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Mike Mearls is a Genius

Corinth

First Post
Mike Mearls made a very smart, insightful and useful observation in his LJ today. (You can find the post here.) This is a post about the "core story" of D&D, and how that can (and should) influence both the design of supplements as well as actual play.
 

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Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
A very good link. Thanks!

I also thought about equating Eberron's core story to Star Wars, but in retrospect Shadowrun is a much more apt comparison.

(Only a piece of the good reading at the link...)
 

arwink

Clockwork Golem
Personally, I just equated Eberron to Indiana Jones. And in the next campaign, it'll be equated to the Three Musketeers.

While I agree that Eberron lacks a fundamental core story, at the same time it loads up the first few chapters with everything you need to overlay your own core story on top of the setting.
 

A'koss

Explorer
I make a point of reading Mike's LJ because every once in a while he offers up some real insight into the industry and game design (His Iron Heroes Design Diaries are also good for this). Some of these articles have certainly made me take a harder look at my own homebrew setting and adventure design. And I've definitely had more than a couple of "Ahh, yesss..." moments along the way in thinking on how they could be improved. Except in naming conventions... never in naming conventions. ;)
 


Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
arwink said:
While I agree that Eberron lacks a fundamental core story, at the same time it loads up the first few chapters with everything you need to overlay your own core story on top of the setting.
WOTC's strategy may very well be to provide a setting without a core story, but that would be a strategy that has yet to prove successful. (I think that's Mike's point.)
 

arwink

Clockwork Golem
Wulf Ratbane said:
WOTC's strategy may very well be to provide a setting without a core story, but that would be a strategy that has yet to prove successful. (I think that's Mike's point.)
Probably true. On the other hand, I found the absence of a core story in eberron attracted players to the setting that otherwise aren't inclined to swing with the core story of most DnD campaigns. My Eberron group consists of folks that had long ago abandoned DnD for other systems (Feng Shui, Shadowrun, etc) who were called back by the possibility of a campaign system they could insert their own take on how the game works.

Did WotC really need a new campaign world that replayed the old Core Stories? They have both FR and Grayhawk to handle that, and another variant on both probably isn't necessary. Eberron may not be clear about what kind of stories they're expecting to be told there, but that lack of clarity can become part of its strength.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
arwink said:
Did WotC really need a new campaign world that replayed the old Core Stories? They have both FR and Grayhawk to handle that, and another variant on both probably isn't necessary.
No, they don't need another campaign world to replay the old stories. Which is why Ryan and Mike are left questioning. If Eberron is going to be successful (in the mold of GH and FR) then it would seem that it would have to replace one of them.

Eberron may not be clear about what kind of stories they're expecting to be told there, but that lack of clarity can become part of its strength.
The only response to that is, "We'll see!" :)

I don't have a read on it one way or the other except to say that it is a new approach.
 

Celebrim

Legend
An excellently written argument. If we were going to develop a library of writing for people who aspire to turn RPG's into an art form to think about, this essay would have to not only be in there, but displayed promenently.

Mearls clearly explains something that I had noticed before, but wasn't able to elucidate - not every setting no matter how well crafted is gameable. I'd figured that out, probably alot of people had, but this is the first time I've seen someone been able to explain it by a general principal.
 

Just read the whole thing. I think it's a mistake to say WotC doesn't know about having a core story for Eberron -- if you read the proposals published in that mega-PDF (available for free from RPGNow.com), you'll see that WotC asked all the designers who the heroes are and what they're meant to accomplish. That's one way of asking what the core story is. (And the bizarre replies they got from most of the contributors published in the PDF shows why most of them didn't get past the first round and also suggests that WotC needed to do a better idea explicating this argument.)

In any case, Mearls' idea of how to run Eberron is pretty much how everyone I know already runs it. The Indiana Jones vibe is strong, and Indy basically is just a WW2 era D&D adventurer whose dungeons tend to go kablooey on the way out the door. (And, frankly, unless you intend to re-use the setting later on, what's the purpose in NOT doing this? A lot of DMs I've played with have been blowing up dungeons for years -- that's the way my first White Plume Mountain adventure ended, for instance, despite any real reason for it to erupt other than it being cool.)

I also think going through the ECS actually supports this style of play nicely -- there's very little there that supports anything else (although you can be all sorts of flavors of adventurer, maybe one or two too many for such a small area, frankly), and the other stuff supports the Sam Spade fantasy noir stuff, which should appeal to all the WWGS folks out there.

Really, I think a lot of the discussion on the LiveJournal comes off as people wanting to present arguments to a situation without a real problem. Unless sales drop off to the level that it can be said that ECS and FR are cannibalizing off each other (which is the real error TSR made, not producing products without core stories -- Mystara had the same one as FR, for instance, which helped it not at all, despite being even more detailed in many cases) -- I don't see any harm in FR and ECS occupying essentially the same niche. Not every DM who wants the "Cup O Soup" system wants to go with FR; it's got a lot of baggage at this point and a lot of people react to the baggage and want no part of it.

