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Author Topic: Why are Post-Apocalyptic / Frontier Settings So Built Up and Civilized  (Read 1364 times)

Chris24601

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Re: Why are Post-Apocalyptic / Frontier Settings So Built Up and Civilized
« Reply #15 on: September 19, 2022, 07:49:53 AM »
there's the old favorite, where the ruins 1 day's travel north of here haven't been investigated recently, because -   
"Indeed," says the DM, "it is a mystery why it was not cleaned out years ago. Perhaps you'll find out why... if you go visit."

Players are not entitled to any answers at all. Their characters can search out the answers, if the players choose.
I don’t think anyone here is suggesting they have a problem with the players not knowing the answer.

I believe the issue is when even the GM hasn’t considered the question for there to even be answer and the “ancient monster-filled ruin a mile from town” is only there because the GM wanted a nearby adventure site, not because it makes sense for there to still be one next to a town of 4000 people that’s been around for hundreds of years itself.

For a GM in their early teens learning the game with their friends that sort of thing happens, but one expects more plausibility out of more developed GMs and certainly from published settings.

And it’s not like there can’t be dungeons that close by, but context is everything. I remember the Mentzler solo adventures in the front of the Basic player’s book.

Yeah, the dungeon was about a half day’s walk from town… but it also had just a handful of goblins, a large snake, rats, a rust monster and a couple of undead. The treasure is mostly some coinage carried by the goblins and a locked (and trapped) chest guarded by the goblins.

That’s not a continuously inhabited ancient ruin filled with its original treasures; it a snake and rat-infested tomb where a gang of goblin bandits have holed up with their stolen loot and someone disturbed some of the dead within (probably the goblin’s boss, the magic-user Bargle).

Kyle Aaron

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Re: Why are Post-Apocalyptic / Frontier Settings So Built Up and Civilized
« Reply #16 on: September 19, 2022, 08:12:44 AM »
I don’t think anyone here is suggesting they have a problem with the players not knowing the answer.

I believe the issue is when even the GM hasn’t considered the question -
Why is that an issue? The GM doesn't need to consider it unless and until the players do, and more importantly, unless and until the players' characters are able to discover the answers within the game. This will give the GM plenty of time to roll some dice and make up something as they go.

Of course, this supposes a co-operative approach. The GM can always be adversarial about it.
"Why hasn't anyone cleared this dungeon out when it's only a mile from town?"
If a player's being a smartarse and trying to poke holes in your gameworld, they're being adversarial. It's only fair to be adversarial back.
"You arrive and find it cleared out. No treasure for you."
"..."
"On the plus side, you find hidden between cracks in the stones a map to another dungeon 112 miles away. You'll have to hire some porters to carry your stuff that far. Also I'll be doing regular wilderness encounter checks."
The other players will quickly silence the adversarial smartarse player and then everyone can get on with having fun.
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Omega

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Re: Why are Post-Apocalyptic / Frontier Settings So Built Up and Civilized
« Reply #17 on: September 19, 2022, 08:54:52 AM »
It seems implausible that no one has checked out that weird tower 3 miles away from civilization. Love the system and setting ideas in general, but this seems odd to me.

This is honestly a problem in most RPGs. There's a dungeon full of goblins outside of town, but somehow the baron hasn't sent in a squadron of men-at-arms to clean it out. Ghouls lurk in the sewers of Boston and somehow no one except the players notice. To some extent, it's just part of the willing suspension of disbelief inherent in the game, but it's definitely worsened by a more civilized setting.

You'd be surprised at what people can and will overlook or just ignore for whatever reasons.
Example. A rather large unexploded bomb sat on top of a factory it had hit in WWII for a very long time.
A guy a few years back did not know he had a severe rat problem till a huge one gnawed a hole in his wall and came out of it.

A goblin infestation can just sit there and fester with no one knowing, or in some cases caring, till they actually do something to cause trouble. Theres a post-it on ye-ole bulletin board BECAUSE they caused trouble or someone finally noticed.

No ones been out to those ruins probably because someone went out there and either got sick and died, didnt come back, or came back and reported nothing of interest. Or maybe it was once radioactive or diseased and people just made a habit of avoiding the place. Eventually either those old warnings get forgotten or something happens to renew interest to go out and poke at it.

