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Why do we remove the r from rpg?


Gamer Talk


I must admit that I ,and some old timers in our table, feel there is a witch- hunt against any effort to give some color. Do not take me for a hater, just wondering what is so wrong with adding a few words on item's background? Sometimes the item is cool because someone cool wore it before you, maybe even cooler than the +99 dragon slaying mace of infinite wishes.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Background forces work on the GM is one answer.

If the item has background, the player may ask the GM about it and how it fits in his world. The GM then has to either get back to the player and find out the background, where it came from, what books it is derived from etc, and then work it into his own world to be able to answer the player.

Simply put, more work for the already overburdened GM is bad.

An even simpler answer that has been given previously - in the Pathfinder books (Not 3.5 or earlier), "show me 1 Wondrous Item with back-story". Note artifacts, rods, rings, etc are not Wondrous Items.

And probably in the way Sean or Neil might put it:

An item is cool in it's own right, it needs no supporting actors to make it cool.


The way I put it is...

"You add backstory, prior owner names and I WILL eat you!"


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Seriously though, the backstory elements of magical gear should be the perogative of the GM and their own campaign. We shouldn't be forcing him or her to use a specific backstory, setting, religion, etc.

The world belongs to the GM and players, we just provide the tools by which they can shape it. It they want backstory, religion, etc. provided, then these are found in the numerous Golarion setting books.


As long as the mechanics and the item itself is cool...then a little backstory AFTER the mechanics is probably gravy. But like Sean mentioned earlier, if the name wasn't in Gygax's then it shouldn't be on a wondrous item.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I entered the world of rpg's under the tutelage of a friend of mine, who was our GM. He taught me how to bend characters until they break the world. I watched him do it. I did it. And then, as years passed, I realized it was more fun to play characters with real flaws and setbacks instead of the Superman version of whatever class. Role-playing and storytelling is very important to me and my rpg experience.

This is not the game, however. This is a game design competition. As Sean K. Reynolds posted elsewhere, it is much easier to teach people how to write stories than it is to teach them the rule mechanics. Much of the RPGSS is geared towards the mechanics side of things to test us on that, and less so on the storytelling.

As you said, sometimes the item is cool because of someone else. Awesome, I totally agree. But then you are taking away some of the cool of the item itself and putting it on the person. And this first round isn't about the person, it's about the item. So make an item that's cool regardless of who else has worn it or even who made it.

The type of item you are discussing is more of a Maguffin than a standard Wondrous Item. It has backstory, it has flair, it is unique. The wondrous items for the competition are supposed to be more standard, run of the mill, can-be-played-in-any-setting-not-just-mine. For these type of items, a backstory isn't necessary, and players don't really care who created or wore such-and-such item 500 years before Aroden's death when they're buying standard equipment for their character.

The roleplaying is certainly more important than the item, but the rp is also the realm of the GM, not the item. The GM should tell the story, not the item's blurb in the book.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Alternate topic for this thread's title: mature content in tabletop gaming. ;)

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Not only that, but back story often conflicts with the game.

If you say Item X is only made by Gebbian (er, is that the proper adjective) necromancers, for example, does that mean my character can't make the item if he's an Ustalavan necromancer?

I think the color comes in the description of the item, and possibly, the powers. Look at last year's elixir of resurgent flame by Daniel Rust. I think it just oozes color, so much so that I actually looked at it for inspiration this year:

Quote:
Drinking this smoldering red liquid, sacred to the god Nethys, results in searing pain as numinous power courses through the drinker’s body, boiling the blood and causing the skin to smoke and burn from within. The drinker is sickened for one round before the pain is soothed by an invigorating flood of cool energy. The drinker is left with blackened scorch marks on their skin in the shape of archaic runes for flame and succor. These symbols may appear anywhere on the body but the right side of the drinker’s face is always terribly burned in honor of The All-Seeing Eye. The runes grant the drinker access to several words of power for the next 24 hours, after which all burns fade away.

I mean that's awesome, but none of it is back story.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Drakellakos wrote:
I must admit that I ,and some old timers in our table, feel there is a witch- hunt against any effort to give some color. Do not take me for a hater, just wondering what is so wrong with adding a few words on item's background? Sometimes the item is cool because someone cool wore it before you, maybe even cooler than the +99 dragon slaying mace of infinite wishes.

Can you be a bit more specific about the situations in question?

Sczarni

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I agree with Anthony Adam. If you build specific backstory into the item's description, what you're really doing is limiting a GM's flexibility in how he uses it.

