Why the World Exists

Raven Crowking

First Post
Hyperbole notwithstanding, I agree with Jack7 on the basic premise that, generally speaking, there are two polar views on the interaction between setting and characters in your typical D&D campaign. One end of the spectrum is that the setting does indeed exist to serve the player characters, that it should be designed at all levels to support the preferences of the players. The other end of the spectrum is that the world is defined, it exists as it does and the player characters meet the world and interact with it on its terms, dealing with its challenges and rewards. But as a continuum rather than merely two options, most campaigns, I think, exists somewhere between the two.

Also, while I think that any edition can be played anywhere along the continuum as a matter of agreement between the players and the DM, edition matters in regards to the assumed location along the continuum. Earlier editions, with random treasure tables and encounter tables based on environment, lean toward the "world side". Later editions with concepts of Level Appropriate and Wish lists lean toward the "PC side". But even so, where the campaign sits has far more to do with what happens at the table than what is found in the rulebooks.

As to the relationship between heroism and entitlement (in general, not as a commentary on editions) is that the more "freebies" the DM gives the PCs, the less heroic they are. heroism (to me) is defined as the struggle against adversity, and the reduction of that adversity by fudging dice or providing all the right/best items or arranging events so the PCs are always on the "right track" reduces adversity and therefore reduces heroism (and cheapens victories).

I tend toward the "here's the world, it's a dangerous place, go master it!" school of DMing. As such, it is incumbant upon me, as DM, to allow PCs the freedom to interact with the "uncaring" world on their own terms, and provide the players with the information necessary to make meaningful choices and execute the world's response to their actions to the best of my ability.


This.

I could not have put it better.
 

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Ourph

First Post
Earlier editions, with random treasure tables and encounter tables based on environment, lean toward the "world side". Later editions with concepts of Level Appropriate and Wish lists lean toward the "PC side".
Earlier editions also suggested that the monsters in a dungeon arrange themselves by level, with mostly Level 1 monsters on Level 1 (the level that the 1st level PCs would encounter first), Level 2 monsters on the next floor down and etc., so that players knew that the "deeper" they went into a dungeon the more dangeorus it would get. That doesn't strike me as being particularly on the side of "the world exists irrespective of the PCs".
 

Mercurius

Legend
If you know something's going to upset someone, don't post it.

If everyone followed this advice we'd have a pretty sparse forum. Obviously there are degrees of potential offensiveness, but let's face it: Just about every "something" is going to offend "someone", and for whatever reason RPGers, as a bunch, tend to take offense relatively quick-and-easily, especially when they think that--erroneously or not--Someone Else is telling them how to play RPGs. The worst offense of all! :eek:

See, I probably just offended someone with Something I wrote. ;)
 

Celebrim

Legend
Bob the fighter will find a magic bastard sword because, well, he's specialized in bastard sword, not halbred. There is no point to rolling up a staff of the Wilderness for a druidless party. If no one can wear heavy armor, that +5 Plate is just so much GP (or residuum in 4e).

There are limits to that though. If Druids exist in the world, then they exist somewhere. I may imagine for the sake of making the campaign world interesting, that in a copse outside of town in an ancient stone ring, a group of druids meet to examine the stars and determine in their wisdom how best to shape the course of events so as to maintain harmony in the realm. Perhaps these druids become important to the campaign. Perhaps I just intend them as a temporary obstacle in the path of the players. Whatever purpose I had in creating them, they are there, and the answer to whether or not they have magic items isn't, "Well, do the PC's have a druid in the party?" Because if the answer to that question depends on anything about the player party, then I really am screwing the players.

I don't decide, "The Grand Druid has a +5 staff of the wilderness because he's supposed to be the awesome, and if the player's mess with him - look out." I don't decide, "I can give the Grand Druid a +5 staff of wilderness because none of the players in the party can use it, and I can always say when they take it, that it doesn't have many charges left and so isn't very valuable." And likewise, I don't generally decide, "I'm going to give the Grand Druid a +5 staff of wilderness, because there is a druid in the party."

If the Grand Druid has a +5 staff of the wilderness, it's because it seems logical that if anyone has one it should be the Grand Druid. If there are magical bastard swords out there, it isn't because the player choose one. There are rings of elemental control out there too, but they probably aren't just lying around as easy pickings.

