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Quiver
2016-09-21, 12:14 PM
So. I'm just curious, how strict should game and setting lore be admired to when creating characters?

On the one hand... I get it. I get wanting to keep things authentic and fit into the game world. Having strict lore helps with that.

On the other hand, I think you can build interesting characters by breaking it in fun ways. What circumstances led to X doing Y, kinda?

Koo Rehtorb
2016-09-21, 01:12 PM
I'm going to quote a section of a rulebook here:


The GM proposes a game without magic, there's always that one player who's got to play the last mage. And you know what? That's good. Before the game has even started, we have a spark of conflict—we have the player getting involved in shaping the situation. Discuss the situation as you present your character concept. Tie them both together—a dying world without magic, the last mage, the quest to restore the land. In one volley of discussion you've got an epic in the making.

Mechalich
2016-09-21, 01:36 PM
That's terrible advice - as is pretty much any advice that deliberately promotes conflict between the players and the GM.

Breaking a setting so that your character can be some kind of special snowflake exemption is a poor idea, because it weakens the setting and elevates your character to a position of greater status compared to other characters that are mundane and in line with setting lore. The 'last mage in the world' for example, is automatically the focus of whatever campaign he takes part in, and his or her companions - which are here represented by other players - are reduced in importance.

Now if a setting does not include some lore element you feel you'd want to play, then it is possible to have discussions with a GM about adding that element to the setting. Some settings are more flexible than others. For example, back-porting almost any Pathfinder origin race into the Forgotten Realms isn't going to hurt much. If you want to play a Goblin-Monkey from Maztica you're just another weird humanoid far from home. By contrast, doing the same thing in Dark Sun, where racial presence is tightly controlled and the setting was shaped by a complex series of extermination campaigns, is extremely dicey.

JeenLeen
2016-09-21, 02:59 PM
I think it depends on the setting (itself dependent on the game) and the group.

On Setting
For some games, like World of Darkness or Exalted, the setting is rather integral. While a character can certainly be exceptional, breaking an established thing of how reality works potentially matters a lot, especially if you want NPCs to react realistically to the PC and want an internally-consistent metaphysics.

For others, and I picture most D&D games like this, it's probably fine. If the default setting is 'quasi-medieval fantasy', than adding some strange elements doesn't really matter. (Though I can picture a well fleshed-out D&D setting where 'breaking the setting' would be disruptive.)

On Group
I think it's not a problem to 'break' part of the setting as long as it doesn't bug the group. DM isn't ticked off at the abnormality, other players don't feel overshadowed, etc. This incorporates the 'on setting' aspects, since one player might get bugged if an exception breaks verisimilitude, while another wouldn't care.

If it does cause problems, then probably best not to allow the exception.

Contrast
2016-09-21, 03:31 PM
The GM proposes a game without magic, there's always that one player who's got to play the last mage. And you know what? That's good. Before the game has even started, we have a spark of conflict—we have the player getting involved in shaping the situation. Discuss the situation as you present your character concept. Tie them both together—a dying world without magic, the last mage, the quest to restore the land. In one volley of discussion you've got an epic in the making.

I think the key here is the 'discuss the situation as you present your character concept'. If you have a character concept which doesn't fit in with the campaign setting, ask the DM and be prepared for the DM to say no to elements. You want to play the last mage in a magicless campaign? Are you happy for your character to be a crazy person or to have his goals be completely unachievable? If not, try something else.

Point being, the same as any homebrew or alternative thing you might ask for - it's fine to ask but be prepared to discuss it with the DM and come prepared with an alternative that does stick to the requirements in case you and the DM can't reach a consensus. There are an infinite number of characters out there so just because you can't play a particular one, it isn't the end of the world.

Grod_The_Giant
2016-09-21, 03:43 PM
I mean, ultimately, as with most things in RPGs...

On Group
I think it's not a problem to 'break' part of the setting as long as it doesn't bug the group. DM isn't ticked off at the abnormality, other players don't feel overshadowed, etc. This incorporates the 'on setting' aspects, since one player might get bugged if an exception breaks verisimilitude, while another wouldn't care.

If it does cause problems, then probably best not to allow the exception.
It comes down to "what the group will tolerate."

Now me, personally? The most important thing, I think, is that the idea fits the setting's flavor. The exact cannon is less important than the feel. You want to be a time-lost gunslinger in an Eberron game? Sure; that's about the right level of gritty pulp to fit in with the rest of the group. You want to be a four-color superhero? Nope-- entirely different themes and styles, even if the power level fits somehow.

Yora
2016-09-21, 03:57 PM
Player characters are always unusual and in no way representative of the common population of the place where the campaign is taking place.

But in any game I run PCs can only be constructed of things that exist in that world. There are no dwarves so you can't be a dwarf. There are no clerics, so you can't be a cleric.

My campaigns always use a whitelist for character options. I make a list of all races and classes that exist in the setting and those are the only ones players can take. And unless I feel like I want to make another race or class an important part of the setting that's it.

VoxRationis
2016-09-21, 04:18 PM
Player characters are always unusual and in no way representative of the common population of the place where the campaign is taking place.

See, I disagree wholeheartedly with the "PCs are exceptions to everything" mentality. I see it as an excuse to spit in the face of whoever made the setting and enable both highly self-absorbed roleplaying and little-to-no-roleplay min-maxing (obviously not with the same characters/at the same time). PCs shouldn't be like the vast majority of NPCs, yes, but that's because 95% of people in the setting don't even have anything remotely like the skills necessary to adventure (or whatever it is the game's about). But PCs can easily be representative of the subsets of society that do have those skills (particularly at the beginning of the game, before their exceptional circumstances begin to affect their outlooks on life). There's absolutely nothing wrong, and there's much that is right, with having an elf who embodies the values and practices of elven society in that setting.
Your medieval knight shouldn't be a transgender republican who's trying to pioneer sanitary practices in field medicine; they should reflect the society they grew up in. Even if they're rejecting parts of that society, other parts of it should be coloring their thinking, even altering the ways in which they reject that society—and they're likely to cleave strictly to their origins in other ways.

And that's to say nothing of races, classes, or race/class combinations which are disruptive of in-setting metaphysics.

Âmesang
2016-09-21, 04:19 PM
I like cross-planar adventures, and if a FORGOTTEN REALMS® character wound up in WORLD OF GREYHAWK® that could lead to an interesting turn of advents that can add to a sandbox adventure (such as a drow travelling from one Underdark to another via a Plane of Shadow-based portal, or a shade investigating the Suel Imperium to try and find Zol Darklock).

…with that said, I refuse to believe that every Common-tongue is coincidentally the same. :smalltongue: Honestly I'm surprised so many monsters speak the Common tongue (especially in WORLD OF GREYHAWK® where the Great Empire of Aerdy, the originator of "Oerthen Common," only covered a small portion of the planet*). The Magic Item Compendium's pearl of speech helps alleviate that for mid-level and higher cross-planar characters who don't want to spend skill points on Speak Language.

I guess the key thing, for me, is that an usual character should be possible… so long as that character has a really good backstory; otherwise you end up with an Elf Only Inn (http://www.elfonlyinn.net/d/20020523.html) situation.

*Although the Thalosians of Western Oerik, from Chainmail, worship Oeridian gods (Stern Alia, mother of Heironeous and Hextor, and their brother, Stratis), and from my understanding the people of Aquaria are of Oeridan descent… add to the fact that the name is similar to Oerik (continent) and Oerth (planet), and it would seem their influence spread fairly wide; DRAGON #286 also offers some further backstory to Ahmut's Legion from Chainmail, linking him with a tribe of horse-riders called the "Baklien"—a name very similar to the Flanaess' "Baklunish," also known for their horsemen. Since "Oerthen Common" is derived from Oeridan and Baklunish, one could assume that those people who traveled eastward into the Flanaess were only a portion of the total people, the bulk of the remainder traveling into Western Oerik (which says nothing for the Oeridans and/or Baklunish that remained in Central Oerik in and around the Celestial Imperium of Shaofeng).

…then again, after watching a lot of Star Trek and TNG this year, I'm wondering what Stardate did English become so common around the galaxy? Or are universal translators that cheap?

bulbaquil
2016-09-21, 04:49 PM
Setting lore is ironclad and trumps everything, up to and including basic logic.

If there are no catfolk in the setting, then there are no catfolk in the setting, no matter how badly you want to play a catfolk. If a species somehow managed to invent a FTL-capable starship before they mastered steam power, then they did, regardless of how illogical or implausible it is.

But in greater seriousness: Like most things in TRPGs, it depends on what the group feels about it. Your group's collective philosophy may differ from someone else's. And that's fine.

draken50
2016-09-21, 05:32 PM
I feel like characters should fit that which is outlined.

If the world has never had magic and there ins't going to be any it's BS to be a mage. Then that player gets whiny when the bad guys use any tactics to neutralize him because "They don't know how to fight mages because he's the only one."

That being said, I do think that templates can be altered to play the kind of character a player wants to play. No dwarves in your campaign? How about character comes from a line of quarry workers, so you can use similar stats or whatever you just aren't a "dwarf."

You might want to play Roland the gunslinger, doesn't mean you get to drop a guy with a pair of revolvers into a game set on the sword coast. Just as you don't need to throw a druid whose primary goal is to protect the natural wild into a metropolis based intrigue game. Or a pacifist diplomat into a kick down the door dungeon crawl.

veti
2016-09-21, 05:58 PM
That's terrible advice - as is pretty much any advice that deliberately promotes conflict between the players and the GM.

Breaking a setting so that your character can be some kind of special snowflake exemption is a poor idea, because it weakens the setting and elevates your character to a position of greater status compared to other characters that are mundane and in line with setting lore. The 'last mage in the world' for example, is automatically the focus of whatever campaign he takes part in, and his or her companions - which are here represented by other players - are reduced in importance.

Personally, I would have zero problem in that scenario letting the player play a mage whose spells just don't work. Because there's no magic in the world, I told you that up front, and you chose to play a lunatic who doesn't accept that fact.

But in answer to the thread question: only your DM can answer this, it's their world and they know more about what does/doesn't/should/shouldn't exist in it than you do, even if you've read the setting notes three times. There is no generalised answer.

Mark Hall
2016-09-21, 07:43 PM
"How breakable is physics?"

