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    Default World-Building Turn-Offs

    What factors/elements/tropes/techniques/etc. irk you when reading others' world-building projects? What do you find clichéd? What about a setting can instantly set your teeth on edge?

    Not intended as a "how not-to" evil mirror version of this thread, since there's no single right way to do things, and you certainly shouldn't feel constrained by others' negative opinions. Rather, I'm just curious about people's personal gripes and preferences.
    Last edited by Inglenook; 2012-09-13 at 10:40 AM.

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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    Calling something a homebrew world, then taking the standard pantheon from the main book.
    This tells me that the gods are not important in anyway and that they don't play a role in the campaign.

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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    1) "Clap your hands if you believe" and "a Wizard did it" - the whole concept of believing something making said something true is a mire of ridiculousness and too few people think deeply enough of the repercussions and logical end-result such phenonemon would have. In general, attributing loads of setting points to poorly defined common reason eats away my suspension of disbelief and logicality of a setting.

    2) "Every myth is true" - where every tale of monsters, gods and treasure corresponds to real monsters, gods and treasuse. D&D is perhaps the worst offender. (Evidence: Monster Manuals.) Just because some supernatural elements are true, doesn't need to mean that all tales told of supernatural elements need to be true.

    3) "Fantasy kitchen sink" - related to the above, when every nook and corner is filled to brim with bizarre creatures from every conceivable mythology. It's more than a bit redundant to have goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, trolls, oni etc. as separate species when you could have one "petty evil race living in the dark" that could explain all of these peoples.

    4) Peoples as species - There are some fringe cases where it makes sense for all members of a single species to also be of one culture. Beyond that, there is no reason to have "woodloving hippies" be elves or "hard-working mountainfolk" be dwarves, if you can as easily have both peoples be different varieties of humans. On the flipside, each species should have multiple differing cultures.

    5) Non-humans as humans with fancy hats - an immortal lich is going to have vastly different mental and physical needs than a human, and this should show. As noted above, if you can do something with humans, you don't need non-humans - so if you're going to inroduce non-humans, make them feel non-human.

    6) "God needs prayer badly" - recently I've started to feel that the idea of gods being dependant of worship has become somewhat overused in fantasy settings. More than that, most don't think too deeply of how this actually works, which causes it to run head first into many of the same logic problems as point 1).

    To summarize my feelings on this, it's okay with me if a god eats its worshippers or gets some other tangible benefit from them. Once it's something ill-defined and abstract that grants them their powers, it raises the question of how can they be powerful enough to be called "gods" in the first place.

    7) No place for the natural - many fantasy setting put plain too much emphasis on the supernatural elements of their setting. But you don't need to invoke supernatural elements to convey and create a fantastic feel - just take a look at all the crazy stuff real world has.

    8) "Writers have no sense of scale" - this is a bad problem with fantasy, with histories spanning millenia with nothing changing when you could easily condense the important events into decades - but it is even worse among Sci-Fi settings, where whole planets are treated like villages in a fantasy setting. In fact, I could say fantasy and sci-fi have opposite troubles - in fantasy, creators cram too much stuff in too small an area. In sci-fi, creators put in too little, when conceivably every planet, even the boring uninhabited ones, could have enough stuff to explore for a campaign or two.
    Last edited by Frozen_Feet; 2012-09-14 at 10:23 AM.

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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    For me:

    1. Pantheons lifted straight from D&D, like the_david said. If you're going to have gods be such a critical part of what shapes your setting, why not spend a little extra time and make them original?

    2. On a related note: all races and cultures worshiping the same pantheon. Hopefully not treading too hard on the forum rules here, but even Abrahamic religions, which ostensibly have the same god, are quite at odds with one another and have hundreds of denominations. Fantasy folk all worshiping the same gods in the same way puts a large strain on my suspension of disbelief.

    3. ^ Although it does make sense if gods are concrete, confirmable entities. But I don't care for this because it saps all the mystery out of the world. If you know with 100% certainty that gods are watching and evaluating you, and will cast you into the Abyss for eternity if you do bad things, no one except the extremely mentally ill would do anything worse than petty theft.

    4. People worshiping evil gods for the sake of evil. Real people might worship an evil god for power or desperation, but no one does it "for the evulz". I sort of feel like this is related to the inherent silliness of the alignment system (see #10). It smacks of laziness and results in over-the-top, Card-Carrying Villains.

    5. Not really a gripe, per se, but I just realized how rare monotheistic religions are in homebrew.

    6. Resurrection magic. It cheapens death and 99% of the time confirms the existence of the afterlife (see #3).

    7. Races being more or less the same as the ones from D&D, which are themselves watered-down versions of Tolkien's races. Don't get me wrong, I love Tolkien, but it seems like 50% of all fantasy settings are "knock-off Gucci purse" versions of Middle Earth. Conversely, I love it when races get returned to their original roots (fairies being inhuman sociopaths, hobgoblins being Dobby, orcs not existing because Tolkien made them up, etc.).

    8. All members of a single race having the same culture. Looking at real-life humans, the idea of this is pretty crazy. Races should ideally have several different religions, lifestyles, beliefs, worldviews, etc. etc.

    9. Always Chaotic Evil races and species. A) It's not at all realistic, B) It's pretty xenophobic, and a little too similar to the real-world nastiness spewed by hate groups and such.

    10. The alignment system in general. It makes sense if you have concrete religion like in #3, and I suppose I can see its merit as a roleplaying device, if it helps you in that regard. But other than that it's completely arbitrary and I wish more people phased it out of their settings.

