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Tanuki Tales
2012-09-14, 04:21 PM
Recently I've seen some voicing of the opinion that some folks absolutely hate the approaches towards a setting known as "All Myths are True" (exactly what it says on the tin) and "Fantasy Kitchen Sink" (Oh, so the setting has humans and dwarves and goblins and trolls and faeries and shark people and insects with mind powers and super advanced aliens that lost their culture and...).

Now, of course this is no surprise to me in the least bit at all since, like all things in life, there are different strokes for different folks. But it just seemed to me as a wonderful topic to center a discussion thread around: whether you enjoy the use of those tropes or you despise them or what have you.


I'll start us off by saying that I personally love both approaches with the following caveats:

The setting is large enough - The world that the setting is placed in needs to be large enough to contain this vast menagerie of beasties and civilized folk. I don't even mean just size, because a small world or setting can meet the clarification of "large enough". I mean that there has to be enough unexplored corners of the map or general ignorance among the population of the setting or just general mystery and intrigue that it's plausible for these things to be out there. I find it exhilarating to discover an ancient city of temple dwelling spider people on a previously unvisited jungle island and exposing them to the wider world for the first time or to encounter an undead horror in the dead of night that only came to exist because conditions near impossible for the region just happened to align. But it needs to be believable and not just shoehorned in (or worse, either completely explained and gone "ooh" at or just shrugged away as another day on the job). Sure, the setting could attempt to take a Masquerade approach to achieve this, but it begins to stretch the suspension of disbelief till it twangs.
There is little to no unexplained overlap - Through out folklore you'll find plenty of overlap between ideas and archetypes and monsters and such, which is all and good and neat to see. On the other hand, if you've got 17 types of blood sucking undead or 20 types of subterranean dwelling goblin-y folk and not only is there no coherent explanation for why so many exist, but they also don't interact or even know the other breeds exist either (or even worse, both things happen and are handwaved); that's when I say you've taken the tropes from exciting and fun to completely out of control and tedious.

So, in short, I enjoy both tropes but only so far in that they don't destroy my suspension of disbelief in the setting and their presence feels organic.

Yora
2012-09-14, 04:28 PM
Well, that's nice for you.

So...?

123456789blaaa
2012-09-14, 04:39 PM
Well, that's nice for you.

So...?

He is trying to start a discussion on the merits and flaws of both approches and why/which people prefer them (I assume).

Tanuki Tales
2012-09-14, 05:01 PM
He is trying to start a discussion on the merits and flaws of both approches and why/which people prefer them (I assume).

Yup. I just viewed this as something that could spark a good intellectual discussion.

Craft (Cheese)
2012-09-14, 06:12 PM
I dunno, I think stylistic consistency is something to be highly valued. But it really has nothing to do with the number of elements in the setting and everything to do with how well they fit together.

There's actually a very simple rule of thumb that you can use to test for this in 99% of cases, and it's this: "If I removed X from the setting, how much else about the setting do I have to change before things start to make sense again?"

If the answer is "Basically nothing at all," then you have a problem.

Jack of Spades
2012-09-14, 06:13 PM
The setting is large enough
There is little to no unexplained overlap

Well doesn't the first sort of solve the second? I mean, on our planet there are dozens of species of birds that specifically specialize in eating flying insects and use color cues in lieu of or in addition to mating calls, each a little bit different because at some point in history they lost contact with their kin. If you're going to assume that there is a startlingly large number of intelligent species on the planet (a common fantasy assumption), then why wouldn't there be a large number of intelligent species in each ecological niche that a sapient species can fill? Add to this the fact that most fantasy worlds are relatively young-- i.e., set in a time where technology would only barely have been at the level it was at when the Americas were discovered-- and it would almost make *more* sense to have a dozen similar but distinct subterranean races separated by oceans or the like.

But, that's just a plausibility thing. In the design sense, I agree. Less is generally more when it comes to fantasy races. My homebrew world started with over a dozen, and now has... 3, maybe 4. In fantasy, there's only so many niches that can be filled before it starts becoming silly.

I'm generally a supporter of the "every myth is true" thing, as long as it's presented well: Don't throw them all in the same continent. That's just silly, and none of the backstories would work. They need to have been separated for a while.

Craft (Cheese)
2012-09-14, 06:32 PM
Well doesn't the first sort of solve the second? I mean, on our planet there are dozens of species of birds that specifically specialize in eating flying insects and use color cues in lieu of or in addition to mating calls, each a little bit different because at some point in history they lost contact with their kin. If you're going to assume that there is a startlingly large number of intelligent species on the planet (a common fantasy assumption), then why wouldn't there be a large number of intelligent species in each ecological niche that a sapient species can fill? Add to this the fact that most fantasy worlds are relatively young-- i.e., set in a time where technology would only barely have been at the level it was at when the Americas were discovered-- and it would almost make *more* sense to have a dozen similar but distinct subterranean races separated by oceans or the like.

I have a significant problem with this, actually.

1. Evolution operates at a literally sub-glacial pace, even for small changes.

2. Sapience is something that's actually really complicated and difficult to evolve.

Sapient minds can build technologies way, way faster than evolution can build new types of sapient minds from scratch. See the problem? The emergence of modern sapience would have to have happened basically simultaneously (and independently) to get the fantasy situation where you have dozens of intelligent species who live on the same planet (or even the same continent). The chances of this are ridiculously low. Otherwise the first one out of the gate would invent the technologies needed to conquer the world before the others would be able to fight back.



Of course this is irrelevant as most fantasy races don't evolve, they're created. Which introduces a bunch more problems when you think about how there are these extremely powerful deities who are operating more or less independently, or even worse, a single deity.

NichG
2012-09-14, 06:54 PM
I have a significant problem with this, actually.

1. Evolution operates at a literally sub-glacial pace, even for small changes.

2. Sapience is something that's actually really complicated and difficult to evolve.

Sapient minds can build technologies way, way faster than evolution can build new types of sapient minds from scratch. See the problem? The emergence of modern sapience would have to have happened basically simultaneously (and independently) to get the fantasy situation where you have dozens of intelligent species who live on the same planet (or even the same continent). The chances of this are ridiculously low. Otherwise the first one out of the gate would invent the technologies needed to conquer the world before the others would be able to fight back.



