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Thinker
2019-02-24, 05:30 PM
The most popular settings seem to be heavily skewed toward either medieval fantasy or futuristic scifi. D&D, Pathfinder, Exalted, and Star Wars* all have a big following. Among the modern or 5 minutes in the future settings we have d20 Modern, Shadowrun, and most Supers games. There are bound to be other definitions based on personal opinion and experiences, but I'd consider modern settings to be anything from ~1950 - 2050 settings or any sort of alternate world with similar technology levels and/or cultures. How many people enjoy these modern settings? What sorts of adventures do your characters have in these games?

*I know it's "long ago", but their tech is akin to a potential earth future tech.

Xuc Xac
2019-02-24, 05:44 PM
Star Wars*

*I know it's "long ago", but their tech is akin to a potential earth future tech.

Star Wars technology is just the 1940s-50s but floating and/or glowing.

Quertus
2019-02-24, 06:28 PM
I'm generally not a fan.

For one, "now, but with X" usually has the worst world building.

For two, GMs feel that they have less obligation to explain things in a modern setting.

Also, my experience with GMs of such settings is arguably worse than my experience with GMs in general. From denial of player agency / railroading, to meat grinders, to OP DMPCs, to incoherent settings and morphing rules, modern represents many of the worst offenders.

And "modern, but..." settings have the greatest potential for loss of suspension of disbelief. We have ideas about how the world works, and we notice when the game doesn't conform.

On a related note, humans are idiots, and their perception of "how the world works" is often blatantly wrong. Modern games kinda force you to deal with that.

And there's not really much I'd want to do in a modern setting, except maybe "kill all the idiots". But, IME, my fellow gamers don't take it too well when they realize that they, IRL, fall into the category of people that my character is genocidally murdering, so... there's nothing to do in a modern setting.

geppetto
2019-02-24, 06:49 PM
The longer I play the more I prefer modern and near future settings. I tend to run NWoD games with either hunters or changelings. I love alternate history so i enjoy the idea of building a modern world but darker and imagining what might have changed if a few things had gone differently. I've played timelines where the south won the civil war, where "abe lincoln vampire hunter" was actual history, did one where the soviets got the bomb first and won WW2 eventually conquering America and the players were part of an underground resistance movement. My favorite ever was taking the idea of the world from the RIFTS setting but playing through the modern era right when the apocalypse was starting and the rifts were first opening.

The hardest part is adjusting expectations. Typical campaigns assume some level of anarchy and legal grey area for the party to run amok in. A more modern setting has more modern law enforcement, so running amok is generally discouraged. You have to be more subtle, but i like the way that opens up different sorts of stories.

I dont mind doing the sort of "ripped from the headlines" stories that you see in cop procedural shows either. Stuff like that can allow players to really get invested in a setting assuming you have the interpersonal management skills to keep them from going off on each other IRL.

Thinker
2019-02-24, 06:53 PM
I'm generally not a fan.

For one, "now, but with X" usually has the worst world building.

For two, GMs feel that they have less obligation to explain things in a modern setting.
Do you mean "now, but with X" as-in "like now, but magic has been here all along" or as-in "like now, but magic has just returned to the world"? Those strike me as two very different approaches.


Also, my experience with GMs of such settings is arguably worse than my experience with GMs in general. From denial of player agency / railroading, to meat grinders, to OP DMPCs, to incoherent settings and morphing rules, modern represents many of the worst offenders.
That doesn't seem like something you can blame too heavily on modern settings. :smallwink:




And "modern, but..." settings have the greatest potential for loss of suspension of disbelief. We have ideas about how the world works, and we notice when the game doesn't conform.

On a related note, humans are idiots, and their perception of "how the world works" is often blatantly wrong. Modern games kinda force you to deal with that.

And there's not really much I'd want to do in a modern setting, except maybe "kill all the idiots". But, IME, my fellow gamers don't take it too well when they realize that they, IRL, fall into the category of people that my character is genocidally murdering, so... there's nothing to do in a modern setting.
I'd agree that we all have ideas about how the world works, but you could say the same thing with regards to modern media - police procedurals, government agencies, crime shows, comedies, doctor shows, etc. We all have an idea bout modern life, but we can still lose ourselves in a well-crafted modern universe. See Breaking Bad, Justified, The Sopranos, M*A*S*H, and many, many more. It doesn't seem to matter if the setting is realistic or even matches how the world really works so long as it is consistent and adds to the show in some way.

Thinker
2019-02-24, 07:01 PM
The longer I play the more I prefer modern and near future settings. I tend to run NWoD games with either hunters or changelings. I love alternate history so i enjoy the idea of building a modern world but darker and imagining what might have changed if a few things had gone differently. I've played timelines where the south won the civil war, where "abe lincoln vampire hunter" was actual history, did one where the soviets got the bomb first and won WW2 eventually conquering America and the players were part of an underground resistance movement. My favorite ever was taking the idea of the world from the RIFTS setting but playing through the modern era right when the apocalypse was starting and the rifts were first opening.

I can't believe I forgot WoD when I was listing modern games. It's probably the most popular of them all. When you play these sorts of games, how much does it affect the setting that Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter was actual history? Does it lead to a federal bureau of vampire hunters in the US? Or do you tend to keep it pretty close to our world and just add that there are vampires and a masquerade, and so on?


The hardest part is adjusting expectations. Typical campaigns assume some level of anarchy and legal grey area for the party to run amok in. A more modern setting has more modern law enforcement, so running amok is generally discouraged. You have to be more subtle, but i like the way that opens up different sorts of stories.
I agree with this. At the same time, it is up to the GM to remind the players about modern things, particularly if the players are used to playing low-tech games. "Do you want to try to get the security-cam footage?" or "The club is full of people with cell-phone cameras. Are you sure you want to draw on the bartender?"



I dont mind doing the sort of "ripped from the headlines" stories that you see in cop procedural shows either. Stuff like that can allow players to really get invested in a setting assuming you have the interpersonal management skills to keep them from going off on each other IRL.
How does that work out? I'm fortunate that my group is similarly minded when it comes to politics and religion and we all realize it's a game so no one really gets bent out of shape.

Quertus
2019-02-24, 07:57 PM
Do you mean "now, but with X" as-in "like now, but magic has been here all along" or as-in "like now, but magic has just returned to the world"? Those strike me as two very different approaches.

Either.

Note that I don't mean "what White Wolf put into WoD or (whoever) put into ShadowRun", but "what the GM put into their own custom campaign setting" or "what the GM understood of the published setting".


That doesn't seem like something you can blame too heavily on modern settings. :smallwink:

I am... uncertain.

See, if I had said, "Vampire has the most pretentious players/GMs" or "oldschool games had the worst meat grinder GMs", nobody would have batted a fang.

I imagine that there is likely a reason that I have encountered the largest concentration of bad GMs / bad GMing traits running "modern" settings; I'm just not certain what that reason is.


I'd agree that we all have ideas about how the world works, but you could say the same thing with regards to modern media - police procedurals, government agencies, crime shows, comedies, doctor shows, etc. We all have an idea bout modern life, but we can still lose ourselves in a well-crafted modern universe. See Breaking Bad, Justified, The Sopranos, M*A*S*H, and many, many more. It doesn't seem to matter if the setting is realistic or even matches how the world really works so long as it is consistent and adds to the show in some way.

I... am not sure which way to go here.

So, yes, you've described yet another reason why I'd rather watch a movie than play in someone's dumb story. When we don't have to do the thinking for the characters, it's easier to accept the unreality of the situation.

But when 3-15 people have to fill in the gaps / make plans based on their diverse and flawed comprehension of this world? It's not a pretty picture.

Let me give you one simple example that a game store owner gave to me: a customer asks, "how much is this?". What do you know about the customer?

I got this one right; the GM got it wrong, and looked baffled at the answer.

This is the game that I play: extrapolation, human psychology, planning. In a "rules as physics" game, I can just point to RAW, and my plans work as designed*. In a "physics as people misunderstand physics" game, i have to waste precious brainpower fighting idiots (or, you know, at times, be one myself). This doesn't sound like fun to me. Does it sound like fun to you?

* Within the limits of my understanding of the scenario, and the fickle favor of Arengee, of course

Shuruke
2019-02-24, 08:35 PM
I loved playing Dresden files Rpg

And recently did a dnd 5e but think of magic tree house type thing
Was a session where we were sent to the 1920's on a whim of a powerful wizard to sober up our drunken master monk XD was fun I liked it and we did a few sessions their before heading back

Jay R
2019-02-24, 08:36 PM
I believe in immersion.

I love a futuristic setting for an SF game like Traveller, or a modern setting for a modern game. I love Pendragon set in Arthurian England and Flashing Blades set in Paris of the Musketeers. [One of the great aspects of Flashing Blades is that it is clearly and unabashedly simulating swashbuckling movies and stories, rather than history. This is Dumas's Paris, not Louis's.]

For the same reasons, I dislike some of the modern aspects of the D&D setting from 3.5 onward. The idea that magic items are bought and sold in a market ends immersion for me, simply because no such market exists in the worlds of Tolkien, Lewis, Leiber, Moorcock, Homer, or other writers of fantasy.

In original D&D, where I started playing, the only magic items you would have would be what you found or were given, just as Frodo had no choice in the properties of his sword, cloak, ring, etc.

Spore
2019-02-24, 10:58 PM
I've only played WoD (Vampire) in that time period and my god, is the world building done poorly at instances. No finesse, it's basically just: "See that historic landpoint/treaty/conflict or religion? Supernatural being xy did it." It ranges from plausible and fitting to absolutely overdone. Alternate history needs to leave some stuff intact and untouched else it feels very "video gamey" to me.

To me and many players P&P is escapism, and there not much of that when you roleplay in your own time and world. And while I love some of my fellow P&P players I would rather be caught dead than arguing RW politics with them for more than 30 minutes. Arguing RW politics through an ingame avatar would be the worst.

Quertus
2019-02-24, 11:43 PM
To me and many players P&P is escapism, and there not much of that when you roleplay in your own time and world.

Ah, thanks - I completely forgot that one. That's another reason to dislike modern settings.

Speaking of, another thing I forgot is...



I... In a "physics as people misunderstand physics" game, i have to waste precious brainpower fighting idiots (or, you know, at times, be one myself). This doesn't sound like fun to me. Does it sound like fun to you?

I might even "lose" the fight against idiocy, and have the GM rule that rocks float, barns don't burn, and teachers make more than programmers. :smallannoyed:

Yes, stupid can happen in any game, but I'd not only much rather it happen over the rules, where there's, you know, rules to point to, but "this world, but stupider" is kinda the opposite of escapism, IMO.

Hackulator
2019-02-25, 12:17 AM
I love Delta Green, which is a Cthulu modern game where you play members of various law enforcement or intelligence agencies who have discovered that mythos stuff exists and are trying to fight it, but you get no official support from your organization so you are basically stealing government resources to deal with things.

Spore
2019-02-25, 02:15 AM
I love Delta Green, which is a Cthulu modern game where you play members of various law enforcement or intelligence agencies who have discovered that mythos stuff exists and are trying to fight it, but you get no official support from your organization so you are basically stealing government resources to deal with things.

Idk about you but I always love Lovecraft stories from the 1920s...a dusty old tome is far cooler than Necronomicon as an audio book even if one could be corrupted by the soothing voice of Sir David Attenborough. :smallbiggrin:

Yora
2019-02-25, 03:45 AM
The big question would be, what do you do in the present? The only things I can think of that could be gameable are Urban Fantasy and Zombie Apocalypse. Both genres that don't do anything for me.

The most contemporary things I can think of that seem fun are Pulp Adventures and Cyberpunk, but I think both rely significantly on not being like the present at all.

Seto
2019-02-25, 03:46 AM
My personal preference goes to medieval fantasy. However, it's nice to have a break from time to time, and any setting can be interesting as long as it's well-built.
I'll say this, though: I would take a medieval fantasy setting OR a modern setting OR a sci-fi setting anyday over a kitchen-sink that tries to do all three at once.

geppetto
2019-02-25, 04:40 AM
I can't believe I forgot WoD when I was listing modern games. It's probably the most popular of them all. When you play these sorts of games, how much does it affect the setting that Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter was actual history? Does it lead to a federal bureau of vampire hunters in the US? Or do you tend to keep it pretty close to our world and just add that there are vampires and a masquerade, and so on?

I've done it both ways, usually the creatures and magic are part of a secret underground society. Thats a little easier to manage. But I did one inspired by my at the time wife who was a huge fan of the TV show True Blood, so we did an "out of the coffin" setting where the various creatures were just coming out into the open and the society was trying to figure out how to deal with it. The players wound up being part of a special FBI task force that dealt with supernatural crime.



I agree with this. At the same time, it is up to the GM to remind the players about modern things, particularly if the players are used to playing low-tech games. "Do you want to try to get the security-cam footage?" or "The club is full of people with cell-phone cameras. Are you sure you want to draw on the bartender?"

oh yeah especially with people not used to a modern setting. You have to hold their hand a little at first. IME people pick up on it pretty quick though and wind up pointing out things to me that I might have forgotten to account for.




How does that work out? I'm fortunate that my group is similarly minded when it comes to politics and religion and we all realize it's a game so no one really gets bent out of shape.

I've had a few players with very different points of view sometimes. The trick is to know when to pause the game, remind everyone that they are supposed to be looking at the issue as fictional characters, not as themselves and give everyone a 5 minute break. And to know not to get too dark or to keep the controversial stuff too common. I try to have 2 or 3 sessions where we keep things light in between every one that might go a little dark or heated. Arranging stuff where people hang out outside of gaming sometimes helps too. People who are actual friends are much better at dealing with differences of opinion then people who only get together for gaming.

JoeJ
2019-02-25, 05:45 AM
The big question would be, what do you do in the present? The only things I can think of that could be gameable are Urban Fantasy and Zombie Apocalypse. Both genres that don't do anything for me.

Espionage. Special ops soldiers. Detective. Police street patrol. Bounty hunters. Superhero. Stargate-type science fiction. Leverage-style cons. Soap opera. X-files horror.

some guy
2019-02-25, 05:49 AM
While I run plenty of modern setting games (when compared to other setting rpg's; about 1/3), a big pro about it is also a negative point: most setting knowledge is available. This makes running games easy when the setting is close to yourself or not too extensive to research. But when the setting is a few steps away from yourself, researching the game can get too much too fast. When I ran a Call of Cthulhu campaign set in my hometown in the current day, research was very light. I'm running a Night's Black Agents (spy/horror) game right now and knowing I can research every political movement, law enforcement, history, organized crime of a few Eastern European countries is both enticing and daunting. On the one hand, I know I don't need all that information to run the game, but I really want to make it realistic.