It is very different to assume that the bandits show up in Resterford because the PC's are there, than it is to assume that the bandits only show up because the PC's are there. If bandits really do show in Resterford solely because the PC's are there, the PC's aren't heroes but jinxs, and they'll probably start feeling liked jinxs rather than heroes after not too long. Generally, from the perspective of the player's, either the players should show up in Resterford because the bandits or there, or else the poor people 20 miles away in Offstageville have run out money (because the PC's weren't there), and so now the bandits have taken there act to Resterford.
 

Wicht

Hero
I am surprised that no one seems to have yet posted the position that I would hold, namely, the world exists for the sake of the DM, who is the author of the world. Part of the joy of DMing is then in presenting this world to others for their enjoyment. It is very similar, IMO, to the actions of an author who creates a world and then gives it to readers for what he hopes is their approval.

As a player, when I get to play, the enjoyment comes from exploring someone elses world.
 

Ourph

First Post
If the setting always bends to my will, there really is no challenge. It is reverse railroading.

Fortunately, it's very rare that anyone (4e DMs included) always does anything. "It's a good idea to find out what your players want from the game" =/= "Always give the players everything they ask for".
 

Kishin

First Post
The second crime, you wonder? It is the worst: You mention Middle-earth and World of Warcraft in the same breath! Alas, alas! May the Great Eagles carry me away to distant Valinor, where only her golden woods may heal my blighted soul! :.-(
:p

This is actually not too hard to do, considering how shamelessly both worlds rip from Norse mythology. ;)
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Of COURSE there's a difference. The difference is that D&D doesn't let you start with Stormbringer at level 1.

Hence the need to skirt genre conventions by discussing matters with your DM.

I think that idea is ultimately irrelevant to Reynard's point about eventually getting ahold of a particular device vs the concept. I don't believe Sting is an integral part of either Bilbo's or Frodo's character concept. It's a convenient tool for a few points of action, but tangential to the main point or primary action of the characters.
For Elric and Aragorn, their swords are part of their character concepts. But both must take pains to actually get them and, as D&D characters, would have significant life before achieving that character+sword concept. Elric contacts Arioch and goes specifically to find the blade. Viewed as a D&D PC, his search is entirely PC initiated. Aragorn totes around a broken sword for decades before being ready, proving his readiness, and before world events determine the time is ripe.
 

Kichwas

First Post
First approach: setting exists for the characters.
Second approach: characters exist for the setting.

The first approach assumes a gamist approach. You are there for the game experience, and the setting and story are secondary or tertiary (in varying orders and degrees of importance).

The second approach assumes a simulationist approach. You are there for the roleplay, either based around story creation or setting simulation, and gamist concerns are tertiary.

(There's a third model in here somewhere obviously - as story driven and simulation driven are very different, but neither fits your first model. Rather your second model is the 'more or less fit' for them.)

Good roleplay can happen in the first approach, but its not the key driving force. The first approach is better suited to a group who's driving concern is the game. The setting is a backdrop, but they're really there to experience the mechanics of the game engine. If that's your group, you want the first approach. If that's not your group, you should avoid the first approach.

If your group is there for the story, or the setting (and setting groups are not so common as GM egos like to pretend they are), you want some version of the second approach. This is the group that, in its extreme form, could just as well go diceless or systemless. They want to engage in spinning a yarn, experiencing drama, story, romance and tension.

It might seem like you want the setting to be made for the characters in that second group... to meet their every demand... but that's actually the opposite of what you want. The setting needs to be there, and uncaring, because the tension they desire is the tension of fitting into it, of becoming 'real people in a world' and living the lives of those people. The setting, not the game engine, becomes the challenge. Giving them a setting that exist to serve their characters would be like giving a group of gamists a game engine that always rolled the die result that led to success. It defeats the challenge they are there for.
 

catsclaw227

First Post
At my table, the game exists so that 6 guys can sit around a table together, have fun and laughs and do some roleplaying. The game exists for the players, the campaign world exists for the PCs.

How that plays out in-game will vary from adventure to adventure. I ask for wishlists. Not because I think everyone should get exactly what they want, but because it helps me understand what the player wants out of the PC he/she wants to play. I use the lists to build stories that match the kind of PC they want to develop. At the same time, the players don't purposefully to willy-nilly off in a direction that I haven't prepared or planned out because they want me to tell a story that match the kind of PC they want to develop. These thigns aren't mutually exclusive and they are part of the assumed gaming contract we make when the campaign starts.

I build what the players want, the players go in places that I am prepared for. NONE of this has to do with the PCs nor the campaign setting. These things are metagame topics that, while threaded in with the in-game situations and circumstances, don't reflect the PC wants or actions, nor does it reflect the actual make-up of my campaign world.

