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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    In threads about, "What would you do if you ended up in the Forgotten Realms", whether it was as yourself, as a 1st level character, as your current character, as a Wizard 20, whatever, there's usually multiple people creating / joining a chorus of "leave". And it's not just the Forgotten Realms - when asked about settings to live in, people seem to find it easier to say "not X" than "Y please". There's just more talk about the Forgotten Realms, so there's more examples of people wanting to flee it post haste.

    To understand how to build a world people would want to live on, I figured I'd start with a conversation about why people don't want to live in certain worlds. So, as the easiest example, let's start off with discussing the Forgotten Realms. Off the top of my head, here's a few reasons why one might want to flee Toril: edition changes, medieval stasis, terrible deities, wall of shame, scale of threats, world-ending threats, OP Wizard chess.

    Edition changes: What year you arrive in Toril will determine what edition it's in - what the rules of physics and magic are, among other things - what nations and deities it's absorbed or spat out, etc. I don't remember the exact timeline, and you may or may not be able to change the fact that it's gonna keep changing repeatedly - probably forever. That ever-changing ability set for everyone, from commoners to deities, is pretty daunting. But the takeaway from this seems to be pretty mundane: the world should make sense and be consistent.

    Medieval stasis: There seem to be 3 different complaints here. The first is that people cannot accept things not working the same as they do on Earth. The second is that people cannot accept the world being immune to change. The third is that people consider medieval times to be inherently terrible. My summary takeaway? Don't make a world - and especially the bad parts of the world - unable to be changed/fixed.

    Terrible deities: The gods are terribly meddlesome when they're not - and sometimes even when they are being - lazy and incompetent, and the world might well be better off without them. At least "killing the gods" and "ascending to godhood" are both well-established in the lore, so it's not an unsolvable problem. I'm not sure what my takeaway should be, beyond repeating "don't make bad parts of the world unable to be changed/fixed".

    Wall of Shame: The Wall of the Faithless has been removed as of (part-way through) 5th edition, so hopefully this won't be a problem for the Toril of the future, only for those in the 23, 3e, 4e, and early 5e Toril. I'm not sure what my takeaway should be, beyond repeating "don't make bad parts of the world unable to be changed/fixed", or shouting "tear down that wall!", but I'll go with the snarky, don't build the Wall of the Faithless.

    Scale of threats: When there isn't a CaS GM guaranteeing level-appropriate challenges, a 1st level commoner kinda gets insta-gibbed by an ancient dragon. There's a huge power scale at play on Toril, and that should be as rightly terrifying as nukes were to the Eminence in Shadow pre-Isekai. But I struggle to think of many settings that don't have dragons or gods or nukes or the sun or lightning and thunder or otherwise have things far beyond the scope of the inhabitants (except maybe one two settings where the sun is just "some dude" (although still a far more powerful dude than your average citizen)), so I'm not sure what a good takeaway here would be.

    World-ending threats: not all settings need to have "the world is about to end" feel like just another Tuesday. Toril (I'm told, I'm not a FR scholar) has far too many world-ending threats in its history to make it even remotely worth consideration if history is in any way mutable. So I guess the takeaway for making a world where people would actually want to live is something like, limit the maximum scope of the threats.

    OP Wizard chess: Toril is known for its OP Wizards, but only slightly less well known is this: they're all spying on one another, kept in check from actually doing anything by fear of someone / anyone / everyone else moving against them. Bleh! On the low end, it means that powerful people are likely to say "no" to perfectly reasonable requests; on the high end, it means everyone will be watching what you do (unless you're Vecna-blooded or whatever), and likely interfering in the worst ways possible. It's like the gods, and turtles - it's annoying busy-bodies all the way down! I'm not sure if "don't make your world filled with annoying busy-bodies" is actually the proper takeaway here, though.

    So, my quick and silly analysis, worded less in negatives, and looking only at the Forgotten Realms, says that some good advice for making a world where people might actually want to live there would be to make a consistent world with threats of limited scope, where what's wrong with the world can be changed/fixed.

    What else can we think of, for good or bad traits for a world to have, from a prospective inhabitant's point of view?

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    What makes a world worth living in
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    What makes the world worth living it?

    I guess it beats the alternative! Being dead!

    Even in a Fantast setting, the vast majority of the population really has no alternative BUT to live in the world they were born into.

    In all honesty, do you mean why do players not want to play/DM in the Forgotten Realms?
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Edition changes: What year you arrive in Toril will determine what edition it's in - what the rules of physics and magic are, among other things - what nations and deities it's absorbed or spat out, etc. I don't remember the exact timeline, and you may or may not be able to change the fact that it's gonna keep changing repeatedly - probably forever. That ever-changing ability set for everyone, from commoners to deities, is pretty daunting. But the takeaway from this seems to be pretty mundane: the world should make sense and be consistent.

