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A lesson in world building from Vampire: The Masquerade


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Over the years as I've experienced a number of different RPG worlds, both on the tabletop and PC/console RPGs, I've found myself drawn to the ones with more nuance and mystery, challenging the player to wrap their head around them.

 

This is the number one reason why I loved Planescape. You literally couldn't assume anything - anything could be waiting around the corner, and mysteries were abound throughout the experience. Planescape did this by having a bizzare world that was beyond any one person's mind to comprehend.

 

Along similar lines, one of the things I really love about what White Wolf did with their RPGs, namely Vampire: The Masquerade, is that they took a similar approach, but along a social dimension. If you think about it, a lot of RPGs, over the course of playing them, allow you to pretty much understand everything about their world from an omniscient perspective. Orcs are evil, elves are good, or whatever.

 

VTM did something completely different though. Rather than describing their world, particularly the various bloodlines from an omniscient perspective, they gave relative accounts of how any given bloodline thought of the others. What do the Brujah think of the Tremere? What did the Malkavians think of the Followers of Set?

 

Essentially, the world was described to you through biased, often contradictory and incomplete accounts from a variety of sources, who were themselves steeped in mystery. I feel like this kind of relative characterization, of both the world, characters, and factions, gives VTM a richness I have yet to see matched in other RPGs I've seen.

 

I would be delighted to see a similar technique be used for Project Eternity.

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You know, Dragon Age Origin tried a bit of that in the beginning witht the different origin, didn't really carry through too much though.

 

While we are on Vampire the Masquerade, I thought I would mention again, I am mostly impressed on how VTM handle food. Feeding is an integral part of the game where as food in other games are boring chores.

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From some of the interviews with Josh Sawyer, it sounds like Obsidian is taking this approach, at least in some areas. He's talked about how the exact nature of the gods, souls, and reincarnation are not really understood. People know that these things are real, but they do not entirely understand how they work.

 

*EDIT*

 

But, yeah, I agree having the player's knowledge of the game world being as incomplete as that of its inhabitants (and its inhabitants should have an incomplete understanding) is usually more interesting than giving the players the insider scoop on how everything works.

Edited by eimatshya
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I don't think you have to worry about absolutism. luckily.

Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
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Pet threads, everyone has them. I love imagining Gods, Monsters, Factions and Weapons.

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Over the years as I've experienced a number of different RPG worlds, both on the tabletop and PC/console RPGs, I've found myself drawn to the ones with more nuance and mystery, challenging the player to wrap their head around them.

 

This is the number one reason why I loved Planescape. You literally couldn't assume anything - anything could be waiting around the corner, and mysteries were abound throughout the experience. Planescape did this by having a bizzare world that was beyond any one person's mind to comprehend.

 

Along similar lines, one of the things I really love about what White Wolf did with their RPGs, namely Vampire: The Masquerade, is that they took a similar approach, but along a social dimension. If you think about it, a lot of RPGs, over the course of playing them, allow you to pretty much understand everything about their world from an omniscient perspective. Orcs are evil, elves are good, or whatever.

 

VTM did something completely different though. Rather than describing their world, particularly the various bloodlines from an omniscient perspective, they gave relative accounts of how any given bloodline thought of the others. What do the Brujah think of the Tremere? What did the Malkavians think of the Followers of Set?

 

Essentially, the world was described to you through biased, often contradictory and incomplete accounts from a variety of sources, who were themselves steeped in mystery. I feel like this kind of relative characterization, of both the world, characters, and factions, gives VTM a richness I have yet to see matched in other RPGs I've seen.

 

I would be delighted to see a similar technique be used for Project Eternity.

 

Needless to say, I agree.

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Another way in which you can add richness to the world is by hinting at things or referencing them without explaining. This allows you to use your imagination and creates the illusion of a much bigger world that you only know a small part of.

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Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
---
Pet threads, everyone has them. I love imagining Gods, Monsters, Factions and Weapons.

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to this day i'm not really sure wether i like that aproach in white wolfs sourcebooks or not

"not knowing anything, nothing is sure", is good for the story in most cases, since there are always things to discover

but then, i really like my facts facts facts :D

Edited by lolaldanee
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I agree, mystery is one of the main things that can hook me in. Having different perspectives, rather than concrete info is just more interesting, on top of feeling more realistic. Not to mention that it can pull double duty of developing the characters and the world at the same time. It establishes information about the world and what the characters in the world think of it.

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