Of course this is irrelevant as most fantasy races don't evolve, they're created. Which introduces a bunch more problems when you think about how there are these extremely powerful deities who are operating more or less independently, or even worse, a single deity.

This is solved neatly in a setting with planar travel though. If you've got dozens of worlds, each with its own pantheon, then its no longer quite so weird that the various sets of gods would create various sets of things independently of eachother. If planar travel is restricted to certain conjunctions, even the evolutionary invention of sentient races makes more sense.

Of course the other point with the evolutionary picture is, lots of these different 'species' of intelligent creature can actually interbreed, so they're more like ethnicities. It suggests a common (sentient) ancestor, and a lot less genetic distance than you might expect based on outward features.

Another easy solution to the 'huge number of sentients' problem is literally 'a wizard did it'. If permanent polymorph magic exists in the setting, perhaps a lot of the diversity is a product of ancient wizards who were playing around with Polymorph Any Object and the like.

A fourth possibility, also pushed by the Planescape sort of cosmology, is that most of the sentient races that exist come from the dreams and beliefs of eachother. Basically, if enough people believe in a mythos, things of that mythos begin to exist in the shadows and rarely observed places. Human belief has incredible diversity - thats what you're pulling from to make a kitchen sink setting - so it makes sense that you'd get an incredible diversity of strange things in response.

Tanuki Tales
2012-09-14, 07:34 PM
-Snip about Evolution and such-

Well, like Cheese pointed out, this is a little more difficult when it comes to sapience and sentience. And I don't mean each having it's own little niche spread across a planetary scale, I meant more how they all kind of exist on top of each other but don't even know they exist on top of each other. Like having Derro, Morlocks, Mites, Tommyknockers, Gray Dwarves, Skum and Troglodytes all living in the same subterranean system under one continent but having no thought out explanation on how they all interact with one another (if the creator even bothered to let each race/species know each other exist in the first place to one another).


But, that's just a plausibility thing. In the design sense, I agree. Less is generally more when it comes to fantasy races. My homebrew world started with over a dozen, and now has... 3, maybe 4. In fantasy, there's only so many niches that can be filled before it starts becoming silly.

I'll admit that part of this thread is some research for my own setting that I'm planning to sit down and write and part my own curiosity on the discussion of the subject.


I'm generally a supporter of the "every myth is true" thing, as long as it's presented well: Don't throw them all in the same continent. That's just silly, and none of the backstories would work. They need to have been separated for a while.

Which is basically what I'm saying. As long as it's organic and doesn't make my head hurt trying to rationalize them all there, the more weird the better.


A fourth possibility, also pushed by the Planescape sort of cosmology, is that most of the sentient races that exist come from the dreams and beliefs of eachother. Basically, if enough people believe in a mythos, things of that mythos begin to exist in the shadows and rarely observed places. Human belief has incredible diversity - thats what you're pulling from to make a kitchen sink setting - so it makes sense that you'd get an incredible diversity of strange things in response.

You know, I've never even thought of the "Hogfather theory of creation" that you're suggesting there. I actually really like the concept of that; have a setting where magic practically suffuses every bit of the plane (but is not necessarily plainly present or accessible) and have it react to enough unconscious/subconscious belief to convert thought into actual reality. Mind if I use it?

Water_Bear
2012-09-14, 08:01 PM
I'm kind of torn on the issue personally;

On the one hand, I hate Generic Fantasy settings with a fiery passion. Goblinoids and Elves/Fey are tolerable under certain conditions but Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings, Orcs and Lizardfolk are just grating. If they actually have some personality and mostly stay out of the main narrative, like Tolkien Dwarves, they can be alright but otherwise it doesn't add anything of substance.

On the other hand, I love nWoD style worlds where there a tons of weird one-off creatures or hidden supernatural societies beneath a mundane exterior and Generic Superhero settings where they all run around in the open. It makes the world feel bigger and more mysterious, rather than cheapening the experience.

Maybe the difference is more about tone? I like Eberron, and that setting was explicitly built to hold everything 3.5 made, so it could just be that I have a problem with the Realms and Kyrnn specifically. Either way, it's 100% subjective.

NichG
2012-09-14, 08:05 PM
You know, I've never even thought of the "Hogfather theory of creation" that you're suggesting there. I actually really like the concept of that; have a setting where magic practically suffuses every bit of the plane (but is not necessarily plainly present or accessible) and have it react to enough unconscious/subconscious belief to convert thought into actual reality. Mind if I use it?

I didn't come up with it I'm afraid :smallsmile:. This was actually the canon explanation in 2ed D&D, at least for the Planescape setting which was sort of the meta-setting that was supposed to combine all settings.

Frozen_Feet
2012-09-14, 08:19 PM
My problem with "all myths are true" is that it's illogical. People get mistaken. People forget details. People exaggerate. People lie or fabricate stories from wholecloth.

What versions stick around is not decided strictly by what is true, but what sounds plausible and is memorable. Quite often, real events are so arbitrary or implausible that people ignore them in favor of a more colourful, but at least partly false, narrative.

There's no reason whatsoever for this not to be true even if some supernatural elements of a setting are true. Even if dragons are real, it doesn't mean all tales told of dragons should be real.

This is something a lot of fantasy authors could improve on. In fantasy settings too, there should be things that are purely imaginary, or never have their truth value confirmed! It can also be more rewarding to perceptive and logical players when there's a natural explanation for an event despite in-game characters claiming that "a wizard did it".

As for "fantasy kitchen sink", my main problem is that every supernatural element you add takes away wonder from natural elements - but you can use 100% natural, real-life-physics-abiding things to convey a fantastic feel! Look at all weird, 100% non-magical animals on Earth. Chances are, many of your players have never seen some of them live, or perhaps have never even heard of them. But, as shown in another thread on this forum, it's hard to be impressed by the horror that is a rampaging hippo when every nook and corner is filled with dragons, ghosts, oozes, demons and goblins. As the number of fantastic elements increases, the less applicable real-world knowledge is, and in my experience, players can even become less thinking of the setting as a result! They start accepting every weird thing as "magic" (etc.), no longer prying into their real reasons or coming up with imaginative solutions.

