GreenTongue
 member, 869 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Mon 29 Jul 2019
at 17:28
How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
Specifically a setting like Harn.

As a player or GM do you usually need that level of detail?

As a GM, does it liberate you from work or constrain you?

As a player, does it matter that the setting is consistent and based on the "Real World"?
donsr
 member, 1664 posts
Mon 29 Jul 2019
at 17:35
How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
for me?.. I  lean towards  having home brew, of a setting ( did FR  on Yahoo.. pretty good   game  but   viruses  hurt the site. )

 now I do  'D&Dish'  with   some of my own rules, and  my other games have my own  system and settings.

 if you just want to 'run a game'  and have  time issies..get a box set... if you have  time, and want to create  a world..use your won idea  and weave them into  a world.
engine
 member, 721 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Mon 29 Jul 2019
at 17:43
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
GreenTongue:
Specifically a setting like Harn.

As a player or GM do you usually need that level of detail?

I'm not familiar with Hârn, beyond the first few paragraphs of the Wikipedia article, but it sounds like it has much more detail than I usually need as either a player or a GM.

GreenTongue:
As a GM, does it liberate you from work or constrain you?

If a setting requires a lot of reading and note-taking or other methods of easy recall, then it doesn't save me any work, yet it might still not be constraining if the players aren't particularly demanding. If it's reading I'd willingly do anyway, such as is the case with Eberron, then it might not be too onerous, and if the setting is deliberately vague and relaxed about canon (as is, again, the case with Eberron), then I feel that no extra work has been added and I don't feel particularly constrained.

But I'd prefer to run a setting that is almost completely unformed. I like a game in which it's reasonable for the characters not to know much about the world, and which therefore leaves room for the GM to place front-and-center the things that everyone at the table enjoys the most.

GreenTongue:
As a player, does it matter that the setting is consistent and based on the "Real World"?

No. In fact, as a player I would find that constraining as well as annoying and a little worrisome. A "consistent" world and one that is pre-existing often requires a lot of "blocking" from a GM as the players find their way around. I've encountered a lot of "Well, your character would know not to do that because it would, blah, blah, blah" or "You're sure you want to do that? Okay, your character is immediately imprisoned/killed/mocked for offending so-and-so" I much prefer settings that can deal with character actions without them knowing about the world and are flexible enough to allow discovery without blocking the players and without game-ending, or trust-ruining consequences. I don't know if Hârn has those kinds of issues, but I wouldn't guess it doesn't.
DaCuseFrog
 member, 65 posts
 SW Florida
Mon 29 Jul 2019
at 18:46
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
GreenTongue:
As a GM, does it liberate you from work or constrain you?

As a player, does it matter that the setting is consistent and based on the "Real World"?


While I cannot speak specifically for Harn, I can say that having an amount of detail from the "Real World" does make things easier on both the GM and the players.  A good feel for background information can make it easier to move things along, so they don't get stagnant by having to take the time to remember all new things.  But as a GM, nothing should ever "constrain" you.  If you don't like something, fix it.  Just try not to change it so that it is unrecognizable (unless, of course, that is what the players want).  I once briefly played a D&D game in which many things relevant to the game were changed: setting, names of races, pantheon of gods, currency system.  I spent more time looking things up than actually participating.  So I would say that if you feel the need to make changes, do so in moderation.
tibiotarsus
 member, 61 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Mon 29 Jul 2019
at 19:04
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
As a player it depends what I'm there for (intrigue? Yes, give me the background of Lady McHeadstabby for the last three generations. Shallow-world dungeon crawling? Less thinking the better), as a GM, if I've bought the setting then yes, I'm going to use as much as possible, because look, free plot.

As a GM it's pretty liberating, since firstly there's lots done for you and secondly it concentrates creativity into the gaps in the lore. Plus you're the GM, so if there's something you hate about the source material then you can always change it for your campaign.

