The GM's World, the Players' Campaign

Committed Hero

Adventurer
I have been listening to the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings and some of the Silmarillion and dammit if that isn't what I would love to make for players to explore: deep lore with a strong internal logic and consistency that suggests adventure with nearly every sentence. Obviously no RPG campaign world can approach Middle Earth in that regard, but it is still a target to aim for.

How do you convince players to explore it without the "just read the GM's novel" vibe that often accompanies discussions of railroading?
 

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Aldarc

Legend
How do you convince players to explore it without the "just read the GM's novel" vibe that often accompanies discussions of railroading?
It's not just railroading that I'm worried about as a player in such instances, it's also "setting tourism" that relegates my PC to a passive, sight-seeing bystander who is expected to gaze in amazement and graciousness at the setting.
 

It's not just railroading that I'm worried about as a player in such instances, it's also "setting tourism" that relegates my PC to a passive, sight-seeing bystander who is expected to gaze in amazement and graciousness at the setting.
It is possible for the GM to make the setting interesting to the players in a way that doesn't turn them into sightseers. It's probably not the norm but it is possible.
 

Pedantic

Legend
It's not just railroading that I'm worried about as a player in such instances, it's also "setting tourism" that relegates my PC to a passive, sight-seeing bystander who is expected to gaze in amazement and graciousness at the setting.

I think the excluded middle there is "GM-as-toymaker" instead of "GM-as-author," the point being to present the setting as a gift to be played with. All the logic and internal consistency and all that become levers and buttons and blocks for players to mess around with.
 

pemerton

Legend
I think the excluded middle there is "GM-as-toymaker" instead of "GM-as-author," the point being to present the setting as a gift to be played with. All the logic and internal consistency and all that become levers and buttons and blocks for players to mess around with.
I don't see how this is remotely consistent with aiming to emulate JRRT's Appendix B et al, which are presentations of a thematically coherent vision which is not at all amenable to being "messed around with" while preserving that coherence.

(There is no coherence to what JRRT presents other than the thematic - for instance it is not remotely logical or internally consistent from a social scientific point of view.)
 

Pedantic

Legend
I don't see how this is remotely consistent with aiming to emulate JRRT's Appendix B et al, which are presentations of a thematically coherent vision which is not at all amenable to being "messed around with" while preserving that coherence.

(There is no coherence to what JRRT presents other than the thematic - for instance it is not remotely logical or internally consistent from a social scientific point of view.)
I'm frankly of the opinion the Tolkein approach to worldbuilding is more of an anomalous success than a replicable method, but you of all people should be able to appreciate that a TTRPG has a different set of goals than a novel. Structural and thematic consistency are in the service of something, that something usually being the entertainment of the players.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'm frankly of the opinion the Tolkein approach to worldbuilding is more of an anomalous success than a replicable method,
I can't think of a single author that has succeeded at replicating it, which is why, I think, Tolkien remains relevant even though his style and themes are far less popular than they were at the time of writing.
but you of all people should be able to appreciate that a TTRPG has a different set of goals than a novel. Structural and thematic consistency are in the service of something, that something usually being the entertainment of the players.
This is certainly true. There are similarities and even some methodological overlap, but the goals are very different.
 

G

Guest 7042500

Guest
It's not just railroading that I'm worried about as a player in such instances, it's also "setting tourism" that relegates my PC to a passive, sight-seeing bystander who is expected to gaze in amazement and graciousness at the setting.
Like "Ringworld."
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm frankly of the opinion the Tolkein approach to worldbuilding is more of an anomalous success than a replicable method
Certainly not replicable by most people.

you of all people should be able to appreciate that a TTRPG has a different set of goals than a novel. Structural and thematic consistency are in the service of something, that something usually being the entertainment of the players.
I would replace "players with participants. But I don't think that what is played around with are story elements linked by logical consistency. Eg when I've GMed a Middle Earth game it was tropes and related themes that I tried to pick up on.

Earlier today I was re-reading a terrific rpg.net review of Prince Valiant, and it made this interesting point:

PV is based on graphic fiction that was created to be read, not as data for an rpg setting. It uses that data to provide the setting materials for the game, not as a substitute for the original fictional form. PV knows that a fiction book is a fiction book and that a game book is a game book. It does not try to be both. The setting materials are there to allow the players to understand and develop the context of their game and to highlight the way one can play in that context with the rules the book provides. . . .

there’s a lot of depth in this game. Just look at how carefully the game entities have been chosen, how well they are substantiated with examples taken from the novels, how rich and varied are the alternatives covered. . . .

Greg Stafford, in his rules design effort, never lost its focus on the setting. This is not a game where we have a setting and a system tossed together. The designer started by getting immersed in the setting (as presented in Hal Foster’s fiction) and attempted to abstract the critical concepts that underline that setting and to conceive a system based on those concepts. All of this wrapped in a faultless package that was designed to provide what any game book should aim for: A tool for role-playing.​

I like this account of the relationship between setting, as something created outside the RPG context, and RPGing. Between setting and toys lies the development of a system based on the relevant concepts. In the case of JRRT, these are predominantly moral, religious and similar concepts.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I'm frankly of the opinion the Tolkein approach to worldbuilding is more of an anomalous success than a replicable method, but you of all people should be able to appreciate that a TTRPG has a different set of goals than a novel. Structural and thematic consistency are in the service of something, that something usually being the entertainment of the players.
I've said it before, but I think that at least one problem is that many people took the wrong lessons from Tolkien when it came to world-building: namely, they conflated his final published product with his actual world-building process.
 

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