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  1. - Top - End - #31
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    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.
    There is a sub school who prefer roll playing, I suppose.
    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.
    This too.
    Quote Originally Posted by Easy e View Post
    Perhaps what makes a place interesting is not violence, but conflict. Conflict does not always manifest itself as violence.
    *applause*
    Conflict and tension can also be built by trying to steal the treasure/religious icon/magic ring without waking up the sleeping dragon / golem / monsterdujour.
    The other source of conlict I've seen at play that can enrich the play experience is conflict within the party: how do we approach this deadly challenge? The small group dynamics of how they arrive at a course of action takes a variety of shapes, to include conflicting goals.
    (Example: one PC wants to capture the "item" and donate it to the temple, another wants to sell it, another wants to trade it for something else).
    Last edited by KorvinStarmast; 2023-09-22 at 10:38 AM.
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  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by KorvinStarmast View Post
    Conflict and tension can also be built by trying to steal the treasure/religious icon/magic ring without waking up the sleeping dragon / golem / monsterdujour.
    Yeah. As my high school drama teacher said--"What is drama? Conflict." And that has a lot of validity. It's a simplification, to be sure, but much of what people want in games like this can be summed up as "conflict".

    This isn't entirely due to the low-conflict nature of modern life--even looking back to Greek drama, you had lots of conflict. It seems fairly built in.
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  3. - Top - End - #33
    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    I don't think you even strictly need conflict, at least not for it to be provided by the world. A person can provide that for themselves in the stance that they take with respect to other things or the decisions that they naturally happen upon. In the act of living, that happens at a certain low density as part of even idyllic life - what do I eat today, do I go hiking or kayaking or do I work on the garden, etc? And even outside of conflict, the simple act of pursuing one's goals productively - something where you know what you need to do and doing it gets you closer to something you want to be - can itself be satisfying and time-filling.

    With a tabletop game, you have the challenge that you need whatever sorts of life events you're exploring to occur at a much higher density - once every ten minutes or so, not once or twice a day. Otherwise there's a lot of just sitting around and waiting.for someone to do something interesting, especially since fictional worlds don't render themselves into our senses as players the way that the real world does for us, so you can't really make a game out of spending 30 minutes looking at nature and being wowed by it, or spending an hour at a restaurant experiencing an ongoing parade of flavors and scents and novel dishes. You can have a restaurant scene where the GM spends a few minutes describing that stuff, but then you have to be on to the next decision.

    For me the interesting target for a tabletop game would be, can you make something that really is all just about pursuing goals, where all of the motivation is natural and flows from the players without the world needing to kick them into action? It's undoubtedly a harder design problem, but it seems possible.

  4. - Top - End - #34
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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
    For me the interesting target for a tabletop game would be, can you make something that really is all just about pursuing goals, where all of the motivation is natural and flows from the players without the world needing to kick them into action? It's undoubtedly a harder design problem, but it seems possible.
    I think it's possible, certainly, but as you say, much more difficult. Especially in a group setting. Where conflict is on the table, there's a natural unifying factor, a need to act collectively to overcome the problem. Without that, you could get a great single-player video game, but if my motivations and your motivations don't have overlap, you end up playing a bunch of single-player games at a shared table. Which seems...sub-optimal.

    There are also people for whom conflict is the motivating factor. Who thrive and enjoy being challenged. I'm not challenge-focused, but I need there to be a narrative to hook on to. Some reason to be following the actions of this person, not that other person. Creative-mode Minecraft, although it's enthralling for a lot of other people, means absolutely nothing to me. Even survival mode just doesn't grab me. Because there's no narrative. That's somewhat orthogonal to conflict, but making a good narrative without conflict is something I've never succeeded at.
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  5. - Top - End - #35
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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
    Don't make a world - and especially the bad parts of the world - unable to be changed/fixed.
    Do you mean the printed version of a world, that's designed for mass market consumption? Or an individual instance of that world for a specific table? Because you can change and fix the latter just fine, but for obvious reasons (such as the one provided by Tiktakkat) there isn't even consensus on what would need fixing let alone what the "solutions" might be for the former.

    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, 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.
    It's referenced in Baldurs Gate 3 so I wouldn't count your chickens too far just yet.

    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.
    FR has threats at every scale. Not every problem needs Elminster, but some do, and should.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    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.
    Gods and archmages being able to figure out what you're up to doesn't mean they get to directly interfere. The key to making such settings work is to have the power players take sides. Using Baldurs Gate as an example again, a big part of the bad guys' plot was only possible because existing players like Shar subtly helped out, and a big part of the heroes having a fighting chance is because other good deities also helped out. That's par for the course in settings like these.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
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  6. - Top - End - #36
    Firbolg in the Playground
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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
    I think it's possible, certainly, but as you say, much more difficult. Especially in a group setting. Where conflict is on the table, there's a natural unifying factor, a need to act collectively to overcome the problem. Without that, you could get a great single-player video game, but if my motivations and your motivations don't have overlap, you end up playing a bunch of single-player games at a shared table. Which seems...sub-optimal.