Tanuki Tales
2012-09-14, 08:40 PM
As for "fantasy kitchen sink", my main problem is that every supernatural element you add takes away wonder from natural elements - but you can use 100% natural, real-life-physics-abiding things to convey a fantastic feel! Look at all weird, 100% non-magical animals on Earth. Chances are, many of your players have never seen some of them live, or perhaps have never even heard of them. But, as shown in another thread on this forum, it's hard to be impressed by the horror that is a rampaging hippo when every nook and corner is filled with dragons, ghosts, oozes, demons and goblins. As the number of fantastic elements increases, the less applicable real-world knowledge is, and in my experience, players can even become less thinking of the setting as a result! They start accepting every weird thing as "magic" (etc.), no longer prying into their real reasons or coming up with imaginative solutions.

I personally see the reason this happens not because of the existence of magic or the supernatural but because of the inherent power creep of leveling.

A hippo, for example, is a CR 5 creature, sharing that position with things like Trolls, Green Hags and Bearded Devils. So it keeps impressive company for it's bracket and is a threat to a certain degree for a stretch, but the thing that dooms it as a less than terrifying speed bump is the fact it's not sentient, so you need to make it magic to keep up since it can't accrue class levels.

So I guess you need to play E6 to give the mundane world the kind of fear inspiring awe that it has in the real world.

Jack of Spades
2012-09-14, 08:50 PM
I have a significant problem with this, actually.

1. Evolution operates at a literally sub-glacial pace, even for small changes.

2. Sapience is something that's actually really complicated and difficult to evolve.

Sapient minds can build technologies way, way faster than evolution can build new types of sapient minds from scratch. See the problem? The emergence of modern sapience would have to have happened basically simultaneously (and independently) to get the fantasy situation where you have dozens of intelligent species who live on the same planet (or even the same continent). The chances of this are ridiculously low. Otherwise the first one out of the gate would invent the technologies needed to conquer the world before the others would be able to fight back.

Of course this is irrelevant as most fantasy races don't evolve, they're created. Which introduces a bunch more problems when you think about how there are these extremely powerful deities who are operating more or less independently, or even worse, a single deity.

Well, if you think about it, there's not much difference logical-leap-wise between "All of these races evolved near-simultaneously on the geographic scale" and "An unseen god created all of these races." :smalltongue:

Although I was in no way attempting to endorse either of those logical leaps. I think the idea of more than a couple of sapient species rising on a planet and not destroying one another before they have any chance of creating civilization is a bit off to begin with. I mean, arguably we didn't manage to do it here in the real world (Homo sapiens and Neanderthals).

As I generally do, I was just trying to come up with a plausible-ish explanation. And that explanation started with the weird and mostly wrong assumption that somehow multiple sapient species arose on the planet in such a way that they didn't all kill one another immediately.

This is something a lot of fantasy authors could improve on. In fantasy settings too, there should be things that are purely imaginary, or never have their truth value confirmed! It can also be more rewarding to perceptive and logical players when there's a natural explanation for an event despite in-game characters claiming that "a wizard did it".
Fun thing to do: Say there's Dwarves in them hills, then warp what Dwarves are in such a way that the players' understanding of a Dwarf is obviously just folklore. The Dwarves in the hills may be short and vaguely humanoid, but who says they don't have probosces or something? It's your setting, weird it up.

Oh, but make sure any and all weird is explainable. That's a deal-breaker for a lot of people.

Gamer Girl
2012-09-14, 09:45 PM
I am a huge supporter of the Big World idea. I love the idea of a truly infinite multiverse full of more things then anyone knows about anywhere anytime anyhow.

I really don't like the small world idea, such as Dragonlance, Middle Earth or Ebberon. The idea that the whole world only has one evil city, so if you encounter an evil guy, then they must have automatically come from the evil city, as there is no other place for them to have come from. I hate where in the game, you travel 4,000 miles, and are attacked by a wizard with the spell burning hands exactly like the wizards 4,000 miles away cast. It's even worse when you end up on the 321st level of the Abyss and the demons there attack with burning hands.

This is why I have always loved the Forgotten Realms, the setting is big enough to hold everything. FR has a good 200+ gods (pre 4E when they pandered to the 'others' and killed off 99% of the gods to make things easier for the FR haters to play in the Realms).

nedz
2012-09-14, 09:58 PM
Well the thing about the Kitchen Sink TM is that you need only use a sub-set of the available options, in fact that's pretty much obligatory.

Moreover: if you wish to support exploration of the setting, then you get to do reveals on things which were hidden. Most players enjoy setting exploration, in one form or another.

All Myths are True does seem something of a fallacy since you can never fit the whole Kitchen Sink TM into any actual game, its just to large.

I think it comes down to game style.
If you want to run a Culture style space opera, or a Sigil style plane hopping game then settings which approach All Myths are True can work; but if you want a more detailed game which explores cultures or eco-systems then less is far more.

QuidEst
2012-09-15, 09:53 AM
I like a little bit of a Lewis-Carrol vibe… you run into creatures or people that are unique. They don't have a species because it's just them. How'd they get there? Maybe it's a side-plane where things get shunted off, or perhaps they just pop into being in the middle of forests every so often. Maybe they've always been there, and just don't remember that far back. Sure, it doesn't make much sense, but it's fun when you can run into weird stuff. For the sake of DM sanity and general coherence, there might be a common race/species or two that makes up a lot of the population, but they've run into enough odd things that a talking six-legged cat can still do business in a village or city.

Mark Hall
2012-09-15, 11:25 AM
I don't object to worlds being huge, but I tend to stick with a subset of things. There may be 90 different kinds of humanoids, but chances are, you're just going get the same 4-6 types from me. There may be hundreds of varieties of undead (Dark Sun insisted that most major undead were unique), but I tend to use the favored few.

I like the kitchen sink because I can throw in the random ones from time to time... but I'm not forced to. It just gives my players more to consider as possibilities. "Yeah, chance are it's a vampire... but what other things MIGHT it be, because Mark likes to throw the occasional curve ball."

Conners
2012-09-15, 11:42 AM
What category does Conan and the like fall under? They generally have an endless supply of strange and new things, but you can't exactly catalogue them like in DnD.

