I can't use published settings anymore

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Fiffergrund
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I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Fiffergrund »

I'm just wondering if anyone else has experienced this.

The short form is that I can't use published settings anymore. I like them. There are some I absolutely love. There are some that I wish very much I could use for a game.

But I can't.

Because I won't ever be able to *know* the material well enough to remember everything. I have the same problem, to a lesser degree, with published modules.

The thing is, I never used to have this problem. I used to be able to remember module contents to a very fine point of recall. Maybe it's a function of getting older, but I can't do that anymore. I can read a module 5-6 times and yet still forget crucial pieces, or I end up winging a part of it and messing up future dependencies (I did this in the A series, when I tried it).

I don't feel like I should wing it too much, either, because this is someone's baby. Not that they would care, mind you, and I know that I shouldn't care either, as long as the game is fun. I wrote in the Crusader about winging it being a good thing! But nothing is more annoying to me than cracking open a module or the module's sequel and finding out that I got it completely wrong.

If I write it myself, and I break it, it's mine to break.

So I find myself far less interested in modules and settings, and far more interested in the bits and pieces I can add to my own stuff. Spells, monsters, magic item ideas, adventure hooks. Modules that are setting dependent, with a lot of established NPCs and a large setting history? Not so much. They exhaust me now.

I love Aihrde. It's a great setting. I'll never remember it all. I'll never remember one fifth of the fluff put into most setting specific modules, nowadays. And the Trolls would say that its fine - make it my own. And I agree with that, but it's not working for me anymore.

I'll never buy Haunted Highlands. I'm sure it is wonderful, but I'll never remember it. I'll never use Scarred Lands. I love it, but I'll never remember it, and I don't game enough to make it a priority. I won't likely use Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms, or any of the other settings that have established canon. What's the point?

Maybe it's a matter of having less time to do the work required to use these materials. I don't know.

Anyone else having the same trouble?
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Litzen Tallister
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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Litzen Tallister »

I haven't used a full setting in a while, but I definitely experience the feeling of 'how will I remember all this' when reading a campaign setting and, to a lessor extent, a module. I still make use of them, but I find myself taking a much more piecemeal approach than before. Whereas once upon a time I would never have thought of including something not from the Forgotten Realms campaign in a campaign housed there, now I have no qualms of putting Yggsburgh wherever I darn well please.

But, I also wonder about size of campaign settings too. Taking Forgotten Realms, the first boxed set, between two books, came in at 192 pages. When the 3rd edition was published, it managed 320 pages total. While I don't own the later release, I'm guessing that they manage to cram more information into it than the earlier edition. Not that I can memorize 192 pages, but I will forget a lot more pages out of 320 than I would with 192.

Homebrew settings are also lots of fun and, as mentioned by Fiffergrund, the creator's to break. That sort of freedom unfetters creation nicely and, from what I understand about the early campaign settings, how the canon settings came about anyway.

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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by alcyone »

I get paralysis when working with a setting. I am feeling it again now that I am using Numenera for a game. But I resolved that I wouldn't give a s**t. If I contradict the book, fiction, video games, even myself, I'll deal, just like I would if it was my own. That's easy to say, but if you are the type of person that gets obsessive over that stuff it's hard to pull off.

For my D&Dish stuff I have switched to doing my own campaign setting/sandbox and everyone has more fun, the players do because they have a world that seems to bend around them and I do because I am only keeping track of what's important (and if stuff is important to the players, they tend to remind me.)

You call this "trouble", but is it really? Buy your settings books and read them at your easy chair with a nice cognac and a cigar, but at the table go with what works.
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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Shadowslayer »

Sounds like you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself man. Just remember that the PCs can only inhabit a small area of anywhere. As long as you can be clear on that area, who cares? Avoid scenarios that are all-continent/world encompassing and you should be fine. (Which is where a lot of guys lose the way IMO. The fantasy genre is filled with stories that are far reaching - where the world hangs in the balance...and a lot of DMs try to mimic that. But our stories don't have to be that big.)

I really think that campaign settings are overrated. They're a wonderful tool and can be a great source of inspiration, but they can also cause a lot of angst if you're trying to memorize the world as written so you can play it "properly"

The old Dragon Mag used to frequently trot out the phrase "the play's the thing" and I subscribe to that notion. If it doesn't support the adventure you're playing, don't worry about it - its not important.