Just because I am not prepared for the PCs to go far to the west doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. But the players will not try to find out what is in the far west because the game is more enjoyable by all if they play in a region where the DM is prepared to tell stories.

As others have stated, the PCs don't provide wishlists, the players do. The PCs don't exist for the gameworld, because, well the whole of the gameworld isn't detailed out yet. The world shapes itself by the actions of the PCs. (I don't mean the physical landscape.... obviously I mean the adventures, plots, stories, interesting NPCs, magic items, etc....)

I hope some of that rambling mess made sense....
 

FourthBear

First Post
I don't think any of this issue has much to do with the quality or quantity of roleplaying around the table. You can justify requesting magic item lists from players from both a gamist and roleplaying perspective. You can also condemn requesting magic item lists from both a gamist and roleplaying perspective.

Gamist Pro: Allowing players to choose magic items allows them to customize their PCs abilities to meet challenges as they choose. Part of the game is choosing the right equipment for the challenge.

Gamist Con: Allow players to choose magic items removes the challenge of dealing with random treasure and/or DM placed treasure. Part of the game is making the most of what random tables, prepublished adventures and the DM grant you.

Roleplaying Pro: Allowing players to choose magic items allows them to customize their characters as they wish and get such issues out of the way in a quick, efficient fashion. Not allowing this just throws in a gamist challenge in addition that results in time spent on selling, bartering and seeking magic items. By making them less easily available, you make them more important. The stories that inspire D&D frequently have such convenient insertion of useful items.

Roleplaying Con: Allowing players to choose magic items results in contrivance and player expectations. Obtaining and dealing with unexpected magic items can represent a significant role playing challenge and help establish world verisimilitude. The contrivance of finding well suited magic items breaks immersion.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
If everyone followed this advice we'd have a pretty sparse forum. Obviously there are degrees of potential offensiveness, but let's face it: Just about every "something" is going to offend "someone", and for whatever reason RPGers, as a bunch, tend to take offense relatively quick-and-easily, especially when they think that--erroneously or not--Someone Else is telling them how to play RPGs. The worst offense of all! :eek:

That wasn't advice: them's the rules here, whether or not you personally agree with their effectiveness.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Roleplaying Pro: Allowing players to choose magic items allows them to customize their characters...

Except, that's not a roleplaying concern. I don't set down to the table as a player going, "I need to have a +4 shield." I set down thinking things like, "How is my cleric going to see this meeting as an oppurtunity to further understanding and community spirit." The fact that I have or don't have a +4 shield is utterly incidental to my character and even less important to my characterization. The only way the shield has any meaning to me as a player at all is if it is the 'Aegis of St. Glanvent', which makes my character have some distinction like 'the bearer of the Aegis of St. Glanvent'. Otherwise, it's just a shield. I don't really care that the Aegis of St. Glanvent is a +4 shield except to the extent that its intrinsic magic worth demonstrates the importance of being 'the bearer of the Aegis of St. Glanvent'.

So do you see how even from my perspective as a player, how a 'wish list' inherently conflicts with my needs and desires as a player? The very fact that some other player at the table is handing in a list that reads, "+4 cloak of resistance, +3 ghosttouch bastard sword", or some other crap like that is cramping my fun because from my perspective that player doesn't even have his mind on the game. He's busy playing Diablo or some such, rather than a PnP rpg.

...Not allowing this just throws in a gamist challenge in addition that results in time spent on selling, bartering and seeking magic items. By making them less easily available, you make them more important. The stories that inspire D&D frequently have such convenient insertion of useful items.

I'm not even sure I understand what this means. However, the 'stories that inspire D&D' generally don't have convenient insertions of useful items. Those items are generally meaningful for some reason other than the fact that they are 'useful', and often as not, the item is decidedly not 'convenient' in the sense of being the sort of item a PC would wish for. 'Stormbringer' is not 'convenient'. 'The One Ring' is not 'convenient'.
 

ProfessorPain

First Post
If everyone followed this advice we'd have a pretty sparse forum. Obviously there are degrees of potential offensiveness, but let's face it: Just about every "something" is going to offend "someone", and for whatever reason RPGers, as a bunch, tend to take offense relatively quick-and-easily, especially when they think that--erroneously or not--Someone Else is telling them how to play RPGs. The worst offense of all! :eek:

See, I probably just offended someone with Something I wrote. ;)

How dare you assume your post offended someone. I am someone, and I was not in any way offended by your post. It was a reasonable statement of fact, and I am outraged you so quickly conclude I don't agree. Implying that I am somehow unable to follow your line of thought, because I once got an A- instead of an A+ on my Socratic Logic exam. I cannot believe you treat people who got A minuses as inferiors. You should be ashamed of yourself. Just because I got one A-, that doesn't mean I don't understand philosophy!
 