    Medieval stasis: There seem to be 3 different complaints here. The first is that people cannot accept things not working the same as they do on Earth. The second is that people cannot accept the world being immune to change. The third is that people consider medieval times to be inherently terrible. My summary takeaway? Don't make a world - and especially the bad parts of the world - unable to be changed/fixed.
    I'm sure this isn't the intent, but I think it's a little hilarious that the first point can be read as "the world shouldn't change", and the next point is "the world should be able to be changed". And therein lies the issue with trying to create a world that a majority of people would voice in favor of living there. More people are likely to voice an opinion of "it sucks, leave" than those who are ambivalent towards or in favor of that world.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    I don't see how this topic is relevant. I currently enjoy living in a world where we don't face powerful and fantastic threats on a regular basis. Yet when I play games or want to get caught up in other stories, there's a lot of draw to powerful and fantastic heroes who then need matching conflict for dramatic purposes. The world I'd want to live in isn't really relevant there.

    Also, for the realms, one of the big things it has going against it is the number of times that various sourcebooks, novels, and other attached media have been written by mediocre authors who passed idiot balls around just because it was convenient for the story. So high on my list would be a setting that hadn't passed through the hands of multiple mediocre writers, but good luck making that a reality when rights holders have strong incentives to publish more content in popular settings.

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    well, your introduction pretty much sums it up. a world worth living in is one where that kind of stuff does not happen, not on a regular basis.

    I'd like to point out that my own homebrew campaign world fits the bill pretty well; it's industrial level tech and slowly progressing, the likelyhood of getting a fate worse than deathTM is pretty low, the gods have very strict limits on interference, the powerful people are - thanks to some small changes to some spells - dependent on having a functional society to provide some resources for them and are therefore incentivized to create a functional society, even the evil leaders tend to be competent people who make the trains run on time, high magic means warfare is conducted by golems and high level people with little bloodshed for the general population, and there have only been two exhistential threats in the last century.

    And I built it like that specifically because I am tired of all those dark tropes that are so fashionable in current "let's turn down the lights and dress everyone in black to show that this is a grimdark setting" fantasy
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage View Post
    I don't see how this topic is relevant. I currently enjoy living in a world where we don't face powerful and fantastic threats on a regular basis. Yet when I play games or want to get caught up in other stories, there's a lot of draw to powerful and fantastic heroes who then need matching conflict for dramatic purposes. The world I'd want to live in isn't really relevant there.

    Also, for the realms, one of the big things it has going against it is the number of times that various sourcebooks, novels, and other attached media have been written by mediocre authors who passed idiot balls around just because it was convenient for the story. So high on my list would be a setting that hadn't passed through the hands of multiple mediocre writers, but good luck making that a reality when rights holders have strong incentives to publish more content in popular settings.
    Both of these. The quality of a setting that makes it good to have fantasy adventures in also makes it horrible to live in, at least for someone coming from a modern-western-society viewpoint.

    And the realms itself has always been an incoherent mess. Ed Greenwood isn't all that great a worldbuilder, and then it's had crap-tons of meddling from all sorts of people ranging from hacks to decent writers, each of whom had their own idea of what is "good". Plus now edition-change baggage stretching back decades.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post

    Wall of Shame: The Wall of the Faithless has been removed as of (part-way through) 5th edition,
    It's been positively removed, or the one sentence explicitly stating it exists was removed and it hasn't been mentioned either way? (I ask hopefully, having only heard the latter.)

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    World-ending threats: not all settings need to have "the world is about to end" feel like just another Tuesday. Toril (I'm told, I'm not a FR scholar) has far too many world-ending threats in its history to make it even remotely worth consideration if history is in any way mutable. So I guess the takeaway for making a world where people would actually want to live is something like, limit the maximum scope of the threats.
    I'm feeling some tangential inspiration from how you phrased the sentence about the number of world-ending threats. You could have a time travel story/setting introduce how frequently time travel has been used there by telling the protagonist/players "If history was immutable, the world would have ended ten times over."

    To tie this back to the original topic, being in a setting with time travel but without the ability to access it yourself would kinda suck. Your efforts might get undone, perhaps even inadvertently, and there's nothing you could do about it.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by SethoMarkus View Post
    I'm sure this isn't the intent, but I think it's a little hilarious that the first point can be read as "the world shouldn't change", and the next point is "the world should be able to be changed".
    There's a world of difference between "it should be internally consistent and make sense" and "it shouldn't change."

    One is asking that a world predicated on magic working a certain way not arbitrarily change it every five minutes because of editorial meddling or have moments of "and suddenly this group was here the whole time despite never being mentioned before."