Generally, I would divide setting lore into three categories, in descending order of breakability:

Legends: Events out of living or common memory. These things can break pretty easily. There was once a period of time when the world was ruled by dragons? Nope. Propaganda spread by the Giants, who claimed they were ruling the lesser races to protect them from the dragons. Darth Vader had a secret apprentice before ANH, that he used in a plot against the Emperor.

History: Events in living or common memory. These things tend to break around the edges. Sure, King Azoun led the crusade which turned by the Tuigan Horde, but he couldn't have done it without an intrepid band of adventurers you never heard of. Or, even, "How did Princess Leia get the plans to the Death Star in the first place"?

Physics: This stuff doesn't break unless the GM wants it to. There are no elves. The Old Ones are horrific demon-gods who want to devour the world. There is a Dark Side to the Force which can corrupt people who chase its power.

So, you might make a character whose concept pushes the boundaries of legends very easily... I had a gnome who found an explicit reference to the lost gnomish goddesses, and was adventuring to find them. History is a bit harder to break, but you can push it around the edges... you're an acquaintance of a major figure, you were involved in a historical event, etc. But Physics? Breaking physics is nigh-impossible, and it only does so because the DM wants to allow that bit of physics to break.

Quertus
2016-09-21, 09:29 PM
If the world has never had magic and there ins't going to be any it's BS to be a mage. Then that player gets whiny when the bad guys use any tactics to neutralize him because "They don't know how to fight mages because he's the only one."

Well, yeah, that's total b.s. and bad role-playing on the DM's part to have the enemies act as if they know the unknowable.


Personally, I would have zero problem in that scenario letting the player play a mage whose spells just don't work. Because there's no magic in the world, I told you that up front, and you chose to play a lunatic who doesn't accept that fact.

That, on the other hand, is perfectly reasonable.

Also, on a related note, I've played the "not from around here" guy whose power source (magic, the gods, whatever) was inaccessible. Great times.

Knaight
2016-09-21, 09:30 PM
It depends. Even ignoring group variation, not every aspect of a setting is equally defined or equally important. Not everything that isn't defined as in a setting actually clashes with it.

Personally, I tend to have a lot of setting flexibility, with the variability a bit more prominent in less serious campaigns. These settings also have absolutely ironclad aspects which are key to the whole feel and which I won't budge on.

Vitruviansquid
2016-09-21, 10:26 PM
The way I think of it is the setting is not breakable. You simply cannot and should not have a character that does not in the in the setting.

That said, all settings should be crafted to be playable. You really shouldn't play DnD 4e, for example, with some weirdo setting that somehow disallows all Leaders or all Defenders.

Most settings should also allow a fairly large variety of characters, or allow a wide variety of character concepts to be refluffed.

Darth Ultron
2016-09-21, 11:32 PM
So. I'm just curious, how strict should game and setting lore be admired to when creating characters?



It does depend on the type of game being played. If the setting is very specific, like Chicago in the 1920's then your just being a jerk by saying ''why can't my cyborg ninja assassin come through a time portal?''

If the game setting is big enough for a whole world, then you should not have too much of any problems. Your character might be a ''fish out of water'', but they would still ''not break'' the setting. For example, you could be a drow character in a group of otherwise normal surface type characters and it won't break the game.

You really should try and fit any character into the lore though. And as long as your setting has more then a paragraph of lore, this should not be so hard.

But if you think that the only way to have an interesting character is to break the stetting lore...then you are the problem.

NichG
2016-09-22, 12:40 AM
Mostly it comes down to: ask permission first, and respect a 'no' even if not given a justification (because it might break something that is a campaign secret, and the DM can't very well explain that without it no longer being a secret).

But there's two distinctions that I'd want to make to explain when and why it'd be a 'no' from me versus a 'yes'.

Distinction 1: Are you breaking something that is in the foreground of the campaign, or breaking something that is in some setting book somewhere that isn't really referenced by the campaign?

I think if the DM says something like 'I want to run a campaign where the central theme is X' and you say 'I'm going to play a character that will break X', then that's very bad form. On the other hand, if the DM is running a campaign on the Sword Coast in Faerun, and you want to play a character from Kara-Tur but you need to juggle some details about the Kara-Tur pantheon, that's probably okay because it isn't stepping on another player's (the DM's, in this case) toes. It doesn't have to just be the DM. If another player is playing an expert on undead and you want to silently change the rules about undead under their noses so their character is wrong about something central to their concept when the DM/setting materials gave them a promise of 'this is how things are', then that can also be bad form.

Essentially, breaking something that someone else at the table is relying on is more problematic than changing something that no one else has marked as their own.

Distinction 2: Are you breaking something because of what you are, or are you breaking something because of how you act?

One way to break setting lore is to have a literally impossible character - the setting says 'there is no magic' but you have magic, the setting says 'dragons are extinct' but you are the last dragon, etc. This kind of change is disruptive because it has far reaching consequences to the cosmology and immediately is going to draw focus. Generally I'm less okay with that kind of thing because it either makes the entire game make less sense, or forces me as DM to do a lot of work to adapt the cosmology to explain why an exception is possible. So usually if a player asks for this kind of exception, I'll say 'no' but then make a counter-proposal of something that actually does seem consistent with the cosmology and setting. 'No, there isn't magic, but how about super-tech?', etc.

But another kind of thing is playing a character whose outlook, goals, or actions are inconsistent with the setting. The stereotypical example is playing a good-aligned drow (though its such a stereotype that it became part of the setting...) But you could also have someone who is progressive about human rights in a setting where slavery is accepted, an atheist in a setting with physically manifest gods, etc. This kind of thing I'm almost always fine with; I don't consider it 'breaking' anything to do this. It can cause problems for the player (if, for example, their declared goal is impossible or unreasonable to obtain), so I'd want to discuss with the player and make sure they understand that going in (that I won't guarantee that I'll put in ways to achieve their goal, that its on them to make it possible, etc), but beyond that point I think its fine.

Koo Rehtorb
2016-09-22, 12:55 AM
To clarify more on the original quote I posted, which seems to have stirred some feelings, with my own personal opinions on matters like this:

I don't like games in which the Lord High GM imparts unto the players His Setting in All Its Majesty. I feel like that sort of game leaves players bored at worst and indifferent at best. I much prefer the sort of game in which the GM and the players all sit down around the table during session zero, build a setting together, then build all their characters together and tie everything in. The GM shouldn't be coming to the table with more than a few rough ideas, and he should be prepared to compromise on those ideas based on what the players want.

That quote the GM proposing a world without magic and the player wanting to play the last mage? That's great. Unless the GM is at the point where he's screaming "I don't want to deal with the goddamn magic system one more time!" then that's exactly the sort of thing he should be prepared to compromise on. Because that sort of detail gives player buy in. That's the player telling you "I want a story about this", and having that sort of enthusiasm is exactly what makes a game good. I would take players fiddling with a proposed setting to fill their own needs any day over indifferent players. Players will naturally propose ideas which excite them, and that's so powerful to make use of.

Now, this is why you sit down with everyone present and hammer out the setting together. It is a fair point to say that someone playing "the last mage" has a great deal of importance in the story. You do need to make sure that everyone's fine with that. Or alternatively, that everyone who wants to also has a big important key role. If one guy's the last mage then maybe someone else is the heir apparent and maybe someone else is the elven military commander.

Lacuna Caster
2016-09-22, 06:56 AM
I don't like games in which the Lord High GM imparts unto the players His Setting in All Its Majesty. I feel like that sort of game leaves players bored at worst and indifferent at best. I much prefer the sort of game in which the GM and the players all sit down around the table during session zero, build a setting together, then build all their characters together and tie everything in... ...I would take players fiddling with a proposed setting to fill their own needs any day over indifferent players. Players will naturally propose ideas which excite them, and that's so powerful to make use of. ...If one guy's the last mage then maybe someone else is the heir apparent and maybe someone else is the elven military commander.
That's perfectly workable, but you're still talking about ensuring the PCs fit the setting (i.e, have pertinent social backgrounds and/or motives that tie them in with local geopolitics, et cetera.) You just started primarily with character concepts and invented a setting-frame, rather than starting primarily with a setting and inventing embedded characters. (Burning Empires works this way, for example. You can also do it gradually, with the setting being nebulous from day one and locations beings filled in only as the PCs amble about.)

What creates problems is when the PCs and the world are disconnected. i.e, their missions and motives and backgrounds aren't really concerned with the local geopolitics or with eachother, so there's no reason to care. (Or when they do care, but local geopolitics and other PCs are treated as immovable objects, so you can't really interact with them.)

Lorsa
2016-09-22, 08:09 AM
Isn't this thread just another shade of http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?500810-Is-there-something-wrong-with-having-setting-specific-guidelines/ ?

So going by the logic of my last post, I would say it's impossible to break the setting lore, but it IS possible to change it. However, doing so obviously changes the setting itself.

I probably should come back and write a longer post dealing with the specific of character creation later.

Mark Hall
2016-09-22, 10:55 AM
I don't like games in which the Lord High GM imparts unto the players His Setting in All Its Majesty. I feel like that sort of game leaves players bored at worst and indifferent at best. I much prefer the sort of game in which the GM and the players all sit down around the table during session zero, build a setting together, then build all their characters together and tie everything in. The GM shouldn't be coming to the table with more than a few rough ideas, and he should be prepared to compromise on those ideas based on what the players want.


TBH, I can't run a game that way. I generally come to a game with a setting in mind... Kalamar, the Forgotten Realms (usually at a set point in the timeline), Star Wars, Robotech, etc. More than likely, I have a large plot in mind... one that's responsive to the players, but that will happen even if they pull the classic "Screw this, let's go to Undermountain."

But for a long-term campaign? I've got to know what I'm working with, not hand it over to the whims of the players. The GM is going to wind up putting most of the work into the game... for every character the players make, the GM has to make twenty. The dismissal of the GM as "Lord High GM impart unto the players His Setting in All Its Majesty" dismisses that the GM [i]is a player, and usually the one who is going to invest the vast majority of the effort into it, even if it's using a boxed setting and a bagged adventure. This isn't to say players should be powerless, but even if everyone discusses the setting into existence, it's still up to the GM to actually build the thing, and make it work.

The GM is a player. The GM should be able to have fun, and play the characters they want... including NPCs and setting details. They should be responsive to players, but not solely beholden to them.

Koo Rehtorb
2016-09-22, 11:24 AM
The GM is a player. The GM should be able to have fun, and play the characters they want... including NPCs and setting details. They should be responsive to players, but not solely beholden to them.