    11. The four classical elements (earth, wind, fire, water) being fundamental building blocks of reality. I used to love this sort of thing, but then I realized that it makes absolutely no sense on any level. It's cool when it's a cultural belief, but when you actually apply it to the physics of the world it makes my head hurt.

    12. I always get sort of dismayed when I see a world-building project begin with a long and detailed cosmology, mostly because I want to get straight to the meat and potatoes of what makes the actual world rather than the hierarchy of gods and such. It doesn't help that a lot of these intros are pretty purple and try to imitate the tone of ancient scrolls (phrases like "Elhanna's tears fell to the firmament" and "replete with all the glory of creation", etc.). And a large amount of the time they seem to boil down to "gods are nice, but then one corrupt god causes some cataclysm and is imprisoned but will probably be freed later as the focus for a campaign lol". Oh, and set cosmology invokes gripes #2 and 3.

    I have a lot of feelings.

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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    A class for every role. Especially when the classes are essentially just "me too" classes, or could be turned into a few feats.

    Information overload. Sum up your setting in a few lines - I don't want to wade through pages of text about the history or some complex war to find out how things are at the start of play, nor do I want to read all about the nations and empires and guilds of places that are not going to immediately influence the game.
    That information needs to be there, sure, but keep it back, or spoilered, or something.
    And especially, don't tell us secrets that our characters wouldn't know right up front - put those in GM-only sections!

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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    Gods who build the universe like a huge cosmic machine that has some kind of control room or main reactor that everyone wants to control.

    Living creatures designed on the drawing board and then set in the world in a finished state, ready to go.

    A huge dark lord who is the enemy of all living things and wants to destroy everything, just because.

    Races that are defined by out of character sources to be objectively superior because the designer says they are superior and just better in everything than the other races.

    Waaay to many zeros for dates in the worlds past.

    Short alchoholic scottish vikings.

    Names need to be written as they are spoken. If it's pronounced Shira, don't spell it 'Xhee'rough.

    Being a paralel world to the real world.

    Being a fantasy world that used to be a science-fiction world thousands of years in the past and nobody remembers it.

    And that world actually being Earth in the distant future.

    And I also hate everything Frozen Feet said.
    Last edited by Yora; 2012-09-14 at 03:08 PM.
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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    1. Population centres with no way for them to support themselves with things like food, clothing, water or anything that the DM says are there. Cities either should have a good deal of farming, farming equivilants or a method of importing food.

    2. 200 person assasin guilds in cities with only 5000 residents. On a similar note of living with massive danger a high CR monster that disrupt trade, cause entire villages to go exinct etc should either be rare, part of the story, or have some way for the NPC's who live there to deal with it. Otherwise why would lvl 1 villagers be still living there?

    3. Knowing more about the gods, their histories, etc than how the setting works.

    4. Rules scattered with the description/fluff

    5. It bears repeating. Races as mono-cultures or even worse mono nations. And this includes sub-races as mono-national races. I can give a little leeway on this, but those better be well explained.

    6. A "low magic", "impeaded magic" or any such setting where magic has no cost or limit, even if it is entirly non mechanical. If it makes more sense for me to play a guy who studied how to cast wizard spell because it is rare then so would NPC young men. If all your parties in a low magic setting have one or more of your casters who are rae then there is a problem. Mechanical limits are good to me but even a social cost or your soul get absorbed by evil monsters fiats are fine AS LONG AS THEY ARE REAL.

    7. Racial dislikes, xenophobia, etc that effects everyone but the PC's. I don't mean within the group but if the Chebian nation is totally xenophobic and the party has no Chebians then why is everyong start with a Friendly or indifferent attitude?

    8. Pirates, Raiders, etc especially whole cultures of them with little or nothing to raid. Heck if some if not most of trade doesn't get through then people will stop trading allong that route.

    9. Culture or Races of (insert profession here). It just doesn't make much sense most of the time. As a caste within a larger society I don't care but otherwise I come back to the "How do they eat" type questions. But in this case its who raises the kids, who clothes people, where to they get the food, where to they get clothes, tools, etc and the raw materials for those things plus what they need for their (national profession). I understand a nation or culture in which a single proffession is the core of a society, economy etc. But I find that in many if not most times i see this it is taken to a degree that makes no sense.

    10. Anything where I look at it without the PC's and the world would fall apart or massivly change. The story should need the PC's but the setting shouldn't.

    11. As related to above A setting that is really a host to a single campign arc that pretends to be anything else. Sure the Arclord/Nimbral war can be run in a number of ways but if that is totally dominating setting plot then just admit it an build for it. It needs something differrent and a lot more work to make that base plot interesting enough to found the setting on. Pretending it is a gerneral setting is often just an excuse for not investing in that main plot you plan on running anyway.

    12. Obvious alignment. If the abyss, hell etc are real and the place where people go when they die, and people through magic or what not KNOW this then why would anyone risk it? It directly follows that evil for evil makes even less sense in a world where this is true. Evil has to attract it followers who presumably make most of their choices at least somewhat rationally. I mean people don't wake up and choose to BE EVIL anywhere but in comics and BADLY written RPG's as far as I can see.

    13. Techological "pause". We have gotten from first planting seeds to today in what 12,ooo years. In many RPG's the most advanced techology is still the same longsword, early telescope, or at most clocktower they were using some 10,000 years ago. I might give you that the sword was the hardest thing to make that regularly was for even 1000 years, so I'll give 2000 max. Give me a reason that people can not learn and develop technology as fast in your RPG than they could in real life even though things like magic would AID technological development.

