D&D General Settings with Story

Hussar

Legend
The release of Dragonlance has got me thinking about how I interact with certain settings. For me, and again, I'm not trying to make a broader point here, just stating my own feelings, some settings are indelibly linked to the story that comes with that setting. And, honestly, I'm not really interested in that setting beyond that story.

Take Star Wars for example. I love Star Wars and watch it pretty much when I can, probably like most of the people reading this. But, I am not really interested in a Star Wars RPG. The reason being, to me, if I was to play in Star Wars, I would want to play out the original trilogy but with our own characters. We would be the ones to defeat the Empire, or die trying. I've got zero interest in playing smugglers on the run from the Hutt. To me, that's not what I would want to use the Star Wars setting for. Space smugglers can be done in many, many SF settings without any real problem. So, why would I do it in Star Wars? Contrast to Star Trek where there aren't any single iconic Star Trek stories in the same way. I would have no problems playing or running in the Trek universe, set at virtually any time period, because there's nothing in the setting that shouts "THIS IS THE STORY OF STAR TREK!!" in the way that the original trilogy define Star Wars.

So, roll that back around to D&D. To me, I am only interested in Curse of Strahd because you get to deal with Strahd. The whole "domains of Dread" thing is of zero interest to me because the story of Strahd is so tightly linked to the setting in my mind. Or, again, Dragonlance. The War of the Lance is the only thing I'm really interested in dealing with in the setting. I don't care about Taladas. I don't care about the other time periods. To me, Dragonlance=War of the Lance and any DL campaign I want to play or run will feature the PC's directly dealing with the Dragonarmies. Playing a prequel where the PC's actions have zero impact on the outcome of the War is not something I'm interested in. I have zero interest in the setting beyond the War of the Lance.

How about other folks? Are you interested in storied settings for their own sake or only interested in the iconic stories from those settings or a mix of both?
 

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Faolyn

(she/her)
Complete opposite here. If I'm going to play in a setting, I want to do my own thing. I don't want to replace the heroes or only deal with the main story. I already know how that story goes. So to take Star Wars, I would assume that there's something just as important as the Death Star somewhere out there. Maybe not something that could destroy a planet in a few seconds, but something that's just as dangerous in another way.
 

bloodtide

Adventurer
I don't care too much about "The Story" of a setting to use it for a game setting. Though not using "The" Story, just makes it a generic setting. Once you go beyond the narrow story, it's not really "the setting" anymore. And if you tie it into the setting, it's a bit pointless.

The big problem is most fans only Love the story, not the setting. Play a Star Wars game set on the planet Pug, and every player will be like "where is the Empire? Can I be a Jedi? Can we have a droid R3D3 that can Du Ex Machinea out of everything always?
 

aco175

Legend
I kind of agree with @Faolyn where if I'm playing a character in the place of Han Solo I might feel that the DM is forcing things to happen to make the story work. There is no penalty for failure since there would be no failure.

I also see where a setting like Dragonlance is iconic to the War of the Lance since I read the books and they all had some part of the war in it. Take FR on the other hand, I liked the Drizzt books but never felt the world was tied to him or Elminster.
 

Oofta

Legend
If I were to do star wars, I'd use the core lore but set it in a different time period such as the one used for Knights of the Old Republic.

I don't really use modules except for mining ideas because I don't want a predetermined story arc. I have ideas of where things might, or would, go without PC intervention but it's all just an outline until it's revealed. Even then if it makes sense it could change if I can figure out a way to make it consistent with what's been revealed.

Which is probably why I wouldn't do Ravenloft, you know the only conclusion to the campaign is defeating Strahd or die trying.
 

Hussar

Legend
Note, there is something of a wider spectrum here between "follow the exact story" and "ignore the story completely". You can start with the basic storyline of the setting - defeat the Empire, defeat the Dragonarmies, escape Ravenloft - and still tell stories that are completely different from how the story unfolded in the actual movies/books/whatever.