Well sure. I'm not saying that the GM has to stop every step of the way and ask the players what they want. It's usually within his rights to introduce new NPCs and setting/plot twists. All I'm saying is that they should be prepared to build at least the basic framework of the world with the players, and to be open to player ideas later on.

If he hates something about the proposed setting he should be free to veto it, but the players should have that power as well. Just as both parties should be encouraged to include setting details that they love. Everyone having a stake in the setting means everyone is invested.

Jay R
2016-09-22, 11:50 AM
There is no simple rule that always applies. Some settings call for everybody fitting in exactly. Others can be not hurt, or even helped, by the character who's an exception. The specific plans for the campaign must be considered specifically, in each specific case.

Play with a DM you trust to make judgment calls, and then trust the judgment calls he makes.

This was in the introduction to the last game I started. This is the game in which elves and dwarves were not allowed, so it's already been recently called "throwing my viking hat on and crushing the impudent player who dares bring elves into my perfect fantasy playground." So be aware that not everybody in these forums approves.


Reasonable exceptions to these rules are allowed, within certain bounds. I won’t necessarily explain the bounds to you. (If I plan to have you carried off by Vikings, I won’t tell you why your character can’t speak Old Norse, for instance.) Ask for exceptions. Your character should be an exception to the general rules in some way, and I’m prepared to modify PC rules to let you play something unique. I want you to have a character you will enjoy, but who won’t mess up my plans or overshadow the other characters.

I fundamentally believe in giving the DM some pushback during character design, for the express purpose of finding out what limits are hard and which ones are soft. Then I try to build a character who sings to both me and the DM.

VoxRationis
2016-09-22, 12:10 PM
To clarify more on the original quote I posted, which seems to have stirred some feelings, with my own personal opinions on matters like this:

I don't like games in which the Lord High GM imparts unto the players His Setting in All Its Majesty. I feel like that sort of game leaves players bored at worst and indifferent at best. I much prefer the sort of game in which the GM and the players all sit down around the table during session zero, build a setting together, then build all their characters together and tie everything in. The GM shouldn't be coming to the table with more than a few rough ideas, and he should be prepared to compromise on those ideas based on what the players want.

That quote the GM proposing a world without magic and the player wanting to play the last mage? That's great. Unless the GM is at the point where he's screaming "I don't want to deal with the goddamn magic system one more time!" then that's exactly the sort of thing he should be prepared to compromise on. Because that sort of detail gives player buy in. That's the player telling you "I want a story about this", and having that sort of enthusiasm is exactly what makes a game good. I would take players fiddling with a proposed setting to fill their own needs any day over indifferent players. Players will naturally propose ideas which excite them, and that's so powerful to make use of.

Now, this is why you sit down with everyone present and hammer out the setting together. It is a fair point to say that someone playing "the last mage" has a great deal of importance in the story. You do need to make sure that everyone's fine with that. Or alternatively, that everyone who wants to also has a big important key role. If one guy's the last mage then maybe someone else is the heir apparent and maybe someone else is the elven military commander.

Rare is the player who is unable to choose whether they can play. If they truly decide that a setting's premise and execution are hateful to them, they don't have to play in that game. I personally dislike games where players demand that their characters be the center of everything. Coming to a setting whose premise has already been described and expecting that you have a right to be an exception to it is the height of self-absorption and entitlement. I don't want players who need to be bought off with special treatment in order to play the game. And a world designed by committee, where the vast majority of the committee's main interest is shoehorning in excuses to fit in a race/class combo they like, is going to be poorly designed.

awa
2016-09-22, 12:49 PM
the design by committee works best when players are barely interacting with it. If the game is a series of dungeon crawls then who cares whether elves or dwarves exist or not. Random orc number 37 doesn't care if your the last wizard in the world he has one job stand in an empty room in front of a chest and when some dudes come in attack them with his buddies then die.

But the more interaction with the setting there is and the world, the more important the setting is and the more complicated the interactions the less room for special snow flakes their are.

Think how a Klingon or worse a wizard Klingon would have disrupted a battle star galactica game.

Think how a d&d wizard would have messed with an avatar game

they don't just add something to the setting they completely disrupt how the world is known to function in fundamental ways.

So a design by committee game cant have a complicated world like that with players tied into it or at best prevents the dm from doing any kind of pregame prep forcing him to do it all after that first session resulting in a much less thought out world.

Darth Ultron
2016-09-22, 09:06 PM
I don't like games in which the Lord High GM imparts unto the players His Setting in All Its Majesty. I feel like that sort of game leaves players bored at worst and indifferent at best. I much prefer the sort of game in which the GM and the players all sit down around the table during session zero, build a setting together, then build all their characters together and tie everything in. The GM shouldn't be coming to the table with more than a few rough ideas, and he should be prepared to compromise on those ideas based on what the players want.

I wonder why this is so one sided? The DM has to be a weak push over and ''compromise'', and that is ''the player can do anything''?

Does the player have to ''compromise'' too? Or are all the players somehow special? If a player says ''DM I demand you do this'' the DM must get down on the floor and say ''yes master''?




Now, this is why you sit down with everyone present and hammer out the setting together. It is a fair point to say that someone playing "the last mage" has a great deal of importance in the story. You do need to make sure that everyone's fine with that. Or alternatively, that everyone who wants to also has a big important key role. If one guy's the last mage then maybe someone else is the heir apparent and maybe someone else is the elven military commander.

So jerk player wants to be the super ultra cool Last Mage High Prince, but only if all the other players agree? And the ''DM guy '' does not get a vote and must always ''compromise'' . So how does that work? If one player has a shred of common sense and says ''no you can't be that character'' , does the jerk player have to make a normal character? Or does the jerk player just cry and leave the game?

Jay R
2016-09-22, 09:09 PM
I recognize that I have a blind spot. I've never played with people who weren't already my friends - people I trusted and liked.

If Rob says we're playing a game where we all have to play halfling clerics - I'm in - because I love Rob's games. I have no interest in playing a halfling cleric. But I'll do it to be in Rob's game.

If Mike says he's running a game where we all have to play kobold rogues - I'm in - because I love Mike's games. I have no interest in playing a kobold rogue. But I'll do it to be in Mike's game.

If Bob says he's running a Flashing Blades game where we all have to play Cardinal's guards - I'm in - because I love Bob's games. I have no interest in playing Cardinal's guards. But I'll do it to be in Bob's game.

And if I say I'm running a game where all the players have to play humans, I expect to have lots of players - because people seem to like my games. They may not be interested in playing humans, but they appear to really enjoy my games.

Cluedrew
2016-09-22, 09:23 PM
Does the player have to ''compromise'' too?Yes, by definition if there truly is a compromise than both sides are compromising.

How much the GM gives (and how much the player does) depends on a lot of things. Personally I rarely have any requests for the GM because I like to stich my character as deeply into the setting as I can. Sometimes I push limits, but then it is usually the corners of the setting that exist but have not yet been explored.

Still other times the GM is just willing to give the point to the player, for instance I once had an exchange that went like this:
GM: "I'm thinking of running a game in a Forgotten Realms type setting."
Me: "Oh, so my Warforaged might not work?"
GM: "Bring it anyways."
Me: "OK thanks?"

Which is really the GM didn't care and so just made a change to accommodate. I guess because he didn't care about that particular point. Now if it was something that would actually brake some plans he had, then I might of had to switch.

Dire Roc
2016-09-22, 09:37 PM
Well, yeah, that's total b.s. and bad role-playing on the DM's part to have the enemies act as if they know the unknowable.

As a DM, I could see ways to justify it, I've heard stories of real world militaries having on paper exercises to deal with impossible situations as a way to encourage creative thinking and adaptability. Maybe this setting does so with its military and its become traditional for the first of these scenarios to be a wizard. (Our world shows a non-magic setting can still imagine mages.) And then this became common enough that everyone at some point of their youth made a decently detailed plan about how to fight a wizard. And then one day rumors start going around about a guy with powers straight out of legend...



I much prefer the sort of game in which the GM and the players all sit down around the table during session zero, build a setting together, then build all their characters together and tie everything in. The GM shouldn't be coming to the table with more than a few rough ideas, and he should be prepared to compromise on those ideas based on what the players want.

I like this idea but when I tried to implement it it failed horribly. I wanted to build a setting with my players for a time travel campaign but ended up with a handful of disparate areas well developed with interesting elements, but nothing that could be pulled together into a cohesive or compelling narrative. It essentially ended up as several players pet regions and a few random components without a particularly good thematic balance. Maybe when I form a new group after college I'll have better luck.

Thrudd
2016-09-22, 10:10 PM
Unless the setting is a collaborative creation from the start, which I think is actually rare to see done at all let alone well, the GM has to come to the game with a mostly complete setting in mind. The players need a baseline setting as a starting point to consider their characters. Yes, the GM can consider additions or changes to the setting as players have ideas, but you need a foundation to work from.

Koo Rehtorb
2016-09-22, 10:46 PM
I wonder why this is so one sided? The DM has to be a weak push over and ''compromise'', and that is ''the player can do anything''?

Does the player have to ''compromise'' too? Or are all the players somehow special? If a player says ''DM I demand you do this'' the DM must get down on the floor and say ''yes master''?




So jerk player wants to be the super ultra cool Last Mage High Prince, but only if all the other players agree? And the ''DM guy '' does not get a vote and must always ''compromise'' . So how does that work? If one player has a shred of common sense and says ''no you can't be that character'' , does the jerk player have to make a normal character? Or does the jerk player just cry and leave the game?

The GM is a player, just like anyone else. His setting ideas are just as important as anyone else.

People I play with don't have this weird adversarial relationship that you seem to radiate in every post you make, though.

Koo Rehtorb
2016-09-22, 10:47 PM
I like this idea but when I tried to implement it it failed horribly. I wanted to build a setting with my players for a time travel campaign but ended up with a handful of disparate areas well developed with interesting elements, but nothing that could be pulled together into a cohesive or compelling narrative. It essentially ended up as several players pet regions and a few random components without a particularly good thematic balance. Maybe when I form a new group after college I'll have better luck.

Is it possible that time travel played a factor in this? It seems like it might make it a bit hard to tie things together, in my own uneducated opinion.

Vrock_Summoner
2016-09-23, 01:04 AM
I'm gonna take a bit more of a hardline view than most of the others here have.