We played a lot of Forgotten Realms back in the day....and I mean a lot. Never once did we meet Elminster or Drizzt or King Azoun or any of those guys. Realms was just a backdrop and it didn't matter who was currently in charge of Zhentil Keep unless we were actually going there - or if it became part of the adventure.

Setting is only one element of your story.

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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Buttmonkey »

I have had the same problem for years. I somewhat enjoy reading modules almost as fiction, but I rarely try to run a module as written anymore. I use them more to mine for ideas. Just forget about campaign settings. There is no way I can remember even a substantial amount of the material. If I see something interesting in a setting, I'll just steal it for my homebrew world. For example, Unklar exists in my world and there was a big war a couple hundred years ago where he was overthrown. I stole some ideas from Glen Cook's Black Company novels and decided the wizards and heroes who overthrew Unklar weren't always good people and they are now fighting for control over the campaign world a la Alexander the Great's minions. That's about as much setting detail as I can manage. My brain can still do impressive things, but it has turned into crap when it comes to remembering reams of fluff or learning new quirky rules mechanics.
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Fiffergrund
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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Fiffergrund »

Shadowslayer wrote:Sounds like you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself man. Just remember that the PCs can only inhabit a small area of anywhere. As long as you can be clear on that area, who cares? Avoid scenarios that are all-continent/world encompassing and you should be fine. (Which is where a lot of guys lose the way IMO. The fantasy genre is filled with stories that are far reaching - where the world hangs in the balance...and a lot of DMs try to mimic that. But our stories don't have to be that big.)

I think the pressure isn't during the game, but rather "I have all of this stuff, and I would like to actually use it."

Then, when the time comes to use it, I want to realize the setting as presented, from the author's POV. My POV isn't as important. I already know it, and I can make up my own stuff.

Which is why some people have no problem putting their own lower levels under Castle Zagyg, and some know in their heart that it's not the same as Gary's would be.

Great, fun, wonderful, exciting? Sure - but there's something to be said for purity of concept.

And I don't think I can do settings or setting-heavy modules justice anymore.
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Lobo316
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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Lobo316 »

I use our own home brewed world. In fact, I got to a point where I wanted to use the mythos of our real world, in our fantasy setting, so I said "Heck with it, I'm doing it".

Now, were running a northman based game and the characters are followers of the Asgardian pantheon (Odin, Thor, Loki, etc), but the invading army are followers of the Greek Mythos (Zeus, Ares, Poseidon). Heck, I outlined our entire world by flipping through the pages of the original Dieties and Demigods book, handpicked the pantheons I wanted, threw in a few non-human ones, and now have this vast array of pantheons, each defining different areas of the world. It's been pretty cool.

But I understand where you are coming from. I could not stand it when we were gaming in the Forgotten Realms and the players that read all the *bleeping* novels knew EVERYTHING, better than the DM. Please.

Take your world, make it your own. Build it with the players and let thier actions tell the story.

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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Lobo316 »

Litzen Tallister wrote:I haven't used a full setting in a while, but I definitely experience the feeling of 'how will I remember all this' when reading a campaign setting and, to a lessor extent, a module. I still make use of them, but I find myself taking a much more piecemeal approach than before..
I definately do piecemail Heck, 1/2 the encounter I've run in my recent games are pulled for old classics. Just finished up an excursion to an island where they ran through a modified Temple of the Koua-Toa from Isle of Dread.

Last game, I ran them through excerpts from Beyond the Crystal Cave and a piece from a Piazo module (can't recall them name now). Modified a bit for my game, but I leave as much of the content intact as I can, and piece 'em together like a puzzle. Works like a charm.

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Sir Ironside
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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Sir Ironside »

I'm in the exact opposite state. The only setting I've ever really used was Greyhawk way back in the 1980's. And, even then I didn't really use it, more liked borrowed the maps and some plot hooks. I have always preferred my own settings over other peoples. But, then I am much more comfortable plying the DM/GM/CK trade as a seat-of-the-pants type. I'd rough out the world, concentrate on only one portion and then build in the story and characters and go from there. Many awesome NPC's have grown out of bit roles or characters I made-up, on the spot, during play. I just take important notes as the session goes on then incorporate the interesting stuff for the next gaming session and let it grow organically.

