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Author Topic: What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?  (Read 2039 times)

Cyberzombie

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« on: April 15, 2006, 11:37:09 AM »
What are the essential elements of the most generic of D&D settings?  You can, of course, dump just about anything and everything to create your own setting.  But what I'm looking for here are the elements that scream D&D -- things you must have in a setting to have the D&D feel to it.  Simultaneously, I'm interested in what things could be dumped without hurting the feel of D&D.  What could you rip out and still have something that feels like D&D?

Here are some of my thoughts:

Dungeons -- while they don't necessarily have to be underground, you really need to have locations filled with monsters that the PCs can kill and take their loot.

Dragons -- one problem I had with 2e and now with 3e is that dragons have become unstoppable killing machines.  (At least if the DM runs them right.)  Whilst they were far too wimpy in 1e, I think it's a bit much.  I hardly ever run a dragon in an adventure because I don't do TPKs.  I think D&D needs more dragons back in the setting.

Adventuring parties -- there needs to be some reason for wildly disparate individuals to get together, go into dungeons, fight dragons, and take their phat loot.

Humanoids & demihumans -- D&D wouldn't be the same without dwarves, elves, halflings, orcs, and goblins, at least, as annoying as some of the racial stereotypes are.  Not all of them are necessary -- who needs gnomes when you have halflings, or kobolds when you have goblins? -- but the concept of multiple humanoid races is pretty essential to D&D.


As for something that I think could (and should) be ripped out are all the zillion types of magic.  Cleric, wizard, druid, bard, psionics -- one spell list would be much better.  I'm not 100% satisfied with Arcana Evolved, 'cause I like the more bad-assed magic of the standard rules, but I think it is essentially a step in the right direction.  D&D spells are complicated enough without the added, and to me unnecessary, complication of different spell lists.


So, what do y'all think?  What would YOU say is absolutely necessary to a generic D&D setting?
 

Aelfinn

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2006, 12:42:51 PM »
the thing about AE is that the spell lists are really simplified, when compared to d&d.

AE: Exotic, Complex, simple.

D&D: Assassin, Bard, Blackguard, Cleric, Cleric Domains, Druid, Ranger, Sorcerer/Wizard. and that's just the core books... try throwing psionics and all of the extra base classes from the complete series in there, and shit gets REALLY complicated.

I think there is value when it comes to simplifying the spell lists, and I like what AE did. I'm not sure that theres a way to simplify it any further without making it honestly more complex.
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Lisa Nadazdy

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2006, 01:27:26 PM »
I think dragons should be damn near unstoppable.  My thinking is that dragons should be something out of Tolkein or the like, in that it should dominate an area for a hundred square miles, and everybody knows where it is and it should scare the piss out of them.  Thus, it should be a serious challenge, and it should be planned out.  Dragons shouldn't be a random encounter; they should be a major event.
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Cyberzombie

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2006, 01:34:51 PM »
Quote from: Lisa Nadazdy
I think dragons should be damn near unstoppable.  My thinking is that dragons should be something out of Tolkein or the like, in that it should dominate an area for a hundred square miles, and everybody knows where it is and it should scare the piss out of them.  Thus, it should be a serious challenge, and it should be planned out.  Dragons shouldn't be a random encounter; they should be a major event.
Point noted and taken.  That would be much better than a lot of modules where you have no idea you're about to run into a dragon until half the party is dead from its breath weapon.  Something that bad-assed should be KNOWN to one and all.
 

Lisa Nadazdy

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2006, 02:31:32 PM »
Okay, if I were to build a core system of D&D:

Races: Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling.  Other races can be intoduced through other books.

Classes: Fighter, Wizard, Thief, Cleric, with plenty of options to customize them into more special types (Ways to build a fighter type into something like a Barbarian or Ranger or something else out of the players imagination).  

Controlled hit point gain, with a more consistant approach to healing and damage (so that magical healing falls in line with natural healing).

Armor as DR rather than AC.

Make it a base assumption characters will have no magic items throughout their entire career, and then base character strength in a campaign as character + magic items vs. monster CR.  This will allow DMs to customize the level of magic in the game far more easily.  The current assumption is that players will have X amount of magic items by L 20, and if they don't, they're usually gimped compared to the monsters they fight.  It also makes it hard to strip out magic items and properly gauge character strength without them.

