Slow burn lay out everything up front. Hot start or in media res, getting right into the action. Opening an rpg with either has its benefits.
The Warden comments on Deploying Lore
There are typically two approaches I like to use when it comes to providing setting lore.
But when I do…
I try two approaches. The first is to frame the first (or only) adventure as a pilot episode. What are the key elements that need to come across in the story if this were picked up as a series slash became a regular campaign. As I’m reading through my old Earthdawn books, I’ve started taking mental notes on those key elements that can be explained or at least introduced into that first adventure. Right now, they include…
The continent of Barsaive as the home setting, a land home to both the dwarves of Throal and the dastardly Theran Empire that’s used to rule over the people with an iron fist.
The Horrors, evil creatures from the Astral Plane that invaded the world in an apocalyptic invasion of Cthulian monstrosities. This event was known as the Scourge.
To survive the Scourge, people hid in magical underground bunkers known as kaers for hundreds of years until the Horrors returned to the Astral Plane.
During the Scourge, the Theran Empire was cut off from their holds in Barsaive and the dwarves exploited this to plant the seeds of rebellion against the land’s oppressors.
Everything else is on a need-to-know-as-they-come-up basis. You don’t need to know much about windlings, t’skrang, trolls, or blood elves until someone wants to play one or the party meets one. So my first adventure needs to revolve around these four elements. Right now, I’m toying with a party of heroes hired to help find a still-sealed kaer before the Therans do, only to find out a Horror breached it years ago and now seeks fresh blood. Hero blood. Yummy.
The second approach involves what I call “introductions” and it’s something I developed for High Plains Samurai. Aside from the key setting elements essential to making this setting stand out from others, nothing is written in stone until it is introduced into the story. By that, I mean somebody said something at the table to address, define, or otherwise introduce it into the table’s lore. It’s an open-ended approach that can also default to the GM’s favour if their table only allows the GM to represent the setting. For mine, I like to let everyone contribute. So long as what’s introduced doesn’t contradict something from before, it’s now part of the lore. What results are some of those finer bits of setting you normally only find in novels based on those settings because they view the world through a group of characters’ eyes, not as an encyclopedia of general facts. One table’s Faerun need not be the same as another’s when you get up close and personal with it.
It’s a concept in campaign settings I like to call the Multiverse Application. Each table is an alternate universe based on shared threads provided in the books of that setting. From there, each table branches off in their own direction to create a multiverse of that one setting.
Think about it. Somewhere out there, someone’s killed Strahd. Someone’s brought water to Athas. Someone made Spelljammer fun. Each one is a version of the setting where troll horns are hollow, elves don’t like to be naked, dwarves can’t stop being naked, and dragons rule over the Elemental Planes in a bid to make big profits from mining on the Plane of Earth. Each one provides its own lore created at the table that will never be replicated elsewhere. It’s mathematically impossible just factoring in the dice rolls alone. So let’s all just say fuck it and send Thanoss to the Demiplane of Dread!
(It’s possible I got off topic here…)
HOOS carl comments on Deploying Lore
In my return to game mastering a year and half ago, I started to develop my home brew world and have written thousands of words. I know that it is only for me, but sometimes it is frustrating that players do not put in more effort – or really any effort other than showing up at the table and asking for a pencil and dice…but I digress that is for another episode.
Here are the things I use to introduce and reinforce lore in my games.
First – is a treasure item I call an Adventurers Encyclopedia. It is basically 1d4+1 pages describing “monsters” and outlining some of their strengths and weaknesses. These are usually about a paragraph or two each, so they are easy to come up with. It allows for the creativity to hack already developed monsters or create my own.
Second – are rumors & information that I use to reinforce things the PCs should know and introduce new things. I usually disseminate via NPC in-game, or because I am a much better writer than a talker in a campaign Discord post after the gaming session or as part of some downtime.
Third – Because of remote gaming, I use images and journal notes in Foundry VTT. My landing page is a player map scene with the locations of the places the party already has been and the journal entries accessible to the players.
Fourth – I came up with the idea to give the PC dreams to introduce and reinforce lore. It is work, but writing is enjoyable for me, especially when the words flow. I am writing them from the characters childhood and adolescence so I can include lore from their birthplace to provide some memories.
These dream sequences have translated well into the campaign despite the players being…well…players. I give them dreams after particularly grueling combats or some other trigger like fear or even the thrill of leveling up.
Thank you both for your vision and building this fantastic community of like-minded gamers. I value your excellent discussion topics, insight, and knowledge.
Happy Gaming – HOOS
Jim Fitzpatrick writes in about episodes 326 Not So Supers/307
Hey guys, haven’t bugged you in a while but something stood out about the past couple episodes I’d love to get your opinion on. Two things brought it up. The first was DM Kyle’s call about not knowing all the lore in a setting and the second was the Not So Supers episode about genres and systems we don’t play or don’t want to play.
What I’d like to hear is your take on being a “tourist.” What I mean when I say that is: do you do anything special if you know you’re going to play a system or genre you don’t usually play or even have that much exposure to? How do you play a space opera game if you’ve never seen a space opera show? How do you play a supers game if you’ve never read a comic book or seen an MCU movie? Senda and Phil were nice enough to talk about this on Panda’s when I asked, but I would love to hear the BS side.
A few Gameholes ago, I got a chance to play a supers game with Matt Forbeck, but I’m not a big consumer of supers media and don’t really know much about the tropes. I didn’t know the system either and don’t remember what it was. I still had fun because Matt is great, but I might not have had fun if it had been with a random GM.
Brett, glad you’re on the mend. Neck and back pain is not to be F-ed with. Had enough cortisone shots in my day to know that. Hope you’re back in the saddle soon. Enjoying the show as always.