TheThan
2012-09-15, 05:43 PM
What category does Conan and the like fall under? They generally have an endless supply of strange and new things, but you can't exactly catalogue them like in DnD.

Conan the barbarian (if that's the Conan you mean) falls under the genre of Sword and Sorcery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword_and_sorcery). Some people also refer to it as "pulp fantasy".

Prime32
2012-09-15, 06:22 PM
I really don't like the small world idea, such as Dragonlance, Middle Earth or Ebberon. The idea that the whole world only has one evil city, so if you encounter an evil guy, then they must have automatically come from the evil city, as there is no other place for them to have come from. I hate where in the game, you travel 4,000 miles, and are attacked by a wizard with the spell burning hands exactly like the wizards 4,000 miles away cast. It's even worse when you end up on the 321st level of the Abyss and the demons there attack with burning hands.

This is why I have always loved the Forgotten Realms, the setting is big enough to hold everything. FR has a good 200+ gods (pre 4E when they pandered to the 'others' and killed off 99% of the gods to make things easier for the FR haters to play in the Realms).I'm not sure what you mean about the "only one evil city"; Eberron has a lot of moral ambiguity. And FR still has the "everyone casts burning hands" thing. :smallconfused: While Eberron doesn't have as many gods, each religion is split into a huge number of competing sects.

Yukitsu
2012-09-15, 08:42 PM
Am running a Shin Megami Tensei campaign currently. There's no way I could capture that feel without having that trope in play.

Lord Raziere
2012-09-15, 09:31 PM
Me? I bathe in fantasy kitchen sink. I'm kinda disappointed that it isn't a fantasy kitchen sink. Feels like reality could've done better. I like the variety and menagerie-esque feel of it. I think what bothers people is having all this too concentrated one spot in the setting y'know? My fantasy kitchen sinks have all sorts of things, but I always make sure that most of the stuff, is like, separate.
There could be like for example, ten different vampires, but they are in like, ten different places in the cosmos far from each other, to the point where they don't know about each other and I can easily pick only one of them to use in a story you see, confine a story to only one specific type of vampire and such.

But mostly, I guess unlike most, I don't really like limits. When I look at other settings I always feel like they are a little sparse, like they are lacking variety.
That and I could not possibly allow options to go shut out for no reason. I like the variety, I like the chaos and such of fantasy kitchen sinks, cause to me thats how the real world is: full of chaos, full of variety and colors and whatnot, just too big and great to really pin down fully y'know? that and its fun considering how various different things from all parts of reality would react to each other and how people would live in such a highly fantastical place of magic and technology….

Jeff the Green
2012-09-16, 01:11 AM
I have a significant problem with this, actually.

1. Evolution operates at a literally sub-glacial pace, even for small changes.

2. Sapience is something that's actually really complicated and difficult to evolve.

Sapient minds can build technologies way, way faster than evolution can build new types of sapient minds from scratch. See the problem? The emergence of modern sapience would have to have happened basically simultaneously (and independently) to get the fantasy situation where you have dozens of intelligent species who live on the same planet (or even the same continent). The chances of this are ridiculously low. Otherwise the first one out of the gate would invent the technologies needed to conquer the world before the others would be able to fight back.


Well, if you think about it, there's not much difference logical-leap-wise between "All of these races evolved near-simultaneously on the geographic scale" and "An unseen god created all of these races." :smalltongue:

Although I was in no way attempting to endorse either of those logical leaps. I think the idea of more than a couple of sapient species rising on a planet and not destroying one another before they have any chance of creating civilization is a bit off to begin with. I mean, arguably we didn't manage to do it here in the real world (Homo sapiens and Neanderthals).

I've meant to address this, being trained as an evolutionary biologist, but it's taken a bit to collect my thoughts.

While sentience is certainly not going to be common in any world that has evolution by natural selection, it might not be as rare as you might think. Corvids (crows and their allies) and dolphins are certainly more intelligent than the score of 2 that D&D gives them, and to some anthropologists' minds, the only thing differentiating them and our ancestors is the fact that our ancestors had hands with which to make complicated tools, which gives a much larger incentive to produce language.

Moreover, the evolution of intelligence doesn't have to be independent. If it weren't for the fact that our ancestors were murderous, indiscriminately promiscuous cannibals, there would almost certainly be multiple more-or-less intelligent human subspecies, and the murderous/cannibalistic part isn't necessarily going to come up every time.

This is even more the case if we can get some geographical isolation going. Neanderthals and modern humans weren't strictly isolated; they were isolated by climate and distance. If you'd thrown up something like the Himalayas or an ocean between them, they would have independently evolved, possibly to the point of complete reproductive isolation (i.e. put two together and they can't/won't breed).

There's also the possibility, once you have a single intelligent species, of a few genes with large effects taking over. For example, all dog breeds are roughly the same and have the same intelligence, but it's possible to get such different shapes because of a few mutations in a few genes that have extraordinarily large effect. All you need is some sort of isolation—geographic is best, but cultural or just anatomical will do (I don't see a halfling woman surviving pregnancy with a half-human-half-halfling child)—and eventually there will be reproductive isolation.

TL;DR:
Multiple intelligent species/subspecies/breeds/races isn't all that far-fetched. It's unlikely, but so is the evolution of intelligence in the first place.

Blightedmarsh
2012-09-16, 06:05 AM
I like the thought of cultural and biological flexibility myself.

For example for example you could have Kappa, Bogart and Goblins. All three are just goblins but one lives in the woods, one a ruin and one in the water.

Then you could have one kind of vampire but with so many different combinations of possible abilities and vulnerabilities that is is plausible to the man in the streat that their are dozens of different breeds

Tanuki Tales
2012-09-16, 10:15 AM
I like the thought of cultural and biological flexibility myself.

For example for example you could have Kappa, Bogart and Goblins. All three are just goblins but one lives in the woods, one a ruin and one in the water.

Don't forget Kobolds if you're going that route. :smalltongue:


Then you could have one kind of vampire but with so many different combinations of possible abilities and vulnerabilities that is is plausible to the man in the streat that their are dozens of different breeds

American Vampire is one of my favorites because of the fact there are so many different breeds of vampires all existing on the same world and they play it the correct way.

