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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    It seems most players assume a campaign world will contain each and every single denizen of the many monster manuals and every one of the dozens upon dozens of playable races. I have strong problems with the assumption.

    The thing is that such a campaign world is too crowded. there isn't enough space to fit all the different races, unless every race only had a single mid-sized country and a population of a few millions - which would make it at risk of extinction in case of major wars or disasters. And is there still room for all the obligatory wilderness anyway?
    Worse yet is the case of the monsters. There just is not enough space in the world to accomodate all of them. Someone may point out that we know well over a million living species in our world, but most of those are bacteria or fine-sized insects. the animals that could provide a credible threat to even a low level party is exceedingly small, and pretty much all of them have an entry in the monster manual already.
    Instead we are supposed to have plenty of gargantuan and colossal sized large predatory animals, and it's not clear what they're eating, as for all their combat power they lack any stealth or speed to ambush and chase a prey. Incidentally, if there are so many big and powerful monsters that only the most powerful adventurers can hope to defeat, how do huanoid communities survive anyway?
    And let's not even get started with all the various subspecies of dragons.
    Besides, there is also a storytelling problem, best summed by the third sanderson's law of magic: go deep before you go wide. If you keep introducing new monsters and races and stuff every time, the whole world will feel like it lacks cohesion, it is just a bunch of random episodes without any plot or consistence between them. It's more interesting to introduce a smaller amount of elements and explore their connection better before starting with something new.

    So, for all of the above, I decided to stongly limit my campaign world. The only humanoid sapient races are the seven core pc races, orcs, goblins and merfolk. add in the ten core varietes of dragons, and that completes the list of sapients. some extraplanar visitor may be possible, but rare and not represented otherwise. Most stuff in monster manual 1 is there, with some exceptions (most notably dinosaurs, as i feel they are too overused), but every other moster ever printed does not exist unless I say otherwise. This approach works better with casual players, who are not interested anyway in learning of dozens upon dozens new monsters and species that will never make a second appearence anyway.

    I wanted to hear some other opinions and ways to deal with the whole issue
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

    Ridiculous monsters you won't take seriously even as they disembowel you

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    The reason so many monsters exist is that D&D is a game about having interesting fights against weird monsters. If you run out of interesting things to fight then what else is the system doing for you?

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Absolutely, the world does not have to be a "kitchen sink" fantasy. It can be (and there can be a certain amount of suspension of disbelief as to how there can e.g. be so many apex predators in a small area). But an easy way to world-build is to limit your choice of creatures. For instance, maybe in your world there are no elves - perhaps they never were, or perhaps they went extinct a thousand years before and left lots of interesting ruins and artefacts. Or maybe the first elf has just been found...

    Or perhaps your world only has monsters from real-world myths (no beholders, no mind flayers... no orcs). Perhaps your world has no humans - everyone, including the PCs, is a non-human race. Or maybe only one culture's myths are true - the monster manuals certainly include most of Greek mythology somewhere.

    Maybe extraplanar creatures can't get to your world, or are exceedingly rare - perhaps it take a HUGE ritual to summon a devil, so the devils are forced to remain outside the world and manipulate from afar via their worshippers. Fortunately, they excel at this, and might not wish it any other way.

    Maybe your world has no monsters at all, or, at least, that's what everyone had always told you, until you met one and killed it.

    OTOH, perhaps you're in a nexus or Wood Between the Worlds (or Sigil) and there is a good reason why every beast under the suns can be found in your world.

    One idea I've seen a few times (in-keeping with myth) is that the monsters of the world are each unique - you didn't kill 1d6 minotaurs, you killed The Minotaur, and became a legend.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by Kami2awa View Post
    One idea I've seen a few times (in-keeping with myth) is that the monsters of the world are each unique - you didn't kill 1d6 minotaurs, you killed The Minotaur, and became a legend.
    When doing E6 worldbuilding, I made the determination that any being with a CR of 10+ was a unique entity. I also established that such beings occurred at a ratio of roughly 1 per 1 million (with people being defined as basically anything that lacks racial hit dice). This means that a fairly large quasi-medieval nation would only have a handful of powerful and iconic monsters.

    Doing this, and correspondingly banning anything CR 16+ (necessary for E6, and useful generally, since 3.X D&D breaks at ~ lvl 12 anyway), really cuts down on the kitchen sink problem. Monster entries are bloated out by huge numbers of high-CR enemies that really have no need to be in your game as anything more than one-offs.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowere View Post
    It seems most players assume a campaign world will contain each and every single denizen of the many monster manuals and every one of the dozens upon dozens of playable races. I have strong problems with the assumption.
    I've only seen that assumption amongst theory-crafters on forums (like this one).