Now a days, I don't have the same time that I've had in years gone past and don't have the time to commit to a homebrew that I'd be satisfied with.

If I ever play again I'll be diving into the world of Airdhe with both feet. Either running the "A" series or starting in the Haunted Highlands area.

I've never really used a module before so if I go the "A" series route it should be interesting to see how I adapt to it.

Now that I have Delving Deeper I'm itching to run a session. I have the first two Appendix N series mini-modules from BHP and although they are primarily for DCC it shouldn't be that hard to convert to DD.
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Fiffergrund
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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Fiffergrund »

I like the A series. There's some great stuff there.

I had a hard time remembering:

- NPC names and "who is who," along with personality details. This gets better over time, but it takes a while.

- Order of events - cause/effect relationships - if the PCs do this, then remember this completely different part of the module that says this happens because of it

- Whenever the PCs asked about the wider world, I always had to fudge it, because the setting draws from enough world-shaking lore it becomes necessary to at least know geography and some basic characteristics of the whole thing.

(Every game I run - the PCs try to send for help to Big Benevolent Brother, whoever that ruler happens to be. It never works, but they ALWAYS try).

These are not unique to the A series by any means, but it shows why I have trouble running modules or settings at all.

I find modules that aren't tied to a setting are far easier to deal with. There isn't the baggage of an entire campaign setting laying down tracks.
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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Treebore »

You never have to know it all. Plus "canon" is only what you, the CK, decide is "canon", until then its all only "bard's tales", regardless of what the company has published. As for names and locations, that is what lists are for. The same lists you make up for your own home brew. Just with published materials, you already have their names and locations made up for you, if you even want to use them as written in the first place.
Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by mgtremaine »

I hear ya, although I doubt I was ever able to run a module as is... :) When I have a module I want to run what I do is make a tear-sheet of the encounter stats and treasure. Then I run from that and mark notes and what not on it. Otherwise I tend scribble on my modules. I found the act of doing the tear sheet lets me change whatever I want with out feeling bad about.

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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Treebore »

Heck, even when I try to run a module "by the book", I often can't, as running the Slavelords series has proven to me yet again and again.
Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
Sounds obvious to me! -Gm Michael

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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by alcyone »

Fiffergrund wrote: Then, when the time comes to use it, I want to realize the setting as presented, from the author's POV. My POV isn't as important. I already know it, and I can make up my own stuff.
I think this is a cool part of the experience; the DM as a skald or bard passing the written and oral tradition forward. There is some value in being able to say I went to the same Waterdeep as you, that we experienced the same memorable battle in the Temple of Elemental Evil, or what have you. With Forgotten Realms, in particular, this can be pretty difficult, even without worrying about anything but the setting books.

I find that it's just a different game when I am doing homebrew vs. setting, my own scribbles on graph paper vs. published modules; they have different aims for me as a DM, whether the players care or not.

With the A-series so far I have overcome my paralysis with flowcharts, mind-maps, and lists of triggers between people, places and things (BOB at the INN knows about the WATERFALL, KING JOHN is STILL ALIVE in MODULE 3 kind of stuff.)
You can still let things go to hell, but then you have stuff you can cross off or write notes around.
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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by PeelSeel2 »

I understand!! I have the same issues.

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Fiffergrund
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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Fiffergrund »

Aergraith wrote:With the A-series so far I have overcome my paralysis with flowcharts, mind-maps, and lists of triggers between people, places and things (BOB at the INN knows about the WATERFALL, KING JOHN is STILL ALIVE in MODULE 3 kind of stuff.)
You can still let things go to hell, but then you have stuff you can cross off or write notes around.

This is a really good idea, made much easier now that I'm using Evernote to do most of my game thinking.

I'm still homebrewing because I have a lot to explore in my setting, but I think taking prep for published materials in a different direction might help.

I would just need to resign myself to a LOT more prep time in order to get somewhere close.