Edit:

And Jeff's post is definitely one of my favorite posts I've read in a good long while on anything. :smallbiggrin:

joe
2012-09-17, 12:44 AM
When I first started up my campaign world (which is still and always evolving) I unloaded the "All Myths are True" specifically in regards to deities. It ended up becoming a convoluted mess pretty quickly.

I think there is definitely something to your "If the world is large enough" statement. My world is admittedly quite small, so that may have had something to do with the problem. I ran into a situation where the two PC clerics worshipped vastly different deities from different pantheons and the NPCs in my town were set with another completely different pantheon and deity. The whole thing became messy and I ended up just throwing that out the window and creating my own pantheon (though I built it largely around deities that myself and my players already had a fondness for, and there is some blatant expies in there.

As far as monsters and fantasy kitchen sink, I'm sort of on the fence there. The only creature I've ever placed an active "no" on is catfolk. I used to have a gaming group where half of them would only ever play catfolk if I hadn't, and no one else (myself included) wanted to deal with a party of cats. The humanoid races generally have their own kingdoms, or at very least cities within human kingdoms. If a creature doesn't exist in my world, it's more likely because I never thought to use the creature than anything else.

Jeff the Green
2012-09-17, 12:52 AM
And Jeff's post is definitely one of my favorite posts I've read in a good long while on anything. :smallbiggrin:

:smallredface: Why thank you. Mind if I (extended) sig this?

Blightedmarsh
2012-09-17, 05:04 AM
From a purely mechanical point of view there is the idea of applying size templates.

So a goblin is a goblinoid with a small template, with the meduim sized template its a hobgoblin and with the large template its a bugbear. Expanding this you could say that:

a halfling is a human with a small sized template.
a goliath is a human with a large template.
a dwalf is an orgre with a medium template.
a gnome is an elf with a small template.

From an in universe perspective this could be said to be the result of recesive genetics on isolated or endogomous population. IRL there are actual tribes of pygmees, the Massi Mari realy are that tall and we in the UK play host to the world highest percentage of redheads; it is not that far fetched.

Tanuki Tales
2012-09-17, 10:00 AM
:smallredface: Why thank you. Mind if I (extended) sig this?

Go right ahead. :smallsmile:


From a purely mechanical point of view there is the idea of applying size templates.

So a goblin is a goblinoid with a small template, with the meduim sized template its a hobgoblin and with the large template its a bugbear. Expanding this you could say that:

a halfling is a human with a small sized template.
a goliath is a human with a large template.
a dwalf is an orgre with a medium template.
a gnome is an elf with a small template.

From an in universe perspective this could be said to be the result of recesive genetics on isolated or endogomous population. IRL there are actual tribes of pygmees, the Massi Mari realy are that tall and we in the UK play host to the world highest percentage of redheads; it is not that far fetched.

That's actually an idea I'm following right now. Small amount of actual creatures and races at the beginning of things that either were knowingly warped into something new or slowly "evolved" into something new overtime. Add on a few new things either popping up or being made as time passes on as well, then having them warped or changed and I can see a more organic, if still varied, bestiary at a DM's and group's finger tips.

MukkTB
2012-09-17, 06:15 PM
I prefer settings where only a few kinds of magic are running around. Then you can explore their implications extensively. The kitchen sink takes a lot of processing to work out. When you work it out it's kind of disappointing. The natural result of a 3.5 kitchen sink is most likely the Tippyverse.

Gamer Girl
2012-09-17, 06:16 PM
I'm not sure what you mean about the "only one evil city"; Eberron has a lot of moral ambiguity. And FR still has the "everyone casts burning hands" thing. :smallconfused: While Eberron doesn't have as many gods, each religion is split into a huge number of competing sects.

Plenty of small time settings only have ''one evil city or country''. For example, in all of Middle Earth, only Mordor is evil.

FR does not have the "everyone casts burning hands" thing. One of the best things about the setting is the huge amount of magic it has, more so then any other setting. A common Underdark 1st level attack spell is hail of stone.

Water_Bear
2012-09-17, 06:28 PM
Plenty of small time settings only have ''one evil city or country''. For example, in all of Middle Earth, only Mordor is evil.

This does tend to happen a lot in fiction, but D&D settings need to handle such a vast array of humanoid and monster races that I can't recall anything like that in a published setting. Maybe Dragonlance, depending on how you read it.

Either way, Eberron has three or four vast continents full of dozens of nations each, each of which have at least three political factions and a half-dozen cities. Plus, with alignment rules loosened somewhat, even LG religious orders like the Church of the Silver Flame have high ranking Evil members.


FR does not have the "everyone casts burning hands" thing. One of the best things about the setting is the huge amount of magic it has, more so then any other setting. A common Underdark 1st level attack spell is hail of stone.

What edition are you talking about? I know 3e and 4e Faerun do not, in fact, have much in the way of regional changes in magic. Probably for the best, because I can't imagine that sort of system working well.

jseah
2012-09-17, 07:07 PM
As the number of fantastic elements increases, the less applicable real-world knowledge is, and in my experience, players can even become less thinking of the setting as a result! They start accepting every weird thing as "magic" (etc.), no longer prying into their real reasons or coming up with imaginative solutions.
I would like to throw Sanderson's First Law (http://brandonsanderson.com/article/40/Sandersons-First-Law) at you.

The main reason why players never pry into the underlying explanations for fantastic occurances (why exactly are there fey in the forest?) is that they instinctively know that those explanations don't exist.

The same way why players don't ask why they can't just waggle their fingers and do magic. (substitute for lower level questions if your system explains this)

Simply put, they don't pry because we have been exposed to systems that contain no deeper explanation beyond what is needed for presentation. FAR too many systems do this, IMO.

"All myths are true" only excarbates this process. When you have one magic (say, telekinesis), you can spend lots of effort to go into incredible detail. When you have hundreds of magics (fireballs, telekinesis, scry, teleport; dwarves, elves, fey, demons, gods; etc.) going into the same detail for all of them would generate the setting equivalent of the encyclopedia brittanica, and be just as useful (meaning not at all).

It reduces the game to "playing tourist" and maybe "big game hunter". EDIT: 's a bit more complicated than that I admit because those things are sentient; but essentially it comes down to that. Unless your players feel like trying to play a human stuck in fey society.