    The other is saying everything should effectively be in stasis indefinitely and the status quo should be everything.

    Internal consistency is a thing that's expected as the bare minimum for decent writing or setting design. It's not something that prevents change or progress, it's something that asks change and progress to make sense with what came before instead of being completely at odds with how things are stated to work. That's not really present in Forgotten Realms.

    As others have pointed out Ed Greenwood didn't exactly make the most consistent and logical setting to begin with, which is to be expected since he pieced a bunch of it together from little short stories he started way back when he was a kid. TSR and WotC definitely didn't help much with things like deciding to kill Mystra repeatedly to justify big mechanics changes but not even being consistent on what killing Mystra even does. Throw in all the different writers they've had with their own vision of what should happen and the clause of Greenwood having to be consulted for anything major and you've got a three way competition for how to handle the setting with each side grabbing whatever they can and pulling so they can have their way.

    All of that makes Forgotten realms a complete disaster for internal consistency.

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Both of these. The quality of a setting that makes it good to have fantasy adventures in also makes it horrible to live in, at least for someone coming from a modern-western-society viewpoint.

    And the realms itself has always been an incoherent mess. Ed Greenwood isn't all that great a worldbuilder, and then it's had crap-tons of meddling from all sorts of people ranging from hacks to decent writers, each of whom had their own idea of what is "good". Plus now edition-change baggage stretching back decades.
    This.

    I'd add that the Realms isn't really one setting but several dozen kingdoms or regions and TSR and later WotC felt obligated to make all of them 'adventure ready' at all times. So rather than 'there's always a war somewhere' in a fashion that would probably roughly mirror historical realities, we get 'there's always war everywhere' in order to meet game demands. This is hardly unique to FR. Golarion for Pathfinder operates more or less the same way and has functionally the exact same problem.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Both of these. The quality of a setting that makes it good to have fantasy adventures in also makes it horrible to live in, at least for someone coming from a modern-western-society viewpoint.
    Oddly enough Mystaria and Ebberon are, in fact, not hideous and terrible places of disease and horror from a modern-western-society viewpoint like FR is. And they're decent adventure settings too. The Star Wars universe is a perfectly reasonable place to live and has tons of opportunity for fantasy adventures (in spAAAce!!!).

    FR, I think, suffers from accidental incoherence brought on by too many retcons & sloppy reboots trying (badly) to justify the "sell another book" of the moment that continues to this day. Settings like Xanth and original Spelljammer are intentionally incoherent which, ironically, gives them a certain internal coherence people can riff off & world build with. The Star Wars setting has retcons & constant "sell another <thing>" going on, but is generally halfway decent on writing and manage to stay generally internally coherent because prople care about not screwing it up.

    So I don't believe that the aspects of a setting that make it good for adventure are at all opposed to making it a good place to live. You just have to give a **** about not massively screwing up consistency and refrain from overpopulating it with superpowered jerks, the worst Mary Sue DMNPCs, and end-of-the-world-Tuesdays.

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    the worst Mary Sue DMNPCs
    Although that's a case where "living in the world" and "playing a TTRPG set in the world" have differing values.

    Say we had a setting that was basically the modern day, but with Ultra-Superman. Like normal Superman, but more-so, with "warp reality" scale magic, and there aren't any villains that can even remotely challenge him. Also he's completely benevolent and doesn't make mistakes. So, zero need for any lesser heroes, Marty Stu can handle it all by himself, even global-scale problems.

    That would be a crap setting for a superhero RPG, but as an person potentially living there? It sounds great. 10 / 10 would pick that setting over, say, the normal DC setting.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    I'm very interested in this question. Or to touch on a few points that have been made - there's this weird tension that it seems like we struggle to imagine worlds that are simultaneously desirable to live in and interesting to live in. Yet at the face of it, it feels like it should be the opposite, for why wouldn't it be desirable for the world to be interesting? Really what we're doing is making worlds such that its interesting for us not living in those worlds to witness or imagine the stories of those who do live in those worlds. But for things like open-world RPGs and simulators and so on, when we make a larger reach for trying to convey the experience of living in the fictional world rather than observing the fictional world from outside, it'd be nice to know how to let go of that particular dramatic tradition and actually conceive of worlds that are both desirable to live in and interesting to live in.

    To that extent, I want to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. The negatives I think largely arise from the pattern of creating worlds that feel like they need to change such that we have the easy ability to tell a story of 'how does the world change?' or 'how do these characters change the world?'. So if we let go of that particular trope, we should also just feel less need to make awful worlds. That does mean though that we need ideas for what could replace it, since otherwise we may end up with pleasant but boring worlds.