As a player it matters enormously to me - as a fan of deep immersion for longterm games - that the setting is consistent, because otherwise I might as well be making sandcastles with a five-year-old: the poor PC's endeavour lasts as long as the kid's attention span, then everything gets knocked down. It dissuades any kind of attachment to the setting or characters. Plus if there's consistency then rule-breakers really stand out and make a story exciting, like those two guys who just walked into Mordor.

As for based on the "Real World", those quotes are very necessary, because anything but a setting that mimics one's own life near-exactly will be importing bias. In answer, it depends entirely what you want to achieve. A sense of apocalypse and pathos amidst the destruction of the Black Death? A sense of wonder as alien beings casually break the laws of known physics? A sense of awe at a dragon with big enough wings to carry it within said laws of physics? The very-specific-history-geek glee of playing a Templar nun thundering through a drill on her Percheron, her movements all lethal competence? The sheer liberty of smashing things, including living beings, with no restraint, perhaps even rewards? The intricate consequence-following of an alternate history where time travellers give lightsabres to the Aztec Empire? People play games for all those reasons. So long as you're consistent, any secondary world will hold together with the strength needed for a good story.
evileeyore
 member, 199 posts
 GURPS GM and Player
Mon 29 Jul 2019
at 19:06
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
GreenTongue:
As a player or GM do you usually need that level of detail?

Nope.

quote:
As a GM, does it liberate you from work or constrain you?

Nope.

quote:
As a player, does it matter that the setting is consistent...

Depends.  In the right setting Inconsistency can be its own Consistency.  Otherwise, 'Yup'.

quote:
...and based on the "Real World"?

Nope.
icosahedron152
 member, 977 posts
Mon 29 Jul 2019
at 19:12
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
I'm not familiar with Harn, but...

If you're running a game in a known setting, I think it has to be done right. Otherwise why bother? You're either running a game set in Harn / Middle Earth / Westeros, or you're not.

If you are, then every player should feel as if they're in that world. Players who may be every bit as familiar with it as the GM shouldn't be getting 'illusion glitches' that temporarily jolt them out of immersion with "hang on, that's not right - according to the book..."

Historical material can be equally demanding. If your story is set in 1935, you don't want to be mentioning the Hindenburg Disaster...

Either do your homework properly, or set your game in a custom world. Usually, I use a custom world. I find it's easier to make up stuff than to look up stuff.

Of course, YMMV. Some GMs find creating an original world to be more trouble than borrowing one.

However, I think whichever route you take, consistency is key to a good game. Consistency is what makes a game feel real. If my PC is taking a corner at 40mph, what do I expect will happen? Does the game outcome match my expectations? If not, can I write it off as a fluke? Would I get the 'right' result if I tried again, or is the game just flawed?

However, if you're using a consistent world that is unfamiliar to your players, "Your player would know X" is a rather metagamey way of dealing with things. Much better to use a couple of Redshirts to 'foreshadow' group decisions. If the PCs have just seen a couple of guys marched off in irons for insulting the guards, and then the PCs decide to insult the guards... Take 'em to the dungeon, they deserve it!
facemaker329
 member, 7109 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Mon 29 Jul 2019
at 21:24
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
icosahedron152:
...whichever route you take, consistency is key to a good game. Consistency is what makes a game feel real.


This, so much.  Even if you're playing in a borrowed setting, as long as it stays internally consistent, it's going to turn out okay (unless you have a player who is slavishly devoted to the setting and takes umbrage at any slight departure from it).  If you're playing Star Wars, or Middle Earth, or any other created universe, the flavor of the original should be dominant...but there's still room for some subtle spicing to personalize it.  But if you say that something is possible at one point, or have the NPCs use some technology or magic or science, that becomes canon for your game...that means that the PCs should be able to emulate that action  (perhaps to lesser success or degree).  You're the GM, you set the rules...but don't change the rules, especially not on a whim.  Internal consistency makes a huge difference.
evileeyore
 member, 200 posts
 GURPS GM and Player
Mon 29 Jul 2019
at 21:51
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
icosahedron152:
If you're running a game in a known setting, I think it has to be done right. Otherwise why bother? You're either running a game set in Harn / Middle Earth / Westeros, or you're not.