Leaving that all aside, recruiting players for dnd is much easier than recruiting players for any other game.


The big question would be, what do you do in the present? The only things I can think of that could be gameable are Urban Fantasy and Zombie Apocalypse. Both genres that don't do anything for me.

The most contemporary things I can think of that seem fun are Pulp Adventures and Cyberpunk, but I think both rely significantly on not being like the present at all.

Horror, spy/thriller or supers can easily be set in the present day. Horror is the big one for me.

DeTess
2019-02-25, 05:55 AM
Modern settings can be nice, but they need to be played as an entirely different game to dnd, or things come crashing down (I once had a dm with a literal final dungeon in a shadowrun game, unfortunately). In basics, modern games need to be far more open and sandboxy, because players will notice the invisible walls far more easily. They might accept the castle wall being fireball proof, but you won't be able to reasonably stop them from blowing up a wall if they have acquired or somehow made decent modern explosives, for example. I think this might be why quertus feels modern games are more rail-roady, because in a fantasy game a small amount if railriading us easily hidden, but that doesn't go for a real-world setting.

The three archetypes that imho work best in a modern setting would be a heist/espionage story, a police procedural or a mystery in either ctulhu mythos style or indiana jones treasure-hunt style.

Drascin
2019-02-25, 06:15 AM
I have ended up categorically refusing to run modern-ish games due to one specific thing: guns. Or rather, the fact that gun people are incredibly annoying. People who will not blink at flying dragons and kung fu dudes standing atop a feather suddenly want, nay, need absolute accuracy and a highly realistic outlook when it comes to models and effects of modern military equipment, and will complain endlessly when the superhero who shrugs off bullets gets knocked by a superpunch because physically speaking obviously guns are a lot more energy being imparted.

And I do not give a crap about guns. Far as I'm concerned they're just elongated cylinders what murder people. So it gets really tiresome.

Schismatic
2019-02-25, 08:10 AM
I love things like Changeling, Mage and Werewolf.

And I had the luck belonging to a group with a GM running a Call of Cthulhu game set in the 1980s that was epic. Late Cold War shenanigans with far-out CIA-style conspiracies in the jungles of Latin America and Eastern Europe, and using cocaine and heroin to momentarily feel better.

New Wave techno and synth-pop clubs just works with CoC.

Quertus
2019-02-25, 08:35 AM
modern games need to be far more open and sandboxy, because players will notice the invisible walls far more easily. They might accept the castle wall being fireball proof, but you won't be able to reasonably stop them from blowing up a wall if they have acquired or somehow made decent modern explosives, for example. I think this might be why quertus feels modern games are more rail-roady, because in a fantasy game a small amount if railriading us easily hidden, but that doesn't go for a real-world setting.


That might be part of it. Thinking about it, I suspect that another part is where the game play occurs. In D&D, it largely occurs in "the rules". In a modern setting, it largely occurs outside the rules. If I've, say, done something IRL, but the GM is clueless, and doesn't believe it's possible, well, stupidity happens.

I may not be able to say, "but IRL I've melted this kind of rock with my fireballs", but I can dang well say... Hmmm... actually, maybe I shouldn't admit to just what all I can dang well say from experience. :smallwink:

But, yeah, that certainly makes rails far more visible, even if they masquerade as epic stupidity.

Schismatic
2019-02-25, 08:51 AM
That might be part of it. Thinking about it, I suspect that another part is where the game play occurs. In D&D, it largely occurs in "the rules". In a modern setting, it largely occurs outside the rules. If I've, say, done something IRL, but the GM is clueless, and doesn't believe it's possible, well, stupidity happens.

I may not be able to say, "but IRL I've melted this kind of rock with my fireballs", but I can dang well say... Hmmm... actually, maybe I shouldn't admit to just what all I can dang well say from experience. :smallwink:

But, yeah, that certainly makes rails far more visible, even if they masquerade as epic stupidity.

I don't know. Modern settings can be pretty impactful because they force GMs to think about their players in a very clear social contract on the basis that we know more indepthly the weight of our actions in reality.

In D&D you can be that magical, transient, homeless psychopath... that routinely is 5' away from a fireball doing 35 points of damage and thus totally fine.

In reality, you're a soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq routinely exposed to overpressure events from mortars, grenades, close fire support, using/loading a recoilless rifle 5-6 per minute that causes accumulated damages and end up with longterm brain damage.

And we know this messes people up and reality and the active use of the internet has dispelled the whole fire and shrapnel make explosions dangerous myth--as opposed to most people now knowing that an explosion that can pick you up off your feet with 25-40 kilograms of gear and dashes you across a wall is going to mess you up even if you 'appear fine'. Because force pressure is a thing and it feels like Mike Tyson with a haymaker the size of a minivan slamming into you is actually pretty dangerous even without multi-level injury from penetrative wounding or the like.

And modern settings RPGs often have more complex injury systems, including psychological damage.

Quertus
2019-02-25, 08:55 AM
I don't know. Modern settings can be pretty impactful because they force GMs to think about their players in a very clear social contract on the basis that we know more indepthly the weight of our actions in reality.

In D&D you can be that magical, transient, homeless psychopath... that routinely is 5' away from a fireball doing 35 points of damage and thus totally fine.

In reality, you're a soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq routinely exposed to overpressure events from mortars, grenades, close fire support, using/loading a recoilless rifle 5-6 per minute that causes accumulated damages and end up with longterm brain damage.

And we know this messes people up and reality and the active use of the internet has dispelled the whole fire and shrapnel make explosions dangerous myth--as opposed to most people now knowing that an explosion that can pick you up off your feet with 25-40 kilograms of gear and dashes you across a wall is going to mess you up even if you 'appear fine'.

Because force pressure is a thing and it feels like Mike Tyson with a haymaker the size of a minivan slamming into you is actually pretty dangerous even without multi-level injury.

And modern settings RPGs often have more complex injury systems, including psychological damage.

That... sounds like you're strongly agreeing with my position, with the caveat that you've played games with more complete rules systems.

Schismatic
2019-02-25, 09:06 AM
That... sounds like you're strongly agreeing with my position, with the caveat that you've played games with more complete rules systems.

Right, but more to the point D&D and Pathfinder can't play like that. A fireball isn't just like C-4. It doesn't have a brisance value. It is quite literally just a whole lot of fire that acts like an explosion but gets offset by things like Protection From Energy.

And the internet basically killed the 1980s to mid 1990s action flick stupidity of 'diving from fireballs from explosions = not hurt'. Mainly because it's kind of on the nose when you have a 'Silver Age of Terrorism' and people dying in explosions at rates we haven't seen since the 1960s.

That being said D&D past the wholesale use of the internet and omnipresence of 21st century 24hr news cycle still says Reflex = enough. Basically non-modern set games with magic already have to strain at universal metaphysics... whereas modern games are usually informed by the time of their creation.

Because there's no real nuance-ability (to coin a word) where the world can treat a fireball as simply 'lots of fire yet acts like an explosion, only not, and simply protecting oneself from 'fire' is enough'.

I'd honestly say non-modern settings rail way worst, if only because the metaphysics of their universe can't avoid oversimplification.

Thinker
2019-02-25, 10:15 AM
Either.

Note that I don't mean "what White Wolf put into WoD or (whoever) put into ShadowRun", but "what the GM put into their own custom campaign setting" or "what the GM understood of the published setting".



I am... uncertain.

See, if I had said, "Vampire has the most pretentious players/GMs" or "oldschool games had the worst meat grinder GMs", nobody would have batted a fang.

I imagine that there is likely a reason that I have encountered the largest concentration of bad GMs / bad GMing traits running "modern" settings; I'm just not certain what that reason is.



I... am not sure which way to go here.

So, yes, you've described yet another reason why I'd rather watch a movie than play in someone's dumb story. When we don't have to do the thinking for the characters, it's easier to accept the unreality of the situation.

But when 3-15 people have to fill in the gaps / make plans based on their diverse and flawed comprehension of this world? It's not a pretty picture.

Let me give you one simple example that a game store owner gave to me: a customer asks, "how much is this?". What do you know about the customer?

I got this one right; the GM got it wrong, and looked baffled at the answer.

This is the game that I play: extrapolation, human psychology, planning. In a "rules as physics" game, I can just point to RAW, and my plans work as designed*. In a "physics as people misunderstand physics" game, i have to waste precious brainpower fighting idiots (or, you know, at times, be one myself). This doesn't sound like fun to me. Does it sound like fun to you?

* Within the limits of my understanding of the scenario, and the fickle favor of Arengee, of course

So, part of your problem seems to be that you know too much about the modern world - you are well-educated and have a good understanding of physics and probably some understanding of chemistry, geography, tactics, etc. And from other posts I've read, I believe you also enjoy games where rules are firmly established for specific actions. Given that, for you to enjoy a modern-day game, you would need a well-codified rule system that closely matches your understanding of the real world. I don't want to put words into your mouth - correct me if I"m wrong. If I'm right, though, you probably would enjoy GURPS.

That said, how would you feel about a different world with modern levels of technology? It could be a medieval fantasy world progressed to modern times - Internet, cars, machine learning, Cloud, cell phones, firearms, Netflix, etc. mixed with magic, orcs, goblins, and so on (maybe even dragons if they're not extinct). What about a lower-magic, but still Not Earth with modern tech and values?


The big question would be, what do you do in the present? The only things I can think of that could be gameable are Urban Fantasy and Zombie Apocalypse. Both genres that don't do anything for me.

The most contemporary things I can think of that seem fun are Pulp Adventures and Cyberpunk, but I think both rely significantly on not being like the present at all.

I'd lump both of those things into being modern in the sense that you have a lot of modern technologies and cultural artifacts. Other than those two things, you can do a lot in modern settings - super heroes, police procedural, special forces, secret agents, paranormal investigation, PI, and most genres of movie or TV you can think of. The list grows bigger if you include aliens, magic, a hollow earth, war, global conspiracies, etc.

MoiMagnus
2019-02-25, 10:37 AM
Urban fantasy settings are quite fun to play in (I've tried Fate Stay Night & Fate Zero, but I guess most similar anime would do the job). We were playing member of a kind of "secret aristocracy" of mages, hunting and catching mages doing dangerous stuff for the Mage's Association, while our-self trying to obtain more power in some doubtful way (including some secret collaboration between party members, and probably some back-stab and some PC becoming evil NPCs if we had finished the campaign).

They tends to be put before the Internet era (so ~2000), because big conspiracy theories like "magic is real" are much more credible when you don't have peoples taking photos/videos and posting them immediately on the internet.

The main problem with the modern world is that individual are not really significant, so every-time you build a plot, you need an answer to "why isn't the army / a group of expert doing the job instead of me, or at least doing 3/4 of the job and only letting me do the boring and safe parts?"

Note that that kind of problem is even more present if you're trying a "realistic modern world", because reality is "boring": it hasn't be optimized to be entertaining to watch, nor balanced and fair to play within. (Which is why action films tends to take a lot of liberties when describing reality). Not even taking in account that a lot of players will instantly remark incoherent stuffs because they know well the modern world, while they will be able to ignore them in worlds they are not familiar with.

The Jack
2019-02-25, 10:49 AM
Modern fantasy settings are going to be done much better or much worse than your past/future settings because your players are going to be much more sensitive to things you do right or wrong.


WoD works excellently when it's 'our world with some aspects exaggerated'. Vampires/werewolves/mages and so on are just caricatures of certain types of people, they're not really entirely different people. The conspiracy isn't really 'vampires did all this!' its more 'people did this, and some of them might've been vampires' because it's not about supernaturals, it's about how people'll do ****ty things when they have power.

and It works better when things are close to the real world. I've had some people say 'british police use guns in my world' because they think that's a bad thing and they want to add bad things; I run it as 'british police still don't use guns, but oh boy can they be creative with a baton' because making real problems worse is just good satire (whilst inventing new problems is not good satire)

and when you make up new problems in the modern world rather than just exaggerate them you'll get players saying 'hold on, British police officers wouldn't be carrying guns in this situation!' and you get a disconnect, you lose the omph, it's not a real problem so it's not interesting (yeah, you could say the same about vampires, but can you prove that vampires don't exist in the real world?) It's kinda like joking about national stereotypes; The accurate ones can bring merriment whilst the inaccurate ones always just come off as painful.

I think the biggest issue of current WoD is that the hordes of freelance writers clearly state opinions of X being good and Y being bad... about real world issues. Nothing so much takes people out as being obviously wrong and objective takes at subjective morality are storytelling murder.
An issue with Older WoD was that they sometimes used real people. 'Oscar Wilde is a vampire. But the moment someone acts with Oscar Wilde and he doesn't reach the perfection of what Oscar Wilde would act like in your head, people've mentally bugged out... it's not a good idea.



Now of course, if you put yourself in an entirely fictional modern setting or a high-fantasy Alt-history, you can avoid most of these issues... most of them.


People are to some degree analyzing your history and sociology. They might do it actively or it might be subconscious, but they do it.
Take Bright for example;
African Americans would never have been subjected to the abuses of the Triangular slave trade if Orcs (a far more easily justifiable slave race) existed. It's just lazy worldbuilding to treat everyting the same+Elf/Orc enclaves. Cue a billion video essays on why Bright was lazy.

Also people are sensitive to their careers; are you getting them right? How much are you handwaving and contriving to get that 'this is how things are working in my game!'

Zombie apocalypses only "work" because society is radically changed as a result of the outbreak. I think Zombie apocalypses are the works of hacks because they're so easily surmountable, but in a way they're not quite 'modern/modernish' settings.


The further away from now you do the game, the less sensitive players are about how things work.
This is a double edged sword. Obviously using the modern day means more things can go wrong, but it does mean that some things can go so very right.

Grod_The_Giant
2019-02-25, 11:16 AM
Modern settings can be nice, but they need to be played as an entirely different game to dnd, or things come crashing down (I once had a dm with a literal final dungeon in a shadowrun game, unfortunately). In basics, modern games need to be far more open and sandboxy, because players will notice the invisible walls far more easily. They might accept the castle wall being fireball proof, but you won't be able to reasonably stop them from blowing up a wall if they have acquired or somehow made decent modern explosives, for example. I think this might be why quertus feels modern games are more rail-roady, because in a fantasy game a small amount if railriading us easily hidden, but that doesn't go for a real-world setting.
Agreed. The core problem I think is that, well... the modern world has a crapton of options. Running for an imaginative party with a decent budget and black market contacts is like running a high-level 3.5 campaign with full casters. It's all 12th dimensional chess, finding the one thing your opponent forgot to take into account that completely unravels everything. Doubly so when someone in the group has a decent grasp on chemistry or engineering, at which point even limiting access to materials isn't enough-- we've all heard stories about groups where someone winds up making C4 out of common household ingredients. Or describes a series of clever google searches that tell them way more about an NPC than you thought they could find out. Or... well, you get the idea. That's why pulpy games usually work better than 21st century ones-- cars and pistols aren't different enough from horses and crossbows to disrupt standard RPG tropes, but computers and the internet sure are.