    14. Ruins that are easily found, looted, and explored but have not been for the last several hundred years (or even decades). Why has nobdy been looting this place until our PC's come along?

    15. Magical solutions that avalible but not used. Control weather inst that high level a spell to cast. You agriculture priest can cast Augry? please tell me why there isn't a damn near perfect two week forecast posted on the front of the temple. Can cast wall of ice? A cold drink business in the making! Why have none of the mages in the mage guild thought of this and are instead waiting for people to pay them just as much reading books all day? And the big kicker magic beyond the grave. Speak with dead? makes a murder mystery rather boring. and assasinating a king (or anyone who has much chance of affording/ being in with the church enough) is almost impossible due to resurrection and the related spells. Cuts down the kind of stuff the members of court can expect to get away with agaisnt each other.

    16. Non being consistant about if the divine is a mystery. It's a mystery? fine the gods are real and tangible? fine but that is going to have consequences. Procedural details of the church will escalated to the god for judgement. blue hat or teal? The use of a comune during a quiet week by the cardinal. And the more omnipresent the god is then the less fredom of action the divine casters of a setting have. This is fine but it also has consequences. Orision castings to prove a prienst is still in good graces with the god for example. And whatever issues this causes are regular priest it should also cause to the PC's.

    A. A disagreement with Yora's dark lord who is an enemy of all living things etc. You can have them but they are to be handled with great care. They can't the target of a setting/story that I described in in number 11. Really they should be more of a force of nature type. Thus Gods fit here better than mortals.
    Last edited by sktarq; 2012-09-14 at 05:27 PM.

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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    You can have them. I just really, really hate such settings.
    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    10. Anything where I look at it without the PC's and the world would fall apart or massivly change. The story should need the PC's but the setting shouldn't.
    How so? You mean settings entirely centered on a few Chosen Ones?

    Chosen Ones are probably the one character type I hate the most. I hate them even more passionately that comic relief characters.
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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    You can have them. I just really, really hate such settings.

    How so? You mean settings entirely centered on a few Chosen Ones?

    Chosen Ones are probably the one character type I hate the most. I hate them even more passionately that comic relief characters.
    No he means that Middle Earth works without Frodo Baggins as a setting, Lord of the Rings as story does not. So you build the stories you tell with the players in mind, but the setting should not require players to make sense.
    Last edited by Beleriphon; 2012-09-14 at 04:40 PM.
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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    for me I dont mind always caotic evil races if its done well.

    For example a solitary noncoperative race would likely develop very little empathy it would take what it wants when it wants unless something is powerful enough to stop it.

    an always aligned creature should be truely alien in it's mindset or possibly not even capable of free will as we know it bound by instinct or magical laws.

    whats lousy is if the always caotic evil race are just humans born with green skin and a bad guy hat

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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    You mean the setting should make sense even without the players?

    Which would be that the PCs are not vital to the existance of the world. Which is what a chosen one is about, isn't it?
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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    I think part of it is also that if there is some massive evil force of destruction, something has to have kept it at bay so far. Don't put in things just for the PCs to fight.

    I dislike settings that are too defined. Leave a few white spots on the map and don't write down every street in your main city.

    Also, I like my settings as fantastical as possible. I can see the Earth outside my window. Give me something different.
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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    You mean the setting should make sense even without the players?

    Which would be that the PCs are not vital to the existance of the world. Which is what a chosen one is about, isn't it?
    Yes, it is but that is also an extreame example. I mean that if you look at your setting and without the players One race that formerly hadn't been a treat would take over the world. The stroy of the world should contue thematically smoothly. Starvation shouldn't break out across two contents because the orc horde needs to be contained and the surface nations never learned to organize a standing army. I mean you could but that should be an "event" something for the players to see coming not an unintended consequence of the players no longer cutting into the orc birth/death ratio. A rough test is this. Rewind the setting clock ten, one hundred, one thousand years. Give the powers of the time resonable brain power-how likely is it that the current setting would occur. Some luck is fine, even good (nothing ever works perfectly logically) but really the expansionist hyper militaristic nation never got around to attacking the soft, peaceful, shire inspired group right next to them who also never got afraid and became more defensive or militant? Give me a reason for that. It's possible but why....no good reason? better tweek the setting then.
    Does that explain?

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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    I think. Sounds like Enders Game. Settings that would not be sustainable without the players using their genre knowledge to mention the obvious solutions that nobdy had ever been thinking of.
    I would probably have approached it from the other side as settings that are only in their current condition to make the players look incredibly smart and important, but lack any good explaination why the worlds inhabitants created the situation in the first place.

    But does that really happen? Except for Enders Game?
    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Also, I like my settings as fantastical as possible. I can see the Earth outside my window. Give me something different.
    There I personally disagree. What really makes me invested in settings is to understand how the individual parts are connected and how each one affects all the others. And that can be best accomplished if most things remain as we're used to them and there's just a few really new elements introduced to the whole thing. And then discovering how those cause everything else to change makes the settings exiting.
    When everything is new there is nothing to compare with and its more a giant crazy menagery. Not my type entertainment.

