Adventure-Friendly World

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"These look like crops! Who the heck farms in this kingdom?"

An interesting phenomenon in World Building in gaming, and certain kinds of Speculative Fiction: The focus of a game or story dictates aspects of the setting in many subtle ways.

To provide an example, let's say you want to have legal duels to the death over a matter of revenge; well, in order to have that, you need to have very weak law-enforcement (a relatively strong law-enforcement body takes, of necessity, a very dim view of revenge, as it runs directly counter to the very premise of strong law-enforcement), a heavy honor code on the part of the background culture (otherwise, why take lethal revenge, and even if you do take revenge, why not just assassinate the target?), and a world where life is cheap (why risk your life on such a matter if it isn't?). A expansion of the Anthropic Principle - the characters are on a given adventure because the world is designed to encourage adventures of that type.

Comes in two closely connected varieties:

  • Focus maximizing setting fluff. Why, say, having vast armies of skeletons who can only be defeated by a single party of adventurers makes sense. Or why Pirates can exist without being hunted down by the local navy.
  • Rule abstraction. The fact that (say) the economic model of a game is only realistic for parties of armed brigands loosely affiliated with a local community makes perfect sense when you're playing as a party of adventurers, but is quite noticeable if you try to figure out what happens if, say, you want to play a trader this time.

Note that Focus Maximizing Setting Fluff can be subverted. For example, you could have a setting where pirates are able to thrive because political instability in a region allows them to prey on merchants without fear of reprisal by the weak government. If at some point during during the story, or just before the beginning, a more stable system comes into effect, or the regional government makes sudden strives into asserting its legitimacy, you could have a story where the pirate characters are forced to adapt or otherwise deal with the realization that their lifestyle is no longer viable since significant resources are now being applied to stop them.

Focus-maximizing setting fluff varieties include:

  • An old-school D&D-styled game needs a lot of unexplored wilderness and ruins. This strongly implies a recent collapse, or people moving into a new territory if you're willing to forgo ruins. Guess what two things most fantasy roleplaying settings have in their recent background?
  • A more politically focused game either implies a powerful city, within a relatively stable state, or a closely connected world.
  • A smaller scale tactical wargame (on the order of a very small number of units) is going to want a very connected world (to maximize the possible pairings), with more Border Skirmishes than outright war. As you go up in scale, the setting will have more and more war and political instability, to better explain why one side or the other is regularly throwing large fighting forces at a target.
  • If you want pirates, you need either virtually no state at all, or fairly weak states.
    • Or, alternatively (or in addition to), you can use their cousins, Privateers, who require at least fairly potent states capable of commissioning and supporting one, but not strong enough or otherwise with a desire, maybe due to political complexities, to not send regular forces out to do it themselves.
  • If you want spy action, you need (at least) two powers at each other's throats (possibly at war, depending on the kind of spy you want).
  • Certain advances in technology may eliminate types of action and adventure that you want. If you want space combat to resemble the Age of Sail, you probably don't want the technology for fast, autonomous drone fighters or AI-guided missiles to battle at extended range with little human input. If you want knights in gleaming full-plate or lots of sword-dueling, you probably don't want a lot of guns.
    • On the other hand, you may not want to deal with a setting with no indoor plumbing or modern medicine, and if you want to have your cake and eat it too, you may end up with the Schizo-Tech of most Punk Punk settings.

Focus-maximizing rules abstraction include:

  • If the focus is purely on the adventurers going forth and killing monsters and taking their stuff, then a unrealistic economic model can be argued to be more realistic, as the result of a more realistic system would probably be the same.
  • Tactical wargames have a tendency to have more and more unrealistic logistics as their focus expands.
Examples of Adventure-Friendly World include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • According to Word of God, the Schizo-Tech in Naruto is due to trope. If a piece of technology would get in the way of ninjas doing cool ninja things, it doesn't exist. This is why you don't have motor vehicles or telephones, because they would obsolete running through forests and relying on messenger birds, but you still have computers and televisions.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Dale Brown books nuclear release has repeatedly failed to result in full-blown nuclear war, instead occurring as part of or lead-up to conventional conflicts.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Star Fleet Battles started out as a licensed Star Trek game of ship vs. ship combat, but then the developers wanted to have battles with more ships in them, so a General War broke out, and then another, and then another.
  • One of the reasons the Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000 settings are so insane is that every army needs to be able to fight every other army within canon (including itself), so high political instability is the order of the day.
  • Legend of the Five Rings is similar, except without the sense of self-parody that makes Warhammer bearable. Its setting, Rokugan, is a version of feudal Japan where adherence to bushido is turned Up to Eleven; where extreme racism and classism are considered virtues, and where everyone is pretty much expected to be an emotionless robot existing only to obey their superiors. All of which is fine when you’re playing as a Non-Entity General, controlling an entire clan abstractly via a card game… but then the RPG came along, where you’re actually put into the role of one individual and forced to see just what a Crapsack World the place truly is, and what an Idiot Plot the storyline has been in order for it to have turned out that way. It serves as a great example of how a setting can be friendly to one type of game, and hostile to another.
  • Dungeons & Dragons 4E more or less follows through on the logic of this trope with the implied Points Of Light setting in the default game, as noted in the official commentary on it.
    • Note that a large number of Dungeons and Dragons settings describe the local monster populations in great detail, but often not how the people in the area actually make their living...
      • Killing and eating monsters and taking their stuff, obviously.
    • Of particular note is Oerth. As the "standard" D&D world until 3.5E, its especially Adventure Friendly to the point where its pantheon reads like the gods an adventurer would worship rather than a commoner. There is no god of the harvest for example in the 3.5E Player's Handbook. There are also no patrons of business, love or craftsmen all of which one might think would be important in everyday life.
  • Traveller has a strong interstellar Imperium, but due to Jump drive taking a minimum of one week to travel from one system to another there is a lot of room for pirates and other trouble-makers.
    • Also many players are traders, so there has to be a fairly workable economy.
    • And there have been at least two collapses, and the Third Imperium is still expanding.
  • Magic: The Gathering has this on the level of the worlds bending towards the baseline iconography and mechanics (mountain dwelling cultures like goblins tend to be impulsive and/or emotionally intense, with magic that specializes in destruction and chaos), as well as with them bending towards mechanical quirks in the individual sets (a block where each color pair has it's own mechanical quirk takes place in a world ruled by a collapsing alliance of guilds that each combines the motivations and tactics of a different pair of colors)