For reference, most of my games I run tend to focus on a few core races. I run elves, humans, dwarves and gnomes exactly like I would run it if all of them were human; but D&D players would revolt if they had to all be human.
with mystical animals maybe playing only a bit part like a zoo animal or a particularly dangerous pet.

nedz
2012-09-18, 05:24 AM
Plenty of small time settings only have ''one evil city or country''. For example, in all of Middle Earth, only Mordor is evil.


Angbad (but that's First Age, so serial "one evil empire")

Dol Gulder, Isenguard (but these are Mordor franchises)

Dragons (Smaug, Ancalath)

The Evil tree in the Old Forest

Barrow Wights

Balrog in Moria

Cirith Umbar

There's plenty of evil stuff around, but only one Dark Lord.
Since the plot is that the DL is trying to create an evil empire then he is going to try and control all of this stuff.

Gamer Girl
2012-09-18, 08:02 AM
What edition are you talking about? I know 3e and 4e Faerun do not, in fact, have much in the way of regional changes in magic. Probably for the best, because I can't imagine that sort of system working well.

Any FR but 4th! My magic example of hail of stone was from 3E. It would be too easy for me to make the case with 2E as 2E was beyond awesome with kitchen skin sort of stuff.

Blightedmarsh
2012-09-18, 12:19 PM
There is uncountably a wealth of urban legends, folklore and mythologies out there to draw on and we would be fools to ignore it it carries certain caveats:

1) No world is anywhere near big enough to accommodate all of whats out there in any sort of reasonable fashion (less kitchen sink more fantasy gumbo).

2) Many creatures/stories are derived from certain archetypes or from an older common source. Examples include the tales of the great flood and virtualy all of the ancient Mediterranean love goddesses.

Whilst it may be tempting to use only the standout/iconic or coolest elements of a mythos their are also certain problems with this also.

1) some things just don't make sense out of context.
2) some things have been done almost to death in popular culture; attempts to re imagine them can lead a certain amount of fan hate ("sparkly" is all I have to say on that particular subject).

I would propose a small number of viable workarounds.

1) As stated many myths share a common achetype. Distill the essence of this myths and draw your inspiration from that.

2) Use one or two less well known or understood mythosses almost wholesale (for example traditional Polynesian religion or Korean folklore).

3) Pick and mix from a wide variates of sources and:
a) Use an unfamiliar interpretation of a classic story (fairy tales with "elderich"[=elvish] abominations). A good workaround for the obligatory overused classic.
b) Use unfamiliar monsters.
c) Think about how such creatures and cultures would work in universe, what the wider implications of this mean. Then apply the lesson for a more believable beastie. (NotLD style zombie uprisings have extensive implications for civic planning and would lead to the widespread adoption of cremation).

Think carefully about power levels and about what you can use from nature. 9000+ may be the ultimate rule of cool but it can be a deal breaker for immersion.

the following statement is a tangential brain fart and should in no way be coincided a reflection of reality. Please note that if it does reflect reality as you see it then you should consult your nearest available doctor, psychologist and/or exorcist immediately

If a unarmed human PC can go toe to toe with an orc but would be ripped to shreds by a lion then surely a lion should be able to make mincemeat out of said orc.

A bear can kill a man with a single blow IRL, armor or not. If a troll can do the same then does that mean that a troll and a bear are the same strength? (Troll Vs. Bear: Fracas in the forest

Dolphins: intelligent, social, friendly and evil. Why include or invent a race just so your BBEG can be one when a magic super dolphin will do. Trust me when I say that they will never see it coming.

Frozen_Feet
2012-09-18, 12:47 PM
I would like to throw Sanderson's First Law (http://brandonsanderson.com/article/40/Sandersons-First-Law) at you.

I've read that article before, though I did not recall it when I joined this discussion. I have my own thoughts on what "magic" should be and why people often have paradoxical opinions on it, but that's not very on-topic.

I agree with you; too many settings go from where the fence is shortest, and use poorly-defined elements to explain way too many things. This leads to a shallow world where logic and deep thinking are discouraged, which lessens design space for suitable stories.



A bear can kill a man with a single blow IRL, armor or not.

The guy who made anti-bear armour and tested them personally would like to have a word with you. :smalltongue:

Blightedmarsh
2012-09-18, 01:08 PM
The guy who made anti-bear armour and tested them personally would like to have a word with you. :smalltongue:

Well if it the same guy I was thinking of the armor is less a practical suit and more a walking tank. Cost him his solvency, marriage and didn't sell. I did hear he was dead but am unable to confirm this.

back on topic. Everyone has their own ideas on how things should be. Might be a good idea to be vague or open to alternate interpretations and let your players fill in the blanks (or is that just lazy DMing)

Doxkid
2012-09-18, 02:26 PM
If you look long enough and search far enough in my campaigns, you'll eventually find everything.

Swordsmen Imps, Barbarian Solars, archmage Oozes...of course you'll only find one or two odd beings in any 100 mile radius, but beyond that there is something stranger hiding behind a tree.

A thousand miles beyond that there is a Balor who has actually fallen in love with said tree. A plane over and a little to the left an epic Wizard has devoted their entire life to breeding a particular variety of beetles which have no practical, mystical or combat abilities whatsoever.

Beyond that? Who knows. If you allow for everything, but curve strange appearances so X will only show up where it would make sense you can include the whole kitchen sink without having a fey-touched, Half illithid Hullathoin watching you from inside your pantry.

Water_Bear
2012-09-18, 06:15 PM
Any FR but 4th! My magic example of hail of stone was from 3E. It would be too easy for me to make the case with 2E as 2E was beyond awesome with kitchen skin sort of stuff.

Now I'm confused, because I know that spell in 3.5e. Anyone can cast that, not just people from the Underdark. In fact, as a 5ft radius 40ft high cylinder, it is least effective in tunnels; Hail of Stone is best against vertical stacks of flying enemies.

Is your point that people in different regions are more likely to use certain spells for cultural reasons? I've never heard that before.

nedz
2012-09-18, 09:11 PM
FR does not have the "everyone casts burning hands" thing. One of the best things about the setting is the huge amount of magic it has, more so then any other setting. A common Underdark 1st level attack spell is hail of stone.

