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drunkonduty

World Building - Kitchen Sink or Taiored?

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19 minutes ago, Ninja-Bear said:

Last night I thought of the two most kitchen-sink sci fi franchises gotta be Star Wars and Star Trek.

 

Yeah. They really are. Whatever crap is wanted for this week's episode is shoe horned in.

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It's funny (not laugh funny, odd funny) that both Tolkien and DnD are considered generic fantasy. Because there's no way you can make the average DnD game anything like Middle Earth. Even low level DnD wizards and clerics are doing stuff you'd never see in Middle Earth. 

 

Yeah, pretty much the AD&D world which was more heavily influnced by Jack Vance and other, later authors than Tolkien, is the standard for fantasy these days.  Its both kind of nice and kind of frustrating, because D&D has a boring and lame setting, but at least people have familiarity with the game I loved to play when I was young.

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The various incarnations of D&D have featured many world settings over the years, some of which I would hesitate to describe as boring or lame. Oerth, the world of Greyhawk, has more coherence and realism than most in several areas: history, ethnicity, geography and climate, geopolitics. Mystara has many distinctive features, not the least being a hollow planet; while Eberron and Athas (the Dark Sun world) made a real attempt to break out from the pack.

 

But it's fair to say that the game's default setting these days, the Forgotten Realms, are, as Dean Shomshak observed, "complete checklist world design" without "voice or vision."

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I haven't read much of the Darksun world but even the little I know is very different and interesting.

 

I do like Oerth. Some of that might be nostalgia. But the fact that it has a distinct geopolitical style to its description is a big appeal. In my home game my wife's characters have had some of their best adventures when engaging with the geopolitical part of the setting.

 

And the Forgotten Realms can eat my shorts.

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I liked the Forgotten Realms originally with Elminster writing the stuff but it became a product and kinda was ruined.  Darksun was just really unusual and interesting, one of the first real attempts in D&D to come up with something special and different than the typical setting.  And honestly it could just be a region in a world somewhere.

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When I picked up the first Forgotten Realms boxed set, the impression I got was that it was "kitchen sink" in a sense that I found negative -- a whole bunch of stuff thrown together, without any sense of when or how or why it got that way. There were plenty of potentially interesting places and people, but they weren't coherent with each other. There was no real history, no ethnic or cultural cohesiveness, no sense of evolution. Everything was just there, with no more apparent purpose than as a place for PC adventures.

 

I guess that shows my personal preference and bias. When building a world I want it to feel like a living, functioning world, not just a game battle map.

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I wonder if something has changed then LL. Going by the FR wiki, there seems to be to different calandra systems. There was a major spell plague. Monsters seem to have their own backstory. For example the Duergar (Gray dwarves) were once Clan Duergar until they were enslaved by Mind Flayers and then eventually freed themselves. Which I believe is why they justified some game stats. I do get the impression that it is still a kitchen sink, if D&D makes it then it’s in FR somewhere.  I get the impression though that fluff wise, they make it their own.

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Another thing I’ve noticed on other gaming boards dealing with D&D is tailoring settings to taste. Now I’m not sure if it’s always been like this. Now though people are encouraged to take monsters and Reston them if need be. Also take modules and cut and paste if desired to to fit into your world.

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18 hours ago, drunkonduty said:

It's funny (not laugh funny, odd funny) that both Tolkien and DnD are considered generic fantasy. Because there's no way you can make the average DnD game anything like Middle Earth. Even low level DnD wizards and clerics are doing stuff you'd never see in Middle Earth. 

 

@Cassandra 1895, War of the Worlds (HG Wells), 1938 War of the Worlds (Orson Welles), 1947???? I wanna say Roswell...

And if so, where/what is this well that connects them all?

 

Exactly.  There is also a connection with the Philadelphia Experiment in 1943.

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(The following is specifically about Forgotten Realms.)

 

Yeah, FR is very much of a throw it all in sorta setting. It's the epitome of what I'm getting at when I whinge about kitchen sink settings. This is not to say that they (the many writers, editors, and creative directors who have contributed to it over the decades) haven't made attempts to give the various elements compelling backstories. They have. But when you put all these backstories together you get a real mess. The different elements can undermine one another because of stylistic differences, or excessive similarity.  For instance - githyanki and duergar and both former slaves races of the Illithid that gained psi powers and rebelled. That's interesting for a narrative once. But the second time it happens I call lazy writing.

 

The elements might even undermine one another within the diegesis. I can't think of anything off the top of my head but I'm sure someone with exhaustive knowledge of FR can find many inconsistencies within the diegesis.

 

Not directly related to kitchen sinking (oh look! I made it a verb. I'm bad people. sorry.) are the many bad re-writes and retcons. Ninja-Bear, you mentioned spell plague. That's one of several. There's been one for each edition change from 3rd ed. (maybe 2nd?) onward. The Time of Troubles was the first one I think. I just don't get why anyone needs to retcon a game world to reflect an extra-diegetic change to game mechanics. Not needed. (Hmm, not needed unless you're deliberately making a kitchen sink setting to show case all the IP your company owns therefore you need to update the setting to make it easier to shove in the new stuff... Yeah, even I think I'm drawing a long bow with that one.)

 

Another, oft overlooked, aspect of the Forgotten Realms, at least in its early days, was the amount of Ed Greenwood self-insertion slash fic. Seriously. The number of beautiful goddess sisters who were all clamouring to get with Elminster is... unlikely. Look at a picture of Elminster. Or worse, Ed Greenwood. Not gonna happen. One infamous passage has one of these goddess types introduced into the scene while she is chopping wood. Topless. WTF?