As for why theres build up in post-apoc/frontier settings. Depends on the setting.
In Gamma World there tends to not be much of those. And the ones that are tend to be either the outliers or maybe totally new construction and gatherings.
In After The Bomb theres alot of civilization left standing as the disaster was primarily a genetic one with some nukes tossed in as an afterthought. But it tends to be rather hit and miss.
In Star Frontiers its hard to say really as alot of the details were left blank for DMs to flesh out as they may. Some of the worlds seem less developed. But overall seems like the frontier is mostly about exploring out from built up worlds out into the unknown.
In Boot Hill its again all over the place. Some towns are rather small really and others are a larger. Which was how it was in the old west.
On Polaris its built up heavily as that is the only way to survive. Theres ruins around still due to the undersea environment and the limits it imposes.

Probably others but those come to mind right off. Rifts is an outlier because it is partially a patchwork of other civilizations. Some of which came across with whole cities in a rare few cases. Or in Japan's case, was locked off from the apocalypse until its reveal long after.

Venka

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Re: Why are Post-Apocalyptic / Frontier Settings So Built Up and Civilized
« Reply #18 on: September 19, 2022, 10:59:03 AM »
I ran a game where society had fallen and bounced back, but to nowhere near the level of power it had before.  The areas that were civilized didn't have anything right next to them, but some areas had been left generally uninhabitable, and the scavengers had been through places and picked everything clean that they could.  So how did I justify some things off the beaten path?

Well, there were some areas where the ruins were hard to cut through or destroy, but would lose cohesion if you did that work.  This meant that unlike, say, a big stone pillar, this type of partially magical substance was really unhelpful, and you'd only clear it out if you wanted land.  Of course it had some of the worst feral demihumans crawling around it, as it was an area where agriculture wasn't really going to help, so then I had a wildland with interesting enough ruins that weren't worth most people's time.  The deus ex machina there was the ruins themselves.

I had another area that had been a wonderful city, and unlike the place I just described, people still lived around there, and most of the annoying pieces of the structure had been carted off.  But because the formerly wonderful city was perceived (correctly) to offer even more secrets if explored the right way, it was a place where the nearby nations contested it from time to time, and deployed academians (or paid successful academic kooks who had discovered anything interesting).  As such, this was a place where the PCs could go and interact with eccentric people of different academic backgrounds who were all busy trying to understand different details of this place.  This was less deus ex machina and more proposing a social structure that I hoped sounded plausible.  I'm less sure I succeeded here, but I still like the idea well enough that I don't consider it a failure.  Certainly I feel if I had put more effort into it, I could have decreased the mental cost of buy-in.

In general, if you want something that's not too far from civilization and people don't explore it, there's a couple other things to use.  First, people could simply be scared of it with good reason- explorers either never make it out, or get injured by traps or monsters that groups either don't find, or disappear completely.  Second, you could have a powerful faction that believes it shouldn't be screwed with, for sentiment, religion, or superstition (you actually see this in the real world).  Third, gaining entrance beyond the long-stripped outer region of whatever your thing is could be something that is dangerous even to a medium sized army.

Zalman

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Re: Why are Post-Apocalyptic / Frontier Settings So Built Up and Civilized
« Reply #19 on: September 19, 2022, 05:54:46 PM »
In general, if you want something that's not too far from civilization and people don't explore it, there's a couple other things to use.  First, people could simply be scared of it with good reason- explorers either never make it out, or get injured by traps or monsters that groups either don't find, or disappear completely.  Second, you could have a powerful faction that believes it shouldn't be screwed with, for sentiment, religion, or superstition (you actually see this in the real world).  Third, gaining entrance beyond the long-stripped outer region of whatever your thing is could be something that is dangerous even to a medium sized army.

Good ones. Another nuance might be more nefarious: the local villagers know exactly what's there, but keep it mum because they benefit in some way from adventurers perishing exploring there.
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Steven Mitchell

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Re: Why are Post-Apocalyptic / Frontier Settings So Built Up and Civilized
« Reply #20 on: September 19, 2022, 09:20:31 PM »
Why is that an issue? The GM doesn't need to consider it unless and until the players do, and more importantly, unless and until the players' characters are able to discover the answers within the game. This will give the GM plenty of time to roll some dice and make up something as they go.