"everyone casts burning hands" is just unimaginative DMing.
Its so easy to re-fluff, if you want to, so that everyone in the far north does Freezing Hands; not that this is very imaginative even.

Part of the problem is the focus on char-op, there being only so many good spells at a certain level. DM's do not need to have NPCs always take the best spells. But then we hit the Stormwind wall: if "burning hands" is the most effective spell then why are the NPC's not using it ?

Personally I always try to have NPC casters use different spells. Either ones appropriate to their culture/tradition or, more often, I make all of their spells fit a chosen theme. This also makes things more interesting for the players as every wizard is not the same, and they need to react to the new challenge. Which incidental is one of the reasons I prefer Sorcerers to Wizards: the discipline of having fewer options promotes more creativity.

I can't answer for other DMs though.

NichG
2012-09-19, 04:41 AM
Now I'm confused, because I know that spell in 3.5e. Anyone can cast that, not just people from the Underdark. In fact, as a 5ft radius 40ft high cylinder, it is least effective in tunnels; Hail of Stone is best against vertical stacks of flying enemies.

Is your point that people in different regions are more likely to use certain spells for cultural reasons? I've never heard that before.

More that the world is big enough that people living in one place have not heard about spells used in another.

2ed's equivalent of Spell Compendium was a 4-book set that listed next to each spell a setting, rarity, and region when applicable. People in, say, Cormyr wouldn't know about Halruan spells or Chultian spells or whatnot.

No reason you can't do the same in 3.5. There are a bunch of regional splatbooks for 3.5 FR, so the mapping isn't hard.

Tyndmyr
2012-09-19, 10:20 AM
A bear can kill a man with a single blow IRL, armor or not.

I personally knew a guy who beat down a charging bear with a length of 2x4.

Now, I'm not saying this is a GOOD idea, but you may be overestimating bears a tad.

Jack of Spades
2012-09-19, 03:21 PM
I personally knew a guy who beat down a charging bear with a length of 2x4.

Now, I'm not saying this is a GOOD idea, but you may be overestimating bears a tad.

Fun fact: Bears will kill you, if they can get a hit or two in.

Fun-er (but less PETA-acceptable) fact: People are often faster (over extreme distances) and more agile than bears, if a lot weaker. Plus, we know how to hit things in the face with 2x4's. Hence the fact that early man made it onto the savannah without being eaten by lions immediately.

Your buddy won initiative and got in a crit. Had it gone the other way around, and your friend had been unarmed, there's a good chance he would have died.

Game-logic rationalizer, awaaaaaay! *Flies away on a rainbow of cobbled-together half-logic*


Part of the problem is the focus on char-op, there being only so many good spells at a certain level. DM's do not need to have NPCs always take the best spells. But then we hit the Stormwind wall: if "burning hands" is the most effective spell then why are the NPC's not using it ?

Erm, because they didn't have the benefit of splatbooks neatly listing every spell ever invented and no-one they know has bothered to figure the spell out the hard way....? :smallconfused:

Blightedmarsh
2012-09-20, 12:23 AM
I wont deny that humans are in terms of cunning and ingenuity; second to none with a mean streak that wont be beat. But for our size we are one of the squishiest creatures to walk the face of the planet (or perhaps that just fear of our own mortality speaking); hence the need for all the cunning.

My point is that DMs when building DnD critters should take natures yardsticks into consideration. People have a primal fear of the power of large or dangerous animals that you can freely play off of (come from tens of thousands of years of people being the decedents of people who had a respect for and caution of large powerful animals).

It doesn't have to be at the extreme end of the scale either.

Otters: Bite strong enough to take your fingers off.
Horses: powerful, skittish and potential dangerous when startled.
Boar: Aggressive and tough. No hunter worth his salt would have taken one lightly once upon a time.

Then you factor in crocodiles. I saw a video of a Nile crock steeling a kill of an entire pride of lions, their claws couldn't get through its scales. In game crocs should get some crazy DR.

Now think about it laterally. If a troll or a bear is an order of magnitude more powerful that any unbuffed human will ever be that should guide player into a different aproch when it comes to tacking one. It should also shape the in universe attitudes of characters towards them.

Now imagine the scenario, you and your party are out hunting for something thats killing all the livestock. You find the body of a mauled lion; how powerful must this thing be (seriously; if you build hype you've got to at least try to live up to it)?

AgentofHellfire
2012-09-21, 03:46 PM
What would be really fun is a twist on the standard "...but there's a secret organization that prevents people from knowing about them" addition to that.

Rather than it just being that normal humans can't see any of the magical races, have it so that only members of the same magical race can see you as a member of that race. So that, basically, there are a whole lot of magical beings thinking that they secretly prey on the rest of the world, but in actual fact...XD

Of course, you'd have to do a lot of justifying to prevent the whole question of "well, what happened when they fought each other?" from ruining it, and tthis only works in modern settings, but...

NichG
2012-09-21, 06:24 PM
What would be really fun is a twist on the standard "...but there's a secret organization that prevents people from knowing about them" addition to that.

Rather than it just being that normal humans can't see any of the magical races, have it so that only members of the same magical race can see you as a member of that race. So that, basically, there are a whole lot of magical beings thinking that they secretly prey on the rest of the world, but in actual fact...XD

Of course, you'd have to do a lot of justifying to prevent the whole question of "well, what happened when they fought each other?" from ruining it, and tthis only works in modern settings, but...

A variation on this might be a layered universe kind of cosmology. Imagine it something like this:

The human soul is one of the only things in the multiverse that simultaneously exists in some form across all the layers. Everything else lives only on its own layer, each layer being a shadow of the others and of the material world that lies beneath. This is why you often find humans being turned into various kinds of mythological creatures - undead, lycanthropes, etc. It is because a creature living on one of the layers pulled on the part of a human soul that passed too near, separating it off from the rest of its continuity and creating a fragment. The myths that a human bitten by a vampire turns into a vampire, a human bitten by a lycanthrope turns into a lycanthrope, etc are wrong. Instead, the human loses the part of themselves that belongs to that entity's layer, and that fragment becomes an independent existence, a shadow version of that person that lives only in its layer.