    Oh yes, and Dark Carnivals. A absolutels loath evil circuses! I hate those so very, very much! You can almost bend everything somehow to be more middle ages than modern age. Except those 19th century circuses, they just destroy and pretense of self contained fantasy worlds for me. If you have evil clowns, then it instantly becomes Alice in Wonderland to me. Not that Alice in Wonderland is bad, but it just can't exist in a world of dwarves and orcs. It's just impossible!
    When I see a jesters cap, that sourcebook is done for me. Oh how much I hate those!
    Last edited by Yora; 2012-09-14 at 05:31 PM.
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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    But does that really happen? Except for Enders Game?
    Yes. Sadly very common when you stop thinking about being a character and ask "why did the NPC make these choices?".
    To give an example of the nWoD a vampire cannot join a bloodline they were embraced into until they are blood potency 2 and spend a willpower dot. That is a major investment which if you look up the spending of will power dots says are almost but not quite impossible to do without choosing to do so. Now many of these bloodline are flat out not worth joining. The weakness you gain (like being blind, enormously fat, only drinking poisoned blood, no legs) far outwhelm the boons. . . so why would any young vampire expend so much of themselves? Especially since the lit. is full of vampire who hate their new weaknesses. Either make each one come to terms with it and choose to gain the weakness, get a major way to apply pressure to the younglings to do so and still expect your lost (either rphaned or runaways) younglings to not be making that sacrifice or change the rule.
    And this kind of thing is all over in homebrew which is what the OP posted about.


    EDIT: And as may be noted from the readers of my above posts, Lots of the things I dislike, I dislike not period but find they need lots more support, reasoning, and explination than is commonly found. Personally I love finding lots of the problems mentioned in this thread when world building. They drive interesting fixes an often those fixes drip plot hooks disproporionatly well. EX. That large militaristic nation not invading the "shire" based one next door for the last several generations. Is there a prophetic tomb in the heart of the militant nation's church that says if the "shire" rises in anger (even if not aimed at them) their great crusade will fail? Does that lead the militant nation to subtly protect and appease the "Shire"? Does the "shire" pay off the militant nation with a special service of trusted outsiders for say household servants that can be trusted to act neutrally in the militant nations game of bloody politics? is the militant nation guided by the ghosts of the original founding war party who have a soft spot for their homeland and are willing to drive the people of the militant land far harder than they would drive their own? Or something totally different. I guess that's one of the things that gets to me most of these problems is that as much as anything they seem to be such wasted potential for making the world more interesting and giving it "spark" and pulling away from the generic.
    Last edited by sktarq; 2012-09-14 at 06:07 PM.

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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    That's actually a wonderful mindset, sktarq—all that problems and inconsistencies need to be fixed is a creative solution!
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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    1. Thinly-veiled real-world cultures transplanted whole to a fantasy setting.

    2. Bundled together lame ethnocentric tropes presenting them as thinly-veiled real-world cultures, transplanted whole to a fantasy setting.

    3. Anthropocentrism fail. aka You've got a dozen different species and they all think human women are hot and elven food is perfect.

    4. One species, one culture. My general grudge with fantasy settings is that culture is completely overlooked.

    5. When magic is, by fiat, never used as technology. While there are settings that constrain magic usage such that it can't really be a part of society because of scarcity or expense, there's also settings (like D&D) where it's basically insane that magic isn't considered a resource or infrastructure asset to be developed. It's hard to do a spit-take when cantrips and first-level spells completely negate the health and environmental conditions that shaped the world for most of its history.

    That plus a lot of stuff already mentioned.

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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    Of, few more things:

    9) When there are more planes that I have fingers - this is related to the lack of sense of scale. (Pocket dimensions are excused, because they are, by definition, small.) Because often it raises questions like "why can't these be different places in the same world?" Extra minus points if the setting has realistic cosmology (ie. planets), but adds loads of planes on top of that. Congratulations, you just ignored loads of poorly-explored vastness to add more of it! Extra extra minus points if said planes are infinite, or at least as large as the universe. Gee, this tiny dot of land you detailed feels really important amidst these incredibly huge weird places.

    10) Using magic to repeat real technologic stunts - no, a magnetic train is not more interesting me when it runs on Lightning Elementals rather than electronics. Likewise, rather than say those ancient-but-impressive ruins were "build by MAGIC", why not say they were "build using archetechtural and metallurgical understanding that died with the culture". I find it tasteless to invoke poorly-defined supernatural elements merely to introduce "modern" or "futuristic" elements to a fantasy setting. It feels lazy - do your research and use science for your science fiction elements.

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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    Some responses to things that I feel shouldn't really be turn-offs if better understood, or that are usually done badly but can be done well, spoilered for my usual excessive verbosity:

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet
    6) "God needs prayer badly" - recently I've started to feel that the idea of gods being dependant of worship has become somewhat overused in fantasy settings. More than that, most don't think too deeply of how this actually works, which causes it to run head first into many of the same logic problems as point 1).

    To summarize my feelings on this, it's okay with me if a god eats its worshippers or gets some other tangible benefit from them. Once it's something ill-defined and abstract that grants them their powers, it raises the question of how can they be powerful enough to be called "gods" in the first place.
    I agree that this is overused, though it's the least of several evils; you really should come up with some reason gods grant people power, and since making it a symbiotic relationship is the easiest way to do it and gods being powered by worship is allows gods to remain mostly offscreen as opposed to e.g. them eating worshipers, "gods need prayer badly" can be preferable to the alternatives.

    I have seen a take on it that I like, however: Gods' power depends on the prevalence and prominence of things in their portfolio. The more fire there is in the world and the more the metaphysical concept of fire is invested with significance, for instance, the more powerful a god of fire is. Gods only care about and oversee their worshipers and churches to the extent that they spread their portfolios and thus maintain and increase their patrons' power; Olidammara doesn't care about Joe the Adventuring Rogue because Joe makes sure to say his prayers every night, he cares about Joe because every time Joe steals something the prevalence of thievery increases Olidammara's power by a minuscule amount, and if Joe steals enough stuff for his community to see thievery as a major problem the increased prominence of thievery in the public consciousness increases Olidammara's power as well. It's almost animism/shamanism writ large.