Like I said, if I played in a Star Wars game, I would want to be part of the Rebel alliance (or perhaps go the other way and play the Empire) and be dealing directly with defeating the Empire. Otherwise, why am I bothering with using the Star Wars universe? To me, that's the whole point of being in Star Wars. Playing Andor would bore me to tears. I'm sorry, but, it would. While I love the show, I wouldn't want to play that as a game because nothing they do in the show will have any impact on the most important story in the setting.

Same as if I did a Knights of the Old Republic game. I simply don't care. As @bloodtide very correctly IMO says, I "only Love the story, not the setting." For me, that's 100% true.

Now, since something like Forgotten Realms doesn't really have an "iconic story", I have no problems setting any number of games there.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Note, there is something of a wider spectrum here between "follow the exact story" and "ignore the story completely". You can start with the basic storyline of the setting - defeat the Empire, defeat the Dragonarmies, escape Ravenloft - and still tell stories that are completely different from how the story unfolded in the actual movies/books/whatever.

Like I said, if I played in a Star Wars game, I would want to be part of the Rebel alliance (or perhaps go the other way and play the Empire) and be dealing directly with defeating the Empire. Otherwise, why am I bothering with using the Star Wars universe? To me, that's the whole point of being in Star Wars. Playing Andor would bore me to tears. I'm sorry, but, it would. While I love the show, I wouldn't want to play that as a game because nothing they do in the show will have any impact on the most important story in the setting.
I get this, but I think the problem is that the players will never be the ones to truly defeat the Empire. That's always going to be Luke.

And that may be cool for some groups, even a lot of groups. After all, few people go into a CoC game thinking they can kill Cthulhu. But it's one of those things where everybody really needs to be on board being second fiddles. Or, the GM has to be willing to create an entire Alternate Universe and let the PCs try to, and maybe even succeed at, destroying the Death Star.
 


Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
This is exactly why I have zero desire to play a game set in Hogwarts, Middle Earth, the Star Wars universe, etc. The story of note has been resolved, and anything I do is only going to invite comparison in my own head, because I know I'm stealing someone else's set-up work.

That said, that applies for me pretty much just to things like books and movies. Doesn't bother me at all to play in the Forgotten Realms, despite all the canonical heroics that have happened there.
 
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jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
Honestly? For me, it depends on the story and how hard it runs roughshod over player character actions. I have, as Xamnam says above, zero interest in playing (or running) in a setting where THE story that matters has already been told or will be told by NPCs. Something like Murchad's Legacy*, however? Sign me up.

*Murchad's Legacy lays out a big story, but it assumes both sandbox play and that the PCs will be the ones driving the story when/if they interact with it.
 

Hussar

Legend
I get this, but I think the problem is that the players will never be the ones to truly defeat the Empire. That's always going to be Luke.

And that may be cool for some groups, even a lot of groups. After all, few people go into a CoC game thinking they can kill Cthulhu. But it's one of those things where everybody really needs to be on board being second fiddles. Or, the GM has to be willing to create an entire Alternate Universe and let the PCs try to, and maybe even succeed at, destroying the Death Star.
But, that's not true. Or, not necessarily.

If I were to run a Star Wars game, Luke wouldn't exist. There would be no Skywalkers at all. Maybe Leia since she doesn't actually really do anything in the original trilogy, so, sure, makes a good quest giving NPC. But Darth Vader wouldn't be Luke's father.

That's my entire point. For me, any game set in a, what shall we call it? A storied universe (if that's the right term) will ALWAYS be an "alternate universe". Why would I want to play in Middle Earth where Frodo defeats Sauran and Aragorn gets to be the King returned? Why would I play a Hogwarts campaign where Harry defeats Voldemort? For me, I have zero interest in that.

Now, a Hogwarts campaign where Voldemort is the BBEG and the group must defeat him? FANTASTIC. Great.

Exactly as you say. I will never be on board with the PC's being "second fiddles".