    There are also people for whom conflict is the motivating factor. Who thrive and enjoy being challenged. I'm not challenge-focused, but I need there to be a narrative to hook on to. Some reason to be following the actions of this person, not that other person. Creative-mode Minecraft, although it's enthralling for a lot of other people, means absolutely nothing to me. Even survival mode just doesn't grab me. Because there's no narrative. That's somewhat orthogonal to conflict, but making a good narrative without conflict is something I've never succeeded at.
    As far as narrative I think it's more clear how it can be done, but it doesn't necessarily avoid the decomposition into separate single player games. I can think of a number of stories that are generally about a person discovering a broader world, that don't center on conflict with that world or within that world but are really about how the person adapts their way of thinking to it. Utopian sci-fi stuff is a bit like this, as well as some (but not all) portal fantasy. The metaphors of the narrative and how it grounds out in the reader are generally about finding a place for yourself, figuring out where and how you fit, exploring your personal value to yourself and others, things like that. Oh there's the other side too - something like Dante's Inferno also sort of does this thing.

    Something like Stardew Valley kind of has this structure of the protagonist leaving one kind of culture and entering a very different culture, and then having to find out how they want to live and how they want to relate to that community. It's not a complex narrative in that case, but I do think its more than say Minecraft Creative mode.
    Last edited by NichG; 2023-09-22 at 01:46 PM.

  7. - Top - End - #37
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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
    As far as narrative I think it's more clear how it can be done, but it doesn't necessarily avoid the decomposition into separate single player games. I can think of a number of stories that are generally about a person discovering a broader world, that don't center on conflict with that world or within that world but are really about how the person adapts their way of thinking to it. Utopian sci-fi stuff is a bit like this, as well as some (but not all) portal fantasy. The metaphors of the narrative and how it grounds out in the reader are generally about finding a place for yourself, figuring out where and how you fit, exploring your personal value to yourself and others, things like that. Oh there's the other side too - something like Dante's Inferno also sort of does this thing.

    Something like Stardew Valley kind of has this structure of the protagonist leaving one kind of culture and entering a very different culture, and then having to find out how they want to live and how they want to relate to that community. It's not a complex narrative in that case, but I do think its more than say Minecraft Creative mode.
    And that narrative can kinda work for fiction[1], but I've yet to see it work in a game environment. Different media have different needs, I guess.

    [1] I personally find it boring, but that's a matter of taste, not some objective statement.
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  8. - Top - End - #38
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Comments on a couple bits:

    Setting advancement over time. Yeah. It's logical. It makes sense. But the reality is that most games kinda want a single setting technology wise. If the players want to play in a traditional high fantasy setting, then you put them into that setting. They probably don't actually want that game to advance into musketeer level stuff anytime soon. Also, a lot of game systems, lets face it, are just designed from the ground up to best simulate a specific "range" of technology/magic/whatever and start to get very handwavy or vague or even outright unworkable if you veer too far out of that range.

    Which, of course, creates problems if you actually want to have a setting with a long history, much less where the players can play different campaigns at different times in that history. At least from a "does this actually make sense" pov. Then again, if you and your players have decided on playing in FR, say, it's a good bet that they want a very specific feel/theme/style for the game they are playing. So dropping them into a city with modern rifles and aircraft will probably make them go "um... what? This isn't the game we signed up for".

    Which then leads us to maybe having to contrive reasons why technology doesn't advance past a certain point in the settting. Or, we restrict ourselves to a specific time frame in that setting. It's just been my experience that most of the time, players are less interested in playing in <specific world> than "bronze age with magic", or "swords and dragons", or "midieval castles and lords", or "future setting with cyborgs", or whatever.


    As to Wizard Chess. I think this is often a game balance thing within a setting (where it exists anyway). In a lot of settings, you will likely want to have a wide variety of power levels, sometimes leading "all the way up". But, if you have that, you have to have some reason why the entire world isn't just constantly at the whim of "someone else" with that level of power. Wizard Chess (or equivalent) allows for this. Yup. There are people/beings/gods who are that powerful, but they all kinda compete with eachother, and agree to keep their conflicts to specific levels of activity, and thus it allows for lower power level folks (like the PCs) to actually have some impact on things. And yeah, it's also a tool the GM can use whenever things are heading in an "out of hand" direction, to reign things in. And if the players question "why did <some powerful being> intervene here, but not there? Well... there's a lot more going on "out there" than you know, and beings of that power level have their own reasons for doing things, and you just can't possibly know what they are. /handwave

    Is that a total contrivance? Yes, it absolutely is. Does it help keep a campaign setting from spinning out of balance? Yes, it absolutely does.