Find a way to merge skills and Feats into a unified system.  Simpler is better.



Of course, I'd reather use HERO for fantasy, as it works better at simulating book fiction, but that's just me. :)
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Cyberzombie

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2006, 02:47:57 PM »
Quote from: Aelfinn
I think there is value when it comes to simplifying the spell lists, and I like what AE did. I'm not sure that theres a way to simplify it any further without making it honestly more complex.


I'm prolly going to have to get their spell treasury book.  It has all the OGL PHB spells, so it might give me at least a strong lead on a unified spell list for D&D.
 

Aelfinn

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2006, 02:57:21 PM »
Quote from: Cyberzombie
I'm prolly going to have to get their spell treasury book.  It has all the OGL PHB spells, so it might give me at least a strong lead on a unified spell list for D&D.


only has most of them, actually - still no magic missile, and a few others are still missing.

It's a pretty good book, though. overall, i'm pleased with the purchase.
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Aelfinn

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2006, 03:01:24 PM »
also, if you're just looking for the AE/spell treasury consolidated list, it's on the malhavoc site for free...

http://www.malhavocpress.com/cgi-bin/page.cgi?mpress_Treas_enhance
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Dacke

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2006, 03:09:29 PM »
Actually, it does have Magic Missile, as a 1st-level Exotic spell. You need to roll to hit with the missiles (though they ignore cover and concealment of less than total value), it does 1d6 damage, and gives +1 to hit and damage. Same progression as D&D's magic missile (+1 per 2 levels, up to 5 missiles).

Interestingly, it's listed as a 2nd level spell in the list, but 1st level in the description.
 

Cyberzombie

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2006, 03:10:21 PM »
Quote from: Lisa Nadazdy
Races: Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling.  Other races can be intoduced through other books.


That definitely appeals to the OD&D in me.  :D

Quote from: Lisa Nadazdy
Classes: Fighter, Wizard, Thief, Cleric, with plenty of options to customize them into more special types (Ways to build a fighter type into something like a Barbarian or Ranger or something else out of the players imagination).


I'd go one simpler and dump the cleric, personally.  I'd have each roll be customizable and I'd allow full multiclassing.

Quote from: Lisa Nadazdy
Controlled hit point gain, with a more consistant approach to healing and damage (so that magical healing falls in line with natural healing).


D&D character creation either needs to be entirely point buy, or a whole lot more random.  Having only ability scores and hp random makes all attempts at game balance silly.

Quote from: Lisa Nadazdy
Armor as DR rather than AC.


I like the half AC half DR idea, but I agree in general.  :)

Quote from: Lisa Nadazdy
Make it a base assumption characters will have no magic items throughout their entire career, and then base character strength in a campaign as character + magic items vs. monster CR.  This will allow DMs to customize the level of magic in the game far more easily.  The current assumption is that players will have X amount of magic items by L 20, and if they don't, they're usually gimped compared to the monsters they fight.  It also makes it hard to strip out magic items and properly gauge character strength without them.


That's one of the nice features of Iron Heroes.

Quote from: Lisa Nadazdy
Find a way to merge skills and Feats into a unified system.  Simpler is better.


Only one I don't like.  Of course, if you showed me a way it would work, I might change my tune.  :)

Quote from: Lisa Nadazdy
Of course, I'd reather use HERO for fantasy, as it works better at simulating book fiction, but that's just me. :)


I've only ever seen an early edition of Champions and it didn't grab me at all.  :)
 

Cyberzombie

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2006, 03:20:04 PM »
Quote from: Dacke
Actually, it does have Magic Missile, as a 1st-level Exotic spell. You need to roll to hit with the missiles (though they ignore cover and concealment of less than total value), it does 1d6 damage, and gives +1 to hit and damage. Same progression as D&D's magic missile (+1 per 2 levels, up to 5 missiles).