But there are better ways to include flavor in an item that don't cause this problem. I think a good example of how to insert flavor *well* is from one of last year's winning entries: Last Leaves of the Autumn Dryad. That's an item that's oozing with flavor, based on just its name and abilities. But there's nothing specific, so a GM is free to use whatever backstory he pleases to present it to his players.

I'm actually just about to use the Last Leaves in a homebrew game I'm running, as a major item owned by an evil fae. If the players manage to take it from her, I can just hand them the writeup from Ultimate Equipment. I won't have to say, "Ignore this bit about the backstory; I changed it."

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4

7 people marked this as a favorite.

Because, to be blunt, you're not as interesting as you think you are.

Please note the 'you' in that doesn't refer to the OP, it's a general rule that applies to everyone.

We all have our fun RPG background stories, and we all like to think they'd be the coolest thing ever to see them written up in print. But here's the thing: in less than 300 words you're simply devoid of the room you need to make backstory properly interesting. At best someone is going to be able to fit in a sentence or two tossing out a name, date, battle, deity, whatever, which is deep and meaningful to themselves and possibly their players. To strangers on the internet scouring through hundreds of entries? Well, i can't speak for anyone but myself, of course, but when I see that sort of thing pop up in an entry, I just sort of *blip* right over it because it's completely meaningless to me and even if it sounds potentially interesting, you're not going to be able to expand on that potential for me. Again, this isn't something that I'm saying about one contestant or even most contestants; given a 300 word limit, the names Elric, Aragorn, Ged, Kvothe are all equally as irrelevant as any home campaign backstory I could come up with.

So an entry like that has just burned up 80-100 words on something I could care less about. And, here's the thing; there are very,very few entries ever that couldn't use those extra 100 words to clarify on the item mechanics. If I were writing a campaign setting or sourcebook, then yeah, I would see merit in talking about how this is the glass hand of Arrock the Ghosteye, because I'd have room elsewhere in the book to describe how cool and important a character to that campaign world, Arrock the Ghosteye is. For purposes of this contest, though, Arrock the Ghosteye does not exist. There's no place to explain why he's someone you should care about or why he had a hand made out of freakin' glass. So don't waste the room doing so when you could use that room to explain what happens when someone hits the hand with a shatter spell.

Now, none of this is to say that flavor text is bad. Just don't mistake backstory and flavor as going hand in hand. I would say that most top 32 entries that have been fan favorites are flavorful, thy just use that flavor in their prescription of the item. I don't need to know that, say, Dan Jones' claw of the crawling spell comes from the blackest reaches of space , sent here by a mad elder god for the benefit of his cultists, or that it comes from the far plateaus of Leng. Instead it has an awesome description that oozes wonderful flavor, gives me a lot of inspiration for how I can use it in my campaign, without making me feel like I'm not using it 'right' just because I don't play with crazy elder gods. It does this in one sentence.

Quote:
This glove is made of writhing tentacles blacker than the void between the stars and possesses otherworldly powers that violate the natural laws of this reality.

So in one sentence you get a concrete description of the item, plus flavorful implications about the actual nature of said item. That is far more useful to me than sentences of namedropping that are completely meaningless to me.

Really, it ultimately comes down to the old canard of 'show, don't tell.' SHOW me the flavor of your item, don't TELL it to me. Because I'll get bored and move on elsewhere.


Items with a backstory are awesome, and anyone who tries to perpetrate otherwise is missing a lot of the legendary aspect of RPGs. That being said, a backstory, like any story is part of a narrative universe, and that narrative universe is something that Pathfinder considers very unique to a campaign. Paizo has tried to keep Campaign world and rules as separate as possible, whenever possible. Look at the Core Rulebook and you will see almost nothing in there that informs the player about the specifics of Golarian. The only part of the CRB that even hints at a specific setting is the gods section of the cleric class, and even then, we get almost no detail about them at all, just a paper cut-out of a divine patron to show what they mechanically look like.

To be entirely honest, I am a little surprised that entries referencing the broad strokes of religion and nationality in Golarian are considered acceptable. That being said, I am happy that we have the chance to use that toolbox of setting to inform our items.

Items should have backstory, but not wondrous items without a campaign. Wondrous items don't fit into the game with enough uniqueness for a wondrous item to need its own backstory. Either this specific version of the item gets a backstory (GM responsibility), or the item is too big to not deserve a generalized backstory (and thus is probably not the right fit for a wondrous item).

By including a backstory for an item, you are telling the player something about the history of the GMs world, which is never fun when you are the GM trying to port rules to your homebrew campaign, or even playing with published material in a non-native campaign setting.

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

+2 DRaino wrote:
Items with a backstory are awesome, and anyone who tries to perpetrate otherwise is missing a lot of the legendary aspect of RPGs.