    I do think agency is a big (positive) sense of a world that would be desirable to live in, or perhaps better put would be 'affordances given by the world'. That is to say, things which one could do or accomplish or become in that world which we could not do in reality.
    - A world where you can easily repair a medical condition that has plagued you your entire life, or change aspects of yourself you either don't like, or would like to be different. Become the half-shadow-fiend half-chaos-dragon edgelord you always wanted ot be.
    - A world where you don't have to fear war or death anymore because you can back yourself up or get resurrected or benefit from supernatural protections, and so now there are all sorts of dangerous things you could do or ways you could live that would be unthinkable otherwise.
    - A world where you can have a job or an importance to society that you couldn't normally achieve (the core of a lot of zero-tension isekai stories - the character, by virtue of having an out of context perspective, suddenly becomes the ruler of a nation, great sage, CEO of a business, etc)
    - A world where there are things you can do like 'visit other planets' or 'converse with immortals' or 'hang out with gods' that you can't do in real life which might feel innately interesting based on your current perspective
    - A world where there's an opportunity for systematic things you don't like about the real world to be realized differently, or one which has the malleability to actually try to build different kinds of society you might imagine. Post-scarcity utopian sci-fi for example.

    So given all of those things, the ones that tend to struggle with interestingness are the ones where whatever was nice about the world just 'gets resolved'. Okay, on this world disease isn't a thing, you isekai there and have your chronic disease cured. Now you... do what exactly? Or ones where its very passive and doesn't actually ask you to interact with it. A post-scarcity utopian world where someone has already built the utopia is one thing, but there's not much agency there; a world where you're from the utopian sci-fi post-scarcity society and you're a diplomat bringing that technology to a society that doesn't yet have it? Could be fun!

    Basically, I think a big part of it is that the nice bits have to be active and not passive, they have to be 'things you want to do' or help give you new 'things you could do'. The trick is to not make it so that 'not doing the thing would be bad', but instead make it so that 'doing the thing sounds fun!'.

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    I'm very interested in this question. Or to touch on a few points that have been made - there's this weird tension that it seems like we struggle to imagine worlds that are simultaneously desirable to live in and interesting to live in. Yet at the face of it, it feels like it should be the opposite, for why wouldn't it be desirable for the world to be interesting? Really what we're doing is making worlds such that its interesting for us not living in those worlds to witness or imagine the stories of those who do live in those worlds. But for things like open-world RPGs and simulators and so on, when we make a larger reach for trying to convey the experience of living in the fictional world rather than observing the fictional world from outside, it'd be nice to know how to let go of that particular dramatic tradition and actually conceive of worlds that are both desirable to live in and interesting to live in.
    In the context of RPGs, 'interesting' broadly translates into violence. Game characters interact with the game world primarily through the medium of violence, thus the more there is for a character to do, the more violence is implied in the setting. Take the recently released Starfield for example. It procedurally generates outposts across its planets. Sometimes those outposts are full of hostile pirates who immediately try to kill you and sometimes they are occupied by peaceful settlers. When you find the latter type, there's nothing to do there except ask the leader for a quest - a quest that inevitably involves going to some other location where the NPCs are hostile and murdering them en masse. Games are not good at offering things that are both peaceful and interesting. Even a game where you aren't shooting people all the time, like No Man's Sky, posits that the ambient environment is constantly trying to kill your character and that they must continuously scramble for survival and when players accumulate enough tech and materials that they can broadly ignore this they...stop playing because there is no longer any real impetus to do anything.

    As a result, worlds that are more 'interesting' are generally worlds that are more violent, and the broader the options available to a hypothetical player - such as what proportion of factions within the setting they can represent - the more widespread that violence becomes. This is taken to the logical extreme in Warhammer 40K. Any player could bring an army of any faction to the table, and therefore every army must have a lore-supported reason to fight every other faction in the setting including their own. The result is a truly blood-soaked war of all against all that became the trope-namer for grimdark.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    In the context of RPGs, 'interesting' broadly translates into violence. Game characters interact with the game world primarily through the medium of violence, thus the more there is for a character to do, the more violence is implied in the setting. Take the recently released Starfield for example. It procedurally generates outposts across its planets. Sometimes those outposts are full of hostile pirates who immediately try to kill you and sometimes they are occupied by peaceful settlers. When you find the latter type, there's nothing to do there except ask the leader for a quest - a quest that inevitably involves going to some other location where the NPCs are hostile and murdering them en masse. Games are not good at offering things that are both peaceful and interesting. Even a game where you aren't shooting people all the time, like No Man's Sky, posits that the ambient environment is constantly trying to kill your character and that they must continuously scramble for survival and when players accumulate enough tech and materials that they can broadly ignore this they...stop playing because there is no longer any real impetus to do anything.