Or you are and you've changed a few things.
donsr
 member, 1665 posts
Mon 29 Jul 2019
at 21:57
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
bottom line?.. it doen't  matter.. is you have   players  whining and crying  because you did ( or didn't ) do something that is  'cannon'..let the walk, they can start thier own game.

 But as long  as you keep the game flowing, and  the table level.., everyone should  be  workig on RP
seraphmoon
 member, 87 posts
 "Plays well with others."
 Talks lots. Reads more.
Mon 29 Jul 2019
at 22:31
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
GreenTongue:
Specifically a setting like Harn.

As a player or GM do you usually need that level of detail?


Yes and no. I don't need it, but if the setting has it I want it to be easy to find for when I need it. It's a lot easier for me to play in a historical or highly-detailed fictional world now that the internet exists.

quote:
As a GM, does it liberate you from work or constrain you?


If I'm running something in a custom setting I intentionally leave it vague and then fill in details as the players come up with them. It's less work for me, and can make the players more invested in the game. I used to detail things, but it was frustrating to spend the time and energy and not have something ever come up.

quote:
As a player, does it matter that the setting is consistent and based on the "Real World"? 


Consistent, yes. I don't want a lightsaber to cut through one mook and not another, unless there's a logical reason why. Based on the "Real World," well . . . lightsabers.
GreenTongue
 member, 870 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Mon 29 Jul 2019
at 22:48
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
I've found that "winging it" sometimes allows inconsistency to creep in.

Maybe the players don't care but it has just been easier if the base has been established and can be looked up before it is used.

Yeah, you can fully create a world in advance to make sure all the angles and interactions have been thought through but, to have a good chunk already done is a help. IMO
Brianna
 member, 2190 posts
Tue 30 Jul 2019
at 04:10
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
It depends on what you and your players want to use.  Especially for a long term game, a fair amount of setting already developed can make it easier for everyone.  I played off and on in a game that must have been running for about ten plus years now, with periodic gaps of course when the GM went through major life changes.  It was set in Forgotten Realms, a setting with extensive material.  The setting gives a good background for characters, the GM has used parts of the history to develop his story, it has worked quite well by going pretty closely to the background and basing the story loosely in 'known facts'.  However, there is no reason you need to, whatever the setting, stick to it strictly, just let your players know what to expect.

You need to think about what you want.  Do you want a complete setting, with lots of details?  This way you don't have to create so much yourself, but you don't have the flexibility you might need either.  And you'd better know all the material fairly well, you can be sure to have at least one player who have made it a life's work to study and memorise.  Or are you willing to do the work to create your own setting?  That's a lot of work; you will need to have at least some idea of much more than you think you will, unless you intend to run it like a computer game, where the players simply cannot go anywhere or do anything you haven't allowed for in your plan.  You will also need to document whatever your players might need to know, since there is nowhere else for them to look things up.

In general (though not always) shorter games need less background, longer ones need more.  Just decide, including any restrictions, and let your players know.
donsr
 member, 1666 posts
Tue 30 Jul 2019
at 04:18
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
  for  Homebrew?.. The   setting s  will get  deeper  as player s   play and grow thier characters... if   those   who  'hit and run' can be used to furth  the story  with  deaths...transfers  ect ect.

 this leads  to the GAme getting deeper... my vets help new  folks settle in, and  I designed  the  'worlds' so  the player and the character  learn as they go... those player s  add more  depth and history..no matte rhow long they stay.

 needless to   say, those who have stayed long.. add more.
facemaker329
 member, 7110 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Tue 30 Jul 2019
at 05:23
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
The amount of detail you need will also depend largely with the setting you're using.  I'm more into sci-fi, so I'll use examples from that corner of the multiverse...