Before I get into that view, I'd like to clarify: I'm not here to be Oh Holiest GM, who will always refuse to bend to player requests because "wah wah this is my story," and I will go to great lengths to both make settings where players have lots of options, and to accommodate the closest versions of any ideas they have that I hadn't considered or which don't work directly as stated but can be approximated. Actually, I usually design settings after finding out what my players are going to want anyway, so if I found out early on that they really want to play a particular type of character, I'll almost certainly tweak my setting lore so that character can exist, even if they have to be brought about by very special circumstances that leave them effectively one-of-a-kind (I normally don't run the kinds of games where their one-of-a-kind status would make them inherently more important than the other party members, but this might vary for other groups' play styles so I recognize the concern).

That said, setting development, except wherein it's evoked by in-character actions, cannot be a group activity beyond the entry point if you hope to maintain the slightest bit of verisimilitude in your world. If internal consistency isn't important to you or your players, or if your world is so simplified that you can make large tweaks to important elements at whim without causing huge chain reactions that demand basically entirely rewriting large chunks of your material, then have at it! But while my players might have significant input while I'm creating the setting, once it's made, that's it.

Because one of the most important aspects of GMing across the majority of play styles is that I can have the world react in a consistently fun, consistently fluid, and consistently consistent way to the player characters' actions. And for an in-depth world, which involves a ton of moving parts (cosmology, physics, metaphysics, ecology, external and internal politics, economics, culture, individual NPC personalities) that I need to take into account and build off of, this represents a combination of many hours of prep work and solidly-founded improv (as in, I need to know all the elements really well so I can improvise faithfully). And there is no earthly way any GM can make a world that reacts and adapts fluidly to the player characters' actions if that world is constantly shifting under the GM's feet or outright shattering and reassembling itself in completely unpredictable ways from session to session for out of character reasons.

Once one part of my setting lore is set, it ripples out throughout the rest of my setting, manipulating everything else and feeding back on itself through the influence of those other elements. If I change one thing, it can mean changing a huge amount of other stuff. So I need a really, really good reason to change anything mid-game if it's not because of in-character events. I reserve that level of excess effort for things like "this allegorical element is extremely reminiscent of something that has greatly traumatized me in real life, can you modify the game so I can have fun without being reminded of that?" If you suggest that I do it for reasons like "it makes no biological sense that dragons can eat gems" or "aw, but this is a sci-fi game, I think there should be other intelligent organic life so my next character can be an alien," I will laugh, either with you for the funny joke, or at you if you press the issue.

PersonMan
2016-09-23, 03:34 AM
I much prefer the sort of game in which the GM and the players all sit down around the table during session zero, build a setting together, then build all their characters together and tie everything in. The GM shouldn't be coming to the table with more than a few rough ideas, and he should be prepared to compromise on those ideas based on what the players want.

This is reliant on the right kind of players / playstyle, though, which I think is contributing to the disagreement here.

I'm starting a Roll20 game with some friends in a few days, and trying to bring everyone together to make a world would have been a train wreck at best. More likely, nothing would really happen without me doing most of the work anyways and eventually ending up with a setting I didn't really like as much (since it would include odd patches that I think don't make sense or aren't as good as other ideas) after a great deal of effort. These people are more interested in having an interesting world full of interesting things to fight / explore / have happen to them, more than they're hungry to craft a specific kind of story.

Of course, this is colored by not just the group but my own preferences - I doubt I'd enjoy that kind of game just because I'm fairly protective and possessive of my own setting ideas, while not enjoying running those someone else had. A patchwork setting is the exact sort of thing I might enjoy as a player if I don't contribute, and would dislike running as a DM due to the lack of total control over setting elements. Having a player who determines what their hometown or family is like is fine, having someone be the main contributor to a city's feel is fine, but unless I'm in complete harmony with someone having to mesh my ideas for setting themes with someone else's doesn't work for me.

As a player I have similar limitations in what I like - I enjoy the 'far-off foreigner' type of character, in large part because it allows for me to make a slab of the world in a way that gives me total control over it but doesn't impact anything the DM has made due to distance and a complete lack of spotlight time of that region. Similarly, I dislike anything from said area ever being relevant, as it immediately creates a position where 'my' things are no longer in my control.

Lorsa
2016-09-23, 05:07 AM
To clarify more on the original quote I posted, which seems to have stirred some feelings, with my own personal opinions on matters like this:

I don't like games in which the Lord High GM imparts unto the players His Setting in All Its Majesty. I feel like that sort of game leaves players bored at worst and indifferent at best. I much prefer the sort of game in which the GM and the players all sit down around the table during session zero, build a setting together, then build all their characters together and tie everything in. The GM shouldn't be coming to the table with more than a few rough ideas, and he should be prepared to compromise on those ideas based on what the players want.

Having personal preferences is perfectly fine. You want your games to be a certain way.

However, I do take issue with "I feel like that sort of game leaves players bored...". That is completely contradictory to my experience.

For example, just recently I told two of my friends:

"This game will start in Forgotten Realms, in a small village far away from civilization, and I want you to play two human siblings."

Although we live in different towns and don't have much time to play, they are certainly not bored or indifferent. As a matter of fact, they seem more interested and engaged than I am.

I have also started a game with the following premise:

"You will play a character made by me in a modern-day setting using the nWoD rules." (It was a classic memory-loss scenario.)

Basically 0 player input. Despite that, the player was anything but bored or indifferent. We played the game for... I don't know how many sessions, and it's one of the player's favorite campaigns.



That quote the GM proposing a world without magic and the player wanting to play the last mage? That's great. Unless the GM is at the point where he's screaming "I don't want to deal with the goddamn magic system one more time!" then that's exactly the sort of thing he should be prepared to compromise on. Because that sort of detail gives player buy in. That's the player telling you "I want a story about this", and having that sort of enthusiasm is exactly what makes a game good. I would take players fiddling with a proposed setting to fill their own needs any day over indifferent players. Players will naturally propose ideas which excite them, and that's so powerful to make use of.

Now, this is why you sit down with everyone present and hammer out the setting together. It is a fair point to say that someone playing "the last mage" has a great deal of importance in the story. You do need to make sure that everyone's fine with that. Or alternatively, that everyone who wants to also has a big important key role. If one guy's the last mage then maybe someone else is the heir apparent and maybe someone else is the elven military commander.

What about the GM saying "I don't want a story about the last mage."? Also, in a world without magic, perhaps there's never been any magic to begin with? There could be tons of good, valid reasons why the GM wouldn't want a wizard PC.

In any case, I do agree that you should sit down and discuss the game, the setting and the general story before start, to make sure everyone is on board.

I have, however, never experienced indifferent players. If I did, I would call the game "failed", cancel it and do something different.



I recognize that I have a blind spot. I've never played with people who weren't already my friends - people I trusted and liked.

If Rob says we're playing a game where we all have to play halfling clerics - I'm in - because I love Rob's games. I have no interest in playing a halfling cleric. But I'll do it to be in Rob's game.

If Mike says he's running a game where we all have to play kobold rogues - I'm in - because I love Mike's games. I have no interest in playing a kobold rogue. But I'll do it to be in Mike's game.

If Bob says he's running a Flashing Blades game where we all have to play Cardinal's guards - I'm in - because I love Bob's games. I have no interest in playing Cardinal's guards. But I'll do it to be in Bob's game.

And if I say I'm running a game where all the players have to play humans, I expect to have lots of players - because people seem to like my games. They may not be interested in playing humans, but they appear to really enjoy my games.

I've done both, and playing with friends is always better. Sometimes playing with strangers can lead to new friends though (and improved games), so that's good.

Just like you, I have never really experienced any outrage over the ideas I pitch as a GM. Whatever restrictions I come up with, the players usually agree and trust me enough to engage with my idea. I've never had any players that ended up indifferent, and they always come back for more campaigns.

Berenger
2016-09-23, 05:42 AM
That being said, I do think that templates can be altered to play the kind of character a player wants to play. No dwarves in your campaign? How about character comes from a line of quarry workers, so you can use similar stats or whatever you just aren't a "dwarf."

"I'm going to play Gregor Clegane, a Half-Ogre Fighter." - "There are no Ogres in Westeros." - "Oh, c'mon George!"

Koo Rehtorb
2016-09-23, 09:50 AM
However, I do take issue with "I feel like that sort of game leaves players bored...". That is completely contradictory to my experience.

Okay, yes, I way overstated it. There are many different valid and entertaining ways to play a game.

That said, I object to the default assumption that seems to be there in the hobby in general that the GM is always the one who is responsible for handing down the setting to the players and that's just the way it works. It's merely one way of playing a game.

Lacuna Caster
2016-09-23, 09:57 AM
Of course, this is colored by not just the group but my own preferences - I doubt I'd enjoy that kind of game just because I'm fairly protective and possessive of my own setting ideas, while not enjoying running those someone else had. A patchwork setting is the exact sort of thing I might enjoy as a player if I don't contribute, and would dislike running as a DM due to the lack of total control over setting elements. Having a player who determines what their hometown or family is like is fine, having someone be the main contributor to a city's feel is fine, but unless I'm in complete harmony with someone having to mesh my ideas for setting themes with someone else's doesn't work for me.

As a player I have similar limitations in what I like - I enjoy the 'far-off foreigner' type of character, in large part because it allows for me to make a slab of the world in a way that gives me total control over it but doesn't impact anything the DM has made due to distance and a complete lack of spotlight time of that region.
If the far-off foreigner comes from a place that has no connection to what the GM controls (i.e, the local geography, politics and mission), then why is the far-off foreigner involved in the first place, and why would any other player care?

VoxRationis
2016-09-23, 10:09 AM
"I'm going to play Gregor Clegane, a Half-Ogre Fighter." - "There are no Ogres in Westeros." - "Oh, c'mon George!"

But look how he reacted when someone wanted to play a dwarf.

Berenger
2016-09-23, 10:32 AM
But look how he reacted when someone wanted to play a dwarf.

Tyrion, obviously, uses Gnome stats, not Dwarf stats. +2 Int, Small Size. No way this man has a -2 Cha penalty.

Edit: His player even managed to roleplay the heck out of the "+2 vs. illusions" trait, despite the absence of magical illusions.

Friv
2016-09-23, 10:44 AM
Unless the setting is a collaborative creation from the start, which I think is actually rare to see done at all let alone well, the GM has to come to the game with a mostly complete setting in mind. The players need a baseline setting as a starting point to consider their characters. Yes, the GM can consider additions or changes to the setting as players have ideas, but you need a foundation to work from.