    As a result, worlds that are more 'interesting' are generally worlds that are more violent, and the broader the options available to a hypothetical player - such as what proportion of factions within the setting they can represent - the more widespread that violence becomes. This is taken to the logical extreme in Warhammer 40K. Any player could bring an army of any faction to the table, and therefore every army must have a lore-supported reason to fight every other faction in the setting including their own. The result is a truly blood-soaked war of all against all that became the trope-namer for grimdark.
    In tabletop play, it is easier to conceive challenges that do not require violence. Harder to code them as a procedurally generated videogame.

    Anyway, violence does not make a world authomatically bad to live in. It is possible that adventurers act as pest exterminators for monsters, and the general population is protected enough to be safe
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    I definitely prefer Oerth (or specifically the Flaness) to Toril, but that's because I like geopolitical intrigue. That's pretty much what the whole world is about and your adventurers are pawns in a grander game working their way up to players.

    The threat of Iuz and his empire is a great external threat to focus campaigns on or it can be in the background as a looming shadow.

    That still leaves room for personal stories about war and being caught in border disputes. And one thing that helps is the way the map is drawn. There are no lines in the territories. it's very clear when natural borders are formed by rivers and mountains, and the names of places imply shared history without being overt or loredumping on your players unless they ask (The County, Dutch, and Principality of Ulek for example). A neat hex map with 12 mile hexes also lets you know about how long it will take you to get from point a to point b at a glance. It's such a convenient world that can host a lot of adventures.

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage View Post
    I don't see how this topic is relevant.
    Nor do I.
    Also, for the realms, one of the big things it has going against it is the number of times that various sourcebooks, novels, and other attached media have been written by mediocre authors who passed idiot balls around just because it was convenient for the story.
    Said it better than I could have. With that said, I did enjoy the first few Drzzt stories (beginning with the Crystal Shard) and the Cleric Quintet.
    Quote Originally Posted by TurboGhast View Post
    To tie this back to the original topic, being in a setting with time travel but without the ability to access it yourself would kinda suck. Your efforts might get undone, perhaps even inadvertently, and there's nothing you could do about it.
    The true resurrection spell offers the same problem.
    Quote Originally Posted by MonochromeTiger View Post
    All of that makes Forgotten realms a complete disaster for internal consistency.
    Yep. But I will say that when it first came out in a box in the 1980's, I liked having it as an alternate to the World of Greyhawk if I wanted it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    So rather than 'there's always a war somewhere' in a fashion that would probably roughly mirror historical realities, we get 'there's always war everywhere' in order to meet game demands. This is hardly unique to FR. Golarion for Pathfinder operates more or less the same way and has functionally the exact same problem.
    So too with World of Greyhawk.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    In the context of RPGs, 'interesting' broadly translates into violence.
    Overly broad. Most of our BitD scores have not included killing. Our Star Trek is as much problem solving as anything else. Occasional combat, mostly non combat. I could go on but I won't.
    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    In tabletop play, it is easier to conceive challenges that do not require violence. Harder to code them as a procedurally generated videogame.
    Good point.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    What makes a world worth living in is that you don't want to die and don't (didn't) get to choose. That's it.

    Personally I don't go out of my way to make living in my fantasy worlds desirable to anyone. Suicide is a valid character action. It can even be the correct action!

    As for the long list, I don't find much use in it. I must comment though that I find inclusion of Wall of the Faithless hilarious in this context. Why? Well for first, people, get this, people usually only interact with it after they die. Second, it is one of the few mythologically compelling parts of Forgotten Realms that I might consider stealing for another setting - because this kind of nasty afterlife just makes sense for a context where gods and religions are active movers and shakers. You can nitpick the details (because the details in Forgotten Realms are invariably convoluted) but complaining about the broad concept (as many are wont to do) is just silly.

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    In the context of RPGs, 'interesting' broadly translates into violence. Game characters interact with the game world primarily through the medium of violence, thus the more there is for a character to do, the more violence is implied in the setting.
    Minecraft, Frontier First Encounters (a 90s game in the Elite series), and of all things DwarfFortress can easily be played without or with a minimum of violence. On the ttrpg side Amber Diceless, Traveller, Chubbos, and a number of the BitD style games often downplay or lack violence, while even Call of Cthulhu has some no-violence scenarios that are solved by running away and casting dismissal/exorcism spells.

    The D&D-style & derived rpgs often have no built-in (can always GM-fiat something by talking the GM into it like with all ttrpg) options but violence as the solution to any conflicts. But "interesting = murdering" isn't a default assumption of the roleplaying game category, only of a (admittedly large & most famous) subset.