Say you're running a Babylon 5 game.  Over the course of the series, we got a pretty good idea who the various alien races were, what their general behavior patterns were, how their societies functioned, etc...with a few exceptions.  But if you decide you're going to run a B5 game, there are pretty limited options for introducing aliens of a species unknown to anyone, most of reachable space has been claimed by one race or another, and there are clear-cut expectations of how different groups should be treated and how they'll react to that treatment.  You, as GM, have to be familiar with that to maintain the feel of a B5 story...drift too far out of those norms and it starts to become just another generic sci-fi setting.

Now, say, you're doing Star Wars, instead.  Star Wars seems to have an inexhaustible supply of new aliens.  Every movie that comes out mixes some new species in with the more familiar faces.  Same holds true for planets.  There are certain fixed points in the canon that should be portrayed accurately, if the game takes you there...but there's an awful lot of space in a galaxy that can let you experiment with all kinds of aliens, societies, organizations, etc etc.  As long as it's generally 'Star Wars flavored', you have a lot of leeway.

Or say you go even more obscure, and try something with Space: Above and Beyond (if you remember the TV show...it got the Fox Firefly treatment back when Joss Whedon was still dreaming up Firefly...)  The only planet that has any real definite conditions to be aware of is Earth...and, since we're already there, that's not too challenging.  It needs to be a little more futuristic, but the series is full of tongue-in-cheek references to pop culture of the 20th Century, so you can have some fun.  The planets?  To the best of my knowledge, there's only a handful of them even mentioned by name, even fewer that appear on any sort of map in the show, and a scant few that are supposed to be in any sort of proximity to each other.  We are given precious few actual facts about the Chigs, a few more about the Silicates...and that's about it.  Interstellar travel is possible, but they cheat the hows of it, and while the Chigs are the only aliens that Humanity has faced as of when the TV show happened, that doesn't mean that you can't introduce more (although I'd keep them pretty scant.)  But you've got a very loose frame in which to operate, there's a lot of wiggle-room and not a huge amount of source material, which almost makes it incumbent upon the GM to start making stuff up to fill in the gaps.

The flipside is, the more popular your setting is, the more likely you are to get players...but the fewer options there are to makeup up your own stuff within that setting (with some exceptions...Star Wars, I already mentioned, and Star Trek are both examples of the setting actually gaining more options as it expanded, instead of having more stuff nailed down, because they're always introducing new places, new species and races, new technologies, etc, so you can either run with the tried-and-tested canon materials or start building onto the galaxy as you see fit.)
GreenTongue
 member, 873 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Tue 30 Jul 2019
at 21:05
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
I think it is useful to have the underlying structure in place even if you have sanded off the identifying names and tropes.

Good bones lets you build on something solid.
donsr
 member, 1669 posts
Tue 30 Jul 2019
at 21:11
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
that's a fact.. you have to have a BAse.. table  setting sucks  when you first start, but once  you start rolling, you're glad you did it.
horus
 member, 826 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Wed 31 Jul 2019
at 07:48
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
I love M.A.R. Barker's world of Tekumel, the setting for Empire of The Petal Throne and other games.

The late Professor Barker was an anthropologist, archaeologist, and linguist, and he had been working on Tekumel since he was ten years old (back when his parents were doing their field research).

Tekumel is gloriously rich - over a dozen contemporary cultures, all with their own languages, with a history stretching tens of thousands of year (more in the case of some ancient cultures that do not survive in the "present day/present time" of the game.

Strange creatures, high magick, and aspects of "oriental adventure" make it a setting worth playing in at least once in a gamer's career.

The richness of the setting can make it daunting to GM a game set on Tekumel, but the challenge is offset by the kind of rich stories that can be told.