    In real games, I've never seen a player pitch a fit when the DM lays down the PC race palette & monster palette for a given campaign.

    Now, I've certainly seen real games in kitchen-sink settings where the setting writers go out of their way to accommodate everything ever published, but even when a DM uses such a setting, the DM often limits the portion of the setting that is relevant.


    In my own games, I find that restricted monster palette & PC race palette are good tools for setting a campaign's tone, and thus for communicating expectations.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    My homebrew world has even fewer races - elves being functionally extinct, and dwarves being decidedly weird. On the other hand, I lean towards a One-Of-Everything philosophy. Somewhere out there, there's an otyugh, or a shadow, or a ... whatever. Also, hardly anything ever conforms to what you might find in the Monster Manual. Another thing I've done is to keep civilization evenly matched by nature. There are only three major (human) cities, thousands of miles apart, with near-endless wilderness in between. I have plenty of space to explain how orcs, gnolls, centaurs and so on find room to live.

    The only exception, btw, is dragons. I loathe dragons with the blazing intensity otherwise only found among the suicidally zealous.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    I think a lot of the problem comes from a modern perspective, where we see the world flooded with over 7 billion people walking around. But just 100 years ago we were fewer than 1 billion people. 400 years ago we were estimated 500 million. That leaves enough space for 14 other equally large races to reach the same population we have today. If you assume they are less advanced than human-kind, such as the case may be with orcs, goblins and the like, you can probably estimate their total population at 5 million and put them all together and they won't be quite a full race, but you can set aside one of the 14 to their benefit.

    When you take this into consideration, the kitchen sink problem is a lot more subdued.

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowere View Post
    It seems most players assume a campaign world will contain each and every single denizen of the many monster manuals and every one of the dozens upon dozens of playable races. I have strong problems with the assumption.
    I don't know about that. I've never met a player with that assumption.

    Most players ask me about the setting and what kind of races/monsters live there.

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    Daemon

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by Aetis View Post
    I don't know about that. I've never met a player with that assumption.

    Most players ask me about the setting and what kind of races/monsters live there.
    I agree, and I run a heavily custom world.

    Although...a world is a very large place as long as you're not looking at modern population densities.

    One secondary objective for me was to fit as much as possible from the printed books into the setting. I get around the over-stuffed feeling by strongly limiting numbers.

    The main play area is a portion of a continent the size of the USA (roughly). On that continent there are maybe 4-5 million people of playable races. The largest of the main nations is ~200k, of multiple races (I don't do single-race nations). There are maybe another 4-5 million non-playable humanoids out there. Most other monsters are, if not one-offs, present in small numbers. Beholders? Each one is a separate creation of a particular demon prince. Etc. So the total intelligent population of that continent is probably in the 20 million range. To compare to modern populations, that's smaller than Tokyo (37 million).

    Since there aren't single-race nations, races are more resilient. Yes, a single nation is weak, but humanity is spread over a bunch of them. Same with (most) of the other races. Some are more concentrated and vulnerable (high elves, dragonborn), and they know it. It's actually a cultural point for them--trying to find/create more of their race.

    There are other continents, but I haven't developed them yet.
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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    I've only seen that assumption amongst theory-crafters on forums (like this one).

    In real games, I've never seen a player pitch a fit when the DM lays down the PC race palette & monster palette for a given campaign.
    You comfort me. The way people talk about polimorphing into X, Y and Z to gain strange powers with the implicit assumption that it is unthinkable for said monsters to not exist in the campaign setting has often baffled me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    The reason so many monsters exist is that D&D is a game about having interesting fights against weird monsters. If you run out of interesting things to fight then what else is the system doing for you?
    Well, of course after a few years you play you may get tired of goblins and orcs and zombies and want something different. Changing the fauna from one campaign world to another could be a good compromise then. Although very few monsters are all that original; I mean, it doesn't make much difference to fight goblins and orcs or to fight kobolds and bugbears

    Quote Originally Posted by Mordaedil View Post
    I think a lot of the problem comes from a modern perspective, where we see the world flooded with over 7 billion people walking around. But just 100 years ago we were fewer than 1 billion people. 400 years ago we were estimated 500 million. That leaves enough space for 14 other equally large races to reach the same population we have today.
    Not really. We achieve that popolation today because we have mechanized intensive agriculture fed by the chemical industry. We consume some 2% of the world energy just to make ammonia that will be converted to fertilizer.