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    I'd also like to add a mention of the Atelier series of RPGs, which in recent games has had a crafting system that you can spend 10+ hours lost in without needing to touch combat. It works by having wildcards in recipes, having ingredients transfer things when used outside of just satisfying the recipe, and having variations and upgrades be unlocked by the elemental values of the ingredients you do choose (with a maximum ingredient count so you have to stop before you've unlocked everything). So you can craft the ingredients themselves, collecting traits and elemental values and rider effects such that you can move things onto the final item you're trying for. And you could procedurally generate challenges in the form of 'get me X item with Y trait' when the Y trait is unique to an ingredient that isn't valid itself for X's recipe.

    Not to mention things outside of traditional RPGs like citybuilders, which could be RPG'd.

    There's also Disco Elysium, but it's not a world I'd want to live in...

    Stardew Valley as well. It has the option of violence, but it's not so central to the gameplay.

    There's lots of things for designers to copy when making a game about violence. Going outside of that formula requires a bit more insight and inventiveness, and a higher risk that the system won't end up deep enough to sustain play, but it's certainly possible.
    Last edited by NichG; 2023-09-21 at 10:48 AM.

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    I'd also like to add a mention of the Atelier series of RPGs, which in recent games has had a crafting system that you can spend 10+ hours lost in without needing to touch combat. It works by having wildcards in recipes, having ingredients transfer things when used outside of just satisfying the recipe, and having variations and upgrades be unlocked by the elemental values of the ingredients you do choose (with a maximum ingredient count so you have to stop before you've unlocked everything). So you can craft the ingredients themselves, collecting traits and elemental values and rider effects such that you can move things onto the final item you're trying for. And you could procedurally generate challenges in the form of 'get me X item with Y trait' when the Y trait is unique to an ingredient that isn't valid itself for X's recipe.
    I haven't played the Atelier games, but my understanding is that the primary gameplay loop of those games, like most crafting-based RPGs, involves persistently murdering monsters for the sweet, sweet ingredients their bodies contain. Sure you can play them without hurting people, in the same way that you can play many survival games or even a game like Starfield just running around mining and building but that's not what people actually do. Instead the history of gaming is quite clear that the majority of players bend things further towards violence even when it goes against design goals and systems. Vampire: the Masquerade was supposed to be about using social interaction to maintain humanity in the face of the continual degradation inherent in being a vampire, but what people played was blood-soaked street level supers urban fantasy in the vein of Blade or Underworld. And that's the second most popular TTRPG ever made.

    There's also Disco Elysium, but it's not a world I'd want to live in...
    The world of Disco Elysium is in fact quite violent. The game's inciting incident is a murder investigation, and it takes place in the context of a labor dispute that has embraced naked force. There's not a lot of combat in the game, but the worldbuilding is of a place that is 'interesting' because it has degraded to the point that peace is seriously, possibly terminally, frayed.


    More broadly, while there are lots of non-violent and non-threatening things to tell stories about that are interesting, RPGs tend to be bad at them. Social systems, notably, are notoriously bad. This kneecaps politics, romance, and similar sources of drama as options. And while RPGs can be highly comedic experiences this tends to happen at the expense of what is happening in-universe (often by sacrificing coherency, and while incoherent worlds can be quite funny they are rarely pleasant places to live).
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    I'd also add there's no doubt a lack of novelty... most of us have seen "vaguely European setting" a score of times, in different forms. It gets stale, after a while. But throw people into a desert wasteland or a magitech society with velociraptors, and things seem new again.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    I haven't played the Atelier games, but my understanding is that the primary gameplay loop of those games, like most crafting-based RPGs, involves persistently murdering monsters for the sweet, sweet ingredients their bodies contain.
    Ehh... There are some monster materials, but they're the vast minority, and in the most recent game you can basically run past every encounter except like 3 boss encounters and its not going to severely impede your ability to craft. You can literally fast travel and it respawns all the gathering points, and the quality of ingredients found at gathering points scale with the gathering tools you've built and your alchemy skills not the difficulty of the area you're in. Also at a certain point you gain the ability to make seeds to plant in a farm that can generate much better ingredients than you can possibly get in the world, because you can basically buff your seeds with alchemy whereas you can't buff enemy drops with alchemy.

    In terms of hours of screen-time, I'd say its like 1/2 walking simulator/dialogue, 1/3 spent at the crafting screen, 1/6 in combat maybe?