Add that to the fact that everyone has a really good grasp on what the modern world is like, and a tendency for that to bring out pedantry and attempts at setting disruption, and you've got a recipe for problems. Either the rails come down hard, or the campaign spirals completely out of control. It's not that there's something inherently un-fun about modern games, it's just hard. That's why I think the most successful modern campaigns are the ones least connected to the "real" world. Superhero games, for example, bring in their own set of well-defined limits and expectations. Urban fantasy games (especially ones where the supernatural is hidden) tend to be played mostly within the bounds of the magical side of things. They define a subsection of the world to interact with, and the concentration of rules describing that subsection has the effect of focusing player attention on it. The modern world becomes a familiar backdrop, rather than an endless pool of possibilities.

JoeJ
2019-02-25, 11:43 AM
And the internet basically killed the 1980s to mid 1990s action flick stupidity of 'diving from fireballs from explosions = not hurt'. Mainly because it's kind of on the nose when you have a 'Silver Age of Terrorism' and people dying in explosions at rates we haven't seen since the 1960s.

That's why you establish in session zero that you're playing with A-Team physics (if that is, in fact, what you're doing). Players can understand if the game is more cinematic than realistic.


The main problem with the modern world is that individual are not really significant, so every-time you build a plot, you need an answer to "why isn't the army / a group of expert doing the job instead of me, or at least doing 3/4 of the job and only letting me do the boring and safe parts?"

Somebody has to do the dangerous and exciting parts. You're playing those people.

lightningcat
2019-02-25, 12:06 PM
That's why you establish in session zero that you're playing with A-Team physics (if that is, in fact, what you're doing). Players can understand if the game is more cinematic than realistic.

Somebody has to do the dangerous and exciting parts. You're playing those people.

Establishing the level of seriousness and verisimilitude is something that needs to be done in every game, but modern games lack an assumed default. An action game can range from Black Hawk Down to Die Hard to Sin City. Having the discussion on where you want the game to fall on that spectrum will save agruements later on.

Likewise, having some sort of party template goes a lot further in a modern game then it does in a fantasy game. 5 random adventures makes some sense in D&D, but not so much in a modern game. The same 5 people as professional troubleshooters running an agency together could make perfect sense in the game.

patchyman
2019-02-25, 12:25 PM
The big question would be, what do you do in the present? The only things I can think of that could be gameable are Urban Fantasy and Zombie Apocalypse. Both genres that don't do anything for me.

You could also do True Crime, Political Thriller and Espionage.

geppetto
2019-02-25, 02:29 PM
That might be part of it. Thinking about it, I suspect that another part is where the game play occurs. In D&D, it largely occurs in "the rules". In a modern setting, it largely occurs outside the rules. If I've, say, done something IRL, but the GM is clueless, and doesn't believe it's possible, well, stupidity happens.

I may not be able to say, "but IRL I've melted this kind of rock with my fireballs", but I can dang well say... Hmmm... actually, maybe I shouldn't admit to just what all I can dang well say from experience. :smallwink:

But, yeah, that certainly makes rails far more visible, even if they masquerade as epic stupidity.

Conversely, in a modern setting google is your friend. no stupid debates about whether the RAW is right, makes sense or is the best rule. If theres a question about your melty rock you just google it and 30 seconds later everyone has their answer.

Google earth makes mapping really easy too and has way more geographical detail then any fantasy map Ive ever seen.

Rhedyn
2019-02-25, 03:35 PM
First off, I think it's a big assumption that Sci-fi gaming makes up a large enough portion of the TTRPG scene to be lumped in with fantasy gaming.

Even granting that (and ignoring that people gravitate towards fantasy because D&D is fantasy focused), modern is really hard to do because it keeps constantly constantly changing, more so than even Sci-fi (Flash Gordon isn't space opera and space opera isn't anything like cyberpunk or transhumanist sci-fi, etc.). Pre-90s computers are not something normal people have, now-a-days people need the internet to function (pay bills, get a job, etc). It's a drastic churning so anything you make becomes outdated rather quick.

That being said, I have multiple games/modules that handle WWI, WWII, and Vietnam campaigns and I see that being a good action filled romp. Same thing with some of the spy thrillers I have on my wishlist. You can do cool things, but people will not always be interested.

Xuc Xac
2019-02-25, 05:55 PM
I agree with this. At the same time, it is up to the GM to remind the players about modern things, particularly if the players are used to playing low-tech games. "Do you want to try to get the security-cam footage?" or "The club is full of people with cell-phone cameras. Are you sure you want to draw on the bartender?"

I'm really baffled by this. Unless your players are Amish, they should be spending much more time in the real modern world than in your game. If spending 164 hours a week in 2019 isn't enough to teach them about how reality works, a few gentle reminders from the GM during the game aren't going to cut it either.

Thinker
2019-02-25, 07:01 PM
I'm really baffled by this. Unless your players are Amish, they should be spending much more time in the real modern world than in your game. If spending 164 hours a week in 2019 isn't enough to teach them about how reality works, a few gentle reminders from the GM during the game aren't going to cut it either.

It's not about not knowing what is available in 2019. It is about what players are used to when playing RPG's. If they normally play in pre-industrial campaign settings, they won't think about how common surveillance is or how far the law really reaches. The GM should accept whatever the players say that they do, but the players should also be afforded the opportunity to make informed choices. Otherwise, you get the cops coming down hard on the party and players feeling like it's one big gotcha moment.

Jay R
2019-02-25, 07:19 PM
The main problem with the modern world is that individual are not really significant, so every-time you build a plot, you need an answer to "why isn't the army / a group of expert doing the job instead of me, or at least doing 3/4 of the job and only letting me do the boring and safe parts?

My preferred solution to this problem is some form of the following.

NPC General: We want you to sneak into the terrorists' hideout and do some spying for us.
PC: Don't you have an elite covert ops unit who are supposed to be the best in the world at that sort of thing?
NPC General: Yes. We're sending you in to find out what happened to them.

Thrudd
2019-02-25, 07:50 PM
As with every RPG, how well a game in a modern setting works depends on the GM and the system. If the GM is using a good system for the type of game they are running and is up front and clear about their expectations for the players and the style of game, then it usually works.

Modern-ish settings are too varied to really be lumped into one category. No matter what, player characters are usually going to be exceptional sorts: people with special skills, involved in dangerous and exciting professions, super-heroes/people or creatures with special powers, etc.

You may have a game that is meant to be completely "realistic" (not a good idea, IMO), which can lead to problems when people have mistaken beliefs about how various things work- physics, chemistry, laws and institutions, etc. Usually it's only a problem if a player knows (or thinks they know) more than the GM about some topic, and the entire premise of the game is upended because the GM's ideas rest on some incorrect assumptions. It's the same thing that happens when a writer or a film maker comes up with something that was incompletely researched and experts watch it and complain about all the inaccuracies. But I think a vast majority of RPGs are not emphasizing "realistic", even when they are set in a version of the modern world, and this should be understood by players and GM's alike.

For instance, you can have a game that is specifically meant to simulate 80's-90's action flick genre, like Feng Shui: Action Movie Roleplaying. Fate is another cinematic game that can is meant to simulate exciting movies or TV shows, not realism. If you're the sort of person that can't watch an action movie without yelling at the screen because everything is so unrealistic, then you probably wouldn't like that sort of RPG, either - but if you see it as silly fun and can appreciate it for what it is, then playing a game mimicking that setting shouldn't be a problem, either. You just know that propane tanks and hand grenades explode in huge balls of flame that sends people flying in all directions, you don't always see people reload their weapons, and getting shot in the arm or leg is something you can wrap a dirty bandage around and keep going without much impairment.

All RPG settings are, to some extent, fictional worlds that only resemble reality in varying degrees. Even if it looks a lot like our contemporary "real" world, that is only the facade- it isn't actually the "real world" and it might not act like it in many ways. The GM and/or the game text just needs to do a good job setting expectations.

MoiMagnus
2019-02-26, 05:06 AM
My preferred solution to this problem is some form of the following.

NPC General: We want you to sneak into the terrorists' hideout and do some spying for us.
PC: Don't you have an elite covert ops unit who are supposed to be the best in the world at that sort of thing?
NPC General: Yes. We're sending you in to find out what happened to them.

Doesn't solve everything. Since in a realistic world, this team would be highly specialised at a task, and other teams would take care of all the other tasks, meaning that the PCs would either only do the "action scene", only the the investigation, only do the interrogation, only hack the system remotly, only try to obtain funds for the other teams, ... but certainly not all of them (unless they are playing multiple characters, one per "relevant" team). They would do their task for this mission, then do another similar task for another mission while other groups finish the mission, ... because that's the most efficient way to use highly specialised peoples.

DeTess
2019-02-26, 05:13 AM
My preferred solution to this problem is some form of the following.

NPC General: We want you to sneak into the terrorists' hideout and do some spying for us.
PC: Don't you have an elite covert ops unit who are supposed to be the best in the world at that sort of thing?
NPC General: Yes. We're sending you in to find out what happened to them.

I think it would work better like:

PC: Don't you have an elite covert ops unit who are supposed to be the best in the world at that sort of thing?
NPC General: Yes. That's you. Any other stupid questions?

Basically, you can't really have modern-world average Joe's do an action-film plot. If the plot of your campaign is tactical espionage action, your players will have to be tactical spies. Maybe they've been retired for a couple of decades and have just been drafted back in or whatever, but the zero-to-hero fantasy plot doesn't really work in a modern setting, at least where an action-heavy plot is concerned.

If you do want a bunch of average joe's thrown in dangerous situations, you need to force them into it, rather than someone contracting them. Maybe they're tourists visiting some fictional third-world country that suddenly gets embroiled in a bloody civil war, or they're on a cruise-ship that gets hijacked by terrorists or something. Even then your players need to have some background military skills to have any justification for doing things other than bunker up and wait things out.

Schismatic
2019-02-26, 05:20 AM
Doesn't solve everything. Since in a realistic world, this team would be highly specialised at a task, and other teams would take care of all the other tasks, meaning that the PCs would either only do the "action scene", only the the investigation, only do the interrogation, only hack the system remotly, only try to obtain funds for the other teams, ... but certainly not all of them (unless they are playing multiple characters, one per "relevant" team). They would do their task for this mission, then do another similar task for another mission while other groups finish the mission, ... because that's the most efficient way to use highly specialised peoples.

Seems kind of sad people would devalue their importance like that, though. I mean I was part of an international taskforce that performed the most successful peacekeeping operation in history. I went on from that to study at university, and now I'm a researcher. Let's be honest here. 1,000 years ago gutter trash like me at best could become a tenant farmer for the local lord.

Nowadays I carry four devices that can connect to the internet at all times, can travel continents in hours, and medicine has transformed disease from a constant worry into a distant threat. I'm not special. The modern world allowed me to do things that even the richest people on Earth two centuries ago would think unbelievable. Public lighting alone has increase our productivity and safety of our communities even throughout the night.

Surely it doesn't take much imagination for someone who was formerly homeless at 16 becomes a world-shaping entity?

And you can do it all without being a fireball flinging, magically enchanted, travelling-perpetually homeless Medieval mercenary.

Over the last 105 years we've had numerous catastrophic wars, 18 near-mageddons, and the most powerful countries in the world losing to insurgency-based resistance. Countless terrorists, freedom fighters, collapsing empires, revolutions, mega-death level pandemics, world-shattering scientific achievements that are damn near magical when viewed only a century out of time...

If you're struggling to make an interesting setting in the late-modern era where PCs can feel important, you're just not trying enough. Making a really good modern setting is not so hard when you have an abundance of stuff that sells the idea that in no other time of history have otherwise 'ordinary' people become the stuff of legend.

A lot of people who stopped (or accidetally almost started) something like a nuclear exchange event are possibly just like you and me. I'll go a step further, saying it's good they were just like you and me. You never needed a Drizz't or whatever. You just need someone like you and me. And someone like that can be more important than many fevered imaginations.

I mean we have a reality tv star and multi-bankrupt entrepreneur as basically the Commander-in-Chief of the most destructive force in history...

Satire is dead, reality (tv) killed it...

Honestly I think it comes down to a lack of experience. Plenty places around the world already have tons of people who simply fling fireballs at people that look at them funny, but that's not 'freedom to act'--merely 'freedom/limitation of/from consequences'. Which isn't really what we should pretend is a limitation in the roleplaying space in the firstplace. Modern setting or not.

Nothing is physically stopping you being a costumed crime-fighter. Nothing is physically stopping you being a criminal. Though regardless of setting freedom means nothing if there's no consequence. Without consequences there's no value on the freedom to do anything.

In D&D there's no consequences for running the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar and crispifying kobolds. Literally none. I've read the adventure three times now.

Of course if you replace kobolds with war-stricken homeless people, and Haunted Halls of Eveningstar with the crumbling wreck of a village church or town hall, most modern settings might lift up their hand and say; "You know what, maybe there is/should be a consequence to foreign soldiers killing native refugees and looting anything not nailed down?"

Whether there actual is consequences is still up in the air for both. That being said, roleplaying a squad of soldiers in a conflict zone presents us with opportunities to explore those consequences that are sanitized in D&D--and by increasing a sense of consequence, so too a commensurate increase of actual meaningful freedom.

I mean I'd kill for a Three Kings-style chronicle... and that would no less meaningful, freeform, or 'freedom giving' than any D&D campaign I've played in.

Can you think of any cooler chronicle than basically a handful of rogue soldiers trying to smuggle an occupied nation's wealth because they fear what their lives might be like once a conflict is over? Is there legitimately no reason why such a chronicle couldn't be as freeform or 'freedom-giving' than a D&D campaign? Can you argue the morality and weight of consequence couldn't be the same if not greater?

Of course not... and yet there's no shortage of late modern era conflicts and personalities you can simply copypasta from that really sell an idea of an entire world of possibility the PCs can engage with. You could even put it into D&D-style archetypes... you can have the marksman, the medic, the mechanic, the engineer, the spotter, the 'face' who knows a bunch of local languages.

And you could say the same for any type of modern setting. Career criminal bank heist crews, underworld mafiosi families, homicide detectives, international drug and gun smuggling cartels, religious cults, rogue political groups, CIA shadow conflicts, internationally employed mercenaries for corporations, piracy on the high seas. Each one of which cann easily play host to D&D style archetypes.

Really, the late modern world provides a hell of a lot of adventure 'straight out of the box'... and that's not icluding alt-history settings, weird science/magic cotemporary settings, near-now settings...