    If we assume a medieval technology, then the world has room for 500 million medium-sized humanoids. Many of those races however do not use agriculture, and hunting-gathering could only support a world population of a few millions. Magic could change the equaation a bit, but only in high magic setting it will be relevant enough.
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

    Ridiculous monsters you won't take seriously even as they disembowel you

    my take on the highly skilled professional: the specialized expert

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by Aetis View Post
    I don't know about that. I've never met a player with that assumption.

    Most players ask me about the setting and what kind of races/monsters live there.
    There are plenty of players on these boards with that assumption. As for in person games, depends on your group. Mine don't.

    It is a lot easier for everyone to include all the races of the core rulebook in the setting, and I try to do that. Though I find it hard to make people accept/realize when they are slightly refluffed or have different cultures than presented in the rules. It would be easier to remove the races completely to avoid peoples preconceived views of them.

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Players very rarely want the setting to contain everything. Generally, they want the setting to contain the particular things they are interested in. And it should do that, because part of getting players to play the game is presenting a setting that they are interested in. You should never tell a player they can't play the character they want because there isn't room in the setting (note that this is different from saying that the character breaks some setting assumption). If someone wants to play a Lizardfolk, you should probably let them unless you have some very compelling reason your setting has no Lizardfolk. "I haven't put down a Lizardfolk country" is not such a reason.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by Pelle View Post
    It would be easier to remove the races completely to avoid peoples preconceived views of them.
    Yes. This is an excellent reason to do exactly that.

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    In the first universe I created, there was a nexus - a portal to other worlds. Within 50 miles of it, you might encounter anything - even Klingons, Vulcans, Kryptonians, moties, fuzzies, or boggies. But further away, you would only encounter races or monsters from classic European legend.

    One party once bumped into a Philmont Ranger - who was able to help them find their way.

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    I feel both ways about this. One Piece is basically a D&D campaign, and has the same crazy variety of animals, monsters and races as the D&D sink. So a cohesive world can exist in fiction outside the madness of an actual setting just fine.


    On the other hand worlds often benefit from a narrow focus. DarkSun cuts through the normal setting with a large scythe and is better for it.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    I prefer a Schrodinger's palette. The manuals describe all the monsters that COULD be in the world (and, given monster creation rules, isn't even an exhaustive list), but I lay out in setting information the monsters that are common enough that everyone in the world know about them.

    Also, I generally follow Monstrous Population Scaling Inversely with CR, which is to say the higher the CR, the fewer of them exist (AT LEAST within the confines of the material plane; if heroes go wandering into other dimensions, no promises that things won't get a little crazy). It feels natural that having too many high CR creatures would inevitably disrupt the balance of Commoner Populated civilization. So for my games, monsters for parties up to 6th level are probably crawling all over the place like the playable races are. But even these common races aren't EVERYWHERE. They are in some of the biomes that are favorable to them.

    Everything else, until stated otherwise, is a myth told to scare children... that could happen to be true.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    Players very rarely want the setting to contain everything. Generally, they want the setting to contain the particular things they are interested in. And it should do that, because part of getting players to play the game is presenting a setting that they are interested in. You should never tell a player they can't play the character they want because there isn't room in the setting (note that this is different from saying that the character breaks some setting assumption). If someone wants to play a Lizardfolk, you should probably let them unless you have some very compelling reason your setting has no Lizardfolk. "I haven't put down a Lizardfolk country" is not such a reason.
    This is a very good attitude to have. Personally though, I find lots of (typically D&D) fantasy elements too cheesy. Having to run something I don't enjoy is not ideal either. Most people have multiple types of characters they would be happy to play anyways. If Lizardfolk aren't available, that means that they can play this other cool character.

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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    well, if a player wants to play a lizardfolk, there should be enough empty space on the world to put lizardfolk somewhere. Same for monsters, until you take a decision anything could still be out there. it's just that in most cases the decision will be "no"
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

    Ridiculous monsters you won't take seriously even as they disembowel you

    my take on the highly skilled professional: the specialized expert

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Also, I generally follow Monstrous Population Scaling Inversely with CR, which is to say the higher the CR, the fewer of them exist (AT LEAST within the confines of the material plane; if heroes go wandering into other dimensions, no promises that things won't get a little crazy).
    There goes my idea for terrasque ranching.

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    It's worth pointing out that only what the PCs actually encounter affects the game, and there aren't enough adventures to encounter everything. So no game contains everything.