I don't think anyone is saying otherwise. However, unless the item is unique (IE: an artifact), each individual item is going to have its own backstory. So unless you have a 400 page book detailing the legacies of a handful of everfull quivers, including a backstory is going to snub someone. Let the DM include backstories for items he feels have earned one and he can make it fit with the world far better.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

The first fantasy game system I played was Earthdawn, where the backstory was what made the item magical in the first place. The unique powers in the Earthdawn equivalent of a Wondrous Item or Artifact (or even most magic weapons and armor) came from its story, down to the way the system provided a mechanic for unlocking an item's powers through learning its name, researching its history, and performing specific quests. Magic items in Earthdawn were, in a lot of ways, more like NPCs than Pathfinder's Wondrous Items.

You can get away with that sort of item-as-roleplay in a system where the mechanics, the broader flavor of the system, and the setting are all to some extent inextricable. My experience is pretty shallow, but that seems to be the case for stuff like Shadowrun and WoD, and licensed settings too. It might even have a role in Pathfinder products designed for a specific setting.

But Pathfinder, and more specifically what the judges have said they're looking for in RPGSS, are setting neutral. You might see judges throw in some points for subtle links to Golarion, but it has to work just as well when there's no specific setting attached to it at all.

That said, the best roleplaying items in RPGSS (in my opinion) are the ones that encourage emergent gameplay, giving players lots of options to stretch the rules, as those items make it easy for a GM to give the item whatever color they want without worrying about the mechanical impact.

Paizo Employee Webstore Gninja Minion

Moved thread.


I always get so confused this time of year. I see a thread that seems to be about the player wanting his character's +1 longsword to have a bit of flavor around it. These threads usually go pretty predictably.

But then I see people arguing against flavor. I'm completely bewildered. Wondering if I'm in the right forum.

Then I read Jiggy's post. I realize I'm not in the wrong forum--the thread is. Or a different forum from the one it started in, anyways. Context is everything.

Not convinced Gamer Talk is really the place for RPG Superstar discussion, but what do I know?

Paizo Employee Webstore Gninja Minion

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Not convinced Gamer Talk is really the place for RPG Superstar discussion, but what do I know?

The overall topic seemed to need a bigger home than just the RPG Superstar forums.

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Kobold Cleaver wrote:

I always get so confused this time of year. I see a thread that seems to be about the player wanting his character's +1 longsword to have a bit of flavor around it. These threads usually go pretty predictably.

But then I see people arguing against flavor. I'm completely bewildered. Wondering if I'm in the right forum.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for flavor. However, I think boilerplating it onto every item is restrictive. In fact, putting fluff on a lot of things makes them more restrictive. If I want to fluff my Dodge feat as my character turning slightly incorporeal for a fraction of a second reflexively, and it has no impact on gameplay, then who cares? Mechanics and fluff should be two disparate but prized things. Marrying them to each other is restrictive.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Liz Courts wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Not convinced Gamer Talk is really the place for RPG Superstar discussion, but what do I know?
The overall topic seemed to need a bigger home than just the RPG Superstar forums.

Nevertheless, it's very confusing for those of us who weren't perusing the Superstar forums to come into a dislocated thread: several of the above posts make >no sense without the context.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

In my game, I love writing backstories for most of the magic items-- especially armor and weapons. It gives them character and make them something that the PCs want to use (or at least learn more about) rather than "trade in" for something cooler.

There's such a difference between telling your players:

"You find a glowing +1 longsword."

...and...

"You find a finely-crafted longsword that's obviously magical: the perfectly-balanced blade is glowing brightly with a pale green light. It appears to be of Elven manufacture. The blade is polished steel with gold filigree along the centre of the blade. The rainguard bears an image of a stylized sunburst. It has a golden hilt with a curved crossguard, and its grip is wound with golden wire. The pommel is also wrought like a sunburst, with a red gem in its centre. On one side of the crossguard are elven letters. They read 'Delthariel" which translates to 'Lightbringer'. The hilt feels warm to the touch. Statistically, it's a +1 weapon."

Which would you rather keep?


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Given I'm probably playing a dwarf, I chuck that stupid elf blade back among the corpses and take the +1 longsword.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

3 people marked this as a favorite.

The first one, as it leaves more time for actually roleplaying before I have to go home.

Shadow Lodge

Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Given I'm probably playing a dwarf, I chuck that stupid elf blade back among the corpses and take the +1 longsword.

Don'tcha hate it when there's no axes?

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Haladir wrote:
[...]