I would suspect Harn, from what I know of it, has the same potential and many of the same challenges.  It will take a GM who is willing to help players along as they learn the strangenesses of Harn, and players who are willing to work with their GM to tell a grand story.

I believe such games can happen here.

This message was last edited by the user at 07:49, Wed 31 July.

GreenTongue
 member, 874 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Wed 31 Jul 2019
at 10:56
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
horus:
Tekumel is gloriously rich - over a dozen contemporary cultures, all with their own languages, with a history stretching tens of thousands of year (more in the case of some ancient cultures that do not survive in the "present day/present time" of the game.

Yes, have set one in Tekumel. Here even. Lasted over a year.

The danger is like with Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, you can have a hard time making it your own.
The people most likely to be interested in the setting may easily know more details than you and expect your game to conform to those details.

The settings make great resources to pull from though if you, as the GM, don't want to try "role playing" the original author.
horus
 member, 829 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Sat 3 Aug 2019
at 21:36
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
In reply to GreenTongue (msg # 19):

Players in my Tekumel have been respectful of it being my Tekumel, in my experience.  Where my world differs from the established setting, if there are questions about it, I handle them with respect for the person asking.  So far that seems to work well.
facemaker329
 member, 7113 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Sat 3 Aug 2019
at 22:38
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
I think it helps a lot if you, as GM, are forthright in your game description that it will be YOUR interpretation of the setting.  I've been in a few Robotech games, for instance, and the ones that didn't clarify that always seemed to wind up with debates about whether or not something was canon, because they did it in a novel, but it never happened in the series, or the RPG stats included these weapons on this fighter, even though it was never stated in the series or novels.  The ones who acknowledged the presence of the novels and RPG but stated flatly that in any event of dis repancy, one of the three (usually either the series or the RPG) would be considered the authoritative canon on the subject generally ran pretty smooth, as well as the one or two that ran parallel to the series but didn't involve many events from the series, where the GM said the game was based on their understanding 9f the events and timeline.  Spared a lot of attempted hairsplitting.
horus
 member, 831 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Sat 3 Aug 2019
at 22:46
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
In reply to facemaker329 (msg # 21):

Oh, very much agreed.  Setting clear expectations and initial conditions for a game go a long way here and across a table.
Waxahachie
 member, 164 posts
 The horn that wakes
 the sleepers
Tue 6 Aug 2019
at 03:31
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
It's a double edged sword.

If you have a group of players that don't know the setting material, I think it's a tremendous boon. I can then more freely use the setting material as a resource, drawing upon it for inspiration without the concern that I'm shattering a player's sense of immersion or view of the world and incorporating my own ideas into the world.

If you have a really well established setting, you have to really know the canon of the setting very well (at least as well as your players) and then are somewhat shackled by it.

Of course, you can always say from the outset that you are going to take a more flexibile approach and not stick to the canon. It helps to set those expectations so everyone knows what kind of game they're getting into.

For my part, I'm starting to feel a bit too constrained by prepared adventures and settings, and may in the the future look more towards creating homebrewed settings and adventures.
facemaker329
 member, 7114 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Tue 6 Aug 2019
at 03:51
Re: How Often Does a Detailed Level of Setting Material Matter?
I think the ideal is players who are interested in the setting, but not 'indoctrinated' with it...that leaves a lot of room open, from the players who just think it sounds cool but know pretty much nothing about it all the way to the players who are very well-versed in it but prepared for and accepting of the fact that you, the GM, may throw some details out there that either disagree with or don't exist in the canon.  I try to be the latter, when playing settings that I feel comfortable with...I may speak up and say, "Well, this is what they presented in the books/movies/TV show/whatever," but if the GM insists on going his own route with it, I'm fine with that, too...in my book, I signed on to play the GMs game, which means GM decisions overrule what may have been canon elsewhere (and if I can't reconcile myself to those differences, then it's time for me to find another game...but it's not my job to make the GM play the game I think he should be running.)