Rhedyn
2019-02-26, 07:57 AM
Doesn't solve everything. Since in a realistic world, this team would be highly specialised at a task, and other teams would take care of all the other tasks, meaning that the PCs would either only do the "action scene", only the the investigation, only do the interrogation, only hack the system remotly, only try to obtain funds for the other teams, ... but certainly not all of them (unless they are playing multiple characters, one per "relevant" team). They would do their task for this mission, then do another similar task for another mission while other groups finish the mission, ... because that's the most efficient way to use highly specialised peoples.
Nah, the PCs are just the work horses in the department and the uppers let them do everything because the job is important and the PCs are willing to work overtime on salary for it.

Jay R
2019-02-26, 09:40 AM
Doesn't solve everything. Since in a realistic world, this team would be highly specialised at a task, and other teams would take care of all the other tasks, meaning that the PCs would either only do the "action scene", ...

Well, yes, of course. This is a feature, not a bug.

Do you want to roleplay combing through computer data, building and fixing equipment, raising funding, or the logistics of running a headquarters?

Or would you rather roleplay climbing the mountain, sneaking past the perimeter alarms, fighting the guards, planting the bombs, and stealing a plane and escaping?

My players want to play Bond, not M, Q, or Moneypenny.

Malphegor
2019-02-26, 10:01 AM
I suppose one good thing about modern settings is that one can pull up plans for real buildings to use as battlemaps, and figuring out travel times is as easy as pulling up the gps app on your phone.

Thrudd
2019-02-26, 10:08 AM
If you do want a bunch of average joe's thrown in dangerous situations, you need to force them into it, rather than someone contracting them. Maybe they're tourists visiting some fictional third-world country that suddenly gets embroiled in a bloody civil war, or they're on a cruise-ship that gets hijacked by terrorists or something. Even then your players need to have some background military skills to have any justification for doing things other than bunker up and wait things out.
Right, in action movies with "average Joes", the hero usually turns out to be a kung fu expert (Jackie Chan), retired spec-ops, retired detective, etc.

Of course, the best and greatest example of an actual average Joe in an action adventure is Jack Burton in "Big Trouble in Little China." He has two special skills -"it's all in the reflexes", that mainly helps him catch things flying at his head- and "driving a big rig". Of course, most RPG players wouldn't want to spend the majority of fights knocked out or trapped under a dead body, or struggling to unjam/reload the gun they found. That's what happens in the movie, for anyone who hasn't seen it (why in the world haven't you seen it? See it now!).

Thinker
2019-02-26, 10:33 AM
Right, in action movies with "average Joes", the hero usually turns out to be a kung fu expert (Jackie Chan), retired spec-ops, retired detective, etc.

Of course, the best and greatest example of an actual average Joe in an action adventure is Jack Burton in "Big Trouble in Little China." He has two special skills -"it's all in the reflexes", that mainly helps him catch things flying at his head- and "driving a big rig". Of course, most RPG players wouldn't want to spend the majority of fights knocked out or trapped under a dead body, or struggling to unjam/reload the gun they found. That's what happens in the movie, for anyone who hasn't seen it (why in the world haven't you seen it? See it now!).

He also has "Unearned Confidence" and "Big Mouth" that help/hurt at various times. :smallwink:

Kiero
2019-02-26, 02:48 PM
As long as it's pre-1995 or thereabouts (ie before the ubiquity of the internet and mobile phones), I can do modern. Those elements turn everything into "why didn't you just Google that" or "where's my drone air-cover" or "I've got an app for that". Plus with too contemporary, the temptation to weave in current events, with all the associated dangers of completely derailing the game are too strong.

As an addendum, I prefer my modern straight, just like my historical. No "magic appears" or "but with..." involved. The real world is more than rich and interesting enough without shoehorning random weirdness in for the sake of it.

Vox55555
2019-02-26, 03:43 PM
Modern Settings are fun, but oftentimes feel a bit like a one off gimmick. I have had quite a bit of fun in such settings, the settings aspect of a modern form often comes to dominate the setting. While Medieval fantasy and sci fi future settings tend to be much more fluid in acting as lovely little microcosms to run about in, with internal rules to keep it flowing, modern settings seem to get bogged down much more in being Modern. This is most apparent in modern settings that can be described as "Now, but with a twist!" The primary problems of "Now, but with a twist!" are first apparent in history. When was the Twist? At some point timelines have to diverge. Would Zoroastrianism and subsequently monotheism in general risen if the Mesopotamian clerics had demonstrable divine magic? Would the great migrations of humanity been prompted if magic or powerful alien tech were around to answer the challenges of the ice age at home? Would Europe have been to establish a mercantilist wealth draining colonial system around the world if arcane and divine magic evened out the gunpowder gap? Would the Americas been discovered by Europeans if teleportation magic made travel to China, and thus either a sea route or a northwest passage unnecessary? History is full of moments where things could have gone a few different ways and that's without magic, advanced technology, or a shadowy cabal of vampires pulling strings, and with only humans as major players. Throw in fantasy races and you have a few more options, many of which involve just shifting that entire category to a hidden world. Of course there is also the option to just slot in fantasy races into real world cultures, but that tends to walk pretty happily into stereotype match at best, and frankly racist at worst. Case in point, Try doing that with Orcs. No matter where you slot Orcs in, or how far you deviate orcs from their charming portrayals, odds are you're going to be ruffling feathers. Fundamentally this means you have to reshape the modern world for "Now with a twist!" and you might have to reshape the past quite a bit too. This opens up a pretty nasty political problem, namely that historical interpretations are going to start soaking in before you know it. My smarmy magical setting influenced by my own historical translations and studies will be heavily biased towards said readings. Insofar as making a setting, I couldn't even get through listing historical moments of import without taking a crack at European Imperialism. Insofar as that goes, my modern setting will probably focus much more on class struggle and how magic might have lead to greater personal liberation against oppressive systems, as oppose to my objectivist doppelganger whose modern setting will probably focus much more on an ideal of capital, and how magic might have lead to a society where the great are truly unburdened and so on. While those are certainly exciting and interesting worlds for those who agree very directly with either of us, you don't need to deviate too far in personal opinion or interpretation before "Thats not how it would work..." sets in. Some settings try to damage control on that by having the great Twist! occur twenty minutes ago in the present day, and sets up different political microcosms for everyone to have their own view come true, but the fact of the matter is that you can't get everyone under that net, no matter how wide you spread it.

To stop ranting about the problems with modern settings, and switch to the fun part, I must reiterate how I started this thing off by. I've had a lot of fun in modern settings. The modern setting with a twist can be quite entertaining, particularly when doing so with a bunch of history nerds of similar political leanings, which I site from experience. The really fun part comes from two delightful takes that are unfortunately not close to popular enough. Standard fantasy or sci-fi with a modern twist, and the cameo. Modern settings based on reality tend to be a Pandora's box of unforeseen issues. What I've found players tend to have a lot of fun with, and enjoy greatly, is a modernization of a known fantasy setting. Its been a few thousand, or hundred years. That printing press thing really took off, and the world has approached ours, while being distinctly different. People tend to get annoyed when all the important figures of human history are explained to be demigods, or aliens, or fey. Sidestep that problem because none of this settings characters were presumed human to begin with! and if one person turns out to have secretly been a shapeshifter,that tends to go over much better. The kingdom of good could be a parliamentary monarchy now, or perhaps its even evolved into a democracy. The possibilities of difference of opinions is still there of course, you just aren't playing with reality anymore. Everyone is positive that human nature, historical interpretation, and the trend towards the future all align with their own ideals. Its human nature! ((Aha-Ha)) People get much less angry at the successful Socialist utopia, or laissez faire paradise when 1) the country isn't real and 2) Gnomes did it. Plus, you get a gigantic opportunity to make in jokes about what is now historical canon a century later. That whiny cleric has been canonized, the old adventuring party are remembered as heroes, and have a few parks named after them, or other such little nods. Players tend to love that. I've only run an inverse once, but it was quite promising, namely a modern prequel to a sci-fi setting. Admittedly it was a brief stop in a time travel plot, and I'm not sure if it could hold up for longer, but everyone did have fun. The opportunities for fun role playing and throwaway gags tend to be pretty optimal as well. Finally there is the cameo. A published campaign I was running had a part where the heroes are tearing their way through a nightmare. The horror themed story's final leg was in a parasite city tied to thousands of different urban realms. One of those was Paris. While this Paris had gone through a nightmare, It was simply marvelous leading people through the bizarre, while the players marveled at the familiar. To bring this block of text to an end, Modern setting... ehhhhh. Modernized settings, or isolated snapshots. Delightful.

The Jack
2019-02-26, 07:21 PM
Shadowy cabals of vampires works so well because we already suspect world leaders are some kind of alien race that run things in ways for reasons we dont comprehend. Unprovable conspiracies work very well.

I think its like the uncanny valley, where dead-on is great and very stylized works but the imbetween, the 'kind-of', is a complete and utter failure and we instinctively reject it.

geppetto
2019-02-26, 09:29 PM
I'm really baffled by this. Unless your players are Amish, they should be spending much more time in the real modern world than in your game. If spending 164 hours a week in 2019 isn't enough to teach them about how reality works, a few gentle reminders from the GM during the game aren't going to cut it either.

Part of it is about what level of escapism they expect. For instance is your modern world "Law and Order" where there are realistically competent law enforcement and surveillance? Or is your modern world "sons of anarchy" where you can have a dozen guys get in a shootout on main street at noon and no one goes to jail as long as you make it to your Harley before the cops arrive?

Or going further back is it "the untouchables" and people actually try to avoid the cops or is it "boardwalk empire" where you can waste a half dozen people over a barrel of whiskey on a regular basis with no consequence from the law?

All are modernish settings, but the expectations are different. So as GM you have to take a little bit to set the level of realistic consequences and make sure everyone knows how things work.

geppetto
2019-02-26, 09:56 PM
Shadowy cabals of vampires works so well because we already suspect world leaders are some kind of alien race that run things in ways for reasons we dont comprehend. Unprovable conspiracies work very well.

I think its like the uncanny valley, where dead-on is great and very stylized works but the imbetween, the 'kind-of', is a complete and utter failure and we instinctively reject it.

I always wanted to run a game where all of David Icke's conspiracy theories were real. Alients, planet X, shapeshifting lizard people running the world and nazis with a moonbase. The whole works. Make it really gonzo, but play it totally deadpan straight as the GM. Not sure how long it would last but i bet it could be a lot of oddball fun for a while.

NorthernPhoenix
2019-02-26, 10:11 PM
Chronicles of Darkness/WoD2 is probably the only modern setting game(s) I enjoy. I'm not a fan of superhero TTRPGs but I can see why people enjoy them. I don't think I could ever enjoy "you're a completely normal dude in a completely normal world".

NichG
2019-02-26, 10:34 PM
Modern is interesting to me, but there's one big mistake that often crops up (WoD I'm looking at you): trying too hard to justify the world looking and running just like reality despite whatever new element is being added.

If you're doing modern+return of magic, you're working with an unstable setting and should celebrate that instability - it's what drives things. Trying to cram that into modern+magic but it only affects mages and regular people will never know or be widely influenced is working against the premise and making it less meaningful.

Have magic or aliens or superheroes or cyborgs arrive and make it a point that the organization of the world needs to adapt, but hasn't figured out how, and can't just bury it.

JoeJ
2019-02-26, 10:47 PM
Chronicles of Darkness/WoD2 is probably the only modern setting game(s) I enjoy. I'm not a fan of superhero TTRPGs but I can see why people enjoy them. I don't think I could ever enjoy "you're a completely normal dude in a completely normal world".

"Normal" can be a pretty broad term. Spies, special ops. soldiers, SWAT team members, fire fighters, and international jewel thieves are all completely normal people who can have some pretty amazing adventures in a completely normal world.

Kiero
2019-02-27, 04:19 AM
"Normal" can be a pretty broad term. Spies, special ops. soldiers, SWAT team members, fire fighters, and international jewel thieves are all completely normal people who can have some pretty amazing adventures in a completely normal world.

Precisely. Does no one watch action movies, or any other kind of media for that matter? You don't need magic or monster/aliens to make an interesting game.

The Jack
2019-02-27, 06:45 AM
Modern is interesting to me, but there's one big mistake that often crops up (WoD I'm looking at you): trying too hard to justify the world looking and running just like reality despite whatever new element is being added.
.

WoD does a good job (ignoring modern metaplot or city books)

Supernaturals are an extreme minority.
They try really hard to keep secret, or forces keep them secret.

and the most important thing:
Supernaturals really just act like people with power. Think of vampires as crazed rich people and you're back in reality. Replace werewolves with triggered extremists and psychotic cultists and you're almost back to reality. Replace mages but very opinionated people who want to force their world view on others... and you're back in reality.


And it's not entirely meant to be the real world with monsters.
The population is bigger, the planet is more polluted, the buildings are taller, people are often more corrupt and jaded and cynical, cults may involve actual magic, Major companies have GTA like parody names.

But there's nothing that alters the course of human history. Maybe the witchhunts and the spanish conquest of south america were ever so slightly more justified, and carthage is a more interesting story, but there's really nothing there that alters anything (beyond the polution, taller buildings and cynicism), unless you're really into the butterfly effect.

NichG
2019-02-27, 07:27 AM
WoD does a good job (ignoring modern metaplot or city books)

Supernaturals are an extreme minority.
They try really hard to keep secret, or forces keep them secret.

and the most important thing:
Supernaturals really just act like people with power. Think of vampires as crazed rich people and you're back in reality. Replace werewolves with triggered extremists and psychotic cultists and you're almost back to reality. Replace mages but very opinionated people who want to force their world view on others... and you're back in reality.


And it's not entirely meant to be the real world with monsters.
The population is bigger, the planet is more polluted, the buildings are taller, people are often more corrupt and jaded and cynical, cults may involve actual magic, Major companies have GTA like parody names.

But there's nothing that alters the course of human history. Maybe the witchhunts and the spanish conquest of south america were ever so slightly more justified, and carthage is a more interesting story, but there's really nothing there that alters anything (beyond the polution, taller buildings and cynicism), unless you're really into the butterfly effect.

This is exactly my objection. The things that vampires, werewolves, and mages can interact with could easily change the course of human history, in any era - and should do so/should have done so. The imposition of forces that make those entities try to stay secret is basically a deus ex machina in service of trying to force the setting to resemble the modern world as much as possible, and compartmentalize the supernatural politics into their own particular societies. Secrecy is fundamentally unstable over the long term as a strategy. These small powerful minorities which have been around for centuries should have spent that time getting their hooks into popular thought and political forces such that, when they stepped out in the open, they would already hold so much control that the chaos of it couldn't really threaten them.