    This helps explain some common setting features. Gods of adventuring-relevant things like war, magic, and nature are more prevalent than gods of non-relevant things like fertility, trade, and craftsmanship because (A) the servants of war, magic, and nature are more powerful and thus better able to advance their portfolios, (B) a broader portfolio (e.g. nature > the harvest) means more power for the god, and (C) tons of creatures are part of nature and fight things with magic, but a much smaller subset of creatures (intelligent, civilized humanoids) really care about having kids, haggling in the marketplace, or making tools. Racial deities exist and only accept clerics of their race because granting power to members of that race gives the best expenditure of power-to-advancement of portfolio ratio, and empowering a creature within their portfolio is better than empowering one not within it. And so on and so forth.

    But yeah, if I never see another "Praying really really hard makes your god more powerful" setting it'll be too soon,.

    Quote Originally Posted by historiasdeosos
    3. ^ Although it does make sense if gods are concrete, confirmable entities. But I don't care for this because it saps all the mystery out of the world. If you know with 100% certainty that gods are watching and evaluating you, and will cast you into the Abyss for eternity if you do bad things, no one except the extremely mentally ill would do anything worse than petty theft.

    4. People worshiping evil gods for the sake of evil. Real people might worship an evil god for power or desperation, but no one does it "for the evulz". I sort of feel like this is related to the inherent silliness of the alignment system (see #10). It smacks of laziness and results in over-the-top, Card-Carrying Villains.
    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq
    12. Obvious alignment. If the abyss, hell etc are real and the place where people go when they die, and people through magic or what not KNOW this then why would anyone risk it? It directly follows that evil for evil makes even less sense in a world where this is true. Evil has to attract it followers who presumably make most of their choices at least somewhat rationally. I mean people don't wake up and choose to BE EVIL anywhere but in comics and BADLY written RPG's as far as I can see.
    I see this complaint a lot, and I think it's a side effect of living in a culture that sees things from a monotheistic perspective. People being "cast into the Abyss for doing bad things" doesn't happen in D&D, at least not with that value judgment attached, and people don't do things "for the evulz" any more than they do them for the good...ulz.

    If you're good, do lots of good things in life, and follow the teachings of a good god, you're sent to a Good afterlife as a reward. If you're evil, do lots of evil things in life, and follow the teachings of an evil god, you're sent to an Evil afterlife as a reward. That's the key thing to remember: evil people are judged by their evil patrons, not good gods. People who love slaughtering innocents and inferiors all day find the Abyss as rewarding as someone who loves working with math and logic all day finds Mechanus rewarding. If you're lawful good and follow a lawful good god and don't act lawful good enough, you're not sent to the Abyss, that's where chaotic evil people go. You still go to Celestia, it's just that people who try being lawful good and suck at it become lantern archons or merge with the plane itself instead of becoming a more powerful outsider or serve their god more or less as-is.

    The demons and devils aren't lying when they tell you that sacrificing things to them is the easy path to Phenomenal Cosmic power, they just neglect to mention that if you want to start out in the Abyss as the torturer rather than the torture-ee when you die, you need to be really really evil, or you get to be a lemure or mane because you suck at being evil. Petty theft and manslaughter are worse crimes for an evil person to commit than grand theft airship and first degree murder, because it shows a lack of commitment to their ideals. And the fact that people can just phone up the Powers with commune and contact other plane and have them explain that, yep, evil gods reward evil behavior only provides more justification for evil people to be evil, not justification for them to repent.

    So you shouldn't be trying to convert to a good religion no matter what, you should find the religion that matches your goals and outlook best and follow it as best you can, since that's the simplest path to the afterlife that's best for you. In fact, the worst thing that can happen to a villain is for him to be redeemed! If a demon-worshiper converts from CE to LG right before dying in a heroic sacrifice, the CE gods probably won't want him because he let them down, the LG gods probably don't want him because no one likes a traitor, and the N gods probably don't want him because doing very very evil acts and very very good acts in the hopes that they'll balance out is a Stupid Neutral way of seeing the world.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora
    Waaay to many zeros for dates in the worlds past.
    This is misused a lot in most 'brews, granted, but long histories aren't innately a bad thing. Earth is over 4 billion years old, after all, and the universe over 14 billion years old. Human history is comparatively short because we had to work our way up from amino acids in conditions lethal to humans all the way to our present state, and technological development has only skyrocketed fairly recently in geological terms because for the longest time our first priority has been survival and living long enough to do all that R&D.

    Even if you assume a world like Earth and creatures like those in real life instead of the gods magicking everything into existence, when you have creatures like demons, dragons, elementals, and so forth who can survive early-Earth conditions easily, it makes plenty of sense for there to be an Age of Demons/Age of Myths/etc. like settings often do before humanoids come along. Ancient empires of more advanced races make a lot more sense when you consider that even elves with lots of predators, poor nutrition, and other early-human handicaps live much longer than modern humans do, giving them a chance to develop magically, societally, and otherwise much faster than humans once they develop sapience.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq
    13. Techological "pause". We have gotten from first planting seeds to today in what 12,ooo years. In many RPG's the most advanced techology is still the same longsword, early telescope, or at most clocktower they were using some 10,000 years ago. I might give you that the sword was the hardest thing to make that regularly was for even 1000 years, so I'll give 2000 max. Give me a reason that people can not learn and develop technology as fast in your RPG than they could in real life even though things like magic would AID technological development.
    You're assuming that there's just one path of technological development, that "developing technology" means progressing exactly as Western Europe did in reality, but that isn't the case. Certain technologies might be developed much earlier than expected (e.g. the Romans had steam power but didn't bother to do anything with it), later than expected (e.g. there are still people today using stone tools in the rainforest), differently than expected (e.g. you can make cars with many different fuel sources), and more. So magic aiding technological development doesn't mean it gets you to guns and computers much faster than normal, necessarily, nor does it mean you get magical guns and magical computers.