    The world may include flumphs, duckbunnies, flail snails, wolves-in-sheeps-clothing, xorns, mimics, tieflings, lurkers above, and intellect devourers. But if the PCs never see or hear about them, they can't hurt the game.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    There goes my idea for terrasque ranching.
    Not necessarily. Depending on what you wanted to do with them, you could have a Terrasque farm with just 1 incapacitated Terrasque. Not so great of you wanted a beast of burden, but if you can manage to keep it from waking up, it's a perfectly renewable source for all kinds of primary materials.
    Quote Originally Posted by 2D8HP View Post
    Some play RPG's like chess, some like charades.

    Everyone has their own jam.

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Not necessarily. Depending on what you wanted to do with them, you could have a Terrasque farm with just 1 incapacitated Terrasque. Not so great of you wanted a beast of burden, but if you can manage to keep it from waking up, it's a perfectly renewable source for all kinds of primary materials.
    Heh, exactly my thoughts.

    "Nifft's Tarrasque Burgers - World's Only Infinite Eat-All-You-Want Diner"

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by upho View Post
    Heh, exactly my thoughts.

    "Nifft's Tarrasque Burgers - World's Only Infinite Eat-All-You-Want Diner"
    Even infinite food is a limited goal.

    Build homes and armor out of bone and hide.

    Make weapons from tooth and claw.

    Dissolve your city's waste in a self refilling acid pit.

    You are what you eat. After generations of a city living on a terrasque dominant diet, the people start acquiring terrasque features, like healing faster than their neighbor cities and their skin hardening into natural armor.

    It's an interesting campaign setting that I think would be worth exploring.
    Quote Originally Posted by 2D8HP View Post
    Some play RPG's like chess, some like charades.

    Everyone has their own jam.

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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post

    You are what you eat. After generations of a city living on a terrasque dominant diet, the people start acquiring terrasque features, like healing faster than their neighbor cities and their skin hardening into natural armor.
    And having a 3 of intelligence, no opposable thumb, sleeping for months at a time and going on murderous rampages when they don't. why should they only get the best stuff?
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

    Ridiculous monsters you won't take seriously even as they disembowel you

    my take on the highly skilled professional: the specialized expert

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowere View Post
    And having a 3 of intelligence, no opposable thumb, sleeping for months at a time and going on murderous rampages when they don't. why should they only get the best stuff?
    Well, they don't get perfect regeneration, just some accelerated healing (probably double natural healing at most), so they don't lose all their Int. They just become a subrace with -2 to Int. It's a tradeoff, but not a complete transformation
    Quote Originally Posted by 2D8HP View Post
    Some play RPG's like chess, some like charades.

    Everyone has their own jam.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    When I see Tarrasque-Blooded as a playable race, I'll know it was this thread that was responsible.
    Re: 100 Things to Beware of that Every DM Should Know

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    93. No matter what the character sheet say, there are only 3 PC alignments: Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.

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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    I actually run a kitchen-sink world.

    It's specific "shtick" is that it is a monster-dominated world. I do have humans, but they're more of a footnote. Frankly, I'd just as well remove them (human dominated settings with rampant racism(which is nonsensical in D&D) are a huge personal pet peeve of mine), but again - kitchen sink.

    Consistency within such a world is actually easy. I believe you are underestimating the sheer amount of space available to creatures to form unique ecologies. If not, this is fiction - you can always make the world big enough to accommodate everything.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    I thought "kitchen sink" meant you had everything. Science fiction, fantasy, Gothic Horror, mysteries, combat, diplomacy, guns and swords, Orcs and Xenomorphs, Psychics and Shaman and so on.

    In a typical medieval fantasy setting most races are very small due to the nature of the settings being way before a billion humanoids exist on the planet. Small tribes rather than cities. It was a major deal back in the day when Orcs had their own permanent Kingdom of Many-Arrows.

    One detail that is necessary for growing populations actually is peace. You need people to grow food, have children, and not conscripting farmers for campaigns lasting months or possibly years. Violent races don't have that kind of society so generally speaking their populations are very low.

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    GnomePirate

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    Question Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    I've been running a kitchen sink setting for years now and at times it can feel a bit...heavy. It is especially annoying when my players often choose to play bizarre, off-the-wall type characters that seem cool at first but inevitably disrupt the game.
    Many times I have tried to simplify my setting. Taking it down a notch. I've lost count of how many apocalypses have happened. But I've had this setting for years now and there's been quite a few times where I wanted to just ditch it and forget about it because it is an ugly mess, but its my ugly mess and I want to keep it. Hitting the restart button just seems like too little, too late.

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    Flumph

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    Default Re: when the world becomes too much of a kitchen sink

    If your players actually do think that you're dumping every single statted monster and player-race into your world, then just tell them that you aren't. Boom, assumption obliterated.

    It's better to see these lists of monsters and player-races as a menu, from which you may choose the most appropriate ones for each part of your game.

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