More to the point though, status quo and fiat secrecy is boring. If the world is not allowed to change, what meaning does introducing any new elements even have?

NorthernPhoenix
2019-02-27, 08:18 AM
"Normal" can be a pretty broad term. Spies, special ops. soldiers, SWAT team members, fire fighters, and international jewel thieves are all completely normal people who can have some pretty amazing adventures in a completely normal world.

It really does depend on "normal". I'd want at least Mission Impossible/James Bond style gadgets and gear in a spy game like that, or Call of Duty/Ghost Recon style stuff in a military game, rather than trying to be "true real".

Thinker
2019-02-27, 08:21 AM
This is exactly my objection. The things that vampires, werewolves, and mages can interact with could easily change the course of human history, in any era - and should do so/should have done so. The imposition of forces that make those entities try to stay secret is basically a deus ex machina in service of trying to force the setting to resemble the modern world as much as possible, and compartmentalize the supernatural politics into their own particular societies. Secrecy is fundamentally unstable over the long term as a strategy. These small powerful minorities which have been around for centuries should have spent that time getting their hooks into popular thought and political forces such that, when they stepped out in the open, they would already hold so much control that the chaos of it couldn't really threaten them.

More to the point though, status quo and fiat secrecy is boring. If the world is not allowed to change, what meaning does introducing any new elements even have?

I agree that long-term magic, vampires, or what-have-you should have long-term implications. That can make a deep and rich world that the players could explore. Unfortunately, it could also make the game difficult to run. You'd basically be creating a fantasy world with Earth's geography.
P1: "Where is the United States?"
GM: "Never existed."
P1: "Oh. What does that mean for WWI?"
GM: "WWI didn't happen because those states never existed."
P1: "What about a Roman Empire?"
GM: "No."
P1: "Macedonian Empire?"
GM: "No."
P1: "Chinese?"
GM: "No."
P1: "Egyptian?"
GM: "No."
P1: "What about...?"
GM: "Stop asking. Here's the list of 200 modern countries and the map that shows where they all are."

Basically, you lose one of the big advantages of playing in the modern world instead of a fantasy world with modern tech: You have to explain how everything in the world interacts with one another, who is important, and why.

Schismatic
2019-02-27, 08:29 AM
This is exactly my objection. The things that vampires, werewolves, and mages can interact with could easily change the course of human history, in any era - and should do so/should have done so. The imposition of forces that make those entities try to stay secret is basically a deus ex machina in service of trying to force the setting to resemble the modern world as much as possible, and compartmentalize the supernatural politics into their own particular societies. Secrecy is fundamentally unstable over the long term as a strategy. These small powerful minorities which have been around for centuries should have spent that time getting their hooks into popular thought and political forces such that, when they stepped out in the open, they would already hold so much control that the chaos of it couldn't really threaten them.

More to the point though, status quo and fiat secrecy is boring. If the world is not allowed to change, what meaning does introducing any new elements even have?

Most of us can change the world. People don't bother. That and there are often rule-reasons why they are want to do so. In Mage: the Awakening there is quite literally the Lie. In Werewolf: the Forsaken it literally drives mortals insane. And Vampire is kind of obvious... they're dead beasts with literal bloodlust that all too quickly forget their humanity over prolonged trauma of their politics and the fact that history and memory itself begins to slip away from them as the decades roll on.

That even the most powerful (nWod) vampires are, often, portrayed as petty dictators of only themselves and ultimately less effectual to changing the human condition than some CEO of a major multinational.

Then you have the morality bent. Let's say you're a mage in one of the Orders, you will die from the Exarch's agents if you paint a bullseye on your chest. Moreover, the greatest enemy of mages is their hubris. The idea that they might hold on to some fevered imagination of changing the world rather than something more grounded like discovering ancient knowledge and history while assisting in the background humanity's greater connection to the Watchtowers is dangerous.

Your argument is basically a reversed query of theodicy while negating the idea that mages, vampires and werewolves are not omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient. Putting aside the fact Hunters exist and are not to be trifled with and routinely develop effective tactics and weaponry that allow them to take down nightmarish enemies and are just mortals(?).

Mages (the Orders) and werewolves (Forsaken), at least, in nWoD are already helping humanity. It's just that their objectives are a bit more complex than common ontological evils of the world... and given their obstacles to act, it's about all they can handle.

It's not boring because the world has consequences for actions. I mean you yourself could be a crime-fighting constumed superhero that tries to take down a criminal underworld organization. Nothing is physically stopping you. Nothing is physically stopping any of us fighting crime, poverty, wealth inequality, institutionnalized violence and racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia... you name it. Tomorrow it could be hypothetically fought against by every person reading this post...

We could all don spandex tomorrow and beat all these things.

Just, you know, consequences for trying to go Batman on a local drug distribution network. Hardly boring, however.

We can hypothetically do all these things not because of some arbitrary idea of personal power, rather simply taking responsibility for a deeply awful world we perpetuate through our actions. We're all to blame in some way. The problems of the world begin with, and end with, us. It doesn't matter whether you have celerity, or can throw trucks at monsters, or fling bolts of electricity. Because none of those are a cure for the human condition.

But hey... you yourself could be a fantastic constumed crime-fighter. Shall I be expecting to see you anytime in spandex on my street corner, however? How effectual do you actually think you'll be ending crime in a city? How long till you bite a bullet? Would that still be boring?

Moreover, are you actually ust going to beat up common street thugs? What about white collar crime that inevitably becomes a thousand times bigger a problem every bank heist or drug deal? Are you going to kick down Bezos' door when Amazon effectively paid -1% taxation? I mean Amazon got millons in U.S. taxpayer money ... as a corporation didn't pay a cent. And about 30% of its U.S. workers still rely on government assistance. Trillion dollar multinational, doesn't pay any corporate taxes, treats workers as if slaves, government lets them get away with all of it.

Basically have Shadowrun style extraterritoriality.

Where exactly does my lightning bolts and truck throwing ability help there? But then again maybe the solution to solving global late-stage capitalism shouldn't be looked at with a Superman IV... because ultimately pure fantasy and dilutes personal responsibility to begin with.

Which is kind of the point of many of these modern settings. Humans aren't taking personal responsibility. You, the player, confronting hypothetical human ills you perpetuate either directly or indirectly.

It's pretty bloody childish, all things considered. I mean we just have to vote in the rght people and/or riot constantly until governments give us the option. That is literally all that we have to do. None of it requires superpowers. It doesn't take superpowers to storm past a police barricade and destroy banks and cripple Amazon warehouses en masse until the powers that be change the people's relationship to the productive forces of society.

A single person in a hundred committing to such actions would be worth more than any mage, werewolf or vampire of any 'power level'.

The solution is, all in all, pretty simple. But, once again, consequences. You could be arrested, killed, imprisoned for life. What it won't be is boring. It might be legitimately the only time in your life you actually feel like you own yourself completely. Sartre wrote about the necessary carthasis of the spirit in terms of a group of people who desire someform of revolutionary activity. I don't necessarily agree, but I see his point.

Which is kind of the big thing that modern settings (should) do really well. Consequences for actions. As the players often come into such a setting with all of the pre-packaged social mores of people living in our world already. You don't need to explain in detail how killing a Waterdhavian guardsman 'matters' in comparison when it's a beat cop on a local city street of a setting set in whatever place you and your players currently reside.

We already internalize the weight of such actions and ultimately grants us greater liberty of play to explore themes because the world state makes sense. And this is truest when it isn't simply a power fantasy. Even mages in MtA can die from bullets. They can also have their identities be captured on CCTV cameras. They can be hunted down... with the full weight of knowledge that killing a cop = multple millions of dollars of invested money in trained personnel and hardware looking for you, permanently.

Just as a thought experiment. Imagine in a D&D game how you informed a character their actions have made them an outlaw, their likeness on every street corner, a reward on their head, every guard looking for them, with wands of CL10 charged lightning bolts, you can't use 99% of commercial entities, your family under constant eye and questioning, and that will ever end. 100s of magicians scrying for your location. Waterdeep is willing to spend millions of GP everyday and drag in all your known associates every day for months.

I cannot recall anytime I've been playing a DM in a D&D game has pulled out that sort of heavy handedness... but I would go into a game of nWoD expecting as such. Only instead of GP, fiat currency, instead of divination magic, CCTV cameras and other surveillance, and instead of wands of lightning bolt--pistols, rifles and shotguns that compartively would wound me more by how damage works.

If that's boring to people, honestly it's simply 'different strokes' as opposed to an actual argument against modern games.

The Jack
2019-02-27, 10:49 AM
WoD secrecy makes complete sense when you realise rifles doing 8 dice of base damage at most doesnt at all line up with the projections the other guns have set... humans are really, really scary when they decide they really want to do something. If humans ever mobilised properly against the night folk they'd win.

Technomancy is an emerging magic among vampires with great keeping the masquerade whilst there are more and more media that make vampires sympathetic or wholesome characters. Werewolves are retards so a lot of their masquerade is built in, and mages explode if they try to break things. If you see a fae do fae things, you forget... everything is very easy to justify when you know enough.

Also they got the whole time magic thing set up so that you can change details but not the main beats... my guess is that they can't diverge from reality enough... it's magical metaphysics. Carthage must fall, its the rules.

NichG
2019-02-27, 11:20 AM
I agree that long-term magic, vampires, or what-have-you should have long-term implications. That can make a deep and rich world that the players could explore. Unfortunately, it could also make the game difficult to run. You'd basically be creating a fantasy world with Earth's geography.

...

Basically, you lose one of the big advantages of playing in the modern world instead of a fantasy world with modern tech: You have to explain how everything in the world interacts with one another, who is important, and why.

If one goes through the trouble to do this, it's often worth it. But if that's too much, then settings with a fairly recent 'injection point' of the new element can still have a world which is dynamically responsive to the consequences of that new element, without being different in history or immediate detail. E.g. Shadowrun needs to make a lot of changes due to how magic and technology progressed, but the historical stuff can still be the same because the event which made those changes happen was placed in the near future rather than the distant past.

There's other ways to go about it that don't require either a total replacement or a totally stagnant world. Breaking down events and countries and such into the underlying ideas that motivated their history, then tying that to whatever new elements exist in that world but keeping the names the same is a good trick - it brings to mind the contrast between what the real world version is like and what the supernatural version is like. Saying 'there is some random country here overrun by fae' is one thing, but saying 'the Smoky mountains became the mortal-facing enclave of Oberon's court, and faeries descend into the valleys and towards to coast to mingle with mortals' is another thing.



Your argument is basically a reversed query of theodicy while negating the idea that mages, vampires and werewolves are not omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient. Putting aside the fact Hunters exist and are not to be trifled with and routinely develop effective tactics and weaponry that allow them to take down nightmarish enemies and are just mortals(?).

My argument is only related to theodicy if you consider the writers as the deity in question. They worked very hard to make a setting that could have supernatural elements but, despite that, not actually have those supernatural elements matter for anyone but the supernaturals themselves. Of course if you can control the rules of physics - impose the consensus, force all vampires to necessarily have the same psychological profile, etc - you can make whatever setting you want and force it to work. The observation though is that, this was a lot of deus ex machina just for sake of preserving the status quo, and it has nothing much to do with the concepts that underlie the supernatural elements.

From the point of view of the characters, you don't need any benevolence or maleficence, no omnipotence or omniscience, etc. I'm not assuming that everyone gets together to change the course of history for the better, or towards some greater good. Simply that power in the hands of individuals who are also placed in some level of danger by the structure of the society around them is, historically, a very strong lever to motivate things getting done. For purely self-serving purposes, why wouldn't a Mage try to normalize their magic usage by manipulating church doctrine to identify members of their tradition as literal embodied angels come to Earth? Why wouldn't vampires make close ties with the nobility and present vampirism as proof of royal blood, then install their own puppet governments across all of Europe? None of these things have to be in humanity's long-term benefit - for WoD I can accept a dystopian setting as the outcome with the various castes of supernatural basically holding all the cards and Hunters being humanity's last futile stand against the darkness, if that's where following the logic takes you. One where vampires are the immortal CEOs of century-old megacorps that not only suck the blood from their workers for dinner and crush their souls for dessert, where Mages have elevated global geopolitics into complex negotiations and mutually assured destruction arrangements which place at risk the very concepts on which reality is built - where the only reason that love isn't dead is that it's hostage to safeguard greed - and so on.

But I could also see a world in which humanity rises into space in the 1800s in wooden ships protected by the workings of Mages, and where the problem of the day is that the colonies on the moon and Mars are generating their own genius loci, Consensus, etc which are now coming into conflict with the primal forces that power the supernatural on the Earth. Where vampirism is a treatment for old age, supplemented by artificial Prime-infused blood produced by mages in cooperation with Technocracy geneticists (no more need for diablerie, get the new synthetic gen-3-elder upgrade at a supplier near you), and where Changelings work with computer-aided lawyers to make restraining orders against their fae captors that can actually stick, in exchange for enhancing the karma and fate of humanity through contract-driven augmentation. That world, though going a very different path, would be interesting too.


But hey... you yourself could be a fantastic constumed crime-fighter. Shall I be expecting to see you anytime in spandex on my street corner, however? How effectual do you actually think you'll be ending crime in a city? How long till you bite a bullet? Would that still be boring?

If I'm looking to the real world for things that matter, I can find plenty of examples of someone doing something once and then the world was never the same. A handful of people out of college made something called Lyrebird which basically lets you make almost perfect fake video and audio of someone given a minute or two of speech and a few sample video clips, and as a result now we forever more have to think twice before treating audio or video evidence as real. An anonymous author publishing the paper that defined Bitcoin ended up causing a self-perpetuating cycle that seized control of the energy consumption of a medium-sized country, just because of a psychological quirk of how humans behave when asked to assign a monetary value to trust. Without much individual determination needed, the very nature of the change implied by the technology is forcing us to come to terms with a world that will in some ways be forevermore fundamentally different from the world we believed we lived in.

Supernatural elements are squarely in that space - they define an exception to how we thought the world was, such that it can never be the same afterwards just by virtue of existing, even if no one were to do anything with them. Changing what it means to exist is the basic level of operation of such things, even before you start to get fancy with them. It's not just someone punching harder. To me, flinching away from that and not really investigating the consequences of how the world (and the nature of existence) changes as a result the same misses the point.

If you took all of that, either the real-world examples or the supernatural equivalents, and reduced it into 'you can choose whether to punch out this criminal or let them go, but the world at large is going to be the same either way' then yes, even if your character can get killed or imprisoned doing it, I'd say that's boring. It's trying to get the tension and drama of risk and turn it up to 11, but without offering anything real on the other side to make it worth it.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-27, 01:49 PM
Precisely. Does no one watch action movies, or any other kind of media for that matter? You don't need magic or monster/aliens to make an interesting game.