    You're also missing that D&D magic items basically are technology. Vancian magic is basically a field of science and/or engineering: it's quantifiable, repeatable, predictable, testable, reliable, logical, and able to be learned and used without any form of innate talent. Its magic items are classified and stratified, widely recognized and standardized, and sold on the open market (by private individuals if not the stereotypical Magi-Mart). They have no reason to develop what we'd think of as technology, even enhanced by magic; you might as well expect the modern world to give up transistor-based computers and digital storage to start over with vacuum tube computers and magnetic tape, or even more drastically go back to using bronze and iron swords instead of modern weaponry but use modern processes and engineering to produce them.

    Quote Originally Posted by historiasdeosos
    11. The four classical elements (earth, wind, fire, water) being fundamental building blocks of reality. I used to love this sort of thing, but then I realized that it makes absolutely no sense on any level. It's cool when it's a cultural belief, but when you actually apply it to the physics of the world it makes my head hurt.
    As with some other tropes, this can be done well as long as it's not left at "Stuff is made of elements, because." See here for a pretty cool and unique spin on the elements (and para- and quasi-elements) being actual (al)chemical elements.


    And now, on topic, some of my turn-offs:

    1) Our X Is Different (where X is a race, a monster, or whatever else) but the difference doesn't actually change anything. Your dwarves being living creatures of stone is wonderful, and while not unique is at least a better explanation than just being another humanoid race, but if they're still short alcoholic Scottish Vikings after the change you've just added more setting details with no impact whatsoever.

    2a) Everything assumes "medieval Western Europe plus magic" as a baseline, or one of the holy trinity of exotic-but-familiar mythologies/settings (Egyptian, Chinese, or Norse). Where are the African settings, the Byzantine/Ottoman settings, the Indian settings? Why aren't there more settings like Maztica and Al Qadim, or more original settings that aren't heavily based on one real-world culture?

    2b) Everything assumes "medieval Western Europe plus magic" as a baseline, without actually taking into account what magic can do. This is similar to sktarq's #15, but more so: not just why individual casters don't do interesting and logical things with their magic, but why the world looks the way it does at all given the existence of magic. Something like the Tippyverse is one way to do it, where you start with a vaguely-medieval-European framework (there are normal cities, normal traders, normal currency, etc.), add spellcasters, and extrapolate, but there are lots of directions you can take this.

    3) Grimdark settings. They have their place if done well--Midnight wasn't too bad, for example--but if done badly (usually as a reaction to more black-and-white settings) the pendulum just swings past "shades of gray" and goes too far the other way.

    4) Addition or inclusion of setting-specific mechanics just to have something new and different. I'm not talking about settings where it makes sense and works with the setting (Dark Sun's defiling/preserving, psionic mindscapes, and elemental priests/templars; Eberron's action points, dragonmarks, and artificers/magewrights), but rather those where things seem to be added "just because" (such as FR's silver fire, spellfire, gem magic, and bazillion other minor magic systems).

    5) Settings with nothing to do. The opposite of the "this setting is meant to run one plot" problem, these settings don't have anything to really hook you to run adventures in them. Spelljammer was an awesome setting thematically, and it was nice to have a "D&D! In! Space!" setting, but without an overarching theme (like "ongoing major war" in Warhammer 40K or Dragonlance or "explore everywhere" in Star Trek or Eberron) or a bunch of smaller hooks to let you run one-shots there or just wander around and interact with the world (like "escape the Mists" in Ravenloft or "explore the Outer Rim" in Star Wars) it kind of fell flat.
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    The "planets treated as a single city / village" one is my biggest turn off, and way, way too common in sci-fi.

    It seems like authors completely forget how diverse, history-rich and interesting Earth itself is, and for some reason assume that every other planet will just be pretty much the equivalent of a single small nation at best.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    10) Using magic to repeat real technologic stunts - no, a magnetic train is not more interesting me when it runs on Lightning Elementals rather than electronics. Likewise, rather than say those ancient-but-impressive ruins were "build by MAGIC", why not say they were "build using archetechtural and metallurgical understanding that died with the culture". I find it tasteless to invoke poorly-defined supernatural elements merely to introduce "modern" or "futuristic" elements to a fantasy setting. It feels lazy - do your research and use science for your science fiction elements.
    I disagree on this one. It's all about aesthetics, not laziness. Using "Magic!" to justify something instead of science means you can get away with describing impossible things like floating cities or places bigger on the inside.

    IMO, it's not much different from using "Dimensional flux capacitors" or whatever to explain something impossible in a soft-scifi setting. Whichever of the two you prefer is subjective, but personally I prefer magic to technobabble.

    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'Dice Lost View Post
    If you're good, do lots of good things in life, and follow the teachings of a good god, you're sent to a Good afterlife as a reward. If you're evil, do lots of evil things in life, and follow the teachings of an evil god, you're sent to an Evil afterlife as a reward.
    But this is never how it's described. Well, by WotC anyway. The lower planes are portrayed as a horrible punishment (that cause most to regret and repent upon finally arriving there after death, i.e. they only behaved that way because they didn't believe the lower planes were real) and anyone who thinks otherwise is a deluded idiot. And I'd have to agree, yes, that's horrible and makes no sense. My preferred solution is to make the afterlife a horrible punishment that's good for *nobody* (that way people have, you know, a non-contrived reason to want to stay alive), or have no afterlife at all.