It's that whole "DM/CK should be expert in the setting" angst. ;)
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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Snoring Rock »

I struggle with this sometimes too. I am thinking of launching a campaign in Aihrde. It has been a long time coming. I have run Wilderlands campaigns for a long time. I have tried to tear my self away several times but fail. I keep getting drawn back to those really cool old school modules and the short story starts that allow me to fill in the blanks. I get stuck referring back to what is canon and must remember, that I decide what that is. I have a lot of published material. I have not used 1% of it fully. Not sure I ever will.

That is why I think I want to really do this new campaign in Aihrde. There are enough ideas in there without too much canon. But as time goes on you know that it will get filled in. I do a lot of second guessing.

I also have a ton of city supplements and my players normally gloss over any details in town. They hit the shops, resupply, endlessly ask about "Magic Items are Us" shops then go back out to the dungeon. Maybe the days of detailed hex crawls are over.

What I have found, is that my players prefer my homebrew stuff over published material. You can tell how much more richly I portray my own stuff in my head. I never stop tot read or realize I did something that wrong that will hurt the story later. I am dong a lot more of what Treebore does going forward. Take the published stuff, deconstruct it and make it mine. The DCC's look more like ideas and maps that published adventure now.

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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by dachda »

Check out Realmworks by the company who does Hero Labs. http://www.wolflair.com/realmworks It is a marvelous peice of software specifically designed for gamemasters to keep track of everything in their campaign as well as what info they've already told the players. It is still beta now, (I got in on the kickstarter) but the retail version should be out in a month or two.

I've been entering the A-series modules into it. You add an entry, say the Chancel in Botkinburg, when you save the info, it automatically links to every person or place mentioned in your Chancel entry. So all the interactions/relationships between, places, things and events are automatically created for you, by linking all your entries. It is easy to get the adventure pdf and cut and paste the info into Realmworks. Check it out.

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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by KaiserKris »

I usually make up my own worlds, but I've also used the Pathfinder Golarion setting. Partly because I don't think I've ever encountered a fictional anything that suits my personal tastes in terms of evil kingdoms than Cheliax. Somewhat decayed ancient empire beset by devils? It's perfect. I had to use it in a campaign.

But I'm sure someone who was an 'expert' in that setting would despise me because I am cavalier as hell about 'authenticity'.

Right now, though, I'm happy with them Western Lands of mine, messed up as they are. Gotta love a universe in which Satan and Thor occasionally team up to battle Cthulhu.

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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by Captain_K »

I'll go one step further I think, I always make my "dungeons" from scratch, for good or ill.
BUT to save everyone time, effort and confusion, "My world" is simple, 900 AD "real world" where the Romans did NOT over take the Greeks and Christianity is just a minor sect of Judaism if either exist at all (they would only exist if I had a cleric who just had to be Jewish or Christian.. it has not happened yet and we've been playing since 1981). So, maps all exist of all places in as much detail as you want, all your players know about the world (assuming their educational limits, but they can learn anytime if needed) and obviously no ancient religion is mutually exclusive, all exist, all are "real" AND all those rich culture's beliefs, myths, superstitions (and monsters, don't forget their monsters) are all real and ours to mine, to learn from and sometimes to teach each other.. then everything in the MM (MT) and all religions of the old D&D (oops Deities and demi-gods) are "real"... great diversity and no to little education needed. I use old world maps, place names, languages and overlay "middle earth" in all the right places... dwarves in mountains, gnomes in rolling hills, elves in great woods, etc. etc. This saves time.. yeah I know "I did not create my own world.." so call me a slacker, but there is so much richness in ours already created and its ALL free for the borrowing with minor tweaks.
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Re: I can't use published settings anymore

Post by captcorajus »

I use the 'Kingdom of Karameikos' boxed set as the basis for my campaign. Its something I'm pretty familiar with, as Its the 'Known World' from basic D&D. I love the setting, and its history, and I'm pretty faithful to the canon.

That said, I do have issues remembering things more than when I was younger. However, I have found that keeping copious notes... especially about NPCs helps a lot. I keep a blank legal pad handy for notes during the game, dated for the session. Here, I write down NPC names that I create, and keep track of events.

Before a session, in addition to the notes on dungeons or what have you, I like to have a basic outline of events... especially if its a published module. Key plot points are written down, along with major NPCs the players might encounter.

Notes, notes, and more notes... AND keeping it all organized helps a lot.

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