That's why I want a semi-plausible reason.  I don't want to make it up on the spot, because it will probably be lame.  If I've got the barest thread of a workable idea, which might be no more than a phrase in my notes or even in my head, that I can run with. 

Also, I typically enjoy, and the players in my games typically enjoy, digging out hints before they go.  The hints might be misleading or even outright lies, but even that's fun in its own way.  I find it much easier to do such hints if I've got some idea of what is the reason.

Of course, the way I see it, that's only a special case of what you said.  Instead of, "They go there and find out," it's "First time they make an active effort to find out, like paying the seedy sage in the village to answer some questions about it." 

ForgottenF

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Re: Why are Post-Apocalyptic / Frontier Settings So Built Up and Civilized
« Reply #21 on: September 19, 2022, 10:54:57 PM »
Why is that an issue? The GM doesn't need to consider it unless and until the players do, and more importantly, unless and until the players' characters are able to discover the answers within the game. This will give the GM plenty of time to roll some dice and make up something as they go.

That's why I want a semi-plausible reason.  I don't want to make it up on the spot, because it will probably be lame.  If I've got the barest thread of a workable idea, which might be no more than a phrase in my notes or even in my head, that I can run with. 

Also, I typically enjoy, and the players in my games typically enjoy, digging out hints before they go.  The hints might be misleading or even outright lies, but even that's fun in its own way.  I find it much easier to do such hints if I've got some idea of what is the reason.

Of course, the way I see it, that's only a special case of what you said.  Instead of, "They go there and find out," it's "First time they make an active effort to find out, like paying the seedy sage in the village to answer some questions about it."

There's also just a benefit, paid in player immersion and investment, from a world that feels like it all makes sense behind the scenes (even if it actually doesn't). Just go look at the view counts on some Dark Souls lore videos, if you want proof of that.

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Why are Post-Apocalyptic / Frontier Settings So Built Up and Civilized
« Reply #22 on: September 20, 2022, 08:48:29 AM »
There's also just a benefit, paid in player immersion and investment, from a world that feels like it all makes sense behind the scenes (even if it actually doesn't).

It's an 80/20 thing, except in this case it's more like a 10/90 thing.  As in, 10% effort on my part will give 90% of the benefit.  GMs can quickly tie themselves into knots or even be counter-productive by overdoing rationales.  It's easy to drain the mystery out by putting in too much logic.  But that 10% is very much a safe, worthwhile effort for me.

tenbones

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Re: Why are Post-Apocalyptic / Frontier Settings So Built Up and Civilized
« Reply #23 on: September 20, 2022, 11:13:20 AM »
As someone that recently wrote a post-apocalyptic fantasy game a couple of years ago... we took the exact opposite approach.

There IS no civilization. Part of the game are the Tribe Mechanics which let you build a tribe and create "civilization". To the uninitiated, it falls to Kyle's position of "Yep - there's some weird ruins and shit out there. What is it? Who the fuck knows?" But the GM is given all kinds of material he can draw upon to give "ruins" and "artifacts" any kind of significance that they want.

The players only need to go out and try and figure it out.

The goal of the game was to play in the barbaric shadows between two highly civilized, and relative "Golden Ages" (I'm being real loose about this). But to create the civilizations that would one day come forth in the original editions. We also create material where players could play races that were doomed to extinction - but could still have a hand in establishing the civilizations that would come later.


Angry Goblin

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Re: Why are Post-Apocalyptic / Frontier Settings So Built Up and Civilized
« Reply #24 on: September 21, 2022, 03:52:06 AM »
I watched some Reddit topics related to this a while ago from Youtube, I will post them here when I find them.

Yeah, my bad, the Reddit topics where mostly of "what would really happen in an apocalyptic situation"
Such as, the end of prescription medicine, infection being a major threat etc.

If interested, you can search for those from Youtube with keywords "post apocalyptic reddit"