Honestly, it's been a while since the last time I haven't done a collaborative creation from the start. I've usually created a framework, with varying degrees of stuff, but I never run a game anymore without at least an hour of world-building discussion and enjoyment. Ditto for the other guy who runs games I play in.

The thing is, the baseline setting can be pretty sparse and still give players a lot to work with. I've gone with baseline settings such as:
* Magic Realism High School
* 1980s Superheroes with mostly 2010s technology.
* Renaissance D&D-style world where people delve into dungeons to acquire the magic that runs society
* Saturday Morning Cartoon

And then we build from there. And it works really, really well.

The one time we came in to an existing setting (a Fate Exalted game), we collaboratively created the area of the world we were in.

Telok
2016-09-23, 12:58 PM
If I did collaborative world building with my group there would be 30th level D&D druids, antimatter napalm lasers, a magic mart where you could buy anything, Robotech mecha, a zombie apocalypse, and no actual world building beyond "cool fighty stuff." And this is given the baseline of a D&D "save the princess and win a kingdom" style game. It won't work with some people.

Knaight
2016-09-23, 02:46 PM
If the far-off foreigner comes from a place that has no connection to what the GM controls (i.e, the local geography, politics and mission), then why is the far-off foreigner involved in the first place, and why would any other player care?

The far off foreigner came from a place that has no connection to what the GM controls, but they're in that place now and invested. They're an immigrant, and that only very rarely poses a problem.

Jay R
2016-09-23, 04:42 PM
The far off foreigner came from a place that has no connection to what the GM controls, but they're in that place now and invested. They're an immigrant, and that only very rarely poses a problem.

For some settings and campaigns that will work fine.

The crucial fact is that it depends on the setting, the campaign, the DM, and the players. There's no one simple answer.

Lacuna Caster
2016-09-23, 04:52 PM
The far off foreigner came from a place that has no connection to what the GM controls, but they're in that place now and invested. They're an immigrant, and that only very rarely poses a problem.
But why migrate in the first place, and what keeps them invested once there? Or, why would you bother creating an elaborate backstory that is definitionally irrelevant to whatever happens during play?

VoxRationis
2016-09-23, 06:16 PM
The far off foreigner came from a place that has no connection to what the GM controls, but they're in that place now and invested. They're an immigrant, and that only very rarely poses a problem.

GM: You all meet in a tavern in Ekke, a city-state not unlike Babylon on Earth. Describe your characters.

Player 1: I am Edward, the banished prince of the realm of Albion. I long to gain enough power to reclaim my stolen throne.

Player 2: I am X:lkdsadslf, dragonborn exile! I too wish to return to my homeland, once I have regained my lost honor through the trials of combat.

Player 3: What a coincidence! I too am here from a far-off place. I am the exiled prince of—

GM: Did any of you make characters native to the region?

Player 2: You told me we could take whatever races and classes we wanted if we came from somewhere else.

GM: Okay. Fine. Well, a messenger finds the lot of you and brings you to the king, who says "There is a great evil spreading across our lands. The demonic corruption of Asancha has issued from that cursed city, and this entire realm is in peril. Are there worthy heroes among you, who would endanger their own lives to save this land?"

Player 1: Eh, I'm not from here anyway.

Player 2: I'd rather fight orcs than demons.

Player 3: The DM said the best magic shops were in another country anyway.

Quertus
2016-09-23, 07:18 PM
Or, why would you bother creating an elaborate backstory that is definitionally irrelevant to whatever happens during play?

The backstory, for me, is, well, for me. It defines the character, who he is, where he comes from. It helps me understand the "why", and enables me to roleplay the character.

Sometimes - and, in point of fact, this is my preference - that "backstory" is the past X levels of actual play the character has seen.

Why would I want any of that to be relevant to what happens during play? The choices my character makes because of that are what I want to be relevant to the game.

Lacuna Caster
2016-09-23, 08:05 PM
The backstory, for me, is, well, for me... ...The choices my character makes because of that are what I want to be relevant to the game.
That's fine, but as VoxRationis pointed out, a backstory entirely concerned with very far-away places that have nothing to do with The Quest is unlikely to furnish a character who would plausibly choose to get involved with said quest. (Unless you default to unrefusable enticements like mountains of gold or the world-not-ending, which... don't really say anything about the character.)

Now, I'm not saying it can't work- Frodo got to Mordor, after all- but I am quite curious about the specifics in the case of Knaight's character.

Jay R
2016-09-23, 09:15 PM
That's fine, but as VoxRationis pointed out, a backstory entirely concerned with very far-away places that have nothing to do with The Quest is unlikely to furnish a character who would plausibly choose to get involved with said quest.

But the straightforward observed fact is that any D&D player who creates such a character will in fact have the character take part in the available quest.

We don't create random characters. We create characters for the express purpose of playing the game.

There are some games (I'm running one right now) in which it's best for every character to be local. A drop-in character would not be appropriate in such a game. But the argument that a drop-in character wouldn't get involved in the quest ignores what the character is being played for.

flond
2016-09-23, 09:22 PM
The backstory, for me, is, well, for me. It defines the character, who he is, where he comes from. It helps me understand the "why", and enables me to roleplay the character.

Sometimes - and, in point of fact, this is my preference - that "backstory" is the past X levels of actual play the character has seen.

Why would I want any of that to be relevant to what happens during play? The choices my character makes because of that are what I want to be relevant to the game.

I know this is a thing. This is even a thing that's fairly common. But it would almost never sit right for me.

Backstory exists IMO to tie the character into the story and the world. If someone's an immigrant, boy howdy is the place or people they came from going to show up in the game. If they're not an immigrant, that's even more important. They'll have ties to the world. People who they know, old hatreds an friendships. Probably some actual physical tie that they're stuck with. I prefer my games to be webs of belief, obligation, motive and understandings. Even discounting "backstory as simplistic player authorship tool" (which is actually I think something that's important), this is all stuff that matters, not just because of what it makes the PC do to the world, but because of how it makes the world impose on the PC.

Milo v3
2016-09-23, 10:07 PM
Unless the DM's being unreasonable, you should probably follow lore when making characters rather than trying to twist the setting to create a unique special exception character.

PersonMan
2016-09-24, 01:10 AM
If the far-off foreigner comes from a place that has no connection to what the GM controls (i.e, the local geography, politics and mission), then why is the far-off foreigner involved in the first place, and why would any other player care?

Because they're here now, and are interested in whatever's going on. Quick example: I made a Healer for a game (IIRC it was a module involving Drow and the Underdark but I'm not sure) who was from somewhere very distant. The game's premise was the party investigating some raiding in the area, and the character I made was big on protecting the defenseless, so that was easy to justify.

As for why the other players care - well, either they do because they want to play or think it's interesting or they don't, and don't need to.

Honestly, I don't need to care the slightest about the other characters in the party at the start of the game. I've had perfectly fine games where intraparty interaction was purely practical and problem-solving-based, with everyone there in order to play the game (which I use to mean 'react to the game world and its challenges in order to accomplish goals') regardless of whether or not the rest of the party was interesting or not.


The far off foreigner came from a place that has no connection to what the GM controls, but they're in that place now and invested. They're an immigrant, and that only very rarely poses a problem.

That's a good way to quickly describe it.


But why migrate in the first place, and what keeps them invested once there? Or, why would you bother creating an elaborate backstory that is definitionally irrelevant to whatever happens during play?

Depends on the character. I generally run with something like 'they want to see more of the world, and expand their own skills in a way they can't at home'. What keeps them invested? Well, interesting stuff happens, and they're the curious type to not just shrug and leave when they find a hook to a deeper plot.

As for why I make a backstory that isn't relevant - because I want a backstory that gives me insight on the character, and lets me have fun conversations, not one that's just a mine for plot hooks. If we go back to my Healer example, the character was the youngest in the party but also a battle-scarred veteran who had at one point been captured and tortured before being released - and then choosing to go back into the fight. Sure, there wasn't a plot hook of "oh your sister *glance at paper* Ellodine was taken by the evil guys go rescue her", but it provided interesting interactions with the other PCs (older, also protect-the-helpless types dealing with the weirdness of this young lady who's smaller and younger than them but has clearly been through trying experiences she refuses to talk about) and made some things clear.

An honest question - do all of your characters come from wherever the game begins? Because my experience tells me that some amount of migration is the standard for PCs. You don't start in Capital City with a bunch of people who live there, you start in Capital City with a crew who's come from all corners of the kingdom to answer the king's call for people to carry all that gold and privilege he has piled up in the treasure room help with a vital matter.


GM: You all meet in a tavern in Ekke, a city-state not unlike Babylon on Earth. Describe your characters.

Player 1: I am Edward, the banished prince of the realm of Albion. I long to gain enough power to reclaim my stolen throne.

Player 2: I am X:lkdsadslf, dragonborn exile! I too wish to return to my homeland, once I have regained my lost honor through the trials of combat.

Player 3: What a coincidence! I too am here from a far-off place. I am the exiled prince of—

GM: Did any of you make characters native to the region?

Player 2: You told me we could take whatever races and classes we wanted if we came from somewhere else.

GM: Okay. Fine. Well, a messenger finds the lot of you and brings you to the king, who says "There is a great evil spreading across our lands. The demonic corruption of Asancha has issued from that cursed city, and this entire realm is in peril. Are there worthy heroes among you, who would endanger their own lives to save this land?"

Player 1: Eh, I'm not from here anyway.

Player 2: I'd rather fight orcs than demons.

Player 3: The DM said the best magic shops were in another country anyway.

Y'know you can just shorten that to 'it's a good idea to make a PC whose goal isn't "go home"'. :smalltongue:

Also all of those players have easy ways to link their character to the plot hook. Lost prince wants to get his throne? Obviously an alliance with this king will help. Dragonborn guy can just go with the boring classic motivation of "fighting makes me fight better, and I need to fight better to prove myself". Player 3 can ape Player 1.

Since I play mostly PbP, the way I get into a game is different than in real life. If I see a game that doesn't fit a character I want to play, I don't try to slip it past the DM or beg them to let me play it or whatever - I just click off the thread and find one that is suited. The situation you described would never occur, simply because I'd look at the setting, think 'hmm that doesn't seem like it'd work for my idea', and go on my merry way.

Lorsa
2016-09-24, 02:27 AM
Okay, yes, I way overstated it. There are many different valid and entertaining ways to play a game.

