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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    So I've been a bit distracted from my homebrew campaign setting, but it has given me some time to think about how I want to actually present all of this information.

    It occurred to me that a cool thing to do might be to create a sort of "Marco Polo" or "Ibn Battuta" character, who is extremely well traveled and writes about the cultures they encounter; but at the same time their opinions are heavily colored by the society they hail from, and often tell you as much about their own culture as about the culture they're studying.

    How this might look in a finished form a short out of character introduction to a nation or a concept; then a series of short in character writings about it.

    I know for example Planescape books had a number of characters who'd pop in to give their input. But are there any settings that are presented PRIMARILY in this way?

    Eta: another thought I had, it wouldn't necessarily be just one character. I think a cool thing to do would be to have a variety of characters, each of whom offers their thoughts about each concept.

    I think these concepts transcend any specific setting, so I'm not bringing up my own setting here. But I wonder if we can't come up with some ideas -- I'll add my thoughts in a bit, once I've had a chance to collect them!
    Last edited by Babale; 2020-11-11 at 12:11 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    Dragonlance did a little of this in the novels, and there is Volo's Guide in Forgotten Realms.

    I think it's a cool concept. Some ideas:

    A child's description of some visitors from far away. Is it a school assignment? A fireside tale? Gossip among friends?

    A refugee's sad story about displacement caused by war.

    A grandparent describing the land of her birth to her grandchildren.

    A hopeful immigrant on his way to a new life.

    A fisherman competing with the fishing fleet of a neighboring nation.

    A trader's journal noting goods which can be bought and sold at various stops along the trade route.

    A monster's lament about the encroachment of civilization.

    A double-sided tale of a barbarian dismayed by decadence and his civilized friend dismayed by his nievity.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    Here are some ideas I have for "recurring" writers, for the specific setting I'm working on (a combo of scifi and fantasy):

    A) A traveling merchant who makes his way to New places, trades there for a time, then leaves. Writes about the goods being produced there, the way the people trade and deal with one another, and the hazards a trade expedition might face. Always from the perspective of his own culture is superior; always from the context of how to best profit from the expedition.

    B) A proselytizing adherent of one of the more common faiths in the setting. Travels the worlds to learn about the local gods, always contextualizing whatever he's learning by comparing it to her own faith.

    C) An archeologist who mostly writes about ruins rather than places currently occupied. Talks about the locals and wildlife only when they aid or hamper his expedition. Excellent source of history.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    The Moonsea is (mostly?) written from the perspective of Melandryll Belarod.
    A Field Guide to Hot Springs Island is more of a collection of information on Hot Springs Island by various writers.
    Pathfinder started with adding the journal of pathfinder Eando Kline to their adventure paths, followed up by other stories. They have since stopped doing that in favor of other articles on Golarion.

    So there's definitely some stuff out there.
    Last edited by the_david; 2020-11-11 at 03:22 PM.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    Thou comest into my home to kill and plunder. Fool! Thinkest thou the first to try? Look upon the heaps of mouldy armor and wonder: why would such as I, whose armor is envied by all, desire false skins of steel? What use have I for the swords and spears and bludgeons thou seest strewn about and rusting like the refuse they are?

    I hear thy heartbeat, desperate within thy breast. That thou hast chosen to die today, in the bloom of youth, thy final heartbeats wasted when they could have been spent in youthful passion.

    Ah, but I grow melancholy. Memories of mine own misspent youth plague my dreams. Come, art thou in haste, or can thy death tarry a while on its way to meet thee?

    There was a time, eighty decades past, when the world stretched empty in all directions; wings could loft me for days on end with never a whiff of the stench of cities reaching my nostrils. Yes, I was young, once. Does this surprise thee?

    I hatched not far north of here, where once the Tisquaddy River flowed past the Ocha Highlands. The river hath long since shifted its course, but our creche was there, overlooking the plains you now call Mearid.

    For a time we learned to fight and hunt under the wings of our mother. Until a brother learned to steal. It was his last lesson. Our mother's wrath was beyond description. I escaped. Others did as well. A sister shared a nest with me for a decade or two, and others we met from time to time.

    But time. Ah, Time, that foulest of thieves, always taking away the moment, never to see it again, save in memories clouded and dreams distorted. My hoard entire I would gift thee if thou could but give back the time when I was vital. Time grants wisdom and power, and steals the vigor of youth, so slowly that one notices not its passing until it is gone.

    Rejoice, then, that thou needest never learn the cruelty of age. To witness in age the passing of all you knew. Where not so long ago I hunted free, there is now farmland, and should I hunt cattle where once the elk ranged, some knight will come to die or slay, never knowimg it was my land and my game long centuries before human kings fought over it, drove off my herds, and devided it to suit their whims.

    So come, good knight. Close thy visor, present thy sword, and come at me, for I am Glauth. I am the true king of this realm, and of right I am thy liege. Thy life is mine!

    Edit: If I had an idea of the geography and history of the region I would expound on it in the dragon's rant. The idea is that the dragon watched civilization bloom in his territory, and probably has a more accurate account of it than the human historians who only get the victor's point of view.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2020-11-13 at 06:14 AM.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    Sounds pretty awesome. Do it.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    Ooh, I love that idea. My setting is a far future one, set on millions of small artificial worlds around a gas giant; civilization has fallen and risen many times, and people are now in a Renaissance/early Industrial level of development.

