Thursday, March 8, 2012

When Is Enough, Enough?

In my post from yesterday I was curious about how much info should be included in a campaign document.  I made the post from my cell phone so it was really short and to the point.  I got a reply from Eldrad that instructed me to "just tell a good story".  I completely agree with this and think that is exactly what the goal should always be in a role playing campaign.  What I was actually looking for was just a little bit different.  What I would like is feedback about the following questions:

As a player, how much information about a campaign setting do you feel is the "right" amount for proper play and at what point does it become information overload?

As a game master, how much information about a campaign setting do you feel is the "proper" amount for getting the players into the game and at what point does it just become pointless details?

I am asking because I really want to start delving into the details of my campaign world but I am torn on what to include and what to leave out.  For instance, when it comes to religion in the campaign do people prefer just a simple list of gods with a few blurbs of information or do they want that information plus a breakdown of followers by race, area, worship centers, artifacts, etc.?  

Any and all opinions would be highly appreciated!

14 comments:

  1. This is a very good question.

    If the underlying story is a good one, as Eldrad suggested, finer details of the more important aspects are always welcomed. Still, I have always been of the opinion that the better campaigns always leave just enough wiggle room for the DM to fill in their own details.

    If religion plays an important part to your campaign, finer details would be greatly appreciated. But - like early Greyhawk, if you are going to be focusing on low level characters, you could always save more detailed religious break downs for a later time.

    Layered political intrigue, historical timelines... all that stuff is probably best left as blurby bits.

    Then again, if you had no intentions on following up on your eventual campaign setting, the more detail the better. Were I a hopeful DM and I liked the setting, and I knew the publisher was not going to supplement, I would want as much info as the author could provide.

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    1. Hah! Love the broad answers?

      Pfft.

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    2. Broad but true! It actually sounds pretty reasonable to me.

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  2. The campaign materials for my own PbB game are all at the following link:
    http://westkingdom.blogspot.com/p/west-kingdom.html

    The pdf comes out to about four-and-a-half pages. It's a pretty small, general document. It will flesh out as the characters do more things, but what's there is all I came up with prior to starting the game. Very limited, very broad brush. I was inspired by Tim Shorts' "Six Steps to Starting a Small Campaign" over at Gothridge Manor:

    http://gothridgemanor.blogspot.com/2010/08/6-steps-to-starting-small-campaign.html

    Of course, PbB moves very slowly, which means I'll have tons of time to put in additional details as they become relevant to the PCs' activities. I suspect though, if a DM is good at improvising, s/he could still use that limited, broad-brush approach in face-to-face gaming as well.

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    1. Oh man, blogger sent this message to my spam. I am glad that I decided to check it because the two links you provided are great and will be a tremendous help to me. Thanks!

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    2. Glad they'll be of help!

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  3. JD Jarvis of Aeons & Augauries gave his thoughts on a similar subject a couple of weeks ago. It's worth a read as I reckon it's relevant to your question Charlie.

    In my experience players aren't interested in the back-story, they just want to play. I'd say a single page describing the campaign setting should do the trick without making their eyes glaze over. On the other side of the page put some house rules for them.

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    1. Thanks for the link, David. That is very helpful and I believe that will be the approach I take. I like your idea of one page of campaign world notes and some house rules on another page. Sounds fun!

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  4. Good question.

    As a player, I always want that awkward thing - the bit of information that grabs my imagination and makes me buy into the setting. That thing usually stems from the GM's own interest in the setting.

    As a GM I want the same thing really. Something to spark my own imagination and make me want to use that particular world.

    None of this really answers your question, but it's got me thinking about it.

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    1. It's a good answer, though. It doesn't really come down to the volume of the information but the quality or the hook that pulls you into the story - got it!

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  5. It depends on your audience. I personally can't stand Forgotten Realms. One of the major reasons why is that everything is so detailed. There is no breathing room. When playing it, everyone knows everything about the world and there is zero mystery. It feels like visiting a novel.

    With that said, Forgotten Realms is (was?) a very popular setting. It has many series of successful fiction and gaming books.

    On the other hand, I also do not like the old Greyhawk box set. There just wasn't enough information. Much of it is just a brief description of countries and useless information about things that they make. It seemed to have almost no role-playing value. However, I know the world, and probably the box set is popular with certain gamers as well.

    I just want an interesting world. Something that tells me where everything is. Sets up some organizations. Gives me some major plot lines of the world. I don't want uber detail. I want it to be something I find interesting and then can make my own.

    So it just depends on who you are trying to get to buy your book.

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    1. Good and insightful answer, Darius. I am basically asking for just personal play reasons more than a professional standpoint. Your comments still ring true.

      I must say that I agree with you about Forgotten Realms. Information overload to the extreme.

      Once again, it seems like the "less is more" philosophy rings true.

      Thanks for responding.

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  6. So I am starting early to go check out all the blogs on the A to Z Challenge coming up and I landed here! I'm your newest follower.
    Giggle, Laugh, Cry

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    1. Cool idea - I hadn't thought of checking out any of the A to Z blogs early. I'm off to check out your blog now...

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