    It's not like it has completely escaped combat (after all, one endpoint of what the crafting can do for you is to make you even more unnecessarily OP to steamroll the already easy monsters...), but in the same way that D&D is really about the spell list because like 70% of the books are the spell lists, the Atelier games are really about the crafting system and the combat is a bit of a 'well we have to have it cause its an RPG right?' after-thought. As far as the world and plotlines, it varies by game. The most recent game had a lot of subplots being like 'get two opposing guilds to work together to make decorations for a festival' and 'design a water purifier for an island' and 'figure out a substitute energy source for a village that has been subsisting on digging batteries out of ancient ruins that are running dry' or 'make three kinds of medicines of varying quality to teach a merchant how to identify good products from bad' and such, with quests basically being 'go make this thing, then use it to get access to a place where you can find out about another thing you could make, then find a place where you can gather the special thing you need for that recipe', etc, etc. Again yes, there is combat, a final boss, and so on, but its not really going to be that large of a portion of the screen-time.

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    I am an Oerth player, not a Realms player. I have, however, considered and discussed the issues of setting design and publication for many years.
    With that noted, onto these.

    Edition changes: What year you arrive in Toril will determine what edition it's in - what the rules of physics and magic are, among other things - what nations and deities it's absorbed or spat out, etc. I don't remember the exact timeline, and you may or may not be able to change the fact that it's gonna keep changing repeatedly - probably forever. That ever-changing ability set for everyone, from commoners to deities, is pretty daunting. But the takeaway from this seems to be pretty mundane: the world should make sense and be consistent.
    The conclusion is correct, but the lead up is not really valid.
    Nothing prevents anyone from using any era of FR with any rules edition. Yes, you will have to do some conversion work, but nothing stops you from using the AD&D era setting with One era characters and classes, or One era adventures with BECMI rules. As long as you are willing to do the work you can run whatever you want whenever you want.
    That said, the conclusion is absolutely true, and something publishers should keep in mind.

    Medieval stasis: There seem to be 3 different complaints here. The first is that people cannot accept things not working the same as they do on Earth. The second is that people cannot accept the world being immune to change. The third is that people consider medieval times to be inherently terrible. My summary takeaway? Don't make a world - and especially the bad parts of the world - unable to be changed/fixed.
    Again, yes and no.
    Accepting things work differently is all well and good - up to a point. Then suspension of disbelief begins to break down.
    This is different from the world changing. A medieval setting SUDDENLY! becoming a Renaissance setting because someone has to have gunpowder, then EVEN MORE SUDDENLY! becoming a Gaslight setting because someone has to have reliable repeaters and not mere matchlocks is quite another.
    As for people feeling medieval times to be inherently terrible, well, perhaps that means they should just consider using another setting, rather than insisting an existing setting be modified to suit them, and never mind all the people who happen to like a medieval setting.
    As for the conclusion, a world should develop and evolve, in both published materials and home use. But be aware, not everyone considers the same things to be "bad parts", or the same changes to qualify as "fixing" it.
    One size does not fit all in settings, whether it be tech level, tech progress, theme, cultural basis, whatever.

    Terrible deities: The gods are terribly meddlesome when they're not - and sometimes even when they are being - lazy and incompetent, and the world might well be better off without them. At least "killing the gods" and "ascending to godhood" are both well-established in the lore, so it's not an unsolvable problem. I'm not sure what my takeaway should be, beyond repeating "don't make bad parts of the world unable to be changed/fixed".

    Wall of Shame: The Wall of the Faithless has been removed as of (part-way through) 5th edition, so hopefully this won't be a problem for the Toril of the future, only for those in the 23, 3e, 4e, and early 5e Toril. I'm not sure what my takeaway should be, beyond repeating "don't make bad parts of the world unable to be changed/fixed", or shouting "tear down that wall!", but I'll go with the snarky, don't build the Wall of the Faithless.
    Both of these are prime examples of things that not everyone has the same standard for "bad parts" and "fixes". You may not like them, but someone did at some point in time, and while you might be happy to see them go, others will not be.
    Fortunately, this is where other settings come into play, and maybe FR is just not for you, and where home rules show up to adapt things anyway.

    Scale of threats: When there isn't a CaS GM guaranteeing level-appropriate challenges, a 1st level commoner kinda gets insta-gibbed by an ancient dragon. There's a huge power scale at play on Toril, and that should be as rightly terrifying as nukes were to the Eminence in Shadow pre-Isekai. But I struggle to think of many settings that don't have dragons or gods or nukes or the sun or lightning and thunder or otherwise have things far beyond the scope of the inhabitants (except maybe one two settings where the sun is just "some dude" (although still a far more powerful dude than your average citizen)), so I'm not sure what a good takeaway here would be.
    The takeaway is that a DM should be aware that threats exist for PCs of all levels, and exercise discretion when selecting challenges suitable for the current level of play.
    And a DM should be aware that not every product is going to be suitable for the current level of play in the campaign, and be prepared to move on to another product.
    As above though, not everyone's campaign is at the same point, so do not begrudge products not perfect for your use when they may be perfect for someone else.