It's interesting that the Greyhawk approach was such a calculated decision. I hadn't heard that before, but it makes a lot of sense in retrospect. Still, I would think updating the core book for 3.5 and incorporating RPGA material into it would be appropriate and appreciated, even for DIY DMs.
 

SWBaxter

First Post
Wulf Ratbane said:
No, they don't need another campaign world to replay the old stories.
But they do need one to sell everybody a new set of campaign sourcebooks. Ascribing artistic motivations to WOTC's releases - or those of any other company - would be a mistake, IMHO. While I'm sure they'd like to put out a high-quality critically acclaimed product, first priority is that it move off the shelves in decent quantities.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
SWBaxter said:
But they do need one to sell everybody a new set of campaign sourcebooks. Ascribing artistic motivations to WOTC's releases - or those of any other company - would be a mistake, IMHO. While I'm sure they'd like to put out a high-quality critically acclaimed product, first priority is that it move off the shelves in decent quantities.
Who ascribed them any artistic motivations?

I thought the discussion was pretty squarely aimed at the development strategy of Eberron, and whether it is aimed squarely at the subconscious demand for a certain kind of setting (settings with a core story), or whether it is trying to create and nurture a new kind of demand (a setting without a core story) that has not proven to be as successful as the first approach.
 

kjy1066

First Post
Proposals in PDF?

Whizzbang:

Those proposals are available at RPGNow? I can't seem to find the pdf in question. Do you know what the title is?

Very thought provoking post. I'm not sure I like the tack the "core story" of D&D takes - after all, I've seen some pretty psychopathic behavior in-character at the gaming table. I guess it has to do with the PC/NPC rift and meta-gaming thinking. . .
 

Andor

First Post
I think that eberron was not designed without a core story so much as that it was designed to allow multiple core stories. The regular DnD mode of go somewhere, kill something, profit, rinse, repeat, is certainly available. The mournland, and Xendrik exist basically for that purpose and it can be done nearly anywhere with only slight shoehorning.

However the fact that the setting is essentially in the 30's with WW1 behind it and WW2 brewing faintly on the horizon, provides additional possibilities:

The heros are patriots/agents/average people who uncover an enemy plot to weaken their country at home, defeat plot in their own backyard, gain glory, rinse, repeat.

The PC are pawns caught in the machinations of great powers and their reward each week is continued survival. (The film noir game.)

The PCs are agents of powers. Each week the accomplish goals set for them, gain knowledge, and return home to train again. This will likely lead to them becoming powers in thier own right as they learn more of the secrets of the world. (The mission impossible game)

And yes, these plots are not unique to Eberron, but they work better in Eberron because WW1 and WW2 are closer to our conciousness and seem more important than the eternal feudal sqaubbling of the wars of FR and GH.
 

kjy1066 said:
Those proposals are available at RPGNow? I can't seem to find the pdf in question. Do you know what the title is?
Sorry, should have said: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=1675

The entries they have there are only ones that were submitted, not ones that necessarily made even the first cut, and it shows. You have worlds that are more or less blatant rip-offs of other material (I like the ones that use already-copyrighted names in particular), and others that are nearly unplayable. And, of course, there are a lot that are essentially the same thing as FR or Greyhawk, which shows real optimism on the part of those submitting them.

Having said that, there are some real gems. I particularly like the one where the continents were surrounded by an impenetrable wall (of storms, as I recall) that have only recently vanished for the first time in recorded history, meaning there's a huge world to explore out there, including the mystery of why the wall came down. That might be more of a mega-module than a campaign setting, though, in a way. Still, it's neat.

One of these days, I'm going to collect all the gems into a single Word file to crib from next time I want planar travelers to get lost.
 

fanboy2000

First Post
That LJ post is very strange. First he say Eberron doesn't have a core story, so he proposes one that I agree with and fits the Eberron game I ran. Then he realizes that was the core story he proposed was the one he used in his game. Did he think that the Eberron game he ran was different from the game presented in the book?

If you re-read the the entry, he says that Eberron doesn't have a core story and then goes on to prove that not only does it have a core story, but he used it in the game he ran! :\

Also Ryan and Mine seem to be under the impression that, because Eberron isn't at the extremes in terms of core story, it isn't as useful to DMs. It doesn't seem to occur to either of them that being in the middle is a good thing. Heck, it doesn't seem to occur to them that it even is in the middle. Ryan and Mike are fairly sober guys with their heads on straight, but I just don't agree with them on this. I'll chalk this up to personal differences.
 
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pogre

Hero
You know, the only thing that stood out to me is that Mearls is studying up for a job interview. I thought he was fulltime in Monte's shop?
 

mythusmage

First Post
Actually, Mike says that Eberron has no core story that he can see, and then goes on to propose a core story that could fit. Big difference.
 

Klaus

First Post
I for one find "core stories" to be unnecessary limitations to a game. One thing I've always felt as being the major weakness of Shadowrun, for instance, was the fact that you HAD to play with shadowrunners, you couldn't play, for instance, a troop of the UCAS army trying to locate a rogue dragon that has fled to Aztlan or somesuch. Which is why I liked the Beyond the Shadows book.
 

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