    Dragons exist in the setting as enormously powerful weapons of war, engineered by a prior civilization. They're almost extinct now, but they would have seen civilizations and species rise and fall.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Dragonlance did a little of this in the novels, and there is Volo's Guide in Forgotten Realms.
    I came specifically to mention Dragonlance, especially the Tales series. While the Chronicles and Legends provided the sweep of history, Tales drilled down into who people were and how they lived. It's part of what inspired me to write short stories in Tellene; provide some of my view of the world.
    The Cranky Gamer
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    Avatar is from local user Mehangel
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  9. - Top - End - #9
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    A consideration when considering something like this is that there is very clear evidence from the gaming community at large that people are absolutely not interested in historiography, unreliable setting narrators, or strong cultural bias when it comes to presenting what a setting looks like. People who would like to run a game in a setting or play in a game placed in that setting want the facts, thank you very much. They don't want contradictions, stilted opinions, or side discussions full of 'maybe' and 'possibly.' So if you want to present setting information from an in character perspective, that character needs to be highly informed, largely unbiased, and whatever personal vignettes they introduce need to be minimally intrusive.

    To use a personal example, when wrote up all the information for my Misei setting as an in-character document I chose an extremely well-traveled scholarly monk who was not a member of any of the local cultures as the narrator in order to present the broadest and least biased viewpoint possible and I had the narrator point on places and events whose provenance he considered uncertain or probably apocryphal.

    Speaking as a writer, this also helps make the document you produce more useful for you and prevents the need to make an entirely different second document where you record what's really going on.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    Spoiler
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    A consideration when considering something like this is that there is very clear evidence from the gaming community at large that people are absolutely not interested in historiography, unreliable setting narrators, or strong cultural bias when it comes to presenting what a setting looks like. People who would like to run a game in a setting or play in a game placed in that setting want the facts, thank you very much. They don't want contradictions, stilted opinions, or side discussions full of 'maybe' and 'possibly.' So if you want to present setting information from an in character perspective, that character needs to be highly informed, largely unbiased, and whatever personal vignettes they introduce need to be minimally intrusive.

    To use a personal example, when wrote up all the information for my Misei setting as an in-character document I chose an extremely well-traveled scholarly monk who was not a member of any of the local cultures as the narrator in order to present the broadest and least biased viewpoint possible and I had the narrator point on places and events whose provenance he considered uncertain or probably apocryphal.

    Speaking as a writer, this also helps make the document you produce more useful for you and prevents the need to make an entirely different second document where you record what's really going on.
    I both agree and disagree. Published campaign settings are commercial ventures, designed to appeal to a specific audience. But the Dragonlance Campaign Setting didn't sell anywhere near what the secondary and tertiary Dragonlance books sold, and wasn't even close to the sales numbers of the novels.

    And then, on the other hand, we have LotR, which was used as a campaign setting long years before the published settings. DMs don't need lists of facts and names, they need the spark that ignites their imagination.

    I think the OP has an idea rooted in artistic style rather than commercialism, and as such I think he has the potential to create something great. I'd like to see the result. As for commercial success, well, an anthology of well-written short stories clearly appeals to a much broader audience than yet another book of dry lists of make believe facts.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    I just remembered where I got this idea: the wonderful civilopedia articles for the mod Fall from Heaven for the game Civilization 4.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Yakk's Avatar

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    Default Re: A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    Quote Originally Posted by Babale View Post
    I just remembered where I got this idea: the wonderful civilopedia articles for the mod Fall from Heaven for the game Civilization 4.
    I'd argue that, in turn, was inspired by the simply awesome "alpha centauri" game's knowledge links.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    Jimon. For three hundred years captains had come down the Relifluje, the Desert River, to the Northernmost city of the Empire. But this port at the vast mouth of a continent-spanning river went nowhere. Quays built to receive foreign trade dealt in fish and shells. There were no foreign ports on the Grey Sea, nor on any shore which could be reached from it.

    Still, captains came, and built ships, or even squadrons of ships of Northern oak and cypress, and sailed away north and west. Most returned after a few years.

    Many tried piracy, and failed. The coastal villages offered little in the way of riches, and plundering fishing boats was not worth the meal they stole. There was no merchant traffic on the Grey Sea.

    So I was surprised when Captain Habbah offered me a berth on Westbound, a commerce vessel built and fitted out for oceanic service.

    Jimon is a beautiful city. Turi marble everywhere, and private gardens surrounded by tall stone walls decorated with frescoes. Statues of dead people everywhere, and every column in the shape of beautiful children holding up the roof.

    Jimon is beautiful, but more than half empty. The sea trade which promised to repay its construction costs never materialized. The vast fortunes invested in its building were written off, and the city was left to those who chose to remain there, and the captains who came north in every generation to seek yet again the course to wealth in Northern waters.

    And so on the morning tide we sail. If I return I will not be the youth you knew. I will have gone places and done things that will change me. And if I do not, mourn me not, for the same reason.

    Jimon, the city of dreams, the city of shattered dreams, sleeps on, year after year. I will live. If only for a short while.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2020-11-23 at 11:12 PM.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Yakk's Avatar

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    Default Re: A setting presented in the form of short in character stories

    Too much backstory, not enough stuff happening.

    Write out that backstory, about what the city is like etc. Then turf it and write the story of someone interacting with it.

    Jimon is a ruined city of marble and statues. Your character lives there (include slice of life). Describe being recruited by Captain Habbah, and the tender farewell she gives to her family.

    Mentioning "Turi marble" isn't someone who lived there all her life would do, so you don't mention it.

    Why the city is a ruined city of marble and statues doesn't have to be told in the story (at least not this one). The fact it is embedded in a wilderness, at the mouth of a great river, can be mentioned, as it is an immediate experience of the character telling the story.

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