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Does Roleplaying Focus Too Much on the Strange?

One of the Dungeons & Dragons Gazetteers published in the late 1980’s had a city with streetlights. For the life of my I can’t remember which one, but it was a country ruled over by wizards. I remember reading that and having a serious epiphany. Of course they’d have street lights. If wizards can cast all manner of light spells, they’d use them for more than dungeon crawls. Low-level wizards could walk the streets each evening, employed as lamplighters. Wealthy districts could have permanent magical streetlights crafted by high-level mages. It got me thinking that campaigns often focus too much on the strange. We look at the adventure-fodder, and skip the sense of wonder that everyday life in a fantasy world can bring.

Obviously, adventures need an inciting incident. Something happens that is decidedly Not Normal. The characters have to figure out how to deal with this change. This is one of the fundamentals of fiction. I would argue that when we’re prepping adventures, with limited time and resources, it’s natural to focus on in-play details. When we’re worldbuilding, though, we need to spend more time on those elements.

I’d say it’s more beneficial to concentrate on that mundane background stuff than to worry about generation dozens of plot hooks and adventures seeds. Stories will arise naturally. Players will create situations you never imagined. Tiny details are a lot harder to come up with on the fly. They don’t always happen organically. The payoff isn’t in encounters, but in making the setting more interesting and immersive.

Does Roleplaying Focus Too Much on the Strange?

RPGaDay is an annual event held each August. It asks tabletop gamers to use provided daily prompts to express something fun, interesting, and positive about the hobby. David F. Chapman (Autocratik), the award-winning game designer, created it.

About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.