Cadfan

First Post
I think that idea is ultimately irrelevant to Reynard's point about eventually getting ahold of a particular device vs the concept. I don't believe Sting is an integral part of either Bilbo's or Frodo's character concept. It's a convenient tool for a few points of action, but tangential to the main point or primary action of the characters.
For Elric and Aragorn, their swords are part of their character concepts. But both must take pains to actually get them and, as D&D characters, would have significant life before achieving that character+sword concept. Elric contacts Arioch and goes specifically to find the blade. Viewed as a D&D PC, his search is entirely PC initiated. Aragorn totes around a broken sword for decades before being ready, proving his readiness, and before world events determine the time is ripe.
Using wishlists doesn't mean that you get random free magic items that fall from the sky. You still have to go out and get them somehow.
 

Reynard

Legend
Earlier editions also suggested that the monsters in a dungeon arrange themselves by level, with mostly Level 1 monsters on Level 1 (the level that the 1st level PCs would encounter first), Level 2 monsters on the next floor down and etc., so that players knew that the "deeper" they went into a dungeon the more dangeorus it would get. That doesn't strike me as being particularly on the side of "the world exists irrespective of the PCs".

It is a genre convention in older D&D that more dangerous things exist on deeper dungeon levels. But if the 1st level PCs find the stairs down (and they often did because there tended to be multiple points of entry to each level) and they hit level 2, the creatures on that level don't suddenly change "CR" to accomodate the PCs' level. More to the point, the dungeon exists in its state, with weaker monsters up top and more powerful ones deeper down and the PCs have the freedom to (attempt to) move about those levels as they wish. Even adventures designed for a specific level spread often included encounters -- whether on the random encounter chart or preplanned -- that did not match up to that adventure's target level.

Of course, as usual there's something of a contradiction in AD&D. Dungeon random encounters were indeed "levelled" while wilderness encounters were not (based on terrain, instead, with entries ranging from 0 level bandits to elder dragons). That itself is a curious thing and worthy of discussion (but another time).
 

Reynard

Legend
Cadfan re: Jade Jaws--

It isn't a binary choice. If Jade Jaws is known to live in the Big Wood, the only options aren't "avoid the big wood" and "frontal assault against Jade Jaws". What if the PCs have to get somewhere and their choices are to spend more time going around the Big Wood or taking a "shortcut" through and have a possibility of being dragon snack.
 

Cadfan

First Post
Cadfan re: Jade Jaws--

It isn't a binary choice. If Jade Jaws is known to live in the Big Wood, the only options aren't "avoid the big wood" and "frontal assault against Jade Jaws". What if the PCs have to get somewhere and their choices are to spend more time going around the Big Wood or taking a "shortcut" through and have a possibility of being dragon snack.
I cannot, for the life of me, see how that affects anything I said.
 

FourthBear

First Post
So do you see how even from my perspective as a player, how a 'wish list' inherently conflicts with my needs and desires as a player?
Inherently? No, I don't see that at all. I can see how you, as a particular player, may have needs and desires that are in conflict with wish lists. In which case, I recommend you do not participate. I think there are other players who have different needs and desires. I do not see that there is any *inherent* conflict at all between players (including DMs) and wish lists. If you don't want to use them, don't feel you have to. It's the tone of moral and ethical disapproval towards wish lists that seems ridiculous to me.

I'm not even sure I understand what this means. However, the 'stories that inspire D&D' generally don't have convenient insertions of useful items. Those items are generally meaningful for some reason other than the fact that they are 'useful', and often as not, the item is decidedly not 'convenient' in the sense of being the sort of item a PC would wish for. 'Stormbringer' is not 'convenient'. 'The One Ring' is not 'convenient'.

Such items were introduced, developed and placed in the story for the writer's convenience, not the characters. The One Ring was an extremely convenient item when first introduced in The Hobbit and it played an extremely convenient role in allowing Bilbo, a character of somewhat dubious adventuring skills, to play an important role in the story. There's no need to use scare quotes. The One Ring *was* a highly convenient item that also was developed into a central element of a larger story. The two concepts are not in any kind of conflict.

Are you seriously contesting that magic items introduced in fantasy stories are not frequently done so by authors as a convenient way to further the story? Note that, again, we are speaking of the convenience of the author, not the characters. The items aren't being generated by a random item table for the writer to respond to.
 

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