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Author Topic: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World  (Read 2219 times)

RPGPundit

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Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« on: November 30, 2022, 03:00:54 AM »
Whatever type of authentic setting you're creating, especially if it is based on a non-modern society, it's very important that the metaphysics of the setting are such that what the PCs do MATTERS.
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S'mon

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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2022, 05:32:54 AM »
Good stuff. I found this a lot more interesting than the anti-woke stuff, although it does have some good digs at the various post-modern death cults. I posted a couple comments (as simontmn).

Marchand

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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2022, 06:06:57 AM »
There is an interesting parallel or echo between the Mythos and the postmodern-nihilist worldview, and it comes out strongly in the story Nyarlathotep. It's set in a world where society is being undermined by the Big N spreading his message through mass media. I wonder if it resonates with readers more deeply today than it did when it was written.

But more broadly the "Mythos wins in the end" is way overdone. In the broadest terms, the Mythos "wins" only in the sense that it is the ultimate true reality of the universe, and our world is just a "placid island of ignorance". That doesn't mean our placid island isn't pretty important and worth fighting for. Both in the stories and in the RPG campaigns, humans can and do fend off the Mythos. It might only be "for a while", but that could be 10,000 years.

I don't own any Warhammer products and can't speak to them in detail, but I would say the idea of "we're all screwed so we might as well go down in style" might feel more natural to a British audience than an American one. It's maybe a more natural part of British culture and the sense of humour. Put it this way: when Blackadder dies at the end of the series, it doesn't make his adventures up til then any less interesting.
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S'mon

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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2022, 06:32:31 AM »
Put it this way: when Blackadder dies at the end of the series, it doesn't make his adventures up til then any less interesting.

Blackadder also dies at the end of season/series 1 (Medieval) & 2 (Elizabethan). At the end of season/series 3 he 'becomes' the future King George IV. 

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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2022, 08:25:03 AM »
This video made me realize that there may be some distance from my old blog entries and my new audience, I wonder if anyone has other suggestions of old blog entries that would be worth revisiting the topic as a video?

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MeganovaStella

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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2022, 02:27:03 PM »
I failed at this.

jhkim

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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2022, 12:43:24 AM »
There is an interesting parallel or echo between the Mythos and the postmodern-nihilist worldview, and it comes out strongly in the story Nyarlathotep. It's set in a world where society is being undermined by the Big N spreading his message through mass media. I wonder if it resonates with readers more deeply today than it did when it was written.

But more broadly the "Mythos wins in the end" is way overdone. In the broadest terms, the Mythos "wins" only in the sense that it is the ultimate true reality of the universe, and our world is just a "placid island of ignorance". That doesn't mean our placid island isn't pretty important and worth fighting for. Both in the stories and in the RPG campaigns, humans can and do fend off the Mythos.

Yeah. I also haven't played Warhammer, but I've played a ton of Call of Cthulhu. Nihilism isn't my view of reality, but I do find it fun to play in that setting.

1) H.P. Lovecraft was nihilist, but he was not post-modernist. Post-modernism as a movement began in the 1940s or 1950s, with a precursor being Jorge Luis Borges - and moving on to authors like Vladimir Nabokov, Samuel Beckett, Umberto Eco, and Kurt Vonnegut. In Lovecraft's nihilist worldview, there is absolute certainty about meaning, while post-modernists deal with unavoidable doubt.

2) Role-playing in a modernist, nihilist world is in some ways freeing - that I as a player or GM can impose my own meaning onto the events, and decide for myself who I consider good or evil. I care a lot about what my Call of Cthulhu characters did. The fact that it doesn't change the eventual end doesn't change how I care about those characters.

3) In an RPG world of explicit, tangible good and evil, meaning can easily become reductive. For example, a given character is Good - and you can test that good with "Know Alignment" or talk directly to the gods of Good. That can reduce my interest in stories of virtue and/or corruption.


As a side note, I find very little in common between Call of Cthulhu and Warhammer and 21st century "woke" games like Blue Rose or Monsterhearts. That might be a topic in itself.

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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2022, 01:24:44 AM »
>Whatever type of authentic setting you're creating, especially if it is based on a non-modern society, it's very important that the metaphysics of the setting are such that what the PCs do MATTERS.