Humans are preyed upon not because they are particularly nourishing or necessary for survival for these supernatural creatures. They're preyed upon because they are the only way for beings to communicate and manipulate things that exist on the other layers. The predator gets a fragment of a soul that at least once spanned the layers (and depending on their methods, may still do so in some ways or others), allowing them to interact with that which is immediately above or below them, at least for a time. And its advantageous to be able to make deals with beings that your bretheren cannot perceive or interact with, but which can perceive or interact with them - the perfect spies.

So in something like that, you might have a separate layer for each mythology. Each layer has its own creation story, which are all simultaneously true (each layer was created that way) even if none of them correspond to things about the material world. Certain events or conditions weaken the separation between layers, allowing interaction - large amounts of human death being the most common case.

Now that I've written it, it sounds vaguely White Wolf.

Jack of Spades
2012-09-22, 08:20 AM
What would be really fun is a twist on the standard "...but there's a secret organization that prevents people from knowing about them" addition to that.

Rather than it just being that normal humans can't see any of the magical races, have it so that only members of the same magical race can see you as a member of that race. So that, basically, there are a whole lot of magical beings thinking that they secretly prey on the rest of the world, but in actual fact...XD

Of course, you'd have to do a lot of justifying to prevent the whole question of "well, what happened when they fought each other?" from ruining it, and tthis only works in modern settings, but...


The other problem (if you think of it as a problem) is that eventually Roddy Piper shows up in sunglasses and starts punching people.... :smallbiggrin:

Tanuki Tales
2012-09-28, 02:52 PM
A variation on this might be a layered universe kind of cosmology. Imagine it something like this:

The human soul is one of the only things in the multiverse that simultaneously exists in some form across all the layers. Everything else lives only on its own layer, each layer being a shadow of the others and of the material world that lies beneath. This is why you often find humans being turned into various kinds of mythological creatures - undead, lycanthropes, etc. It is because a creature living on one of the layers pulled on the part of a human soul that passed too near, separating it off from the rest of its continuity and creating a fragment. The myths that a human bitten by a vampire turns into a vampire, a human bitten by a lycanthrope turns into a lycanthrope, etc are wrong. Instead, the human loses the part of themselves that belongs to that entity's layer, and that fragment becomes an independent existence, a shadow version of that person that lives only in its layer.

Humans are preyed upon not because they are particularly nourishing or necessary for survival for these supernatural creatures. They're preyed upon because they are the only way for beings to communicate and manipulate things that exist on the other layers. The predator gets a fragment of a soul that at least once spanned the layers (and depending on their methods, may still do so in some ways or others), allowing them to interact with that which is immediately above or below them, at least for a time. And its advantageous to be able to make deals with beings that your bretheren cannot perceive or interact with, but which can perceive or interact with them - the perfect spies.

So in something like that, you might have a separate layer for each mythology. Each layer has its own creation story, which are all simultaneously true (each layer was created that way) even if none of them correspond to things about the material world. Certain events or conditions weaken the separation between layers, allowing interaction - large amounts of human death being the most common case.

Now that I've written it, it sounds vaguely White Wolf.

I hate to say that you've completely lost me here. I'm not exactly sure what you've said.

NichG
2012-09-28, 04:46 PM
I hate to say that you've completely lost me here. I'm not exactly sure what you've said.

Imagine a separate copy of the world for each supernatural type, layered in your usual parallel dimension kind of picture. Now imagine that some part of humans in particular exists simultaneously in all of these worlds. Supernaturals in each world would see this part of humans as moving shadows, will-o-wisps, whatever. They might even be able to interact with them (giving the human a 'chill' or a 'bad vibe' on the material plane).

By taking this part of the human, a supernatural creature in one world can use it to interact with the worlds above and below it (because it exists in both of those too). But taking that part of a human removes some aspect from them, depending on what world that part was stolen from.

If a mogwump steals a human's soul, the human becomes incapable of charity. If a vampire steals a human's soul, the human becomes incapable of vitality and direction, and turns into a walking zombie. And so on.

This process of 'taking' could be actual consumption for some supernatural creatures, but in other cases it could actually just be ripping that part of the person free and creating a new entity. So the mogwump creates a kind of one-dimensional human by ripping out that section of soul, which then exists in its spiritual realm and goes on and does stuff there. However, it is made almost entirely out of whatever the original human loses, so you have these charitable spirits running around.

It would make sense for fae/oni/etc to steal a person's sense of self and memory, which would lead to the person literally experiencing being abducted into a supernatural realm. If they ever merged back with their original soul, they would recall a fantastical voyage to an alien realm. Your basic supernatural abduction stories.

Nyes the Dark
2012-10-01, 03:12 PM
I feel that, if done well, a kitchen-sink style story can be incredibly fun. You never know what you will find, and you can get very creative with monsters.

Tanuki Tales
2012-10-02, 01:11 PM
Imagine a separate copy of the world for each supernatural type, layered in your usual parallel dimension kind of picture. Now imagine that some part of humans in particular exists simultaneously in all of these worlds. Supernaturals in each world would see this part of humans as moving shadows, will-o-wisps, whatever. They might even be able to interact with them (giving the human a 'chill' or a 'bad vibe' on the material plane).

By taking this part of the human, a supernatural creature in one world can use it to interact with the worlds above and below it (because it exists in both of those too). But taking that part of a human removes some aspect from them, depending on what world that part was stolen from.

If a mogwump steals a human's soul, the human becomes incapable of charity. If a vampire steals a human's soul, the human becomes incapable of vitality and direction, and turns into a walking zombie. And so on.

This process of 'taking' could be actual consumption for some supernatural creatures, but in other cases it could actually just be ripping that part of the person free and creating a new entity. So the mogwump creates a kind of one-dimensional human by ripping out that section of soul, which then exists in its spiritual realm and goes on and does stuff there. However, it is made almost entirely out of whatever the original human loses, so you have these charitable spirits running around.

It would make sense for fae/oni/etc to steal a person's sense of self and memory, which would lead to the person literally experiencing being abducted into a supernatural realm. If they ever merged back with their original soul, they would recall a fantastical voyage to an alien realm. Your basic supernatural abduction stories.

Oooh. Yeah, that's more precise and sounds pretty neat.

You could also explore the "Humans are Cthulhu" trope with that kind of set up, since humans are the only thing that exists on all the layers simultaneously.