I'd rather come up with all of that myself via researching the history of a particular item than have it handed to me on the item's acquisition. I really only want to know the histories for the items I care about. Some items also don't have impressive histories. Example: "This finely-crafted and obviously magical sword, after its forging, was taken to the cave of the dragon Varusvariarx by a farm boy aspiring to knighthood. The dragon had a snack that came with a free toothpick. After being misused as a toothpick, this sword languished in Varusvariarx's hoard until you came along and cut Varusvariarx's head off."

As a player, I couldn't care less about a history like that: it's largely irrelevant for pretty much anyone.

However, for an item that has an actual impressive history (akin to "Elvenheromaniel carried this sword through fifteen years of war, killing Badguy McOrcius, Evildude Dragonking, Tyrant Tyrantius McTarantino, and Lichdude McNasty with it. Its impressive suite of powers are directly related to those vanquishings, and the weathered blade is remarkably still sharp. If swords were dogs, this sword would have a pedigree a mile long, trophies from thirty dog shows, and perfect, magic teeth."

That said, it's still based on the individual item, while the original complaint was against non-specific items having a specific origin or implied user-base. That is to say, amulets of natural armor +1 are only made and wielded by druids coming from the Ludicrouslylarge Forest in the north-lands. It's needlessly restrictive. What if I'm a southern, desert druid? Can I not make an amulet of natural armor +1 simply because the unneeded and unnecessary item back-story is attached to it?

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.

As long as we don't have a description of the death of McTarantino, I suspect this mythical item won't be linked with sporadic fountains of blood... :)

Nice descriptions, FaxCelestis. Very cool.


Haladir wrote:

In my game, I love writing backstories for most of the magic items-- especially armor and weapons. It gives them character and make them something that the PCs want to use (or at least learn more about) rather than "trade in" for something cooler.

There's such a difference between telling your players:

"You find a glowing +1 longsword."

...and...

"You find a finely-crafted longsword that's obviously magical: the perfectly-balanced blade is glowing brightly with a pale green light. It appears to be of Elven manufacture. The blade is polished steel with gold filigree along the centre of the blade. The rainguard bears an image of a stylized sunburst. It has a golden hilt with a curved crossguard, and its grip is wound with golden wire. The pommel is also wrought like a sunburst, with a red gem in its centre. On one side of the crossguard are elven letters. They read 'Delthariel" which translates to 'Lightbringer'. The hilt feels warm to the touch. Statistically, it's a +1 weapon."

Which would you rather keep?

The one that took you 103 words less to describe the exact same thing.

If it doesn't do anything special it doesn't need a backstory. You can walk into any weapon shop and pick up a golf bag full of +1 swords, none of them having the same baggage the "Random Elf longsword" has.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Geez, no need to get hostile! Since we've been talking about character backstories in several other threads on this board, I thought this was a thread to talk about writing flavor for items, and how to make low-powered items more interesting.

Obviously, we have very different play styles. I don't think you'd like my games very much, as I'm not a fan of ubiquitous magic stores.


Maybe not. I like to make my own stories (over time) for things unless it's something spectacular and unique. There's really only so many legendary stories you can tell about "Generic +1 Mildly Enchanted Sword #6276525" before it becomes both boring and ludicrous.

Think about it: Is the legendary hero of yore going to be tooling around with the Gener-O-Tron 5000 or is he going to be rocking the "+10 Badass Sword From Hell That Eats Demons To Grow More Powerful" or some such?

And if he's not a legendary hero of any kind, he's just some Elven shmuck who died in the middle of nowhere with a very pretty looking "Sword of Minor Magical Abilities", so why should I care?

It just raises too many questions.


Haladir wrote:

In my game, I love writing backstories for most of the magic items-- especially armor and weapons. It gives them character and make them something that the PCs want to use (or at least learn more about) rather than "trade in" for something cooler.

There's such a difference between telling your players:

"You find a glowing +1 longsword."

...and...

"You find a finely-crafted longsword that's obviously magical: the perfectly-balanced blade is glowing brightly with a pale green light. It appears to be of Elven manufacture. The blade is polished steel with gold filigree along the centre of the blade. The rainguard bears an image of a stylized sunburst. It has a golden hilt with a curved crossguard, and its grip is wound with golden wire. The pommel is also wrought like a sunburst, with a red gem in its centre. On one side of the crossguard are elven letters. They read 'Delthariel" which translates to 'Lightbringer'. The hilt feels warm to the touch. Statistically, it's a +1 weapon."

Which would you rather keep?

WHich would you rather have in a game book about magical items? The second one is really great - in a specific campaign where all of that makes sense or is connected to a larger story. In a game book about magical items it is a waste of space.


The amount of backstory an item should have is directly dependent on the game that is being played.