It reminds me of the old Star Wars advertisements:
1667885768475.png


I can honestly answer, I don't care. That guy's story is totally unimportant. If his story was important, I'd already know what it is. I have zero interest in the group (again, either as a player or a DM) being unimportant. If the party cannot remake the setting, I have no interest.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I have the same feelings as Hussar. I probably never thought about this before but this must be the reason also for me, that I never had an interest in a Star Wars RPG: it already has its main great story, I would not want to change it, but I am also not very motivated to play on the fringe. Same for Tolkien or Rowling stuff.

I haven't even played Dragonlance or Ravenloft. These however are not stories that were eventually turned into a RPG, but RPG adventures in the first place so they are MEANT to be played. But indeed the day I'll play or run a game of them, it'll be the original main adventure or plot, not a side dish.

There are many others, in fact most, RPG fantasy settings that are instead meant for endless quests, even when they feature a metaplot in the background, so those are what I play the game with.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I feel like a setting that's good at being an RPG setting is one that allows multiple 'THE STORY''s to exist and isn't so married so hard to non-PC characters being important that it ruins the experience if you don't get to see them or you change them up via player actions.

This is where a lot of IP-first setting have issues. If you aren't following the stations of the canon somehow, the players just aren't going to enjoy it because if doesn't feel like it's living up to the promise of the premise. While at the same time, actually following canon isn't fun either because you are on rails, either taking the place of the characters or following them around.

For these, I feels the important thing is managing expectations. You're on a small jungle moon fighting to resist the Empire. You don't know what a 'Death Star' is and it's years from completion. Here is the important thing.

And they should really avoid metaplot stuff that obviates or dramatically and negatively decontextualizes PC actions for the writer's own desires to have a twist/feel clever/etc.

See also the Classic 90's MetaPlot where the villain HAS to get away to lead into the next book or Surprise! turns out your spellcaster was unknowingly helping Hell eat the world.

For these, I recommend fire and plenty of it.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
But, that's not true. Or, not necessarily.

If I were to run a Star Wars game, Luke wouldn't exist. There would be no Skywalkers at all. Maybe Leia since she doesn't actually really do anything in the original trilogy, so, sure, makes a good quest giving NPC. But Darth Vader wouldn't be Luke's father.
Well, that's an AU, which is both very cool and not really the same thing as "Like I said, if I played in a Star Wars game, I would want to be part of the Rebel alliance (or perhaps go the other way and play the Empire) and be dealing directly with defeating the Empire." I was under the impression that you'd be playing characters just in the Rebel Alliance, not that you were replacing the main characters. So, apologies for the misunderstanding.

It reminds me of the old Star Wars advertisements:
View attachment 266142

I can honestly answer, I don't care. That guy's story is totally unimportant. If his story was important, I'd already know what it is. I have zero interest in the group (again, either as a player or a DM) being unimportant. If the party cannot remake the setting, I have no interest.
I always loved those adverts. The one where the circle was on a Stormtrooper really made me want to know more about Finn when TFA came out. I was so disappointed in how he was treated in TLJ that I haven't even bothered to see the final movie yet.
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
How about other folks? Are you interested in storied settings for their own sake or only interested in the iconic stories from those settings or a mix of both?
My philosophy as a DM and adventure writer (which I've taken from video game designers) is that if something fun happens in the setting or the campaign, the PCs are the ones that did it. Not NPCs.

If something would be fun to play through, then the PCs get to do that thing. Their choices can sometimes prevent them from doing that thing, but the fun stuff is intended for the players to experience. If there's a dungeon with a problem that needs solving, the PCs are the ones that deal with it, not a group of NPC adventurers. If there's a villain conquering the land that's starting to threaten the base town of the PCs, they're the ones that stop/beat/kill the villain, not a militia, army, or another group of NPC adventurers. If the setting has a mystery built into the world (the Mourning and other mysteries of Eberron, for example), then it's the PCs that find the answer. Not NPCs.