Even without metaphysics, the PCs must matter because that's (a) the nature of storytelling and (b) the players are spending their free time to experience something of value to them emotionally.

Some players need their PCs to save the world as superheroes to get that emotional high of "mattering", other players just need to save a random innocent. As always, know your players.

As for Cthulhu and Warhammer, I used to play both a huge amount. They're dark fantasy so you can always do things that matter, but depending on how the GM views the world, how long your actions matter might be an issue.

Although, Ravenloft has the same issues, but I don't see the same complaints about that setting.


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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2022, 09:32:57 AM »
It's true, that CoC is Modernist Nihilism, as opposed to post-modernist. CoC is the nightmare of the whole "God is Dead" concept, an entirely arbitrary world where humanity is just insignificant, but also ultimately purposeless and doomed.

Post-modern Nihilism on the other hand tends to be not just apathetic to humanity but anti-human.
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S'mon

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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2022, 09:35:15 AM »
Modernism is Cthulu.
Post Modernism is Cthulu cultists.

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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2022, 09:51:25 AM »
Greetings!

Excellent video, Pundit! I agree very much. Post Modernism and Nihilism, yeah. I don't like them for cosmology. I have always run my campaigns with cosmology inspired greatly from history.

Also, I think medieval Christian forms and inspiration is great. Historically-inspired Paganism adds lots of flavour too, and is also cool.

Historical inspiration is the way to go, for sure.

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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2022, 09:56:26 AM »
It's true, that CoC is Modernist Nihilism, as opposed to post-modernist. CoC is the nightmare of the whole "God is Dead" concept, an entirely arbitrary world where humanity is just insignificant, but also ultimately purposeless and doomed.

Post-modern Nihilism on the other hand tends to be not just apathetic to humanity but anti-human.

  If I may be permitted the egotistical indulgence of quoting myself ...

IMO, the main difference between Lovecraft and modern online progressivism is that one believes in the meaninglessness of the universe and the eventual extinction or transformation of humanity into inhuman, amoral, immortal creatures. Lovecraft, by contrast, didn't think that was a good thing. :)

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2022, 11:22:44 AM »
It's true, that CoC is Modernist Nihilism, as opposed to post-modernist. CoC is the nightmare of the whole "God is Dead" concept, an entirely arbitrary world where humanity is just insignificant, but also ultimately purposeless and doomed.

Post-modern Nihilism on the other hand tends to be not just apathetic to humanity but anti-human.

  If I may be permitted the egotistical indulgence of quoting myself ...

IMO, the main difference between Lovecraft and modern online progressivism is that one believes in the meaninglessness of the universe and the eventual extinction or transformation of humanity into inhuman, amoral, immortal creatures. Lovecraft, by contrast, didn't think that was a good thing. :)

I forget the originator of the version of that same idea that I like, and paraphrasing somewhat:  "Nietzche looked into the abyss and recoiled in horror.  Then his fans came along after and gleefully leaped into it."

That fits what I'm seeing.  I'm with Shark.  In my games, I don't see the point of despair.  Closest I'll come is maybe stoicism or perhaps Norse spitting in the face of loss. :D

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2022, 11:33:02 AM »
Although, Ravenloft has the same issues, but I don't see the same complaints about that setting.

Well, the irony of Ravenloft is that Ravenloft isn't postmodern nihilist chaos; Ravenloft is about surviving in a world gone to straight-up Evil. And to quote Seth Gecko in From Dusk Till Dawn:

"I know that whatever is out there, trying to get in, is pure Evil straight from Hell. And if there is a Hell, and those sons of bitches are from it, then there has got to be a Heaven, Jacob! There's gotta be! So which are you? Are you a faithless preacher? Or are you a mean motherf***ing servant of God?!"

In other words, it's the pure unapologetic Evil nature of Ravenloft as a world that in itself proves the existence and meaning of Good within that world. The dread of meaninglessness is, to some extent, a luxury angst that only those who aren't fighting to survive every day can afford.
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Re: Making a Purpose-Filled RPG World
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2022, 01:57:53 PM »
Although, Ravenloft has the same issues, but I don't see the same complaints about that setting.

   Really? One of the biggest complaints I saw in my time as a Ravenloft fan was that nothing you could do could make an impact, because the darklords were essentially invincible.