Interestingly, it's listed as a 2nd level spell in the list, but 1st level in the description.
First: thanks, Aelfinn!  I'll have to take a look at that link.  :)


I knew magic missile would be exotic if it was there at all.  Fortunately, I'm not compelled to pay attention to that part at all.  If magic missile is too powerful compared to the other 1st level spells, THEN MAYBE THE OTHER SPELLS SHOULD SUCK A LITTLE LESS ASS!!!!!

Ahem.  :)  EXACTLY as with the "harm" spell, I don't buy that something that was fine for 25 years suddenly became "broken" in 3e.  But that's all I'll say on that subject, to avoid us ENWorlding all over this poor thread of mine.
 

Lisa Nadazdy

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2006, 04:22:12 PM »
Quote from: Cyberzombie

I've only ever seen an early edition of Champions and it didn't grab me at all.  :)


The 4e version of HERO was....  okay.  The 5e version of Fantasy HERO blows it out of the water.  Even if you aren't a HERO gamer, it's worth having.

For instance, it has a dozen different magic systems, and guidelines to create your own, depending on what kind of magic you're trying to simulate.

It also has mass combat rules details on weapon and armor construction (like how long it would take to make a suit of plate and chain).

There's basic templates for dozens of different, racial, social, enviromental, and profession types.

If you like Feats, most professions have various specialized talents and 'super-skills', not to mention a whole section on misc. talents.

It just has tons in it.  More importantly, I can tweak and construct characters to my design, not to what the game designers think I should.  I could design a warrior that's so-so with swords and daggers, is a crack shot with a bow or crossbow (is dead eye with a long bow), and is skilled with assassinating from behind using a dagger (a cut-throat).  While you might get something close to that with D&D, it won't be exactly the same design, and you have to use clumsy cross-classing just to shohorn your character into an aproximate mold of your design.
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Dacke

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2006, 05:55:48 PM »
Quote from: Cyberzombie
Ahem.  :)  EXACTLY as with the "harm" spell, I don't buy that something that was fine for 25 years suddenly became "broken" in 3e.  But that's all I'll say on that subject, to avoid us ENWorlding all over this poor thread of mine.
I think the main reason Harm "became" broken was instituting touch ACs. In AD&D, you needed to HIT the opponent to harm him, and getting off a 6th level cleric spell in melee wasn't all that easy (especially one with a full-round casting time). In 3e, casting Harm is just a standard action, an 11th level cleric can easily avoid the AoO for doing so (concentration DC 21, the cleric has +14 for skill ranks alone, plus Con bonus and assorted other stuff), and if he misses he can just "hold the charge" and try again.

Plus, magic was more powerful in 2e in general.
 

Cyclotron

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2006, 08:27:12 AM »
Quote from: Cyberzombie
Humanoids & demihumans -- D&D wouldn't be the same without dwarves, elves, halflings, orcs, and goblins, at least, as annoying as some of the racial stereotypes are.

I'd suggest that the racial stereotypes themselves are an essential part of a typical published D&D setting.
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Ottomsoh the Elderly

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What are the essential parts of a D&D setting?
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2006, 09:22:21 AM »
Quote from: Cyberzombie
Quote from: Lisa Nadazdy
Find a way to merge skills and Feats into a unified system.  Simpler is better.

Only one I don't like.  Of course, if you showed me a way it would work, I might change my tune.  :)

When I laid my grubby paws on Oblivion, I saw it featured an old idea of mine, which they called "skill perks." Essentially, they're feats that are acquired when your skill reaches a high enough score. In Oblivion you do not have a choice which perk you get, but you could imagine multiple perk trees for each skill. For inspiration, Modern's feat and talent trees could be looked at.

Now, on to the setting proper. Some considerations. D&D usually features these elements:
  • A pseudo-medieval and pseudo-European society
  • Polytheism mixed in with chivalry
  • Open practice of flashy magic
  • All sorts of undead
  • Cyclopean underground complexes
  • An impressive level of cosmopolitism, even if still mostly human-centric
  • One or two elven kingdoms where non-elves are forbidden to enter on pain on death
  • One or two copies of the Moria
  • Most real monsters belonging to one of these groups: undead, fiends, aberrations; humanoid monsters are usually simply fireball-fodder for one of these masterminds or wandering monster encounters.