 

Also, never forget FR brought us Drizzt Dourden. Never forget!

 

(Whoo. That felt good. Cleansing, ya know?)

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I was popping thru the net and ran across OD&D (but it’s supposed to be all the original booklets in one book). And two things pop out. First it talks about Fantasy in the style of moorcock and Lieberman but also of Burroughs. Second in the crest you own monsters, it suffers robots and androids.

 

Personally when I looked back over the Temple of the Frog module, I didn’t care for Hi-Tech weapons in it or Time machine either. In other settings, I wouldn’t mind but in this it does. Weird I know.

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OD&D suffered from a lot of criticism, and even threats of legal action from the heirs of J.R.R. Tolkien, for how much it lifted from Tolkien's writing. So of course they'll play up other influences. ;)

 

Citing Burroughs I think is fair, though. His planetary romance novels have much more in common with fantasy than science fiction. The "science" he uses to explain how things in his worlds work is so far from real science it might as well be magic; and its special effects (to borrow the Hero term) often resemble fantasy imagery. His protagonists are still swinging swords and fighting monsters.

 

It's when the science inserted into fantasy more resembles what we moderns recognize as technology, that tonal dissonance occurs. OTOH and IMHO, modern physics sounds increasingly like magic itself. :blink:

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LL without a doubt D&D borrowed things from the Hobbit. However as Matt  Colville pointed out what D&D major influences was. I mean I would think it odd that they would list all those works but not Tolkien? And you gotta admit the the play style is more Burroughs than Tolkien. But this rather a moot point. My main point is that the perception of D&D is Tolkien=generic Fantasy and it really isn’t the case. And we Hero gamers know how perception of a game system can be. 😁

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Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Halflings. From their physical and mental descriptions in the D&D books, all clearly based on Tolkien's versions of those races under the same names. They didn't list Tolkien because the other influences weren't as blatantly derived. Don't forget, TSR was the company that published characters from H.P. Lovecraft's and Michael Moorcock's novels for their Deities and Demigods book without legal permission, until threat of lawsuit forced them to stop.

 

But I agree that other influences are clear, from Vance to Burroughs to Howard to Leiber. And the play style isn't Tolkien-esque. D&D has become its own distinctive thing, but for the company to deny where some of its biggest influences come from is disingenuous.

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11 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Halflings. From their physical and mental descriptions in the D&D books, all clearly based on Tolkien's versions of those races under the same names. They didn't list Tolkien because the other influences weren't as blatantly derived. Don't forget, TSR was the company that published characters from H.P. Lovecraft's and Michael Moorcock's novels for their Deities and Demigods book without legal permission, until threat of lawsuit forced them to stop.

 

What little I've heard of the early days of TSR do make it sound like a real cowboy operation. IP infringement left and right. Terrible HR management (even for the 70's) and just plain crazy business decisions. It's not surprising Gygax got forced out.

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17 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

I was popping thru the net and ran across OD&D (but it’s supposed to be all the original booklets in one book). And two things pop out. First it talks about Fantasy in the style of moorcock and Lieberman but also of Burroughs. Second in the crest you own monsters, it suffers robots and androids.

 

Personally when I looked back over the Temple of the Frog module, I didn’t care for Hi-Tech weapons in it or Time machine either. In other settings, I wouldn’t mind but in this it does. Weird I know.

 

The obvious thing to do is scrap the Tolkien elements and embrace the science fiction ones.

 

The result would still be D&D.

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Another question is “Are you a tailor or a simulist?” How beholden are you to certain tropes? For example though I like dwarves and elves, but I can’t seem to envision them in a sword and sorcery game. One that is closer to a Conan story. Though now if I picture elves in such a setting, they seem to be the the Children of the Forest from Game of Thrones.

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2 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

Another question is “Are you a tailor or a simulist?” How beholden are you to certain tropes? For example though I like dwarves and elves, but I can’t seem to envision them in a sword and sorcery game. One that is closer to a Conan story. Though now if I picture elves in such a setting, they seem to be the the Children of the Forest from Game of Thrones.

 

Allen Thomas took an interesting approach to incorporating Elves into The Valdorian Age, Hero Games's source book for a sword-and-sorcery style campaign. Following the time line of the official Hero Universe, VA was the first age of widespread civilization after the cataclysmic destruction of the Turakian Age. Some Elves survived that disaster, although the fight for survival left them hard, ruthless, and ultimately, cruel and evil. Having retained much of their magic and technology, and making alliance with a nest of dragons who also survived, they set out to conquer and "civilize" the remaining primitive Men; but in practice enslaved and exploited them for their benefit and amusement. Essentially, Thomas turned J.R.R. Tolkien's Elves into Michael Moorcock's Melniboneans. :eg:

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On 10/7/2019 at 10:37 PM, drunkonduty said:

 

Let's look at Golarion again. The world has a range of weird and I would argue, incompatible, creatures baked into its history. Atlantis (called Azlant in the setting) was sunk by Aboleth (a sort of ersatz Lovecraftian elder race. Like mind flayers, but not WOTC IP.) T

 

Historical correction: Aboleths appeared in the AD&D Monster Manual 2, published 1983, and have been in every D&D edition since, including the 5th ed Monster Manual. They are thus very much part of the WotC IP.

 

Dean Shomshak

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