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    I think it's important to point out that worlds where life is good for the average person are generally worlds where heroes aren't needed. So, yes, life is terrible for most people in the Realms, which is exactly why they need heroes. If Gotham City wasn't a terrible place, Batman would have no reason to exist.

    But, also, we don't know that things are terrible EVERYWHERE in the Realms, we just know that things are generally terrible in the places where stories need to be set. We don't play D&D (or read D&D novels) to read about people rescuing cats from trees. We expect heroes who are thwarting Red Wizards, Zhents, and demonic invasions.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    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.
    I roughed out (but haven't quite finished) a Savage Worlds game based on playing a semi-pro football league. I've got "playing football" worked out, but the league management stuff was getting bogged down.

    Quote Originally Posted by Beelzebub1111 View Post
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by gbaji View Post
    As to Wizard Chess. I think this is often a game balance thing within a setting (where it exists anyway). In a lot of settings, you will likely want to have a wide variety of power levels, sometimes leading "all the way up". But, if you have that, you have to have some reason why the entire world isn't just constantly at the whim of "someone else" with that level of power. Wizard Chess (or equivalent) allows for this. Yup. There are people/beings/gods who are that powerful, but they all kinda compete with eachother, and agree to keep their conflicts to specific levels of activity, and thus it allows for lower power level folks (like the PCs) to actually have some impact on things.
    I've had an idea, which I've never actually gotten to use, for a campaign where everybody plays high level characters but the adventures are all low level and the idea is to see how many they can get through consecutively without resting to revover spells etc.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    I've had an idea, which I've never actually gotten to use, for a campaign where everybody plays high level characters but the adventures are all low level and the idea is to see how many they can get through consecutively without resting to revover spells etc.
    One day, and it has to be AD&D, I want to play a 9th level fighter who dual-classed to 1st level thief, and tackles the Caves of Chaos solo. All his 9th level HP and magic items (that will help him... can't keep using that +3 plate!), but a 1st level thief's skills, ThAC0, and saves.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Funny thing, my DtD setting was a perfectly nice place to live the first time around. No universe, or even planet, wrecking threats. PCs started of working security on the biggest & best luxury cruise starliner in space. Naturally there's places with local warfare, the occasional hellish dystopian colony, and some regional governments of varying quality. But overall not terrible at all.

    Of couse by the end there were... counting... four potential universe destroyers, and the mind flayers had an effective east planet destroyer. All courtesy of the PCs (poke sleeping laser-bear-kaiju and run away just leaves someone else to get laser-bear-kaiju stomped). Truely about three of the universe enders can be dealt with by sufficently large military mobilizations by different empires, and three (not the same three) will come into conflict with each other. So even without PCs doing stuff the universe is probably fine, just a few thousand billion more people will die and few dozen or so stars/systems destroyed if the PCs don't get involved and find better solutions. Just half of known space destroyed ya know?

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

    Eh, what do I want to say about all of this that hasn't been said...

    Certainly there are a lot of easy recipes to make a game work. But those are at the meta level, and they don't justify the world being worthwhile at the level of fiction or character. That's the tension that's going on here, that when setting authors (or GMs) make those choices which help for there to be a game with momentum and pressure and opportunities for heroics and all of this stuff, certain directions of those choices which understandably work as far as the needs of the game move the world more towards being a crapsack world that doesn't actually feel worth saving. Of course from an in-character point of view you can argue 'well the characters don't get to choose the world they live in, they have to make do with it', but it definitely has a strong impact on things like whether its plausible for characters to sacrifice themselves to save the world, how much they would be invested in preserving the status quo of the world versus burning it all down, etc. And certainly from a player perspective, whether players are going to feel like investing anything in the world versus just treating it like a backdrop for their character being awesome or edgy or whatever.

    When people complain 'why doesn't Elminster just fix things?' its not just a moment of fridge logic, its an indication that when they play through the plot of them fixing those things, the significance of their own actions is undermined by the fact that not only could someone else have solved it, but according to the supposed ethos of their characters it seems like they should have done so, and not doing so comes off as incompetence, negligence, hypocrisy, or apathy. If said characters furthermore do bother to intervene when the player tries to change things away from the status quo (e.g. the GM tries to keep things on track) but won't intervene when the forces of evil try to change things away from the status quo much more severely (because thats what the game is about, the PCs have to do that), those impressions become even stronger. And thereby, despite having all the right dramatic elements, a player may find that that world and its major figures become less compelling - more something to be mocked or undermined than something to be explored and taken as a source of wonder.

    When there's a world such that no matter what you do you're just holding back the tide for a moment, and things fundamentally can't get better (because of the meta reason that there must be a next session, a next campaign, etc) then at some point a player will start to feel like, well, if we just lose or give up wouldn't that meta reason still be true? The only thing to lose is the character, in which case if there's some option that would let them escape the plot, it starts to feel more and more like a good option as opposed to actually seeing the plot through. Faerun is going to be destroyed due to Shar managing to take back the weave and putting out the sun? Hm, well, we could fight against it and maybe die trying, but why not just buy a set of scrolls of Planeshift and go somewhere else? What about this world makes it actually feel good to save it, versus just 'I guess we have to'?

