World Building: Roots

marshubble
Barsoom (2)

I said a while ago that I wanted to talk about world building (maybe worldbuilding or world-building, as you prefer). That I do. Doing so seems likely to take more than a couple entries here. This essay is the beginning, written as much for me to explore what I know as for anyone who cares enough to read it. (1)

Generation of the world or universe, the setting, is important to numerous aspects of creating media, from novels to games. Careful design can’t be undervalued. Assumptions should be avoided, while reasoned relationships should take prominence. Aim to build novelty and interest, but include enough of the familiar to build resonance with the audience.

We need to define a few terms before the discussion begins. This essay waxes philosophical. (3)Read More »

D&D Trivia Archive May 2010

On Twitter, I give out little tidbits about D&D history as I know it or experienced it. This means I might not always be right, but at least it’s interesting.  You can challenge me on twitter or by email.

Here’s the May 2010 D&D trivia archive.

  • Even the greatest DMs, such as Monte Cook, fail to keep it all straight sometimes. Ask him, and he’ll tell ya. Relax and enjoy.
  • My understanding–D&D R&D DMs identify minions as such in some way. The assumption: skilled combatants can identify mooks.
  • Minions had higher HP, near PC at-will damage, at one stage. Development shaped the 1-HP minion for easier tracking.
  • D&D trivia tells us that trolls always follow string because they know every string ends in meat.
  • D&D trivia also tells us you can only make chewing gum from troll flesh. Tastes like chicken.
  • My defiling design for Dark Sun was meant to be as (or more) tempting as the force’s dark side. Hope the final version still is.
  • The convention previews of Dark Sun might not be the final version. The books are just wrapping up preprint production.
  • I helped make the crazy D&D editing test @loganbonner took to hire on at WotC, and I helped evaluate those tests.
  • When @loganbonner started, I was happy a new person (like me!) entered the industry. Weird we both got laid off the same day.
  • Aside: @gregbilsland is another new game-industry person.
  • Eric Holmes, the author of the the first D&D “blue box” basic set, passed away on 3/20 at age 80. http://bit.ly/cmD2K0
  • 3e Monster CRs (as much art as science) are still in 4e. The design team just decided to use “level” as the 4e word.
  • Level was the default for anything related to level for powers, items, and monsters. Smart choice IMO, and one I wasn’t part of.
  • The powers of 4e were in the earliest playtest I was in (early 2006?), but I wasn’t there at the beginning.
  • Powers evolved from Heinsoo crazy (6d12? Really?) to the versions you see today. The early mandate was to push limits on design.
  • FYI, Heinsoo crazy refers to wild-man designer Rob Heinsoo, and his sort of design crazy ain’t a bad thing in early stages.
  • The Ki power source was going to be home for classes such as the ninja, samurai, and so on. Then @aquelajames and others realized we were about to isolate those classes.
  • The team decided that the monk, samurai, ninja, and so on, could occupy neat spaces in other power sources, such as the psi monk.
  • Or that it’s possible that those classes already exist. @aquelajames didn’t want another Oriental Adventures.
  • I doubt you’ll see a whole book just about Eastern fighting techniques. It’ll be integrated with a D&D spin.
  • Monsters evolved to be simple to run and easy to design for flavor. R&D intentionally ditched the PC-like 3e design framework.
  • It’s a mistake to rely on play feedback only from extremely sharp players. They outperform normal players, skewing perceptions.
  • The initial 4e Monster Manual draft had more fluff. It was cut, I guess, to fit more stats. But monster powers alone are often evocative.
  • I’ve had players attest to the evocativeness of monster powers. One even asked me to tone down the evil critters.
  • Each good player power was similarly designed to tell its story with mechanics and brief flavor. Is it enough fluff? IMO, yes.
  • Many D&D R&Ders boggled at brand policy, but D&D and MtG worlds are kept strictly apart. Lorwyn campaign for D&D? Made of win!
  • 3e D&D crit confirmation rolls had obscure mathematical reasons, but we R&Ders and players saw it as post-crit denial. No fun.
  • 4e was also built to better control PC and monster crit ranges.
  • A discussion was had in D&D R&D whether the revenant would be a bloodline, like the dhampyr by @brianrjames. I still think so.
  • The view that won out, based on desire to do revenant minis, was that the revenant should be a unique Medium race.
  • The D&D world is not our world. Some aesthetic choices were made based on that idea. Take the assassin. The invoker, too.