    3) Grimdark settings. They have their place if done well--Midnight wasn't too bad, for example--but if done badly (usually as a reaction to more black-and-white settings) the pendulum just swings past "shades of gray" and goes too far the other way.
    Aside from Midnight, what settings do you think did grimdark well?

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    Why aren't there more settings like Maztica and Al Qadim, or more original settings that aren't heavily based on one real-world culture?
    The problem with the concept of "fantasy country X" is that if the author and/or the readers are largely ignorant of the place being spoofed, then you have to resort back to big, meaty stereotypes to telegraph what's what.

    Maztica is a good example of shallow copying. It's a minimal gloss of the era of the Reconquista, and the authors really don't have a feel for the Mexican Basin beyond human sacrifice, obsidian, and feathers. No Popul Vuh. No visual cues from the Mayan or Aztec codices. No credence to the region's distinct understanding of life and death, of nature or the spirit. There's not even an attempt to make the setting "fantastic" with magic or the supernatural, really...a few critters, "feather magic" (no, really). It's flat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Craft (Cheese) View Post
    But this is never how it's described. Well, by WotC anyway. The lower planes are portrayed as a horrible punishment (that cause most to regret and repent upon finally arriving there after death, i.e. they only behaved that way because they didn't believe the lower planes were real) and anyone who thinks otherwise is a deluded idiot. And I'd have to agree, yes, that's horrible and makes no sense. My preferred solution is to make the afterlife a horrible punishment that's good for *nobody* (that way people have, you know, a non-contrived reason to want to stay alive), or have no afterlife at all.
    2e Planescape's portrayal of the planes was much more egalitarian and much less preachy and Judeo-Christian, and it pretty much worked the way I described. TSR gave us archons and demons fighting with philosophy instead of swords, a cosmos shaped by beliefs and numerology, and an exploration of how outsiders think; WotC gave us the Book of Exalted "Biological Warfare Isn't Evil If We Only Do It To Evil Creatures" Deeds and the Book of Vile "Weird Sex Is Icky And Therefore Evil" Darkness. You'll pardon me if I entirely discard WotC's interpretation of the Great Wheel.

    Aside from Midnight, what settings do you think did grimdark well?
    The only other published settings I can think of that do grimdark well are 40K and Call of Cthulhu. The three of them do grimdark in a similar way: they have threats that are inevitable but not immediate (Izrador, Chaos, the Old Ones), and it's possible to make a difference in the world, if only temporary. Most settings that attempt to be grimdark, that I've seen at least, either try to achieve that by being low-power low-magic worlds that leave the players powerless--not in the low-level D&D character "play smart and cautiously or perish" sort of way, but in the "we're barely as competent as real-life humans against supernatural horrors" way--or by having the Grimdark Powers That Be be so powerful and effective that any PC actions against the grimdarkness are pointless.

    WHFRP played to the most grimdark extent is an example of the former: all of the "you suck and are going to die" of being a handful of Imperial Guardsmen in 40K but without the technology or power to do anything about it. Ravenloft, when played more as a kill-Strahd-yet-again module backdrop more than the full horror setting, is an example of the latter: you can escape (or at least try to), you can kill a Dread Lord and fix up its Domain (or at least try to), but the Dark Powers will keep drawing people in and making more Lords and Domains forever, and there's really nothing you can do about it, and trying for a long-term solution is really pointless.
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    Quote Originally Posted by historiasdeosos View Post
    11. The four classical elements (earth, wind, fire, water) being fundamental building blocks of reality. I used to love this sort of thing, but then I realized that it makes absolutely no sense on any level. It's cool when it's a cultural belief, but when you actually apply it to the physics of the world it makes my head hurt.
    This bothered me quite a lot at first, so I ended up deciding that, while this would be the "mythological explanation", the element of "Earth" basically encompassed solidness, being not only actual earth, but metals and several actual chemical elements, "Water" being liquidness, "Air" being gaseousness, and so on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    And that world actually being Earth in the distant future.
    Guilty! My world originally started out as "Earth with some magic", then plot happened and major parts were destroyed, the fringes or reality were rended apart, and to restore it the world was merged with another dimension that had suffered similarly. This had an effect on the world similar to a solar storm, knocking out electronic devices and all. Cue 1500-3000 years of development and magic is now a much more prominent thing, with the new technologies running off it because it's much easier and cost-effective.


    My own biggest gripe is the "sense of scale thing". Originally someone had suggested the time between the Rending (during which reality was torn and the world was merged with the other one) be 30,000 years, but that seemed ridiculously much to me. Sure, Earth's population was brought back to a paltry few million and technology was practically gone, but 30,000 years is still way much.

    I also don't like the idea of "other planets/planes/races have a single culture/biodome". Sure, goblins may be the dominant species on Mars, but there's still various kinds of them that differ from one another and it sure as heck doesn't only have one biodome (granted, some terraforming was needed). Similarly, Hell has various cultures of devils and demons and isn't even that much of a place of torment, but moreso just of judgement.

    Also, while I like multiple interpretations of magic (as an art, as a science) and don't mind it working either way, I don't like many tons of different types of magic all mashed together for no reason.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'Dice Lost View Post
    You'll pardon me if I entirely discard WotC's interpretation of the Great Wheel.
    Oh I agree, just saying.

