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Thread: Details, Details, How much is too much?

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    Details, Details, How much is too much?

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    So I'm an avid world builder. I create game worlds in my sleep, sometimes literally. I have been struggling with the fact that a lot of the information I create for my game worlds never gets used which is okay I guess because I recycle it into other games often enough. I'm looking to find a balance of information a level where I can get to that I have enough information to lead to a good game even if I have to add some details during play but I seem to always end up at one of the two extremes. I either have no where near enough or far too much. A good example of this is a Savage Worlds setting I have been off and on working on over the last year. Its called StarQuake and I have like 5 pages explaining the name alone, a bit much right.

    My real question is how do you guys find a good design balance between time spent and quality or detail of information?

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    I usually just write up minor details about my world, whether it be locations or denizens, whatever. Then as the players interact with the game world, I expand those details as required. Quite often, I've got a specific direction to go with my notes, but doing it in this way, it allows me to modify the world according to the players' actions!

    I even get inspiration from the players as to where to take the game!
    Last edited by Skunkape; 08-01-2014 at 09:22 AM. Reason: Added an extra comment.
    Skunk
    a.k.a. Johnprime



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    Yeah I see your method, once in play my sessions often run that way too but I end up spending a lot of design time creating intricate histories, back stories, mythology, even fictional versions of each for the game world. But once the game starts I find a lot of that stuff is never used.

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    I don't see anything wrong with creating the histories, back stories and mythology, even if you never reveal that info to your players outright, you can use it for motivations of your NPCs. There are mysteries about my world that I've never revealed to my players and I've been using the base idea for my fantasy campaign world for about 30 years now. I've changed a few things over the years, mostly the shape of the land that makes up the world, but that information helped me forge the world!
    Skunk
    a.k.a. Johnprime



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    You're only writing too much if it keeps you from finishing the planning for your next game session. Game session ready? Write all you want! Set up a database if you're having trouble keeping all the ideas in order.

    Game session not ready? Ignore all ideas that aren't related directly to the plot. Once those are in place, write up the first layer of details.

    Example:
    Bad guy: write it.
    Bad guy's stats: wait for round 2.
    Bad guy's henchman: write it.
    Henchman's henchman: wait for round 2.
    Powered by: Modos RPG, version 1.30
    http://modos-rpg.obsidianportal.com/

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    To DMMIkes point this is Pre-group work I'm still writing the outline for the setting in question. To Skunkape's point most of my settings don't stick around for years the longest I've had a steady group in one game was just over a year. My players like to change the worlds and settings which is fine with me because I enjoy world building but I'm just trying to strike a balance somewhere between a one sided bland setting and a micro managed setting that I have to make notes when characters swat flies.

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    The reason I say the micromanaged option is even on the table is because I have a strong organizational OCD when it comes to my campaign data.

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    I feel your pain, Falin. I have crap set up for players that may never encounter it in 20 years of playing... BUT, it's there, just in case. Like DMMike said, as long as it isn't messing with actual gaming - go ahead and plan and plot and map and detail. Who knows - some day, someone may run into the east side of that mountain where the thing you hatched 15 years ago is planted. THEN maybe they'll see how well you've done.

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    90% of the detail in my world is for me. No one else will ever read it but it is a remainder to me, two years later what the heck that was about. It keeps me consistent.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
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    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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    Yeah that is about what i figured. I tend to write up complex histories and mythologies for my worlds and then rarely get to pull from any of it. Sometimes I'm able to have characters play for a couple months and then pick the game back up several months later due to life. When this happens the game often still has much the same feel as before. The monsters are themed to the world ruins are covered in references to mythology for the worlds past. Players find books written about the exploits of heroic figures. So when stuff like that comes up my players tend to actually understand that it takes some work to have a game world like that. I recently went back through a bunch of old campaigns and pulled information from several and with minimal tweeking I created a new campaign with a unique feel and a rich history. The IRL group that is playing is mostly New players and they love the detail I have. They are always asking "Where do you come up with this?" I just smile and remind them I've been playing for about 14 years now.

    I had them run into a ritual grounds that another much higher level and very evil party had setup but never actually used. This ritual grounds was setup when i was 19 I'm 30 now. But I still had the information about the evil cleric that was setting the ritual up and died in the process because of a mummy. This group of players found barrels of wine that had turned to blood infected with mummy rot (by drinking it, lol) and then the ritual chamber. The spirit of the evil cleric was still there trying to finish the ritual. Traps the other party had placed at the entrance to the ritual chamber were still active. The spirit possessed a party member completed the ritual and opened a gate to the underworld. A whole mess of trouble cause by a party 11 years ago. I enjoy that sort of thing personally

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    Rule one for a detailed world: Never throw anything away. Much easier in this world of tereabyte hard drives. One doesn't get buried by paper that way. I came close at one point.

    I have several artifacts from my game sitting on the desk right now. Two are hand written, one typed on my old manual typewriter, they have hand draw art. This is the kind of thing I'm gleaning for Artifacts of Thindacarulle

    Unused game bits can always be recycled Even used game bits can be refurbished and used again. Gangs of thugs tend to be very similar to example.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skunkape View Post
    I even get inspiration from the players as to where to take the game!
    Some times I let them write it. I have started scenarios where I have not a clue as to the driection it is headed and let the players write it for me. They are very good.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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    I agree with that - "sandbox" scenarios and campaigns can be VERY well written...

    Something a published writer with whom I am friends just suggested was to consider WHY when writing. Also, if it isn't germane to the plot/idea, don't put it in. Nobody cares if the hero likes the smell of oleander if he's never gonna smell it in the story - and nobody will care if there's a hidden shrine in a lost valley in Oregon if nobody will ever see it.

    He's taken my 240 page "Holycrapthisismycampaignworld" Tome of Neverendedness and has pared it down to 20 pages. Sure, I'm gonna keep writing my never ending book, BUT, my "Known World Primer," was finished in three days and after adding some pics, it will be ready for printing (think of it like the "Inner Sea Primer" from Pathfinder). I am ready to hand it out this weekend to prospective players - after YEARS of threatening to have something ready "soon."

    Yeah, _I_ will know about that hidden shrine and that King Tarkus likes the smell of oleander - but it won't matter until people GO there... and that may be never. Now, at least, I'm ready for players.

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    Primers should be primers, not encyclopedias. I have the same issue with the Vista City game world. A sizable wiki now exists of that game, but a primer for it must need be much shorter.. A game starting there does not need the information I have available, it would bury them. They need to make their own.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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    I tend to run sandbox I just don't let my PC's know they are in a sandbox. They usually think I spend hours planning the game when truthfully they do most of the work I spend maybe 1-2 hours a week just writing NPC's and getting some cool encounters together. The main story is player driven. I create a detailed world where I know how the basic "law of the land" works and go from there. If the players decide to rip off the noble man in the town with a lot of influence that could haunt them for some time. But if they save his daughter from the bandits. Hazzah you have a valued friend. I just let situations happen and then see how they get through them. I've run too many groups that started good and eventually just apathetically went evil. "Yeah, what can this guy do for me? I'm not fighting Trolls without some kind of reward." That is totally ok in my games just don't expect peasants to worship you when it takes the life savings of the town to pay the group to kill a few Trolls. In fact they are going to bill you for room and board as well as a 10-20% increase in cost of goods. Plus the charismatic thief has sullied a few of their young maidens and that is sure to create some kind of trouble. Players can keep the game very interesting just by playing their characters correctly.

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