    So when there are alternatives to taking the most expedient 'for sake of the game' steps that might also turn off players from the world as a result, its worth it to think about 'how else things might be?' Can you make things about seeking positives rather than avoiding negatives, or just fill the world with so much wonder that the negatives are worth it? Can you make those things which are negative potentially fixable - do you really need them to be so static or unconquerable in practice, at your table, or is it just an abstract fear? Can you just use metagame agreements to avoid things getting out of hand rather than having in-setting overpowered forces whose only purpose is to maintain the status quo?

    I think one of the difficulties is that we do so much by imitating media we've already digested. It feels like it would be really hard to describe, from first principles and abstract narrative theory, how a game like 'Stardew Valley' could even work - but if I can point to Stardew Valley, it suddenly becomes much easier to say 'yeah, just something like that'. So a lot of the 'needs' that justify making these worlds that (several of us at least) are getting tired of may just be a feeling of, well everything else seems to follow this pattern, how can I even imagine doing something else without falling back into this (and really, we see this so much in the default assumptions that lead to any kind of tabletop RPG being compared with D&D in terms of its loops, needs, and overall structure...). So breaking away from that does require not just things that will seem risky since you can't look and say 'these other games have done this, and it was okay', but also intentionally avoiding the familiar sufficiently wildly that it doesn't become a matter of habit to reintroduce those patterns we're over-familiar with.

    Like, rather than starting with a 'heroes saving the world (but its a better world)' which already imports all of the needs of a world that must be saved, you could start much further away. For example a game centered entirely on office romances, with players each having hidden traits, likes, and dislikes, and everyone trying to hook up while simultaneously dealing with the need to work with each-other and be professional while the CEO sends people out on odd whims and tasks. Or as has been mentioned on this thread, a game about sports competitions. Or even something where the conflicts are real but entirely personal and the world itself isn't responsible: something where each player plays a character who has been wronged by someone and cast down from their rightful place, and now the players work together to balance their desire for vengeance with their ability to reclaim their position in society. Or a game of competing glories where each player is empowered to create and control part of the world to be a model of what they actually think a world worth living in would look like, and then those conflicting visions become tested against each-other in how fast they can grow to absorb the parts of the world yet un-shaped.

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

    The Forgotten Realms setting has always struck me as vaguely pretentious; I can;t put my finger on exactly why but the impression is definitely there. I know that that's not the kind of watsonian issue that is the main focus of this thread, but if we're discussing issues with Forgotten Realms it has to be said.

    (In fairness early Greyhawk comes off as a little pretentious too but not the later stuff)
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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 roughed out (but haven't quite finished) a Savage Worlds game based on playing a semi-pro football league. I've got "playing football" worked out, but the league management stuff was getting bogged down.
    I was working on a Quick and Dirty Blood Bowl RPG for a mini-campaign of 2-6 sessions. I was basing it on Blood Bowl mechanics though, so Block Dice for resolution.

    This semi-pro football idea sounds like a super fun idea for a game.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by Slipjig View Post
    I think it's important to point out that worlds where life is good for the average person are generally worlds where heroes aren't needed. So, yes, life is terrible for most people in the Realms, which is exactly why they need heroes. If Gotham City wasn't a terrible place, Batman would have no reason to exist.

    But, also, we don't know that things are terrible EVERYWHERE in the Realms, we just know that things are generally terrible in the places where stories need to be set. We don't play D&D (or read D&D novels) to read about people rescuing cats from trees. We expect heroes who are thwarting Red Wizards, Zhents, and demonic invasions.
    I'm reminded of a quote from the creators of Pathfinder when someone pointed out how Golarion kinda sucks to live in, which was basically "wow, sounds like that world could really use some heroic adventures to help things". Fact is, there aren't many fictional universes I would choose to live in over our own reality. Say what you will about our Earth, but, with the near-universal formal education, exceptionally well-maintained infrastructure, self-propelled vehicles for lots of people not to mention public transport, an astounding variety of goods and services available, ubiquitous technological devices for the entire populace, wilderness that is clean, safe, and not filled with monsters, ETC we're already well above pretty much every D&D setting.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by woweedd View Post
    Say what you will about our Earth, but, with the near-universal formal education, exceptionally well-maintained infrastructure, self-propelled vehicles for lots of people not to mention public transport, an astounding variety of goods and services available, ubiquitous technological devices for the entire populace, wilderness that is clean, safe, and not filled with monsters, ETC we're already well above pretty much every D&D setting.
    Well there's also a bunch of writers not doing any basic research into actual Medieval stuff too. They like to run off bad Victorian un-history depictions where everyone not in the top 1% of wealth is an illiterate turnip farmer covered in filth. Houses with running water and heated floors? Actual medicine and state maintained infrastructure? Nope! Ancient Rome, Egypt, and China 2000 years ago are too technologically advanced for our plate armored knights on dragons fighting airship pirates with semi-auto crossbows.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by woweedd View Post
    I'm reminded of a quote from the creators of Pathfinder when someone pointed out how Golarion kinda sucks to live in, which was basically "wow, sounds like that world could really use some heroic adventures to help things". Fact is, there aren't many fictional universes I would choose to live in over our own reality. Say what you will about our Earth, but, with the near-universal formal education, exceptionally well-maintained infrastructure, self-propelled vehicles for lots of people not to mention public transport, an astounding variety of goods and services available, ubiquitous technological devices for the entire populace, wilderness that is clean, safe, and not filled with monsters, ETC we're already well above pretty much every D&D setting.