    WHFRP played to the most grimdark extent is an example of the former: all of the "you suck and are going to die" of being a handful of Imperial Guardsmen in 40K but without the technology or power to do anything about it.
    This seems to be the case in second edition, not so much 3rd (which is the one I've played). 3rd edition WHFRP seems to take the D&D-clone direction by morphing into heroic fantasy (while still using many of the same extremely-lethal mechanics). The grimdarkness is still there, but it's downplayed compared to 2E in favor of "Look at all these cool monsters you get to kill!"

    Not sure whether this is better or worse, tbh.


    (Looks like I got off topic! Think of something, Craft, umm...)

    Urban fantasy! Most urban fantasy in general puts a really bad taste in my mouth. I'm talking about stuff like Harry Potter or World of Darkness (the former moreso than the latter), the specific variety of "Okay, so the world's exactly like our world, except vampires and stuff are real and just managed to keep themselves very well hidden/covered up by a government conspiracy/whatever."

    Depending on how the thing is handled, it pisses me off in one of two ways.

    1. The setting just comes off as well, lazy. The author doesn't have to actually invent anything about how the real world works, they only have to come up with details about the supernatural stuff. The the "very well hidden" part means they don't have to bother coming up with how the two worlds interact.

    2. If the setting focuses on paranormal investigators who know the truth but the world keeps shutting them out, it can get even worse. I have a bit of a personal beef with obnoxious conspiracy theorists and especially bad examples of this can seem like a conspiracy theorist's self-insert fanfic/desperate cry for attention.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Craft (Cheese) View Post
    This seems to be the case in second edition, not so much 3rd (which is the one I've played). 3rd edition WHFRP seems to take the D&D-clone direction by morphing into heroic fantasy (while still using many of the same extremely-lethal mechanics). The grimdarkness is still there, but it's downplayed compared to 2E in favor of "Look at all these cool monsters you get to kill!"

    Not sure whether this is better or worse, tbh.
    Just like how in D&D you'll run into DMs who've been playing since 1e who run 3e with a very AD&D-ish playstyle, you'll run into WHFRP GMs who still GM 3e with a lot of grimdarkness. I've run into two GMs like that, neither of whom are particularly good at either grimdark or heroic fantasy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    1. Thinly-veiled real-world cultures transplanted whole to a fantasy setting.
    I hate Golarion. Of all the poor settings that are released big, this one seems by far the worst.

    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'Dice Lost View Post
    5) Settings with nothing to do. The opposite of the "this setting is meant to run one plot" problem, these settings don't have anything to really hook you to run adventures in them. Spelljammer was an awesome setting thematically, and it was nice to have a "D&D! In! Space!" setting, but without an overarching theme (like "ongoing major war" in Warhammer 40K or Dragonlance or "explore everywhere" in Star Trek or Eberron) or a bunch of smaller hooks to let you run one-shots there or just wander around and interact with the world (like "escape the Mists" in Ravenloft or "explore the Outer Rim" in Star Wars) it kind of fell flat.
    My advice to every newly started setting always is "before you do anything else, think of which stories you want to have happening in the setting".
    Everything else, even the most basic themes, should be chosen in response to that play style.
    What are the PCs or protagonists supposed to do? Even if it is just "treasure hunters who risk their life to get really rich fast".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craft (Cheese) View Post
    I disagree on this one. It's all about aesthetics, not laziness. Using "Magic!" to justify something instead of science means you can get away with describing impossible things like floating cities or places bigger on the inside.
    You see, that's a different thing. It's okay in my books to invoke supernatural for something that clearly can't be natural. My pet-peeve is when it's just a "color swap", so to speak - when the funtional difference between "train" and "magic train" is on the level of "red train" and "green train".

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    I think when you have magic that is more than just spells and items, you need a solid theory or model of what magic is and what it does.
    Because this enables players to investigate a magical phenomenon and then comming up with ideas how to manipulate it to their benefit.

    How would you derail a lightning train? There's all kinds of things you can do, but when there are no rules, all you can do is try random things and hope that at some point the GM says "okay, this works". You need something to work with.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'Dice Lost View Post
    2e Planescape's portrayal of the planes was much more egalitarian and much less preachy and Judeo-Christian, and it pretty much worked the way I described. TSR gave us archons and demons fighting with philosophy instead of swords, a cosmos shaped by beliefs and numerology, and an exploration of how outsiders think; WotC gave us the Book of Exalted "Biological Warfare Isn't Evil If We Only Do It To Evil Creatures" Deeds and the Book of Vile "Weird Sex Is Icky And Therefore Evil" Darkness. You'll pardon me if I entirely discard WotC's interpretation of the Great Wheel.
    The Planescape version you described actually sounds pretty cool and makes a lot of sense. But yeah, WotC's planes and alignment are complete nonsense.

    Oh, another one I just thought of:

    13. The languages in 95% of settings, especially published ones. Common works fine as a lingua franca, sure, but in that case most people should speak it as a second language, rather than their primary. Sometimes people from different areas of the same country can barely understand one another in real life, so the idea of most of the world speaking the same language mutually intelligibly is mind boggling. Especially when most people are uneducated, and there are no global media to reinforce a language standard. And don't even get me started on the silliness that is racial languages (e.g. Dwarven) and environmental languages (e.g. Aquan).

    Yeah, I know Common is supposed to be an abstraction to represent whatever the PCs and DM speak, and I know it's super nitpicky. I'm a linguistics major, though, so this completely destroys my suspension of disbelief. Similar to how a biologist must feel when he looks through the Monster Manual, I suppose.
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