Is it possible to add depth to a story by using a premade world like Rokugan/ Legend of the 5 Rings, which already…

Is it possible to add depth to a story by using a premade world like Rokugan/ Legend of the 5 Rings, which already…

Is it possible to add depth to a story by using a premade world like Rokugan/ Legend of the 5 Rings, which already has a fully developed culture and even has courtier as a class?

18 thoughts on “Is it possible to add depth to a story by using a premade world like Rokugan/ Legend of the 5 Rings, which already…”

  1. Yeah; it’ll be harder, but you can still find places to leave blanks when it comes to the world. And heck, I think there’s totally room for it: it’s still a big world, and you can never capture a setting down to the intimate levels of detail. Even what’s in the setting books can often be thought of as “broad strokes”.

    EDIT: Like, sure, you know about the Crab Clan, and their history, but what is it like for this family of Crab folks? What is their specific day-to-day like? What personal rituals and stuff do they have? What legendary figures belong to their past?

  2. I feel like the problem with established canon and DW is that you remove some of the improv nature. A player may want to be something or do something that would cause a conflict. Probably not a big deal, but definitely less enjoyable than saying “Sure, there’s a giant underground dwarven city right here. That sounds awesome.”

  3. Totally possible. I’m going to assume the depth is needed because the players are not big on shaping the world themselves. That’s totally fine and not a deal breaker at all. However, my advice as a GM is not to be precious about the setting. If the players at any point suggest things that don’t jive with the setting, side with the players.

  4. I think that would be great. I mean, DW says “ask questions and use the answers.” That doesn’t preclude an interesting/different setting. (After all, the default “setting” may feel vanilla but its full of Fantasy tropes.) So long as you totally stay away from the metaplot of those premade worlds and use/make appropriate playbooks, you have all kinds of room to let players be cool. Think of it like an elaborate stage. Set it and then let players interact with it; don’t try to keep drawing players back into the canon and don’t “protect” areas of the stage. No untouchable elements! That’s the part that wouldn’t work well. (And isn’t very good GMing for the most part anyway.)

  5. Using premade stuff to get everyone on the same page, preventing them from asking superfluous questions and getting them to ask the right questions for driving story…

    …surely that can only be a good thing.

  6. Michael Wenman

    What are “superfluous questions” in this context?  Honest question.  In DW, pretty much all questions are legit because the world hasn’t been established yet.

  7. Honest answer… In my opinion, a superfluous question is one that leads to argument on the table rather than progression of the narrative. It’s like porn, you’ll know it when you see/hear it. I’ve seen it happen on game tables all the time, one players asks a question…rule books and source books are consulted, websites are looked up, discussions are had…no decisions are made and the question ends up being answered with “we’ll get back to it later”, generally ignoring that it was ever asked.

    A question with a wasted time as its result, and no solid answer from a game-world or story-driving perspective…that’s superfluous in my mind. If everyone gets on the same page, or generally knows “where things are at” for a setting, questions can be set up within the context of the setting rather than needing to establish the ground rules that are required to make deviation from “the norm” interesting.

  8. But in DW, there are no source books to consult. A good GM can take almost any question, turn it to the others and say “What do you think?” Instead of having a disagreement, you get a discussion.

    If a group is 100% into a given setting, I think DW can easily run in that setting. If the group is only 75% into a setting, I think DW style can actually work against it, as those who are less comfortable won’t have the freedom to interject without clashing against canon.

    UNLESS, the GM is clear that the canon-of-the-table outranks the canon-of-the-source.

  9. Maybe I’ve just seen too many loose settings derailed by different people who have different preconceived notions about what’s going on.

    (EDIT: …and maybe I’ve seen too many GMs that can be described by that criteria as “not good”)

  10. Another thing you could do is use the world of L5R, but advance the timeline by a couple centuries. That way the Crab clan can still be around, but when a player says her character is from the Mosquito clan, that totally works. You use just the best bits of the old setting to fill in some of the blanks between what the players establish, making a world that feels familiar but is also original.

  11. Tim Jensen: You could also approach some interesting stories about modernization, if you wanted–what does it look like as the world starts to implement technology?

  12. Michael Wenman

    I agree with Joseph F. Russo here – there’s nothing to consult or argue about in DW.  Someone has a setting question? The GM looks at the person who they decide has the best tie to that part of the game and says “Okay Throndar; In your travels, you’ve been to the Freehold of Lond;  Who rules there now?” and presto! Dispute resolved.  There’s no arguing.

    There’s nothing to argue over because there are no other versions of the setting.  Nothing is real until it is stated at the table, but once it is, that’s canon. 

    I’m having a hard time imagining a question that would lead to argument or time wasting in Dungeon World – I mean, yes, you could ask a bunch of questions that don’t turn out to be RELEVANT, but I’d argue that’s not time wasting, and even if it were, having a pre-existing setting doesn’t solve that problem.

    Actually, come to think of it, I’m not sure how having a pre-existing setting solves any issues with questions of the type you describe, because having a bunch of pre-existing words and details gives you stuff to look up and argue over that you wouldn’t otherwise have had.  So to me, pre-existing settings make this problem worse, not better.

  13. Yeah. I mean you have to not be a slave to the setting. You could totally do Dark Sun or Spelljammer for instance, but you would just have to think of it as an alternate history version and let it grow with the players’ thoughts. Otherwise all their answers will be predestined if you ask the wrong questions or if the only right answers are already encoded in the setting. 

  14. Maybe I’ve just been playing L5R for too long (basically since it began) with a regular group of players, and we’d never ask those sorts of setting questions because we all pretty much know the answers.

    But, everyone’s got a different degree of experience in different areas, I can concede how it would disrupt things for a group of players who didn’t have 20 years worth of setting knowledge. Irreconcilable differences of opinion, I guess.

  15. Perhaps the most fun part of Dungeon World is the emerging details about the world and how events shape it. So, if you go with an established setting, you still want to leave lots of room to fill in details and for things to change. Leave blanks. Play to find out what happens.

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