That said, I object to the default assumption that seems to be there in the hobby in general that the GM is always the one who is responsible for handing down the setting to the players and that's just the way it works. It's merely one way of playing a game.

You are right, it is merely one way of playing a game.

Darth Ultron
2016-09-24, 07:43 AM
The GM is a player, just like anyone else. His setting ideas are just as important as anyone else.



So you mean the DM is a player in the sense that they are playing the game like everyone else. OK. But there is a huge difference between being a DM and a Player.


If I did collaborative world building with my group there would be 30th level D&D druids, antimatter napalm lasers, a magic mart where you could buy anything, Robotech mecha, a zombie apocalypse, and no actual world building beyond "cool fighty stuff." And this is given the baseline of a D&D "save the princess and win a kingdom" style game. It won't work with some people.

I'd say this is true of most players, but not just because of this type of player. The vast majority of players just want to play a game where they control a single character and adventure in a world. That's it. Sure there are some people out there that want to do the collaborative thing, but it's sure not most players.

Lacuna Caster
2016-09-24, 08:10 AM
Because they're here now, and are interested in whatever's going on. Quick example: I made a Healer for a game (IIRC it was a module involving Drow and the Underdark but I'm not sure) who was from somewhere very distant. The game's premise was the party investigating some raiding in the area, and the character I made was big on protecting the defenseless, so that was easy to justify.
EDIT: This reply was getting longer and rant-ier than I like, so let me flip this back: Why would you specifically not want to tie in the PCs to the location? For example, do you see something inherently wrong with the obvious plot-hook of 'sister Ellodine was kidnapped', versus the obvious plot-hook of 'dragon sitting on gold, adventurers wanted'?

To answer your question: No, not always. But I find it's helpful if non-natives have some compelling reason for involvement. (A fairly straightforward rationale is that they're members of a professional institution that sends out teams on explicit missions.) But that's me.


We don't create random characters. We create characters for the express purpose of playing the game.
Yes, but that's player motivation, not character motivation. If we've agreed that PC X will participate because Shawna brought her to the table, and we've agreed that interactions will be purely practical and problem-solving-oriented, I don't think backstory is particularly essential.

It's also psychologically implausible. We have many many real-world examples of people willing to fight and die in defence of their homes, families, careers and country. People who up sticks to go adventuring in a remote foreign land out of sheer boredom are, by comparison, quite rare. It's not impossible for PCs to be such people, but having an entire team of them coincidentally meet up in one place is more or less definitionally bizarre.

Niek
2016-09-24, 08:31 AM
When I propose a game I always have a fixed setting in mind, which may have varying degrees of flexibility it allows in terms of character creation. My most recent one requires the party to be between 14 and 16 years old at game start, and to have known each other for several years at least already. There could be some flexibility in the first requirement, as they could fake their age or simply sit out the main event of the first arc (a tournament among the town's youth to find the next up and coming adventurers), but the second is non-negotiable.

PersonMan
2016-09-24, 09:30 AM
EDIT: This reply was getting longer and rant-ier than I like, so let me flip this back: Why would you specifically not want to tie in the PCs to the location? For example, do you see something inherently wrong with the obvious plot-hook of 'sister Ellodine was kidnapped', versus the obvious plot-hook of 'dragon sitting on gold, adventurers wanted'?

Why I don't want to tie the PC to the location? Because the idea I have is of someone from a specific place, with a specific background, and I'd rather write "and then she journeyed for 5 years and gained 4 levels and now she's level 5 and in the starting town" rather than abandon that.

As for plot hooks - I don't. I would just prefer to avoid, whenever possible, the DM using things from a backstory I've made. Why? Because they're not me, and as not-me they likely won't play an NPC the same way I would, or won't be aware of details X, Y and Z that they honestly have no way of knowing but causes conflict when they use elements that would really not be doing that because of Y and Z.


To answer your question: No, not always. But I find it's helpful if non-natives have some compelling reason for involvement. (A fairly straightforward rationale is that they're members of a professional institution that sends out teams on explicit missions.) But that's me.

Describing an exact compelling reason is difficult in a vacuum - with most premises it's easy enough to connect the dots of "random traveler" and "ready to embark on quest A", as the DM generally prepares something for players to attach their backgrounds to. If the hook is "orc raiders have begun attacking villages from the mountains and the King is calling on adventurers to stop them", then I can write a paragraph or two about how my character stopped at a nice little village, rested for a day or two while helping the locals, then a day after they left they hear that all those nice people they liked were murdered. Desire for revenge, guilt over not being there to protect them, all in a simple connection from "and she wandered west" to "and she arrives in Questgiver Base".


It's also psychologically implausible. We have many many real-world examples of people willing to fight and die in defence of their homes, families, careers and country. People who up sticks to go adventuring in a remote foreign land out of sheer boredom are, by comparison, quite rare. It's not impossible for PCs to be such people, but having an entire team of them coincidentally meet up in one place is more or less definitionally bizarre.

I'd say most adventurers fit into the "fight and die in defense of their careers" category, myself. They're quite similar to mercenaries, apart from their smaller group size and different focus. Especially given how many characters are next to useless in a normal life due to their entire skillset revolving around violence or similar niches, it's easy for me to see them as roving warriors who eagerly pick up any cause they find, for gold, glory, and a sense of purpose.

Or they go rogue and start raiding people because no one can stop them and become a quest hook.

Lacuna Caster
2016-09-24, 10:07 AM
Why I don't want to tie the PC to the location? Because the idea I have is of someone from a specific place, with a specific background... ...I would just prefer to avoid, whenever possible, the DM using things from a backstory I've made. Why? Because they're not me, and as not-me they likely won't play an NPC the same way I would.
I don't think you're quite getting my drift. What I meant was, why not *start* with the location, and *then* generate the idea of the character as someone with relevant ties to the area, complete with related NPCs, *with* the GM and other players present. Then you don't have anything to 'abandon', and there aren't any secret details that the GM might overlook.

If the hook is "orc raiders have begun attacking villages from the mountains and the King is calling on adventurers to stop them", then I can write a paragraph or two about how my character stopped at a nice little village, rested for a day or two while helping the locals, then a day after they left they hear that all those nice people they liked were murdered. Desire for revenge, guilt over not being there to protect them, all in a simple connection from "and she wandered west" to "and she arrives in Questgiver Base".
That's fine and well and good, but wouldn't her motivation be even more compelling if she had grown up with said locals, and had cousins who died in the raids? How is any of that a drawback?

If you're *really* so attached to how particular NPCs should act and behave, then in principle you could even play them as an extra PC. But it all seems rather... precious to me.

PersonMan
2016-09-24, 10:44 AM
I don't think you're quite getting my drift. What I meant was, why not *start* with the location, and *then* generate the idea of the character as someone with relevant ties to the area, complete with related NPCs, *with* the GM and other players present. Then you don't have anything to 'abandon', and there aren't any secret details that the GM might overlook.

Because I play the game differently than that.

Firstly, there's the PbP matter - if a DM has a pitch and setting, there's not much room to add my own twist to it.

Secondly, while I do sometimes make characters for games, 90% of the time I have a character and find a game to play them in.


That's fine and well and good, but wouldn't her motivation be even more compelling if she had grown up with said locals, and had cousins who died in the raids? How is any of that a drawback?

Sure, but does it need to be? I mean, surely you could use that line of logic to say something like "your cousin died - that's fine and well and good, but wouldn't your motivation be even more compelling if your spouse and entire family had been killed in the raid? Maybe with you having to hide and watch?" to crank it up further.

As for why it's a drawback - because the character isn't from Dinky Villageton. She's from a monastery far way (and it's not nearby, because then the question of 'how are two completely different cultures right next to each other with no bleedover or influence on each other whatsoever?') where she learned her skills, became ordained and then left because she had nothing more to learn there.


If you're *really* so attached to how particular NPCs should act and behave, then in principle you could even play them as an extra PC. But it all seems rather... precious to me.

I could, but why? Why not just...not force them into the story?

Knaight
2016-09-24, 12:03 PM
EDIT: This reply was getting longer and rant-ier than I like, so let me flip this back: Why would you specifically not want to tie in the PCs to the location? For example, do you see something inherently wrong with the obvious plot-hook of 'sister Ellodine was kidnapped', versus the obvious plot-hook of 'dragon sitting on gold, adventurers wanted'?

There's no reason an immigrant couldn't be tied in. Even taking the example of a bunch of exiles who want to reclaim their throne some day (which is a pretty extreme example): Sir Scalington The Dragonborn Exile Prince was exiled from their homeland, spend a miserable existence for a while getting far away, and then fell in with the villagers in the location. When he was a complete stranger they fed him, they dressed his wounds, and they helped him get back on his feet. Now he's been there among these people for years, and the obvious plot-hook is still very much there and still very much personal.

Lacuna Caster
2016-09-24, 02:30 PM
Because I play the game differently than that.
*sigh* Fine.

There's no reason an immigrant couldn't be tied in. Even taking the example of a bunch of exiles who want to reclaim their throne some day (which is a pretty extreme example): Sir Scalington The Dragonborn Exile Prince was exiled from their homeland, spend a miserable existence for a while getting far away, and then fell in with the villagers in the location. When he was a complete stranger they fed him, they dressed his wounds, and they helped him get back on his feet. Now he's been there among these people for years, and the obvious plot-hook is still very much there and still very much personal.
I don't disagree with any of that. But if he's been among the villagers for years, then that implies people and events in his backstory that are potentially quite relevant to what the GM does. He's not entirely 'foreign', for those purposes.

Vrock_Summoner
2016-09-24, 02:36 PM
I don't disagree with any of that. But if he's been among the villagers for years, then that implies people and events in his backstory that are potentially quite relevant to what the GM does. He's not entirely 'foreign', for those purposes.
Correct, but he's foreign enough that the values and motivations driving his decisions don't have to be limited by what makes sense in the GM's established setting area, which I think is what Knaight was arguing as the most important thing. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

Lacuna Caster
2016-09-24, 03:04 PM
I can certainly imagine situations where only a certain range of social backgrounds could reasonably 'fit' with a given region of the setting. However, isn't it plausible that having additional local contacts, property, obligations or status, in some sense expands the range of a character's potential motives? If you don't have roots, then you can't be, e.g, a garrulous merchant, a legal official, a tribal matriarch or a palace guard.