    D&D can compete with this quite well, it has things like:
    - Absolute and nearly instant and painless cures for all transmissible diseases
    - The ability to have lost limbs and organs restored
    - Even death can be fixed
    - And if you don't like something about your body, there are temporary and permanent ways to change it - polymorph, reincarnation, sarrukhs, Wish rituals ...
    - Immortality is possible too if you want.
    - Perfect and near instant cleaning of things
    - Broken, even damaged until nearly lost things can be trivially restored
    - Perfect comfort in extremes of weather is possible
    - You can have an instantaneous commute or near-instantaneous global travel. Even space travel.
    - Post-scarcity supply of certain resources is possible
    - One can be a barehanded machine shop for all manner of mundane goods
    - It's possible to at least personally totally decouple from basic needs of survival: food, water, and shelter. At high level, that decoupling is even swank

    So D&D itself has a lot going for it. It's specifically stuff about the settings people create that ends up restricting these benefits to the adventuring class, populating the world with monsters, etc.

    As much as I roll my eyes at Tippyverse, it does manage to be a setting that would be competitive with the real world for quality of life. Even without the resetting trap shenanigans that probably shouldn't work under any given GM, just the attitude of 'how can we turn these spell effects into shared infrastructure' and 'what if these were subsidized by a government rather than people needing to pay adventurer rates?' creates a setting more comparable to the modern world than the medieval one.

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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
    So D&D itself has a lot going for it. It's specifically stuff about the settings people create that ends up restricting these benefits to the adventuring class, populating the world with monsters, etc.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    I do have to wonder how much of the issue with Forgotten Realms being a terrible setting to live in, and other settings for that matter, is down to the Star Trek problem.

    Put simply, Star Trek constantly tries to say that future society is idyllic and prosperous. Many of our cultural issues just flat out got solved off screen, resource scarcity is a thing of the past and technology allows for most of the things people want to be casually made, and bigotry (at least between Humans) is so rare that the exceptions stand out for how out of place they are. Then it turns around and makes it seem like the galaxy is one great big death trap by having the crew run into disaster after disaster and constant threats that have the potential to end civilizations and even entire worlds.

    The relative comforts that the setting claims to have are undermined simply by the fact that as a conceit of it being a show it has to focus on the "exciting" parts where everything is going wrong so there's something for the crew to fix. On screen we have death, destruction, disease, bigotry and bias of all kinds, and massive societal unrest that the crew are expected to resolve within one or two episodes and move on to the next flashy conflict. Off screen there's still the entire rest of the galaxy where most planets are perfectly fine and not experiencing the kind of apocalyptic disasters that would make Star Fleet burst within a week if they were as widespread and constant as the shows imply.

    Put more simply, how much of these places being terrible to live in is just down to the fact that the things that go very wrong are what gets the narrative focus while actual day to day life is at best a vague set dressing?

    Obviously the question has some obvious counters in the fact that, taken at face value, the game's mechanics imply that on a daily basis the average peasant taking a stroll into town has a non zero chance of running into everything from bandits to extremely powerful monsters like Beholders and Dragons that are supposed to be rare and reclusive. Issue being at least in the latter case the setting does make a point that those things are supposed to be rare and reclusive. Beholders are so worried about things that could actually threaten them that they generally keep to their lairs where they've worked out all the defenses and traps and possible variables for any threat showing up and Dragons have a habit of hibernating for years at a time when they don't have anything better to do.

    So, obviously, there's mechanics at play in the setting logic and some of that is actually built into the setting. Still some of it isn't, sort of like how PCs have access to spells that, in the setting, are actually supposed to be unique or almost unheard of and quickly advance in power faster than even the super powered designated heroes and villains of the setting did. There has to be more to a setting than what's focused on or the world is just an empty husk with a few dozen people at best and a ton of things trying to kill you; at the same time there has to be more to the way the world works than the mechanics of the game say or society would've logically never made it far enough for cities or even some PC classes to exist.
    Last edited by MonochromeTiger; 2023-09-26 at 02:32 PM.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by MonochromeTiger View Post
    I do have to wonder how much of the issue with Forgotten Realms being a terrible setting to live in, and other settings for that matter, is down to the Star Trek problem.