A lot of action movies appear to have some sort of underlying magic going on...

JoeJ
2019-02-27, 01:59 PM
A lot of action movies appear to have some sort of underlying magic going on...

It's not magic, it's just that action movie physics is a bit different than real world physics.

RifleAvenger
2019-02-27, 02:24 PM
The observation though is that, this was a lot of deus ex machina just for sake of preserving the status quo, and it has nothing much to do with the concepts that underlie the supernatural elements...

...For purely self-serving purposes, why wouldn't a Mage try to normalize their magic usage by manipulating church doctrine to identify members of their tradition as literal embodied angels come to Earth? That could work in Ascension, where magic is a function of collective subjective reality. It doesn't work in Awakening, which Schismatic was talking about, where the cosmology descends from a realm of pure Platonic ideals, and where magic is blocked by a living layer of reality acid between above and below that also resides in small part within every Sleeper. No matter how socially acceptable you try to make mages, the Abyss will cause Sleepers observing magic to make it go wrong and maybe summon an unreal eldritch horror or two.

Also, that strategy of depicting mages as angels IS done... by the bad guys. Paternoster Seers do that. Though I'm sure some Silver Ladder also tried it at some point.

Yes, the Abyss and Quiescence are aspects the writers wrote into the setting to ensure status quo is god. But it does underlie how magic works (pure supernal signal getting tainted by refraction through the Abyss), as does the Exarchs' dominance (who wants stasis because the world today is their great work) based on just getting to the supernal first, as does how actually altering the connection between the supernal and the phenomenal using archmagic produces a slew of unpredictable and unintended results.

Because all that combines to make forcing societal advances using magic impotent at best and reality rendingly dangerous at worst, the idea is that mages have to assist subtly from the background and guide the forces already existing in mundane society instead of putting themselves in the driver's seat. With hubris, and frustration with the idiot sleepers, screaming at mages to do otherwise all the while.

The only way to beat the Exarchs is to make people realize they have exactly as much power to change things as they actually have, and thus stop participating in the Exarchs' systematic structures of opression. And the Pentacle can, and has, succeeded at this in the past. It's just that the Pentacle also has a lot of infighting and the Seers are always trying to undo the Pentacle's work on behalf of the Exarchs. It's either you do that, or you leave the world behind to go archmage and try to play the game top-down after all (except the Exarchs have a huge homefield advantage there).

--------------------

There's nothing wrong with a setting that breaks the secrecy. I think several WoD products, old and new, have suggestions on how to run that scenario, and you were able to come up with some good prompts too. Such a setting is certainly creative and interesting.

However, I don't think there's anything wrong with the World of Stasis either. Especially if the goal of the game is to finally find the way to break that stasis without also breaking the world.

Felyndiira
2019-02-27, 02:36 PM
From the point of view of the characters, you don't need any benevolence or maleficence, no omnipotence or omniscience, etc. I'm not assuming that everyone gets together to change the course of history for the better, or towards some greater good. Simply that power in the hands of individuals who are also placed in some level of danger by the structure of the society around them is, historically, a very strong lever to motivate things getting done. For purely self-serving purposes, why wouldn't a Mage try to normalize their magic usage by manipulating church doctrine to identify members of their tradition as literal embodied angels come to Earth? Why wouldn't vampires make close ties with the nobility and present vampirism as proof of royal blood, then install their own puppet governments across all of Europe? None of these things have to be in humanity's long-term benefit - for WoD I can accept a dystopian setting as the outcome with the various castes of supernatural basically holding all the cards and Hunters being humanity's last futile stand against the darkness, if that's where following the logic takes you. One where vampires are the immortal CEOs of century-old megacorps that not only suck the blood from their workers for dinner and crush their souls for dessert, where Mages have elevated global geopolitics into complex negotiations and mutually assured destruction arrangements which place at risk the very concepts on which reality is built - where the only reason that love isn't dead is that it's hostage to safeguard greed - and so on.
My biggest issue with this argument is that it still uses DnD logic, with these supernatural influences being exceptional and with little peer.

A mage attempting to normalize magic usage by manipulating church doctrine paints a target on his back. The entire organization of the Seers wants to keep things as-is so they can shadow-lord over humans, and opening people to the potential of magic (and thus possibly awakening more mortals that would now stand as their equals) is a big no-no for them, and they have vast information networks that said individual would have to evade. A wrong move, discovery, and said mage vanishes in a puff of fire in an instant to a cabal of seers combining forces and space.

Vampires do, in fact, keep close ties with nobility to be the shadow powers behind the throne. They do exist as immortal CEOs and such, just with ghouls proxies to deal with the whole sunlight issue. They don't publicly reveal themselves because herding a bunch of vampires to a single task is like herding rabbits - your idea is likely to go down in flames to a crazy Malkavian or some Brujah that sees it as opposing freedom. You're asking elder vampires with vast wealth and power to just give up their positions and accept roles in human society that they likely look down on, for absolutely no benefit to themselves other than having an official title of some sort. This is not even mentioning the hunters - who knows what they will do when some vampire aura dude starts proposing new societies?

The issue is - while many things in history are changed by a small group of individuals, even more things in history are not because of external resistance. An idealistic mage is only one person in a world filled with people more powerful than himself; an enterprising vampire has to survive assassinations and dodge intrigue to get anywhere in life. You can't just go forth with a world-changing idea and expect everyone to just go along with it just because you can make fireballs with your fingers; with supernatural forces are involved, you can literally disappear without a trace if you pissed off enough of the wrong people, and no one would know what happened.

That's the main reason that the masquerade is kept, and the reason the entire Sabbat - a large group of vampires that want to blow said masquerade wide open - still hasn't succeeded in doing exactly that over generations.

NichG
2019-02-27, 08:35 PM
My biggest issue with this argument is that it still uses DnD logic, with these supernatural influences being exceptional and with little peer.

The existence of peers or opposing forces doesn't actually stabilize the situation. Secrecy is a tight-rope walker with thirty teams of a hundred people each trying to play tug-of-war with ropes attached to their waist. Maybe at some point in time those forces balance out so that the tightrope walker can remain on the tightrope, but any fluctuation in strength is so much bigger than the tightrope walker's own balance that maybe they can decide which direction to fall in, but they don't get to decide whether or not they're going to fall.

You can write a setting where those forces are, by fiat, always exactly and perfectly balanced. But then that's an active choice to force the status quo to be stable. Ultimately its that choice on the part of the writers that I'm criticizing here.

RifleAvenger
2019-02-28, 03:30 AM
The existence of peers or opposing forces doesn't actually stabilize the situation. Secrecy is a tight-rope walker with thirty teams of a hundred people each trying to play tug-of-war with ropes attached to their waist. Maybe at some point in time those forces balance out so that the tightrope walker can remain on the tightrope, but any fluctuation in strength is so much bigger than the tightrope walker's own balance that maybe they can decide which direction to fall in, but they don't get to decide whether or not they're going to fall.

You can write a setting where those forces are, by fiat, always exactly and perfectly balanced. But then that's an active choice to force the status quo to be stable. Ultimately its that choice on the part of the writers that I'm criticizing here.And I'm just not seeing how choosing to enforce that is de facto bad. Especially for systems where the consequences of doing so warp the setting beyond recognition, beyond player comprehension, or make it unsuited for play.

Let's take Mage the Awakening. Let's drop the Lie and maybe even the Abyss. At this point, either the Exarchs are defeated, and magic is unfettered, or the World is somehow still in a cold war with the Exarchs, or the world is in active, open war with the Exarchs.

In option 1, I can't even imagine what the setting would look like. Even basic spells with no disbelief or paradox to fear essentially catapult the world into post-scarcity. Archmages might not be unfettered (no one wants new Exarchs), but whatever they are allowed to do is so huge that we're getting into super high tiers of civilization. That's hard enough to write, and it takes us far, FAR outside the realm of a modern setting of any sort.

In option 2, hey we just replaced one stasis with another! We're back at an unstable situation held in place only by writer or GM fiat. It's just a different one where magic isn't a secret to the world's population as a whole (this is actually the suggested "broken veil" setting in Awakening) and the Seers and the Pentacle are more overt about trying to recruit people to their causes and control/guide society.

In option 3, the setting becomes absurdist or nihilistic to anyone who isn't already at archmage level. In the base game players already have to wonder "why don't our enemies just Space 2 + INSERT SCRY AND DIE HERE us?" Here archmagi and ochemata would be flying around obliterating worlds, timelines, and possibilities like swatting flies. Everything the party does to help one side significantly could just be erased via imperial archmagic (sure, Archmages need quintessences to try that, but I'm not sure ascended beings like the Exarchs/Oracles do) or just a sufficiently large and intelligent group of people with Time 5+. There's no pax arcana or common enemy in the abyss to explain away why a party of middling gnosis mages don't just get jumped by entities far beyond their scale the moment the party tries to accomplish anything important.

If players want to play a modern+ game, but with Mages, the setting's contrivances become necessary to prevent the game from becoming a totally different genre or setting. A game that mechanically and fluff-wise adds so much power and versatility to characters NEEDS some limits, whether metaphysical (the Abyss, the Lie) or social (Pax Arcanum, Mage infighting), or else the setting either crumbles or turns into a post-scarcity utopia.

There's no way to establish a stable setting when the idea behind your mechanics is that the players (and therefore any other mages in history) could theoretically do ANYTHING with enough Gnosis and Arcanum dots. It's the same reason it's really hard for settings to stand up to Epic Magic in D&D 3.5. So instead the game makers request the ST and players to buy into the idea that history has proceeded much as it has in the regular world up until the chronicle begins.

NichG
2019-02-28, 06:59 AM
And I'm just not seeing how choosing to enforce that is de facto bad. Especially for systems where the consequences of doing so warp the setting beyond recognition, beyond player comprehension, or make it unsuited for play.

That rings hollow to me because there are plenty of settings and games that do engage with the differences, so its clearly not intrinsically guaranteed to make something impossible to play. I'll grant that it can be challenging, but then that's the challenge I'm expecting the writers to rise to when they take on the premise. In a way, even doing it poorly or haphazardly is better in my mind than going out of the way to make it not matter - it doesn't have to be perfect or even very good, but it must at least try to be inspiring or there's no point.



Let's take Mage the Awakening. Let's drop the Lie and maybe even the Abyss. At this point, either the Exarchs are defeated, and magic is unfettered, or the World is somehow still in a cold war with the Exarchs, or the world is in active, open war with the Exarchs.

In option 1, I can't even imagine what the setting would look like. Even basic spells with no disbelief or paradox to fear essentially catapult the world into post-scarcity. Archmages might not be unfettered (no one wants new Exarchs), but whatever they are allowed to do is so huge that we're getting into super high tiers of civilization. That's hard enough to write, and it takes us far, FAR outside the realm of a modern setting of any sort.

Sounds good to me! I'd play this.



In option 2, hey we just replaced one stasis with another! We're back at an unstable situation held in place only by writer or GM fiat. It's just a different one where magic isn't a secret to the world's population as a whole (this is actually the suggested "broken veil" setting in Awakening) and the Seers and the Pentacle are more overt about trying to recruit people to their causes and control/guide society.

Since it requires fiat to hold it in place, skip this one I think.



In option 3, the setting becomes absurdist or nihilistic to anyone who isn't already at archmage level. In the base game players already have to wonder "why don't our enemies just Space 2 + INSERT SCRY AND DIE HERE us?" Here archmagi and ochemata would be flying around obliterating worlds, timelines, and possibilities like swatting flies. Everything the party does to help one side significantly could just be erased via imperial archmagic (sure, Archmages need quintessences to try that, but I'm not sure ascended beings like the Exarchs/Oracles do) or just a sufficiently large and intelligent group of people with Time 5+. There's no pax arcana or common enemy in the abyss to explain away why a party of middling gnosis mages don't just get jumped by entities far beyond their scale the moment the party tries to accomplish anything important.

I actually think something in here becomes workable, but it needs careful thought. I'm currently running a game where any character powerful enough to have mechanics can screw over the world at any moment if they choose to (but will generally not be able to do so without screwing over themselves) and how to build a society of beings who are all participating in a shared game of mutually assured destruction is the primary question of the campaign. This is the setting that I would be eager to see what good writers do with if they're under the constraint that, yes, they have to engage with this premise - its a case where I'd expect a good writer to show me or lead me to possibilities I can't easily see for myself, which makes it potentially very interesting.


There's no way to establish a stable setting when the idea behind your mechanics is that the players (and therefore any other mages in history) could theoretically do ANYTHING with enough Gnosis and Arcanum dots. It's the same reason it's really hard for settings to stand up to Epic Magic in D&D 3.5. So instead the game makers request the ST and players to buy into the idea that history has proceeded much as it has in the regular world up until the chronicle begins.

Well, as I said, I'm basically running this now and to my surprise it's been actually working for 20-30 sessions now. There's certainly been a significant amount of post-scarcity and utopian elements, but also stuff reminiscent of cold war nuclear escalation and similar fears. In the end, there's still tension and conflict even if the moves in the game end up being things like destroying the ability of human beings to mistrust each-other, or replacing the timeline with someone's flawed memory of the past, or things like that.

But even if you don't want to go that far, then its just as simple as not making magic work Mage-style. I like the idea of any Time-5 person being able to rip history free of the river of time and tie it into knots, but just as there's nothing saying you have to write a setting with a Masquerade, you also don't have to write a setting where that's the supernatural element that you're introducing. If you choose to introduce that element, I think it should be because you're actually interested in exploring the implications (even if they take you to absurdist extremes) - if its too much, use something else.

Knaight
2019-02-28, 10:24 AM
I don't tend to use modern settings hugely heavily, but they're a significant fraction of the one shots I've run, for all that I've never actually run a modern campaign. It's a pretty big category though, and worth separating out into subcategories. Even if you ignore urban fantasy, superheroes, and other modern + supernatural genres there's still a really big difference between a buddy cop game, a special forces game, a comedy of errors game, a gangster game, an action movie game, etc.

Some of these genres have pretty major support too. None of them are D&D big, but in terms of indie games? Fiasco is widely known and respected (by indie standards), and covers modern screwball comedy exceedingly well. There's a few action horror games that also do just action well, such as Delta Green and Nemesis.

Once you start bringing in supernatural elements this opens up both some of the more hugely popular games (World of Darkness), and critical darlings that are masterpieces of brilliant design (Unknown Armies).


I have ended up categorically refusing to run modern-ish games due to one specific thing: guns. Or rather, the fact that gun people are incredibly annoying. People who will not blink at flying dragons and kung fu dudes standing atop a feather suddenly want, nay, need absolute accuracy and a highly realistic outlook when it comes to models and effects of modern military equipment, and will complain endlessly when the superhero who shrugs off bullets gets knocked by a superpunch because physically speaking obviously guns are a lot more energy being imparted.