Vrock_Summoner
2016-09-24, 06:57 PM
Absolutely! I would argue that it's not only plausible but almost guaranteed that you can derive a large number of character concepts by tying yourself into local features of the setting. All I'm saying is that for many setting starting points, there's an equally wide variety of concepts existing outside that framework, and many players prefer to work with that, especially since it's so much more malleable and less likely to clash with the GM's wishes - for a particularly boring and simple example, say the player wants their character to have a naively idealistic and trusting view of people in positions of responsibility and power, while all the local starting points have such people as so transparently corrupt that nobody could realistically maintain that view from birth to adulthood.

On top of that, and this depends much more on the particular setting and type of game, in a lot of cases the players are being revealed to the details of the setting through play while only getting the broad strokes beforehand. Many players would prefer to play characters in a similar state of ongoing learning, as opposed to having the GM regularly say "that wouldn't be a surprise; you would know X on account of your position."

GrayDeath
2016-09-26, 02:47 PM
As a DM, I could see ways to justify it, I've heard stories of real world militaries having on paper exercises to deal with impossible situations as a way to encourage creative thinking and adaptability. Maybe this setting does so with its military and its become traditional for the first of these scenarios to be a wizard. (Our world shows a non-magic setting can still imagine mages.) And then this became common enough that everyone at some point of their youth made a decently detailed plan about how to fight a wizard. And then one day rumors start going around about a guy with powers straight out of legend...



May use this Idea in an upcoming campaign?

i have a Player here who always wants a special Snowflake and I would love to surprisingly allow all he asks ... and counter with good InWorld Logic.



As for the OP: Depends.

On a 1-3 evenings beer and Pretzels game: as easy as splitting putty.

On a Game with long term plans/large stories/mcuh money invested in Books/much time in building: Neutrons tar Level of "hard":

Dire Roc
2016-09-26, 11:42 PM
But the straightforward observed fact is that any D&D player who creates such a character will in fact have the character take part in the available quest.

We don't create random characters. We create characters for the express purpose of playing the game.

There are some games (I'm running one right now) in which it's best for every character to be local. A drop-in character would not be appropriate in such a game. But the argument that a drop-in character wouldn't get involved in the quest ignores what the character is being played for.

Things like this are why I try to give all of my characters plot friendly personality traits, like "extremely willing to help people" or "Will always see a promise to completion." Unfortunately, I have had players who create characters with little to no motivation to follow the story and are then upset that there is nothing for them to do.



May use this Idea in an upcoming campaign?

i have a Player here who always wants a special Snowflake and I would love to surprisingly allow all he asks ... and counter with good InWorld Logic.



Go right ahead! I'm a big fan of starting with a goal and working backward (more or less) to find a way to justify it, both in rules and fluff.

VoxRationis
2016-09-26, 11:46 PM
Unfortunately, I have had players who create characters with little to no motivation to follow the story and are then upset that there is nothing for them to do.

Conversely, I've been in games where in-character, there was little reason for the characters we had made to go on the quests hinted at by the DM.

Lacuna Caster
2016-09-27, 01:19 AM
Yeah, this could stand merging with the other thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?500810-Is-there-something-wrong-with-having-setting-specific-guidelines)...


Absolutely! I would argue that it's not only plausible but almost guaranteed that you can derive a large number of character concepts by tying yourself into local features of the setting. All I'm saying is that for many setting starting points, there's an equally wide variety of concepts existing outside that framework, and many players prefer to work with that, especially since it's so much more malleable and less likely to clash with the GM's wishes - for a particularly boring and simple example, say the player wants their character to have a naively idealistic and trusting view of people in positions of responsibility and power, while all the local starting points have such people as so transparently corrupt that nobody could realistically maintain that view from birth to adulthood.

On top of that, and this depends much more on the particular setting and type of game, in a lot of cases the players are being revealed to the details of the setting through play while only getting the broad strokes beforehand. Many players would prefer to play characters in a similar state of ongoing learning, as opposed to having the GM regularly say "that wouldn't be a surprise; you would know X on account of your position."
That's probably a reasonable argument, but I'm a little confused by the 'less likely to clash with the the GM's wishes' bit- if this example PC had a very naive and trusting view of authority (and therefore lacked ranks in, e.g, Truth Sense or Talk Bull or some other skills relevant to handling corrupt officials), then... this might cause trouble if the GM was organising a campaign focused on espionage and skullduggery. More broadly, I would suggest that 'players bring random PCs to the table, GM brings plot, weld as needed afterward' is in my experience asking for trouble. I certainly don't think it should be players' baseline expectation.

I was mildly surprised, and a trifle gratified, to find this is not the default advice given in the 5E DMG, for example.
Backgrounds are designed to root player characters in the world, and creating new backgrounds is a great way to introduce players to the special features of your world. Backgrounds that have ties to particular cultures, organizations, and historical events from your campaign are particularly strong...

1. CREATE A HOME BASE
See the "Settlements" section earlier in this chapter for guidance on building this settlement...

To make a home base come alive, you'll need to invest some time fleshing out details, but the players can help you with that work. Ask them to tell you a bit about mentors, family members, and other important people in their characters' lives. Feel free to add to and modify what they give you, but you'll start with a solid foundation of the nonplayer characters (NPCs) who are important to the characters. Let the players describe where and how their characters spend their time- a favorite tavern, library, or temple, perhaps.

...Once you've identified what your campaign is about, let the players help tell the story by deciding how their characters are involved. This is their opportunity to tie their characters' history and background to the campaign, and a chance for you to determine how the various elements of each character's background tie into the campaign's story.

Mark Hall
2016-09-27, 01:10 PM
Things like this are why I try to give all of my characters plot friendly personality traits, like "extremely willing to help people" or "Will always see a promise to completion." Unfortunately, I have had players who create characters with little to no motivation to follow the story and are then upset that there is nothing for them to do.


An extreme case of this, back when I was doing PBEM, was an "evil characters" game where several people made brooding, silent types, that they played opaquely. Which meant, in a game driven by what you typed, they'd send out one-liners like "Barak hulks menacingly", while others would give detailed descriptions about what they were doing.

Quertus
2016-09-27, 10:32 PM
Unfortunately, I have had players who create characters with little to no motivation to follow the story and are then upset that there is nothing for them to do.

This is an interesting question of, whose responsibility is it? One of the paragon protagonists of the genre, Bilbo Baggins, is a DM nightmare in that regard - a lazy stay at home hobbit who has to be tricked and coerced into even having the party over for dinner, let alone actually traveling with them.

Personally, I'm accustomed to it being a conversation between the player(s) and the DM, at least when it's done right.

Sometimes, that conversation is rather one-sided, when the DM has already thought through the qualifications for an acceptable character. For example, for a one-shot I've run several times, the requirements were, a) in town <insert details>, b) mercenary nature or noble character, c) presence and aptitude are not secret. Translation: the quest giver is going to hunt you down, to pay you to undertake a noble cause.

Most times, though, it involves establishing the character's motivation for being involved in whatever is going on. For your players, have you tried asking, "here's the story I have planned; how do you see your characters getting involved?"?

And that, of course, assumes that you aren't in a sandbox, or can't otherwise just make something happen. In which case, if the entire world, past, present, and future, were entirely populated by illiterate mundanes, yes, Quertus might be upset that there was nothing for him to do just leave.

D+1
2016-09-27, 10:53 PM
That's terrible advice - as is pretty much any advice that deliberately promotes conflict between the players and the GM.

Breaking a setting so that your character can be some kind of special snowflake exemption is a poor idea, because it weakens the setting and elevates your character to a position of greater status compared to other characters that are mundane and in line with setting lore. The 'last mage in the world' for example, is automatically the focus of whatever campaign he takes part in, and his or her companions - which are here represented by other players - are reduced in importance.Worse. Because added to that is what happens in the game world if the last mage PC actually dies. What you had intended to be the focus of the campaign (even if the player in question was to be kept on the same plane of relevance as the other PC's) ceases to be a viable focus. Ergo, the last mage PC cannot be allowed to die or the premise you perched the setting upon also dies.

Koo Rehtorb
2016-09-28, 01:45 AM
Worse. Because added to that is what happens in the game world if the last mage PC actually dies. What you had intended to be the focus of the campaign (even if the player in question was to be kept on the same plane of relevance as the other PC's) ceases to be a viable focus. Ergo, the last mage PC cannot be allowed to die or the premise you perched the setting upon also dies.

You say the premise dies, I say the game goes in a new exciting direction. Maybe the last mage died and the game is now about trying to cope with the new reality of a magic-less world. Or maybe Obi-Wan says to Yoda "That boy was our last hope" and Yoda says "No. There is another."

Half the fun of roleplaying games is when random chance and unexpected choices drive the game in a different direction. That's a thing to embrace and adapt to.

In the game that quote came from I once played a campaign where fairly early on a magical mishap from a PC failing casting a spell accidentally permanently destroyed all the air around the nation's capital in a hundred mile radius. Whatever the original premise of the campaign was suddenly went out of the window and the game was now about desperately trying to hold a crumbling nation together after its economic/military/political center was abruptly gutted. The luckless mage's player made a new character and we carried on.

Cluedrew
2016-09-28, 07:17 AM
This is an interesting question of, whose responsibility is it? One of the paragon protagonists of the genre, Bilbo Baggins, is a DM nightmare in that regard - a lazy stay at home hobbit who has to be tricked and coerced into even having the party over for dinner, let alone actually traveling with them.I think the difference between stories and games might be important here, at least in regards to planning. Now you can plan in a game as well, and if you plan is about the opening of the game you have a good chance of making it survive long enough to actually use the plan.

So I guess it is both the character's player's responsibility and the GM's as well (maybe a little bit the other players) to get all the characters involved. The player should make sure that their characters have some hooks to pull them into the story and (especially is they are not obvious) that the GM knows about them. And the hooks should be appropriate for the game and so on, and I suppose the GM should outline what is appropriate for the game. Then the GM is responsible for pulling on those hooks.

Of course a lot of these lines are squiggly, but that is roughly what the division of responsibilities would look like.

Max_Killjoy
2016-09-28, 08:56 AM
Things like this are why I try to give all of my characters plot friendly personality traits, like "extremely willing to help people" or "Will always see a promise to completion." Unfortunately, I have had players who create characters with little to no motivation to follow the story and are then upset that there is nothing for them to do.


Players like that drive me crazy...

Mark Hall
2016-09-28, 11:03 AM
This is an interesting question of, whose responsibility is it? One of the paragon protagonists of the genre, Bilbo Baggins, is a DM nightmare in that regard - a lazy stay at home hobbit who has to be tricked and coerced into even having the party over for dinner, let alone actually traveling with them.