    Put simply, Star Trek constantly tries to say that future society is idyllic and prosperous. Many of our cultural issues just flat out got solved off screen, resource scarcity is a thing of the past and technology allows for most of the things people want to be casually made, and bigotry (at least between Humans) is so rare that the exceptions stand out for how out of place they are. Then it turns around and makes it seem like the galaxy is one great big death trap by having the crew run into disaster after disaster and constant threats that have the potential to end civilizations and even entire worlds.

    The relative comforts that the setting claims to have are undermined simply by the fact that as a conceit of it being a show it has to focus on the "exciting" parts where everything is going wrong so there's something for the crew to fix. On screen we have death, destruction, disease, bigotry and bias of all kinds, and massive societal unrest that the crew are expected to resolve within one or two episodes and move on to the next flashy conflict. Off screen there's still the entire rest of the galaxy where most planets are perfectly fine and not experiencing the kind of apocalyptic disasters that would make Star Fleet burst within a week if they were as widespread and constant as the shows imply.

    Put more simply, how much of these places being terrible to live in is just down to the fact that the things that go very wrong are what gets the narrative focus while actual day to day life is at best a vague set dressing?

    Obviously the question has some obvious counters in the fact that, taken at face value, the game's mechanics imply that on a daily basis the average peasant taking a stroll into town has a non zero chance of running into everything from bandits to extremely powerful monsters like Beholders and Dragons that are supposed to be rare and reclusive. Issue being at least in the latter case the setting does make a point that those things are supposed to be rare and reclusive. Beholders are so worried about things that could actually threaten them that they generally keep to their lairs where they've worked out all the defenses and traps and possible variables for any threat showing up and Dragons have a habit of hibernating for years at a time when they don't have anything better to do.

    So, obviously, there's mechanics at play in the setting logic and some of that is actually built into the setting. Still some of it isn't, sort of like how PCs have access to spells that, in the setting, are actually supposed to be unique or almost unheard of and quickly advance in power faster than even the super powered designated heroes and villains of the setting did. There has to be more to a setting than what's focused on or the world is just an empty husk with a few dozen people at best and a ton of things trying to kill you; at the same time there has to be more to the way the world works than the mechanics of the game say or society would've logically never made it far enough for cities or even some PC classes to exist.
    Yeah, I think this is most of it. It's like why PCs are often weird (from a setting perspective) and run into tons of monsters, etc.--the sample is really skewed. THis isn't a slice of life where we try to get a uniform sampling of the actual underlying setting. It's intentionally and inherently biased toward "interesting" things.

    The PCs aren't special because they're PCs--they're PCs because they're special (for other reasons). In this case, we follow their adventures because they're interesting. And so the setting descriptions focus on those interesting parts and the rest is soft-focus. If these people weren't interesting and doing interesting things...we'd follow people who were.

    And that last paragraph is really true--the mechanics are related (at least in more simulationist games) to the actual underlying fictional mechanics. But they are not, at all, in any meaningful ways the real fictional mechanics. That's the nature of an abstraction--abstractions are inherently lossy. And game mechanics are GAME mechanics first, foremost, and almost exclusively. The map is not the territory. Fireball in game always hits a defined radius for a fixed (range) of damage, and has particular properties. In universe, that may or may not be true. But we decide that the differences don't matter from a game UI perspective, so we elide them.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Quote Originally Posted by MonochromeTiger View Post
    I do have to wonder how much of the issue with Forgotten Realms being a terrible setting to live in, and other settings for that matter, is down to the Star Trek problem.

    Put simply, Star Trek constantly tries to say that future society is idyllic and prosperous. Many of our cultural issues just flat out got solved off screen, resource scarcity is a thing of the past and technology allows for most of the things people want to be casually made, and bigotry (at least between Humans) is so rare that the exceptions stand out for how out of place they are. Then it turns around and makes it seem like the galaxy is one great big death trap by having the crew run into disaster after disaster and constant threats that have the potential to end civilizations and even entire worlds.

    The relative comforts that the setting claims to have are undermined simply by the fact that as a conceit of it being a show it has to focus on the "exciting" parts where everything is going wrong so there's something for the crew to fix. On screen we have death, destruction, disease, bigotry and bias of all kinds, and massive societal unrest that the crew are expected to resolve within one or two episodes and move on to the next flashy conflict. Off screen there's still the entire rest of the galaxy where most planets are perfectly fine and not experiencing the kind of apocalyptic disasters that would make Star Fleet burst within a week if they were as widespread and constant as the shows imply.

    Put more simply, how much of these places being terrible to live in is just down to the fact that the things that go very wrong are what gets the narrative focus while actual day to day life is at best a vague set dressing?

