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D&S Setting and Cultures

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Apr. 16th, 2008 | 09:59 am

One of the things that I noticed with letting the players generate their culture in the alpha test of D&S is that four visions make for a very dysfunctional bunch of people, especially when three of them decided they were going to be not of the same people that they were living with.  G drove for familiarity, B for the exotic, R for amusement, and J to fill in  some of the things in the middle.  The effect was amusing as an exercise, but really difficult in play, since the people they created were thoroughly irresponsible drunks and all their authority figures were some other ethnicity.  It's fun to make but hard to run.  Really, I don't want to make any difficult on myself than I have to.

G is going to want an authority to be part of that is largely positive.
B is going to want a setup where doing the things you want to do as a player are going to come into some sort of conflict with the values that the character and their society hold, one that has to be resolved.
J is going to want internal consistency, such that one aspect of the culture flows directly from another without too much just-soing  and tortured logic, so he can make things that he wants to happen happen.
R is going to want there to be plenty of chances for traditional adventuring and to get embroiled in as little non-adventure foolishness as possible.
T is goint to want to be the good guy and the hero and look cool.
I am going to want crisis and explosions and corrupt, evil authority as targets for my moletov cocktails.

All of these things are not only legitimate things to want from a game, but good things, and each of them makes for good games.  The problem comes in where each of us tries to come up with a game tailored to our own tastes and sensibilities, which, to certain extents, has something that that at least three of the others won't want.

Which is to say, there's a lot of room for conflict.  Granted, a creative setting designer can come up with something for everyone to do by themself, but damn is it hard when everyone is putting their own things in.    

This is a long way of saying that I'm not doing any more collab settings for games I intend to run.  They get very difficult, very quickly, and I've realized that pulling off difficult setting-related balancing acts =/= awesome game.  So, shoot for the awesome.

Culture and setting is one thing that gets tricky to do well, since J and I like a lot of diversity of choices on that level (B, I think, prefers a lot of choices on a lower level, and that definitely has it's strengths.  I'm not sure what the others have for opinions on that matter), but, given the diversity of the people in my group and what they want, it pretty much demands some diversity on the macro level.  My major argument in favor of it runs along the lines that it's a lot easier to go with since different people are going to look different, have a different language, dress differently, and that makes it easy to tell the people who have a strong chivalrous class that actually tries to adhere to chivalry and the people who have a corrupt priestly class and armies of pious warrior monks.  It makes it easier to know at a glance who is on what team and when.

I've been carrying the Player's Guide to Everway around with me for the last week and a half, intending to use it as a template for coming up with the cultures "back east," in the D&S world, but it occurred to me that a more fun, useful and satisfying way of making up the cultures with an eye toward the things that PCs are going to do in the course of their interactions with the culture work like so.

1) What is the culture's big lyrical art form.  Because I am a writer and think that said profession is the most important in all the world for telling you about the culture of a people.  People who tell stories about a trickster-ish culture hero are going to be different than people who write ballads about romantic misfortune and murder are going to be different than people who educate their children with parables about animals who exhibit human qualities.    They are all going to kind of cross-pollinate, I am still going for a vaguely central to east European feel to the setting.

2) The Seven Deadly Sins as they Relate to the Culture
Pride - National character and how they determine who's in charge.
Avarice - Things they do for money and how commerce and trade happen.
Wrath - How you're going to be getting into fights and what they are going to involve.
Lust - Sex and love and gender and art, as appropriate.  Or not.
Gluttony - Food and leisure and vice.
Envy - Conflicts and grudges.
Sloth - Threats and things they have yet to face as conflicts.

And that's it.  

Going to try, maybe after lunch and more work gets done.

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Comments {3}

Ben

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from: benhimself
date: Apr. 16th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
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Huh! S'an interesting way of looking at my preferences, but... I can't really argue with it.

I mean, there should be obstacles between the players and their goals. I don't think that's something anyone would argue against.

And recently, I've found myself preferring obstacles that involve a choice to be made, rather than just "Can I roll high enough?" And in a lot of cases, in order for a choice to be meaningful rather than trivial it'll have to invoke pitting some of the characters' priorities against their other priorities.

So, yeah.

(And it's worth noting that a game can be built on tactical choices as well, ala D&D, although you lose a lot of those tactical choices in that particular example when you don't play with minis and the map, and most of the tactical choices are more or less done during character creation, which is a not-insignificant source of my disenchantment with the current edition)

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the hand of vecna

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from: world_build
date: Apr. 18th, 2008 08:05 pm (UTC)
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It's kind of interesting how each of us goes about the particular aspect of gaming we like best, and really, you don't need to defend what you want out of a game from me, I like that, too, but, really, I like it less than the ability to cause mayhem.

The thing is, the more I think about it, the more making a game that could potentially make everyone in the Monday night group happy a lot more of the time seems achievable. What you usually drive for is partly a function of setting, character and conflict, but mostly, I think, related to conflicts. Equivalent exchange, to borrow from the manga Kate's making me read. You don't get something for nothing, no matter how fucking good you are. That's something that isn't hard to encode into a game. J's drive is mostly toward setting and set up, so he has pieces to move around. That's not hard to do either, but it takes work and preparation. G and T, well, that's a function of mostly character and a little bit of setting, so as long as you don't explicitly encode those out, you can has. Easily. R drives to be able to find a place in the system and setting for his character and then go forth and do that thing, which can be source for conflict with what you tend to drive for as much as what I like being a big source for conflict with what G and T like best, but still, I think there should be some way to work things...

Also, the more I think about it, the more I see that what people want out of game is really legitimate and cool. You and J seem to be the most high-brow and I probably tie with T for the lowest common denominator, but that's a lot to work with.

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the hand of vecna

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from: world_build
date: Apr. 18th, 2008 08:10 pm (UTC)
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most of the tactical choices are more or less done during character creation, which is a not-insignificant source of my disenchantment with the current edition

I feel you, but then, I also enjoy the character building, so I guess it does not affect me as much. I'm curious about where you see the next edition's advantages over the current really kicking in, because the more I see of 4e, the more lost I become on where and what they are. It's not necessarily that I disagree, it's that I've lost track of what they are.

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