to understand and copy it, I'm out. I like my mysteries too much to bother trying to actually solve them. D&D isn't a real world simulator, it's a magical world simulator. Go with magic.
 
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S'mon

Legend
The original quote: "Dungeons - the Underworld - are the Realm of Chaos. Chaos doesn't make sense"

If it doesn't make sense, it can't be extrapolated from. Any learning from this location is inapplicable to any other except perhaps through random chance which means players cannot build expertise. Can the chaos riddle a theme and affect a locale but leave enough sense for the players to make meaningful choices? Sure. If the sense if left enough across locales then it is no longer the Realm of Chaos, is it?
Well, I meant "doesn't make sense from the perspective of Law" - it can have its own internal logic, of course.
 

Tallifer

Hero
I live in the constraints of the real world every day of my life. I prefer complete fantasy when I roleplay. Or maybe it is that I like weirdness and surprise.
 


prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Depending on setting details, it's not radically different from saying, "A god (or gods) did it." Heck, "mad gods" are almost as much of a cliche as "mad wizards," aren't they?
 




MGibster

Hero
A wizard did it is never acceptable. A wizard did it because.... Yeah, that's fine.

I was beaten to the punch by LordEntrails. I'll get you, LordEntrails!!! <shakes fist>
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I appreciate a well-thought-out explanation as much as the next gamer. The dungeon was built by such-and-such a person for concrete reasons, and its inhabitants have a reason to live there. That's satisfying worldbuilding. However, I think that phrases like "chaos magic" and "a wizard did it" were invented by GMs tired of sane and orderly dungeons. There's a certain appeal to a funhouse environment with nonsensical inhabitants. A dragon lurks in a tiny broom closet. Doors open for monsters but not PCs. The random marble trap in Dragon's Lair.

My question is this: Do you need backstories and explanations, or are you OK with “a wizard did it?” Do you like dungeons that “make sense,” or are you alright with the occasional bout of silliness? Can both styles exist comfortably within the same campaign, or does an element of nonsense devalue the internal consistency of the setting?
This OP isn't really answerable as you write it. You call out " a wizard did it" and then say that it's done for "nonsensical inhabitants" and "silliness." Yet you don't describe or give examples of these "nonsensical inhabitants" or "silliness." You need to set a much more concrete mark before we can agree or disagree with you.

I think that there are many valid, non-silly ways things can appear in a dungeon with "a wizard did it" as an explanation. Others not so much.
 


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