    Obviously the question has some obvious counters in the fact that, taken at face value, the game's mechanics imply that on a daily basis the average peasant taking a stroll into town has a non zero chance of running into everything from bandits to extremely powerful monsters like Beholders and Dragons that are supposed to be rare and reclusive. Issue being at least in the latter case the setting does make a point that those things are supposed to be rare and reclusive. Beholders are so worried about things that could actually threaten them that they generally keep to their lairs where they've worked out all the defenses and traps and possible variables for any threat showing up and Dragons have a habit of hibernating for years at a time when they don't have anything better to do.

    So, obviously, there's mechanics at play in the setting logic and some of that is actually built into the setting. Still some of it isn't, sort of like how PCs have access to spells that, in the setting, are actually supposed to be unique or almost unheard of and quickly advance in power faster than even the super powered designated heroes and villains of the setting did. There has to be more to a setting than what's focused on or the world is just an empty husk with a few dozen people at best and a ton of things trying to kill you; at the same time there has to be more to the way the world works than the mechanics of the game say or society would've logically never made it far enough for cities or even some PC classes to exist.
    It depends a lot on which Trek though. Like, for me at least, without question it'd be better to live in the TNG Star Trek setting than in the modern world as it is now. If you want peace you can get it. If you want risk or high stakes adventure, that exists too out on the frontier, but (for the most part) the dangers of the frontier stay far away from the core. You've got the Borg attack as the one big exception, which massacres a large portion of the Federation military but otherwise, basically, its handled decisively in very short order compared to any kind of real-life military conflict. The other dangerous stuff like the crystalline entity, Romulan tensions, Kardassian conflict, etc are all on frontier worlds or not-yet-member nations. But if you live in France you can go grow your grapes to a ripe old age of 300 if you want, or run a restaurant in San Francisco despite replicators being everywhere, or whatever, and it works for those people.

    And, importantly, the show actually takes the time to show us that rather than just saying 'yeah those are the boring bits, we'll keep it off-screen'.

    On the other hand, that age is book-ended by TOS and DS9, both of which are much more warfare-centric narratives. DS9 does a good job of taking on the question of 'how would we imagine that a utopian society should wage war, and when is it appropriate for one to do so?', but in order to ask that question it has to introduce a threat of similar size that had not yet been encountered and had relations normalized, and then well we're into the whole 'make the setting globally more dangerous so there's meaningful stakes' pattern, oops. Couldn't just be about Bajor, oh well. Still though, even with DS9 and the Dominion, I'd say that Trek comes out ahead of real life on the balance. Dominion invasion or the threat of a nuclear WW3 hanging over multiple generations' heads, which is worse? I'd probably still take the universe with the Dominion and the Borg and the Q picking on a chosen representative now or then (I guess I wouldn't walk away from the Omelas built on the periodic trolling of a single Picard ...)

    Would I take the universe of, say, Enterprise or Discovery or Picard or some of the TNG movies? In some sense, only based on the premise that these all do belong to a single continuity, so seeing what TNG said about the history of Earth means I can assume that remains true of Enterprise or whatnot. But its a bit less inviting if it had to be based purely just on what's shown on those particular shows and nothing else. Strange New Worlds? Sure I'd go for that based on what I've seen so far.

    Of course that's not to say in any of those cases that I'd be trying to join Starfleet. But thats kind of the thing - in that setting, you don't have to embark on a dangerous military career in order to get access to the perks. You don't have to be an Adventurer facing life and death on a weekly basis in order to get at the things that could make life better within the setting logic.

    But also I think this is why I didn't respond so strongly to the view from the OP on the problems with Faerun being the abstract negatives so much as the absence of material that really highlights the redeeming positives. Maybe a presentation of Faerun could exist that would make me say 'oh, that sounds good enough to give lip service to some deity so I don't get tortured forever, and work on getting a second home somewhere out in the planes for when the occasional plotline drifts too near by Waterdeep or Silverymoon or wherever'. But at the very least it would require spending some ink and effort to actually imagine, build up, and present those positives. Whereas for other people more focused on the negatives or on the risks, even an otherwise-paradise where you know that somewhere in the random campaign table 'an elder evil descends' is in the cards wouldn't be tolerable.

    TL;DR - the reason Star Trek (for me) comes out ahead of Faerun is that the authors of Star Trek took the time to actually show those good lives people get to live, rather than just focusing on the action all the time.
    Last edited by NichG; 2023-09-26 at 03:06 PM.

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

    I wouldn't want to live in a utopia like Star Trek, at least if I had to live in the safe and prosperous Federation. Give me a one-time shot of that Starfleet medicine, and I'd just get my hands on a ship and make a beeline for the nearest lawless frontier or hot border and make a bloody nuisance of myself.

    My problem with the Realms isn't that it's technologically or socially primitive, or that it's dangerous, because those are frankly positives for me. My problem with the Realms and Oerth and Krynn and practically every other official AD&D and post-AD&D setting is that is that the fundamental, divinely ordained cosmological order of the universe is unspeakably corrupt and anathema to me. They are universes that I would not want to live in and I would do absolutely anything in my power to avoid dying in.