And I do not give a crap about guns. Far as I'm concerned they're just elongated cylinders what murder people. So it gets really tiresome.

This seems more like a player issue than anything, especially given that you've both got the gun obsessiveness and some powergaming nonsense (this reads like trying to use energy instead of momentum for knockback when shooting at superheroes or getting punched when playing a superhero and trying to fast talk their way into extending an immunity they had when they got shot at) that seems to directly conflict with it.

There's also a lot of modern games which don't really care about guns beyond them being elongated cylinders used to shoot people.

Rhedyn
2019-02-28, 12:05 PM
On the flip side, I've seen people get offended at the idea of guns being different or accurate because a list of things gives them 3.5 D&D Ivory Tower flashbacks when one gun is better than another. While at the same time not blinking at a list of 30+ different melee weapons.

Neither are great mindsets for a modern game.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-28, 12:22 PM
We had the discussion in another thread recently, but there is a "middle ground" of weapons lists, whether we're talking about melee weapons or firearms or space opera blasters, that cuts back on the minutia crunch while still representing huge differences enough to not shatter credulity.

RifleAvenger
2019-02-28, 01:25 PM
Sounds good to me! I'd play this. And so might I, but it's Supernal Trek. And I wouldn't want EVERY Mage game I run or play in to be Supernal Trek.

I actually think something in here becomes workable, but it needs careful thought. I'm currently running a game where any character powerful enough to have mechanics can screw over the world at any moment if they choose to (but will generally not be able to do so without screwing over themselves) and how to build a society of beings who are all participating in a shared game of mutually assured destruction is the primary question of the campaign. This is the setting that I would be eager to see what good writers do with if they're under the constraint that, yes, they have to engage with this premise - its a case where I'd expect a good writer to show me or lead me to possibilities I can't easily see for myself, which makes it potentially very interesting.So you're already playing at something akin to Master/Archmaster level, which I never said was impossible here. What does become improbable are games involving the suggested starting level of power (Multi-apprentice or Single Disciple). Which leads into the question of how anyone survives to get to Mastery or Archmastery anymore w/o metaphorically winning the lottery. It's like how in D&D, realistically given the setting, a low level party should just stumble over some threat far over their level and just die. Like happened in a lot of old modules. Some people can appreciate that, I know I do love high-lethality games like Call of Cthulu, but a narrative system where a lot of the stories turn out to be shaggy dogs would be incredibly niche.

Well, as I said, I'm basically running this now and to my surprise it's been actually working for 20-30 sessions now. There's certainly been a significant amount of post-scarcity and utopian elements, but also stuff reminiscent of cold war nuclear escalation and similar fears. In the end, there's still tension and conflict even if the moves in the game end up being things like destroying the ability of human beings to mistrust each-other, or replacing the timeline with someone's flawed memory of the past, or things like that.Again, that is very Mage, but it's one particular flavor of Mage, and I'd hate to see the game reduced to it. Especially since I think the premise as initially presented (eg. the effects of the Abyss and the Exarchs forcing some level of secrecy by Mages) is defensible.

But even if you don't want to go that far, then its just as simple as not making magic work Mage-style. I like the idea of any Time-5 person being able to rip history free of the river of time and tie it into knots, but just as there's nothing saying you have to write a setting with a Masquerade, you also don't have to write a setting where that's the supernatural element that you're introducing. If you choose to introduce that element, I think it should be because you're actually interested in exploring the implications (even if they take you to absurdist extremes) - if its too much, use something else.So, you keep bringing up the concept of "engaging the premise."

But, the thing is, in Awakening part of the premise IS that Abyss exists, it leads to disbelief destroying any edifice of indefinite spellcraft that isn't hidden (meaning you can't run society on obvious magic), pushing paradox to try and bruteforce through the former results in unleashing manifestations or worse (try to cheat the system, and you risk releasing Cthulhu), and the most powerful entities in the cosmos like the world the way it is (out of pride, pettiness, and fear of the Abyss) and systematically aim to crush whatever magical attempts evade the risk of disbelief and paradox.

The world SHOULD by rights be Supernal Trek. Mankind should have that post-scarcity society where we are then free to explore the multiverse and go where no one has gone before. But it doesn't, because the Abyss and the Exarchs exist. That's horrible, and unfair, and the PC's are going to do something about it, for themselves if not anyone or everyone else.

It seems to me like you want to explore the limits of the magic system and play Supernal Trek, so you attack the parts of the premise meant to restrict the ability of magic as poor writing. Which ignores the narrative significance of those limits as a representation of the inherent injustice of the Exarchs' universe (both IC to the Mages and OOC as a symbol for systems of oppression).

NichG
2019-02-28, 08:21 PM
So you're already playing at something akin to Master/Archmaster level, which I never said was impossible here. What does become improbable are games involving the suggested starting level of power (Multi-apprentice or Single Disciple). Which leads into the question of how anyone survives to get to Mastery or Archmastery anymore w/o metaphorically winning the lottery. It's like how in D&D, realistically given the setting, a low level party should just stumble over some threat far over their level and just die. Like happened in a lot of old modules. Some people can appreciate that, I know I do love high-lethality games like Call of Cthulu, but a narrative system where a lot of the stories turn out to be shaggy dogs would be incredibly niche.


In the particular system (which isn't Mage, even if as you point out there are similarities) this doesn't end up happening because of mutually assured destruction. Anyone with a seat at the table (local equivalent of being Awakened) can choose to produce an effect of arbitrary scale so long as they're willing to pay the cost, which ultimately leaves them alive but with permanent loss of control over their powers. So if they're pushed into a corner such that they have nothing left to lose and know it, even a starting character poses a credible risk of annihilation to a character who has been around forever (and even if they survive, the thing that is produced is generally going to be more annoying to deal with than if they had just found some compromise which let them coexist with the new character).



So, you keep bringing up the concept of "engaging the premise."

But, the thing is, in Awakening part of the premise IS that Abyss exists, it leads to disbelief destroying any edifice of indefinite spellcraft that isn't hidden (meaning you can't run society on obvious magic), pushing paradox to try and bruteforce through the former results in unleashing manifestations or worse (try to cheat the system, and you risk releasing Cthulhu), and the most powerful entities in the cosmos like the world the way it is (out of pride, pettiness, and fear of the Abyss) and systematically aim to crush whatever magical attempts evade the risk of disbelief and paradox.

The world SHOULD by rights be Supernal Trek. Mankind should have that post-scarcity society where we are then free to explore the multiverse and go where no one has gone before. But it doesn't, because the Abyss and the Exarchs exist. That's horrible, and unfair, and the PC's are going to do something about it, for themselves if not anyone or everyone else.

It seems to me like you want to explore the limits of the magic system and play Supernal Trek, so you attack the parts of the premise meant to restrict the ability of magic as poor writing. Which ignores the narrative significance of those limits as a representation of the inherent injustice of the Exarchs' universe (both IC to the Mages and OOC as a symbol for systems of oppression).

I think it helps to zoom out here away from the details of Mage, which are constructed to produce the world that they do, since I'm criticizing the very choices underlying that construction. That is to say, its not like 'ah, Exarchs and Abyss and such are there and we have to deal with them, lets make the best story we can' - those are all elements that were added to the basic idea in order to achieve a particular end, and its the selection of that particular end which I find questionable.

Before the level of pages and pages of very specific setting details, there's a tagline level description of what a given setting or game is about. 'Dungeons & Dragons' could be described as 'high fantasy kitchen sink' or 'kill things and take their stuff' or the like. In this thread, the question is 'how do people feel about modern settings?' and that was combined with the sort of 'fantasy modern' genre where some fantastical element is added to the modern world.

At that level of thing, if the prompt is 'modern world plus magic', there are lots of things that writers could do with that premise. You could get Mage or Harry Potter or Dresden Files or Supernal Trek. You could also get the Alvin Maker series extended to the modern day, Mass Effects biotics backported to the 20th century, wherever Brandon Sanderson is eventually going with the Mistborn stuff, 'The Gods are Bastards' web novel material, or many other things. I think writers that take the 'magic' element they choose to introduce and carefully spin out the consequences that would have for society and how the world is organized are doing more interesting work than writers who conclude 'it would be really hard to make this happen credibly, so lets make up a reason why things look like the status quo'. That may mean dialing back your premise if it gets out of hand - rather than reaching for Mage, maybe something more folkloric would be easier to handle. But I'd rather read/play in something where someone has taken drips and drabs of folkloric magic and has fully integrated them with the world than one where people promise the moon but ultimately don't deliver it.

Particle_Man
2019-02-28, 09:24 PM
I am not a fan of modern guns and bombs. I see too much of it on the news to get any joy in their simulation in a game. So either past (swords!) or future (laser swords!) is preferable.

RifleAvenger
2019-02-28, 11:21 PM
I think it helps to zoom out here away from the details of Mage, which are constructed to produce the world that they do, since I'm criticizing the very choices underlying that construction. That is to say, its not like 'ah, Exarchs and Abyss and such are there and we have to deal with them, lets make the best story we can' - those are all elements that were added to the basic idea in order to achieve a particular end, and its the selection of that particular end which I find questionable.

Before the level of pages and pages of very specific setting details, there's a tagline level description of what a given setting or game is about. 'Dungeons & Dragons' could be described as 'high fantasy kitchen sink' or 'kill things and take their stuff' or the like. In this thread, the question is 'how do people feel about modern settings?' and that was combined with the sort of 'fantasy modern' genre where some fantastical element is added to the modern world.

At that level of thing, if the prompt is 'modern world plus magic', there are lots of things that writers could do with that premise. I think writers that take the 'magic' element they choose to introduce and carefully spin out the consequences that would have for society and how the world is organized are doing more interesting work than writers who conclude 'it would be really hard to make this happen credibly, so lets make up a reason why things look like the status quo'.Where I disagree is that I don't think those elements can be written off as adding zero value. So long as the status quo keepers are worked into the mood, themes, and focus of the game, the work still has merit. Mage is thus not really a story about examining the effects of introducing magic into the modern world, it's a story about a metaphysical jailbreak. It's waking up one day after a lucid dream about a big tree, finding you can trivially cure cancer and solve world hunger, and then world just tells you NO because some old men in heaven are too proud and afraid. It's about getting around and defeating their systems of oppression without becoming an oppressor yourself. Magic probably isn't even needed to meet this premise/theme, sure, but it's a cool flavor, works well with the gnostic trappings, and provides the players a powerful toolset to both fight the cosmos and tempt them into hubris.

I find that to be as worthwhile a setting and an idea as Supernal Trek or any other hard fantasy story. "Fantasy modern" doesn't have to be about investigating the hypothetical impacts of an addition to the world. It can also be about using the supernatural as metaphor for more mundane realities and injustices of our mundane world. And while some of those issues are broad enough to fit into hard fantasy takes too, specifics and relatability can get lost in the change of resolution.

Also, I think it's also ok if a story sets itself in the modern, adds supernatural elements, and doesn't care about investigating their impact much at all. Persona is a good example of this, as it never even pretends that its intent is to investigate what a world where Jungian psychology is tangibly and horribly real would be like. That said, such takes are poorly compatible with tabletop because they have neither limiting setting elements nor remove the setting from status quo, and thus would see their settings rapidly fall apart under GM and player curiosity.

NichG
2019-03-01, 02:03 AM
Where I disagree is that I don't think those elements can be written off as adding zero value. So long as the status quo keepers are worked into the mood, themes, and focus of the game, the work still has merit. Mage is thus not really a story about examining the effects of introducing magic into the modern world, it's a story about a metaphysical jailbreak. It's waking up one day after a lucid dream about a big tree, finding you can trivially cure cancer and solve world hunger, and then world just tells you NO because some old men in heaven are too proud and afraid. It's about getting around and defeating their systems of oppression without becoming an oppressor yourself. Magic probably isn't even needed to meet this premise/theme, sure, but it's a cool flavor, works well with the gnostic trappings, and provides the players a powerful toolset to both fight the cosmos and tempt them into hubris.

While this is a nice take on things, the WoD materials don't read this way to me. There are differences in how WoD is constructed than what I'd expect if the game and setting were at a meta level embracing their own inevitable disruption. Part of this for example is how the morality systems generally reward acting in such a way as to maintain the status quo, which kind of hints that characters who wish to deviate from it too strongly aren't meant to be viable. Another part is what we discussed earlier about how opposition is mostly used to strengthen the status quo and tends to conveniently back down from moves that would allow a more definitive win, even when the situation is unstable to permitting such a win (e.g. Hunters breaking the Masquerade).

Or outside of WoD, Harry Potter and the Statue of Secrecy is a similar kind of issue - its not there because the point is to explore how it breaks, its there to compartmentalize away elements of the world that would make a particular story inconvenient to tell. You could tell a story about the breakdown of the Statute, and it would actually be interesting to do so, but it would be misleading to say that that's why it's there.



I find that to be as worthwhile a setting and an idea as Supernal Trek or any other hard fantasy story. "Fantasy modern" doesn't have to be about investigating the hypothetical impacts of an addition to the world. It can also be about using the supernatural as metaphor for more mundane realities and injustices of our mundane world. And while some of those issues are broad enough to fit into hard fantasy takes too, specifics and relatability can get lost in the change of resolution.

I suppose this is a genre that I just really dislike. The introduction of fantastical elements simply in order to make metaphors isn't a very effective tool for me. It's hard to pin down exactly why that particular thing falls as flat as it does - I could say its about agency and gives the writer too much control over both prompt and consequence for the results to feel authentic, or that it wastes the potential of the supernatural elements, or that it feels like a cheat (in that the point the author is trying to make can't actually stand on its own without the supernatural elements, and those elements are just sugar to make a flawed premise more palatable), but those factors are close while still feel like they're missing the more visceral reasons behind it.

So I'll have to settle for 'not my cup of tea' here.



Also, I think it's also ok if a story sets itself in the modern, adds supernatural elements, and doesn't care about investigating their impact much at all. Persona is a good example of this, as it never even pretends that its intent is to investigate what a world where Jungian psychology is tangibly and horribly real would be like. That said, such takes are poorly compatible with tabletop because they have neither limiting setting elements nor remove the setting from status quo, and thus would see their settings rapidly fall apart under GM and player curiosity.

I guess it wouldn't be surprising to you if I said that I find the Persona games up to 3 more compelling conceptually than 4 and 5? There's a direction in which one could see the Persona series as pointing towards a path where humanity takes deliberate control over the operation of their own minds and their collective psychology, and things that move forward in that direction are more interesting than things which bury those moves or leave the potential untapped.

williamfund
2019-03-01, 01:46 PM
I'm still wondering how and why?