Conversely, you could argue that Bilbo is an example of a player who's willing to go along with shenanigans because it keeps the story going.

DM: Ok, tell us about your characters.
Gandalf: I have made a powerful and mysterious wizard, but occasionally can't make sessions.
Bilbo: I've made the rich son of gentry. He used to go on little adventures, but now he's settled down in middle age. I hope to do some great role-playing and maybe some political maneuvering.
Thorin & Co.: We've made a ****load of dwarves. We're going into the wild, away from everything comfortable and political, to fight a dragon and regain our treasure.
Bilbo: ... well, OK, maybe he's up for one last adventure...

Max_Killjoy
2016-09-28, 12:21 PM
Conversely, you could argue that Bilbo is an example of a player who's willing to go along with shenanigans because it keeps the story going.

DM: Ok, tell us about your characters.
Gandalf: I have made a powerful and mysterious wizard, but occasionally can't make sessions.
Bilbo: I've made the rich son of gentry. He used to go on little adventures, but now he's settled down in middle age. I hope to do some great role-playing and maybe some political maneuvering.
Thorin & Co.: We've made a ****load of dwarves. We're going into the wild, away from everything comfortable and political, to fight a dragon and regain our treasure.
Bilbo: ... well, OK, maybe he's up for one last adventure...


I like that example.

Lacuna Caster
2016-09-28, 03:22 PM
Heh, yeah. Though he did get to do a little political maneuvering at the end...

Aotrs Commander
2016-09-29, 12:21 PM
When I am DM, setting lore is basically absolute. Like Yora said a while back, a new campaign (or for that matter, campaigns in general) comes with a (usually extensive) list of Things You Can Be (races/class/profession); but if it ain't on the list, you may consider your request pre-emptively answered "no, you can't." As a preparation heavy DM, I spend tens of hours preparing my adventures - just for day quests - often a lot of reaearch and simultaneous world-building and all sorts of nitty gritty details that might only pass by the PCs but otherwise wouldn't be "right."

(What angle of ramp is acceptable to push a trolley up? What technology was around in this period? What survives a millenium in a Colardo desert environment? What is the pressure and visual environement like 100m down on the ocean floor? How many hours of daylight do the PCs have at this time of year?)

So then, as for me as DM, the single most important facet of world-building is to make a cohesive, immersive and consistent world; so the price of entry (as compared to the hours I am going to be sinking into the game preparation) is you have to meet me at least half-way with your character concept and design. (And you'll be Special Snowflake enough being the protagonist characters, you're not getting any more help...!)

However, also like Jay R, I have the advantage of not only playing only with friends, but having done so with a core of friends that has remained the same for twenty-five years, so this is basically a non-issue. (And I realise that is actually something that should be universal, but an unfortunate number of gamers don't actually have the luxuary of.)



Sometimes I'll be more open - typically in scifi, where there's a lot more room for Things... But the price of making up an alien race is that I'm going to expect you to make-up an alien race proper-like (though I will most likely be doing the mechanics), which means you need to be doing a fair bit of world-building yourself...

Sometimes I'll be more strict. For the newest day-quest party I set up - a Rolemaster Aotrs party - the price of entry was "you are an elf, human or orc Lich (short list of subraces provided), you are effectively Lawful Evil and a professional (i.e. you are not a 'maverick who never plays by the rules') and you will require a skill base such that you would be suited to performing exploration operations. For background, you will be required at minimum to tell me where you were from, how you died and why you were recruited into the Aotrs." At least one of the players wasn't interested in that, but that was okay. (Since we have more potential players than we have physical table space for a game, seven is more than enough for Rolemaster anyway and the period we ran with nine players in 3.x was trying enough at the weekly session - the day quest pool is another two or three on top of that!)



Conversely, when it comes to PC backgrounds, I also volenteer to do the majority of the writing. You can write as little or as much as you like, and I'll take what you have, take into consideration your skills and abilities and tweak if necessary to put the specifics into the world (since I will always know the world better than the PCs, as it will either be my own or something like Golarion where I read all the sourcebooks for fun) and then make up stuff to fill any blanks.

I emphatically do not use this as an excuse to be an asshat to screw over your PC (unless you specifically ask me to) - but WILL often use said background to deliver pertinent information and tie your character into the campaign world. And I won't generally say anything about your motivations or personality outside either what you have said or can be extraolplated from your background; mostly it will be a series of "this stuff happened to you." It suits my players, most of whom are happy with the "little" part of the equation.

(For the aforementioned Aotrs party, I wrote pretty much the majority of all the PCs backgrounds, with only a couple of players provided more than a rough sketch - and both of those characters actually dated back nearly fifteen years to when we'd abortively considered an Aotrs campaign before.

It is also worth noting that that first quest - a two-parter day quest - took the majority of about seven months of solid work to prepare, though that included groundwork for the future events and a good solid rules revision pass.)



As a final coda to the above, to perhaps show that in practise, I'm not quite as draconian as the above might sound, the party I've just started running Shackled City (on Golarion) for contains a character who is a Mwangi Bard (going on bard/cleric), who has an afro, Perform (Beatbox) and whose provided background was thusingly:

Now, this is a story all about how
Some dude’s life got flipped-turned upside down
And I'd like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I'll tell you how I became what I call an adventur”rare”

In west Kalabuto born and raised
In the tavern was where I spent most of my days
Cleanin' up maxin' relaxin' all cool
And all shooting some beats ‘cause my words were mah tool
When a couple of guys who were up to no good
Started making trouble in my neighbourhood
I wielded my words an’ Ma hated the din
She said 'You're movin' in with the Clerics of Shelyn'

We whistled for a friar and when he came near
His lyrics were fresh and he used ice as a mirror
If anything I could say that this dude was too much
But I thought 'Nah, forget it' – ‘Let’s see this god and such'

I studied for some years, about 7 or 8
Before I yelled to the cleric 'Yo homes, see ya later'
I looked out at the kingdom
I was finally there
To drop beats in the world as an adventure”rare”



The player is justifyably proud of both that, and my reaction when I first read it...

(I has been expecting smething, since he'd quietly been working on it for some time, but even so, I wasn't quite prepared for exactly that...!)

Flickerdart
2016-09-29, 12:29 PM
Setting lore is as breakable as the setting lore says it's breakable. Like any other question, it depends largely on context.

Let's say one of your rules for character generation is "everybody is elves." This is not setting lore. The setting lore that causes "everybody is elves" might be "we are starting in an elven empire where only elves live" in which case it's plausible that there could be a human trader, orc prisoner of war, dwarven spy, and so on. But if everybody is elves because the elves crafted a great magic to create an elf-only crystal sphere where it's only possible to be an elf, and a player wants to a gnome PC, that player is going to be disappointed.

D+1
2016-09-29, 10:47 PM
You say the premise dies, I say the game goes in a new exciting direction. Maybe the last mage died and the game is now about trying to cope with the new reality of a magic-less world. Or maybe Obi-Wan says to Yoda "That boy was our last hope" and Yoda says "No. There is another."The point is not that the game CANNOT be salvaged, but that it NEEDS to be salvaged at that point. Although do-able, it is, IMO, inadvisable to build a campaign upon any one PC. Nothing wrong with any particular PC being important to ongoing game events, but the game should carry on with nary a bump if any particular PC ceases to exist rather than retool in order to deal with that absence.


Half the fun of roleplaying games is when random chance and unexpected choices drive the game in a different direction. That's a thing to embrace and adapt to.Not everyone runs sandbox games. I have personally found, however, that going with random chance and unexpected choices only really works out about half the time compared to exerting effort to keep a game running in the direction you PLANNED to take it. I say that as a guy who's run his games by the seat of his pants for a good 20 years. Going in random directions is fine if you have no particular direction to go in the first place. If you have actually planned for a certain kind of campaign or for heading in certain direction, unless you're not very keen on your own plan - stick to the plan. Use the random and unexpected as filler, not the guiding light for the game.

As always YMMV

hifidelity2
2016-09-30, 07:51 AM
So. I'm just curious, how strict should game and setting lore be admired to when creating characters?

On the one hand... I get it. I get wanting to keep things authentic and fit into the game world. Having strict lore helps with that.

On the other hand, I think you can build interesting characters by breaking it in fun ways. What circumstances led to X doing Y, kinda?


So (and quoted the original question) he help keep on track

For me there are different levels of setting lore and they have different levels of strictness

Fundamental

These are one that I will not change – the world is round. The PCs can say they want a flat world as much as they like but its still round


Important
I will change them esp if they party can in game cause them to be changed

The land is ruled by a King – PC’s ”We want a republic” DM: OK its still a monarchy but lets see what happens in game
The is no Magic- PC I want to be the last Mage – GM OK you are – create character with but no spells work(in D&D you are a 1st level mage with all the class Skills but no spells) and there may never ever be magic


Minor
Droids are second class citizens – PC I want to pay a droid. GM: OK but you will not be allowed in most Cantinas etc as a droid – don’t complain when you have to sit outside

Quertus
2016-09-30, 05:38 PM
The point is not that the game CANNOT be salvaged, but that it NEEDS to be salvaged at that point. Although do-able, it is, IMO, inadvisable to build a campaign upon any one PC. Nothing wrong with any particular PC being important to ongoing game events, but the game should carry on with nary a bump if any particular PC ceases to exist rather than retool in order to deal with that absence.

Not everyone runs sandbox games. I have personally found, however, that going with random chance and unexpected choices only really works out about half the time compared to exerting effort to keep a game running in the direction you PLANNED to take it. I say that as a guy who's run his games by the seat of his pants for a good 20 years. Going in random directions is fine if you have no particular direction to go in the first place. If you have actually planned for a certain kind of campaign or for heading in certain direction, unless you're not very keen on your own plan - stick to the plan. Use the random and unexpected as filler, not the guiding light for the game.

As always YMMV

My first campaign started with a plan. The party (unintentionally) ignored my plan, and pursued some setting fluff instead. I learned to end each session with, "OK, guys, what are we doing next week?"

If that style only has half the success rate of sticking to a plan, I should probably expect nearly a 200% success rate with sticking to a plan, instead of the lower success rate I've actually seen. :smallconfused:

So I'm guessing it's a style thing. Know what you, personally, are good at, and generally sick close to that. Or, as you said, YMMV.