    Mystara, Eberron (maybe?), the Nentir Vale... okay. Athas is terrible and I wouldn't want to live there, but it's a better place to die than anywhere in the Radiant Triangle.

    Personally, my picks would look something like a Mystara-centric Spelljammer, or the Mushroom Kingdom, or a Galaxy Far Far Away, or maybe Marvel if I'd get powers and some sort of say in what kind. Worlds where the natural order is harsh, uncaring, or even antagonistic but not unbearably morally corrosive.

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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
    The PCs aren't special because they're PCs--they're PCs because they're special (for other reasons).
    Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, Boot Hill, Twilight 2000, Gamma World, and a large set of other games disagree. And while the above quote may be true in modern D&D it wasn't even universally true in the early editions of the game. Think about it, we can actually honestly debate if Forgotten Realms is a worse place to live than a world where there is no afterlife (although there are fates worse than death) and nothing you do will ever really matter. That we can reasonably entertain and debate the idea that Call of Cthulhu is a better setting to live in than FR says something, and it doesn't reflect well on ol' FR there.

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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
    Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, Boot Hill, Twilight 2000, Gamma World, and a large set of other games disagree. And while the above quote may be true in modern D&D it wasn't even universally true in the early editions of the game. Think about it, we can actually honestly debate if Forgotten Realms is a worse place to live than a world where there is no afterlife (although there are fates worse than death) and nothing you do will ever really matter. That we can reasonably entertain and debate the idea that Call of Cthulhu is a better setting to live in than FR says something, and it doesn't reflect well on ol' FR there.
    "Special" here means "encounters events most people don't" or "does things out of the setting norm". That's all.
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    Default Re: What makes a world worth living in (or why we flee the Forgotten Realms)

    Some posters here tend to go out of their way to dump on D&D. FR just adds additional self justification for doing so.

    The higher lethality of Old School D&D has nothing to do with settings, however. (And I agree with Telok about Traveller).
    Last edited by KorvinStarmast; 2023-09-27 at 12:05 PM.
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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
    "Special" here means "encounters events most people don't" or "does things out of the setting norm". That's all.
    Well that just means you can dump Call of Cthulhu from the list. Traveller, Boot Hill, Gamma World, Paranoia, Twilight 2000... the list of "ordinary people not being special in the setting" is still pretty big.

    Still thinking that 1924 east coast USA is probably better living than FR sword coast pretty much any year an adventure module takes place.

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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
    Well that just means you can dump Call of Cthulhu from the list. Traveller, Boot Hill, Gamma World, Paranoia, Twilight 2000... the list of "ordinary people not being special in the setting" is still pretty big.

    Still thinking that 1924 east coast USA is probably better living than FR sword coast pretty much any year an adventure module takes place.
    Unless you catch pneumonia. (That's what killed my grandfather in 1938: penicillan wasn't a thing back then ...)
    I am not sure how we got on the "I'd rather live in the real world versus the FR" digression (I guess that branch happened a few posts back) but the FR is kind of a vague place to be / live. Are you a noble in Neverwinter? Are you a beggar in Chult? Do you live in Cormyr?
    Depending on where you are it may be more or less dangerous than living in
    Prohibition-era Chicago, New York, or any large city
    Central America when Yellow Fever was a non-trivial menace (19th and early 20th centuries)
    China between 1926 and 1949 (a civil war, a world war, and an imperial power occupying substantial parts of the country, and behaving badly were part of the fun in those days ..)
    France in the 14th century. (Yeah, the Black Death featured as a part of that setting ...)

    But all of that takes me back to the art of world building.
    Some people are good at it (Jordan, Tolkien) and some people are not.
    (Ed, bless him for his efforts in any case, and he had "help" from a variety of others in terms of inconsistency in a setting .. ). I'll take a further step and put GRR Martin in the "world building not great" box.

    But, even with a published setting, any DM can tweak it or improve it.
    Last edited by KorvinStarmast; 2023-09-27 at 12:15 PM.
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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
    Well that just means you can dump Call of Cthulhu from the list. Traveller, Boot Hill, Gamma World, Paranoia, Twilight 2000... the list of "ordinary people not being special in the setting" is still pretty big.

    Still thinking that 1924 east coast USA is probably better living than FR sword coast pretty much any year an adventure module takes place.
    Uh, I'm not seeing what you mean? In Boot Hill, PCs are "special" not at the setting level, but they experience things that most "normal" people in the setting don't. That's why they're PCs. That's the meaning of "special" I intend. Paranoia, they're troubleshooters. Most citizens are not troubleshooters. Thus, PCs are special.

    And I don't claim that it's 100% of all games[1]...but this whole conversation is in the context of D&D and other "adventure" games. Where PCs definitely are special.

    [1] because any statement about 100% of all games is false. Even this one.
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