Drascin
2019-03-02, 04:31 AM
This seems more like a player issue than anything, especially given that you've both got the gun obsessiveness and some powergaming nonsense (this reads like trying to use energy instead of momentum for knockback when shooting at superheroes or getting punched when playing a superhero and trying to fast talk their way into extending an immunity they had when they got shot at) that seems to directly conflict with it.

There's also a lot of modern games which don't really care about guns beyond them being elongated cylinders used to shoot people.

Please understand that this isn't an isolated incident. It's happened to me in three separate games, with separate players. Something in modern military stuff makes a significant subsection of tabletop nerds just want to nitpick accuracy in a way nothing else seems to do.

And no, I can tell you right now, powergaming wasn't realy the thing here - heck, one of those not only wasn't powergaming, he was arguing the PCs should be way more mangled than they were, because it didn't make sense that if they could get somewhat hurt by a super punch, they'd be able to survive an RPG impact at all, complete with carefully detailed explanation of how an RPG works that I really didn't need :smalltongue:.

JoeJ
2019-03-02, 11:56 AM
Please understand that this isn't an isolated incident. It's happened to me in three separate games, with separate players. Something in modern military stuff makes a significant subsection of tabletop nerds just want to nitpick accuracy in a way nothing else seems to do.

And no, I can tell you right now, powergaming wasn't realy the thing here - heck, one of those not only wasn't powergaming, he was arguing the PCs should be way more mangled than they were, because it didn't make sense that if they could get somewhat hurt by a super punch, they'd be able to survive an RPG impact at all, complete with carefully detailed explanation of how an RPG works that I really didn't need :smalltongue:.

If there are super punches, then you're playing in the supers genre, right? It only takes a moment to say, "hey, we're using comic book physics," and then continue the game and ignore any further objections along those lines.

Max_Killjoy
2019-03-02, 12:09 PM
If there are super punches, then you're playing in the supers genre, right? It only takes a moment to say, "hey, we're using comic book physics," and then continue the game and ignore any further objections along those lines.


Not really, it just moves the argument from that specific incident to the entire setting.

JoeJ
2019-03-02, 01:21 PM
Not really, it just moves the argument from that specific incident to the entire setting.

How so? Did the players not agree before starting the campaign that they would be playing a superhero game?

Max_Killjoy
2019-03-02, 01:29 PM
How so? Did the players not agree before starting the campaign that they would be playing a superhero game?

"Superheroes" and "comic book physics" are not matched sets or a single axis.

Futhermore, "comic book physics" is not a binary on-off state, but rather a multi-dimensional range of possible states.

For example, "comic book physics" often involves buildings lifted by their foundations (they just crumble, really), cars used as melee weapons (inefficient, your punch will do more damage than the car if you can swing the car around like a club), etc. None of those things are necessary for a game involving superheroes.

JoeJ
2019-03-02, 01:45 PM
"Superheroes" and "comic book physics" are not matched sets or a single axis.

Futhermore, "comic book physics" is not a binary on-off state, but rather a multi-dimensional range of possible states.

For example, "comic book physics" often involves buildings lifted by their foundations (they just crumble, really), cars used as melee weapons (inefficient, your punch will do more damage than the car if you can swing the car around like a club), etc. None of those things are necessary for a game involving superheroes.

Maybe not necessary, but certainly common enough to be the default for the genre. If you're playing a game where Lois Lane dies if she falls 500 feet before Superman catches her in his harder-than-steel arms, that would need to be stated up front.

Either way, though, it's perfectly reasonable for the GM to remind a player what kind of fictional world they're playing in.

Knaight
2019-03-03, 01:07 PM
If there are super punches, then you're playing in the supers genre, right? It only takes a moment to say, "hey, we're using comic book physics," and then continue the game and ignore any further objections along those lines.

On the one hand, yes, that would probably work. On the other hand I can run those momentum transfer equations in real physics, and using that argument to justify things working the way they actually do leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

JoeJ
2019-03-03, 02:07 PM
On the one hand, yes, that would probably work. On the other hand I can run those momentum transfer equations in real physics, and using that argument to justify things working the way they actually do leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

But you can't solve the equations without data, and the force of a "super punch" covers an enormous range, with nothing except the game stats to indicate how powerful it is. A character who can survive a punch from Steve Rogers might well be taken out by an RPG. Somebody who can stand up to Zod's punch would most likely survive a large nuke.

Knaight
2019-03-03, 03:02 PM
But you can't solve the equations without data, and the force of a "super punch" covers an enormous range, with nothing except the game stats to indicate how powerful it is. A character who can survive a punch from Steve Rogers might well be taken out by an RPG. Somebody who can stand up to Zod's punch would most likely survive a large nuke.

I'm talking about the shrugging off bullets part, where there absolutely is data (though from a momentum transfer perspective conservation of momentum plus the shooter not going flying backwards really says plenty).

JoeJ
2019-03-03, 10:48 PM
I'm talking about the shrugging off bullets part, where there absolutely is data (though from a momentum transfer perspective conservation of momentum plus the shooter not going flying backwards really says plenty).

Okay, but my comment about comic book physics was in response to somebody who had a player argue that a character who had been hurt by a superpowered punch would be killed by an RPG, but without specifying just how super that super punch was.

Is there a game you were thinking of where bullets are as powerful as RPG rounds?

Knaight
2019-03-04, 08:05 AM
Okay, but my comment about comic book physics was in response to somebody who had a player argue that a character who had been hurt by a superpowered punch would be killed by an RPG, but without specifying just how super that super punch was.

The whole side tangent started with gun obsessives arguing that bullets should knock back a superhero, and me saying that that's specious from a basic physics vies and not just gun obsessives being annoyingly obsessed.

Arbane
2019-03-04, 03:12 PM
If you do a WoD plot which is "Whoops, there goes the Masquerade, now it's time to ADAPT OR DIE", whichever company currently owns White Wolf's trademarks isn't going to send a gang of goths around to beat you up.

Thinker
2019-03-04, 04:46 PM
If you do a WoD plot which is "Whoops, there goes the Masquerade, now it's time to ADAPT OR DIE", whichever company currently owns White Wolf's trademarks isn't going to send a gang of goths around to beat you up.

That might make for an interesting game for a one-shot. You play as a team of game designers who scour the land eliminating gamers who play your game wrong.

Max_Killjoy
2019-03-04, 05:00 PM
That might make for an interesting game for a one-shot. You play as a team of game designers who scour the land eliminating gamers who play your game wrong.

I wish I'd thought of that back in the 90s, and submitted it to White Wolf when they were at peak "you're doing it wrong!".

Arbane
2019-03-04, 08:07 PM
I wish I'd thought of that back in the 90s, and submitted it to White Wolf when they were at peak "you're doing it wrong!".

What would their Angst Stat be?

Max_Killjoy
2019-03-04, 08:12 PM
What would their Angst Stat be?

I'm sure that proposal would have maxed out their angst bar.
:smallwink:

raygun goth
2019-03-05, 02:19 PM
My usual campaign setting is at about an early 1960s tech level, though their "computers" are more akin to Magic Mouth computers, being that transistors are spirit traps with very simple spirits inside them that work as logic gates. Individually they're not "conscious" or able to tell what they're doing, but if you series up enough of them you can have emergent computers. There's also essentially modern governments, a long-standing adventurer culture, and use of magic in espionage and counter-intelligence.

Toilet Cobra
2019-03-06, 10:52 AM
As the DM I enjoy all the settings for different reasons. I tend to crave whichever one I'm not currently running. But my players have had the most enthusiasm for my modern-day games. I think they like knowing the setting intimately, without the need for lengthy exposition of why group X hates group Y, or why some "shocking revelation" is actually a big deal. If I tell them that the King is actually a lizardman impostor, they get the idea of why that's bad, but if I tell them the President is actually a reptile that has way more immediate impact thanks to their knowledge of the real world.

Now DMing these games you have to stretch yourself a bit, as a lot of the traditional hurdles you throw at a D&D party don't apply. Particularly for a mystery game like I'm running, you have to build a story that works in spite of cars, smartphones, Google, etc. But I think the additional effort is well worth the reward. And again, I think the players like not having to deal with those minor annoyances-- in Pathfinder I tell them a trip will take six days with Survival checks and possible random encounters, but in a modern setting it's just a three hour drive we can gloss over.

2019-03-06, 07:26 PM
I like modern settings.

As in Early modern period :p

Morty
2019-03-06, 08:04 PM
If you do a WoD plot which is "Whoops, there goes the Masquerade, now it's time to ADAPT OR DIE", whichever company currently owns White Wolf's trademarks isn't going to send a gang of goths around to beat you up.

There were several such scenarios printed in nWoD books where it was still nWoD, so the chances of that are indeed vanishingly small.

OmSwaOperations
2019-03-08, 06:38 PM
To be totally honest; I don't really like them at all. I live in a modern setting, so pretending to be someone in a modern setting is poor escapism for me.

Having said that, I can see why people like them. I have a very high tolerance for weird and outlandish stuff in RPGs (indeed, that's what attracts me to them). But other people prefer to have to suspend their disbelief less, and that probably makes them enjoy modern settings more.

Kiero
2019-03-08, 06:56 PM
To be totally honest; I don't really like them at all. I live in a modern setting, so pretending to be someone in a modern setting is poor escapism for me.

Having said that, I can see why people like them. I have a very high tolerance for weird and outlandish stuff in RPGs (indeed, that's what attracts me to them). But other people prefer to have to suspend their disbelief less, and that probably makes them enjoy modern settings more.

I have weirdness fatigue. The older I get, the less "magical" it seems, and the more contrived it does, especially the stuff that makes it into RPGs. I don't need to go a long way to get my escapism fix, simply not being me in my life is good enough.

By contrast, I find history pretty exciting and interesting, it's different enough to engage me in all the myriad ways it isn't like now.

The Jack
2019-03-09, 07:51 AM
To be totally honest; I don't really like them at all. I live in a modern setting, so pretending to be someone in a modern setting is poor escapism for me.

Having said that, I can see why people like them. I have a very high tolerance for weird and outlandish stuff in RPGs (indeed, that's what attracts me to them). But other people prefer to have to suspend their disbelief less, and that probably makes them enjoy modern settings more.

I find it perfect escapism to be someone I'm not. I could be homeless, a biker, a drug pusher, a minor celebrity, a cult leader, or worse; a millionare.

More importantly, it's fun to work these in comparison to eachother and figure out how they'd relate to you in real life. In a fantasy game, you don't get that so much.

Cluedrew
2019-03-09, 10:06 AM
NPC General: We want you to sneak into the terrorists' hideout and do some spying for us.
PC: Don't you have an elite covert ops unit who are supposed to be the best in the world at that sort of thing?
NPC General: Yes. We're sending you in to find out what happened to them.I'll admit that the "you are those people" answer might be better many cases, but I enjoy this answer.

Personally, I would consider a modern setting one where the basic assumptions about how things work are drawn from real-life and not a genre of fiction, a particular series or even made from scratch. So some of the settings that are set in modern times might not quite qualify, but those could still be modernish.

I bring this up because I think the major advantage of these settings is that you don't ever have to learn a new set of rules for day-to-day life, it is already there. (Except for people forgetting "hey we are back" sometimes.) Which is great for pick-up games or one shots or anything where you don't have to learn the setting because you already know it. Playing in a generic setting has some of the same advantages. But people know what guns are, and probably have a better intuition about how much distance could be covered in a day by car vs. a horse.

That being said, I have noticed the best modern games I've placed have taken place in wilder parts of the world. I'm not sure if it is because too much civilization is actually a problem, a problem for a particular variety of story or just chance.

Kiero
2019-03-09, 10:44 AM
That being said, I have noticed the best modern games I've placed have taken place in wilder parts of the world. I'm not sure if it is because too much civilization is actually a problem, a problem for a particular variety of story or just chance.

"Too much civilisation" is definitely a problem, given the rapid response of the authorities to any law-breaking. Much of Britain is covered by a CCTV network, for example (primarily in larger towns and cities). Not to mention how easy many problems are to solve when you have instant and ubiquitous communications.

5crownik007
2019-03-11, 05:52 AM
Assuming modern meaning present day and not 20th century, here's a list of reasons why people don't want to play:

1) A lot of people play for escapism. They don't want to be reminded of their real life situation or are just bored of real life. There are varying degrees of this, ranging from people who won't play anything in the same decades as they were alive to people who just don't want to play in the same country or even state.

2) Addendum to being bored of real life, some people really want to explore a different world, because they feel interested in understanding the societies, cultures and geography of another bizarre and mysterious land(or space).

3) Present day settings lack motivation. If you're just Joe Schmo in suburban Australia, there's not much role playing to be had unless you're just going to roleplay your own real life. This is why most present day settings that are played present extra circumstances. As someone else so eloquently put it, "Present day but...". Either there is something separating the real world from this game world in terms of tech, politics or magic & monsters appearing, or the players are in a different situation but totally realistic: I. E. Mislim, espionage, etc.

That's enough typing on a phone for today.

The Jack
2019-03-11, 07:05 AM
All those problems can be fixed by playing people that aren't you. People live in different worlds.

Someone fantastically rich.
Someone horrendously poor
career criminal
sex worker.
police officer
fireman
scientist
model or actor
cocaine fiend
reality show participant
politician
conspiracy buff
occultist
immigrant

Modern settings aren't you doing your job (unless you're like, a detective or something cool that other people want to play) chances are you'll become a wizard-vampire who has to navigate the real world whilst also working out the new stuff. You can play deviant characters you can't be in real life; serial killers seem to be popular with one of my players (the most jovial guy we've got) and I seem to be terribly fond of terrorism, cut-throat ladder climbing and building up my own little kingdom.

Trying to think of the most I can get away with is so much more fun when the consequences are so much more quantifiable for everyone.

One GM orchestrated some great silliness involving a vampire war in Atlanta where martial law was declared and we went to war against a legion of KKK members on the streets of atlanta. We kicked ass, it was really dumb, but the events leading up to it were good (we tried to assassinate Bernie Sanders) and the real world things being twisted into crazy (we had an execution turn into a slave auction, I won, snubbing someone very important and instigating the aforementioned Klan war). The use of relevant real world history lends a credence that you just can't get with made-up stuff. The game was dumb and pulpy and the gm wasn't very skilled but it was the best damn game I'd ever played.

FaerieGodfather
2019-04-06, 12:15 AM
How so? Did the players not agree before starting the campaign that they would be playing a superhero game?

Players will agree to a lot of things before the game and then balk at them in play. There's a nasty mindset amongst many people in our hobby that every game should the exact kind of game you prefer to play, and every game can be if you whine loud enough.