    World-ending threats: not all settings need to have "the world is about to end" feel like just another Tuesday. Toril (I'm told, I'm not a FR scholar) has far too many world-ending threats in its history to make it even remotely worth consideration if history is in any way mutable. So I guess the takeaway for making a world where people would actually want to live is something like, limit the maximum scope of the threats.
    But what if people want the challenge and payoff of saving the world?
    Not for every encounter of every session, but as the climax of a year-long campaign? Or a years-long campaign?
    Again, this is a personal preference issue being projected across everything.

    OP Wizard chess: Toril is known for its OP Wizards, but only slightly less well known is this: they're all spying on one another, kept in check from actually doing anything by fear of someone / anyone / everyone else moving against them. Bleh! On the low end, it means that powerful people are likely to say "no" to perfectly reasonable requests; on the high end, it means everyone will be watching what you do (unless you're Vecna-blooded or whatever), and likely interfering in the worst ways possible. It's like the gods, and turtles - it's annoying busy-bodies all the way down! I'm not sure if "don't make your world filled with annoying busy-bodies" is actually the proper takeaway here, though.
    Well, I certainly do not like that, but again, clearly someone does.
    I would, however, phrase the takeaway differently: Let the players have agency, with the consequences that come from it.
    You can still have busy-body wizards and powers and what not, but the players remain the focus, no matter the level of the PCs, with all the good and bad that comes from it. Do not undercut everything the players want to do with uber-NPCs waiting in the wings to maintain the status quo, force change, or whatever else.
    Of course, players should not get to run roughshod over a DM and campaign in the name of "sandbox" as if it were some grand panacea to any and all problems either. It is not. The DM must be as interested in the setting as the players are, and if the players refuse to play a particular campaign, then perhaps one of them should volunteer to run a different campaign and see what it is like when the former DM wants to change things to fit his preference.

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by LibraryOgre View Post
    I'd also add there's no doubt a lack of novelty... most of us have seen "vaguely European setting" a score of times, in different forms. It gets stale, after a while. But throw people into a desert wasteland or a magitech society with velociraptors, and things seem new again.
    The flip of this is that if something is familiar, you may not think about it as much. And thinking about fantasy inevitably results in finding holes in the fantasy. Everybody knows the holes in Ye Oldeschool Fantasy Realme, so if you're playing in it you've probably made your peace with them, are there for ironic silliness, or just unironically like it. But with new stuff, you're going to think and ask a lot more questions, which will inevitably lead to brand new problems as the thing comes apart at the seams.

    A large part of successfully enjoying fantasy I've found is telling my mind to sit down, shut up, and enjoy the hot babes riding around on dragons. If I'm going to get all analytic, I'll save it for something like history.
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    Exclamation Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    One setting I would like to live in/run tabletop games in would be Arcanum.
    ...
    And yes, I do find Forgotten Realms to be a confusing mess at times, but it's workable, and has enough interesting stuff still in it to be worthwhile.
    Last edited by HumanFighter; 2023-09-21 at 10:32 PM.

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Really don't buy equating "interesting" with "violent", at least lethal violent. Sports. Building. Farming. Those are all major physical activities you can build a game around without lethal violence or lethal risks making an appearance.

    Now, as for social relations, drama and romance? Those can be done on the tabletop just fine, as play-by-post just fine, as live action roleplay just fine. Been there, done that. "But muh mechanics!", you cry. Look. Social interaction doesn't need a whole lot of mechanics to it, by default you have a group of people socially interacting. You need motives and personality traits for players to act and goals for them to pursue, maybe some secret information of who wants what, and you can stage majority of all social scenarios. The idea that tabletop games would be bad for this comes from a typical hobbyists approaching it with the mindset of a socially awkward teenage boy, expecting social rules to be made in the same tradition as rules for physical warfare in wargames.

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by LibraryOgre View Post
    I'd also add there's no doubt a lack of novelty... most of us have seen "vaguely European setting" a score of times, in different forms. It gets stale, after a while. But throw people into a desert wasteland or a magitech society with velociraptors, and things seem new again.
    Eberron and Golarion respectively? I like how in golarion the deeper you go the weirder it gets. Like how the Russian equivalent nation was briefly under siege by Rasputin and is now currently ruled by Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova. Or the nation that is in a perpetual French revolution with haunted guillotines that steal people's souls. Or that you can fool the god of the dead by sending a gold effigy of yourself to hell instead of you.

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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Perhaps what makes a place interesting is not violence, but conflict.

    Conflict does not always manifest itself as violence.
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