The PCs are the main characters of the game. They make the story and the game and settings should be designed with that intention. I've had DMs introduce a problem before only to have it be solved by a DMPC in a deus ex machina. That is not how games and settings should be designed in D&D, in my opinion. The players do the fun stuff. Not people from the novels (Elminster, Drizzt, Van Richten, the Heroes of the Lance, Vox Machina, the main characters from the Dark Sun or Eberron novels, etc).
 
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JEB

Legend
Random side question: Has any RPG company that licensed an official property ever provided a scenario based on an official story, and explicitly empowered the players with ways to change the canonical outcome through their actions? That is, options other than "stay on rails until the end of the ride" or "you failed". (Obviously, a GM could and should improvise, but I'm talking about official support.)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Note, there is something of a wider spectrum here between "follow the exact story" and "ignore the story completely". You can start with the basic storyline of the setting - defeat the Empire, defeat the Dragonarmies, escape Ravenloft - and still tell stories that are completely different from how the story unfolded in the actual movies/books/whatever.

Like I said, if I played in a Star Wars game, I would want to be part of the Rebel alliance (or perhaps go the other way and play the Empire) and be dealing directly with defeating the Empire. Otherwise, why am I bothering with using the Star Wars universe? To me, that's the whole point of being in Star Wars. Playing Andor would bore me to tears. I'm sorry, but, it would. While I love the show, I wouldn't want to play that as a game because nothing they do in the show will have any impact on the most important story in the setting.

Same as if I did a Knights of the Old Republic game. I simply don't care. As @bloodtide very correctly IMO says, I "only Love the story, not the setting." For me, that's 100% true.
I'm the other way around - when starting a new game I want as much of the setting as possible (ideally, all of it!) to be brand new to me, and for this reason alone I'd probably avoid a Star Wars or Star Trek or other game which had a pre-fab setting and lots of canon: I already know too much about it. This prior knowledge greatly cuts down the enjoyment I get from simply exploring and learning about this new setting as the campaign goes along.

Flip side, were I to get into a game using a pre-fab setting I knew nothing about (e.g. something based on Babylon 5, say) my concern would be that I'd constantly be catching hell from the other players for not knowing stuff which to them is common knowledge.
Now, since something like Forgotten Realms doesn't really have an "iconic story", I have no problems setting any number of games there.
Even FR has developed too much ingrained meta-canon for my liking. It was good when it first came out in the grey box, then steadily became less appealing as time went on and more chaff got layered on top of it.
 


Hussar

Legend
Even FR has developed too much ingrained meta-canon for my liking. It was good when it first came out in the grey box, then steadily became less appealing as time went on and more chaff got layered on top of it.
The amount of lore is a somewhat separate issue. After all, there is a literal mountain of lore for Star Trek. And Forgotten Realms really. But, neither setting has a single, central story that defines the setting. There's no real "Star Trek Saga". Or Forgotten Realms Saga. Or Greyhawk Saga. So, for me, it's not about the amount of lore, it's more about the existence (or absence) of that central "saga" that defines that setting.

Babylon 5 is a great example. I wouldn't want to play in a Bab - 5 campaign where we weren't actually on Babylon 5 and weren't part of the important people running the station.
 

How about other folks? Are you interested in storied settings for their own sake or only interested in the iconic stories from those settings or a mix of both?
My interest in storied settings lies closer to yours. It is probably why I have never run a game in Dragonlance and if I did it would have to be the War of the Lance with the PCs playing the central part, meaning the canon can be altered.

With Ravenloft (and this is where we may differ), I feel it depends on which dread domain you're in.
There are great number of horror-filled adventures out there for each domain and they are pretty unique. Each darklord has their story. If in Barovia then Strahd is a must sure.

Forgotten Realms and Mystara - the other two published settings I frequently use are not settings which were spawned by a singular story so there is more freedom I feel to explore and discover. And that is the key element.

IMO why is the Star Trek setting infinitely more interesting than Star Wars - because the Star Trek setting is about exploration and discovery. Star Wars is solely about the Empire & Darth Vader vs the Rebel Alliance or one is going to run Knights of the Old Republic, 1 of the 2.
 
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