And no, I don't mean Pathfinder versus something else - I mean the people at the table, or online, or wherever you're playing.

Some players will like story in their items. Some players don't. Many people will say "oh, a +1 sword. to the second description", and others will say "but where did this powerful magical weapon come from?" to the first.

There is no magical 'best amount of story' that an item can have.

That all said, there is a time and a place for it. The opening round of RPG superstar, for instance, is a place to create items that are largely world-generic, and can be put anywhere.

In the back of an Adventure Path book, however, you can expect items to be thick with history and backstory.

It's just one of those questions whose answer is 'it depends'.

Shadow Lodge

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Bah! Why should my character care about what feats have been achieved with the sword before? In the future, the sword will be legendary not because of that mere prelude, but because of what I do with it.

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

PsychoticWarrior wrote:
WHich would you rather have in a game book about magical items? The second one is really great - in a specific campaign where all of that makes sense or is connected to a larger story. In a game book about magical items it is a waste of space.

Right. In a campaign or a module, feel free to give a healthy backstory to a specific item. But for general items--something that the players can craft, even--it doesn't make sense unless you want to chart the histories of literally thousands of items.

Shadow Lodge

3 people marked this as a favorite.

This +1 longsword was laboriously crafted by Roland the Blacksmith, sacredly blessed by Frederick the Wise, mystically enchanted by Mondoon the Magnificent, and bestowed upon John the Valient. Who was then horribly eaten by the dragon Ragesh the Ravenous, but not quite so Ravenous as he was before he ate John.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Who. Who, Whoooooo and Who by the what?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

When my players find a magic weapon and are interested in it's background, I let them come up with it by doing research on the item, or by runic writings on it, or whatever. I usually make the caveat that if it breaks something worldwise I might have to adjust it.

Less work for me, more creative power to the players.


Well someone should have read more entries before opening threads. Ok, I get it, its just a fre.king wondrous item. Nevertheless, the replies were interesting as was the commotion in the board. I hope for more accuracy in the future. Just to dissolve any presumptions, its not important if I think my description is cool but my players or readers.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Drakellakos wrote:
I must admit that I ,and some old timers in our table, feel there is a witch- hunt against any effort to give some color. Do not take me for a hater, just wondering what is so wrong with adding a few words on item's background? Sometimes the item is cool because someone cool wore it before you, maybe even cooler than the +99 dragon slaying mace of infinite wishes.

There really isn't so much a witchhunt, but you're thinking of a different context. If you were in the novel or movie of the Hobbit, Bilbo's sword is a special magical and above all, RARE thing. But in a typical D20/Pathfinder campaign, a +1 sword is really a truly trivial item even if it does come with a bunch of pretty sounding background text, it doesn't make that sword any more special than the one the fighter bought at Magic Mart last week. Giving such an item that kind of flavor is fairly pretentious in a standard D20ish background.

Now, true one of a kind items, that's where the flavor comes into his own.

Earthdawn is a special case because each magic item is pretty much literally unique as items don't become magical until they've actually been welded into the character's personal story, or you relink to the story of a previous wielder, but then again what we call magic items aren't so common that every character wears a Christmas tree of them.

The only other game setting where I see this come into place would that be one drawn from comic book superheroes. Thor's hammer is special because it really is the only one that's just like it. (even ones given to the other Thors, like Thunderstrike, are considerably different in character.)

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Given I'm probably playing a dwarf, I chuck that stupid elf blade back among the corpses and take the +1 longsword.

What if Thorin had done that with Orcrist? Sauron would have won in the end! : )


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

OK-- it looks like I missed the context of the original post: I didn't realize this was a continuinuing discussion from the RPG Superstar board.

I thought this thread was continuing the spate of backstory threads that have been common on the Gamer Talk board for the past few weeks, and approached this from the context of a GM writing backstories for specific items dropped in a speficic campaign for a specific set of PCs. I will hold that, for the games I like to run and for the players who like to play in my games, it adds to the game. Especially in my campaign-- which is set in Golarion, and isn't a low-magic world, but Magic Marts for the most part do not exist. Magic items are not commodities that are regularly bought and traded in my game. Each magic item is a unique construction by a unique crafter, and most magic items (even low-powered ones) have minor flavor variations.

I'll agree that flavorful backstories for otherwise-common items isn't appropriate for an item write-up that will appear in a campaign-neutral magic item compendium. That kind of individual item backstory should be the purview of an individual GM if that's the kind of story he/she wants to tell with his/her players.

But the level of snark and hostility in this thread reminds me why I mostly avoid the Rules and Advice boards.

I'm signing off this thread now. Have fun, kids.

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