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Excuse Plot of Quake III Arena is basically that the Gods wanted more entertainment, so they put you in the Arena Eternal.
    • Unreal Tournament has a somewhat similar excuse: the Tournament is backed by the New Earth Government. Unlike Q3A, though, it has some backstory: basically, the NEG reasons that as long as people can sate their bloodlust by watching a Blood Sport, they don't try to kill each other for kicks. And if they do... well, the Tournament is always open to new contestants. Not to mention the hundreds of billions of profit Liandri and the NEG gets out of the broadcasts.
  • The "setting" for Team Fortress 2 is a cartoony, 1960s mod-squad style world in order to handwave the paper-thin Excuse Plot.
  • Noticeable in the Warlords franchise, particularly the Puzzle Quest-related spin offs. The relative political stability of the world depends on what this game's plot demands. In some games, everybody is at each other's throats. In others, the factions have set up a peace sufficient to allow the player to travel the world.
  • Recettear explores how an Adventurer-based Economy would have to work. There would have to be a literal Dungeon Master who constantly fills dungeons with treasure. Where they get their resources is not disclosed.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, the currency is meat. Actual meat, taken from bodies. Naturally, the best way to get this meat is from things that you kill. Combine this with all of the hostile races and a near-universal Healing Factor (the race that the players are have it, as do elves), and you have an economy based around fighting.
    • Unless the meat you take from monsters you kill was just their pocket money...
  • The Constructed World of Strangereal was created specifically to encourage large-scale conflicts which could be won or lost by Ace Combat; multiple continents with opposed ideologies, and a distinct lack of fissionables in the planet's crust - nuclear weapons take years to build each, meaning that they are usually the resources fought over instead of with, as Mutually Assured Destruction could not be assured. There have thus been NINE WW 2-level conflicts in Strangereal's history(one for each game).
  • Solatorobo has an economy that largely centers on quest brokers and people who sell stuff for adventurers (though there are mentions of musicians, fashion designers, cooks, etc., they tend to get little more than a passing glance in the game proper). And, notably, these quests tend to center on someone who has a functional Mini-Mecha and possibly some basic fighting skills; there are no quests up for plumbers, for example.
  • X-COM UFO Defense takes place in a Crapsack World: The entire galaxy is ruled, rim to core and pole to pole, by an Completely Monstrous Hive Mind. Humans might be able to destroy the local node if they become The Unfettered - abolish every civil liberty and article of war. And there's another, unattached(albeit slightly less advanced) node in the Gulf of Mexico. And its destruction would reduce Earth's biosphere to the algae level. And there's an entire planet of Hive Mind aliens just one dimension over. And the best weapon against all these irredeemably hostile aliens are Half Human Hybrids with Psychic Powers... who will eventually become a permanent underclass treated like parolees from cradle to grave and not allowed to breed without permission(which tends to be withheld between invasions). This works out fine as the backstory of a hyper-lethal squad combat game: the utter monstrosity of your enemy means that as long as you have any surviving humans, you can always find vengeance-crazed replacements for troops lost in combat, or at least someone you can wave a carrot at to die at your command, and you never really run out of alien baddies to kill, capture and vivisect. But taken out of context, X-COM is essentially running sending unaccountable death squads against an enemy that can never really be beaten.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • The world of DMFA is partially built around the idea of freelance adventurers. Specifically, they supplement the highly corrupt judicial system, criminals are supposed to be sentenced by a member of their own race and society includes creatures who consider beings food.
  • A Modest Destiny is meant to be a deconstruction of RPG tropes, with an economy dependent on the Thieves' Guild, and a industry of custom made dungeons.
  • The Order of the Stick expands on how "a large number of Dungeons & Dragons settings describe the local monster populations in great detail, but often not how the people in the area actually make their living..." which turns out to be "Killing and eating monsters and taking their stuff, obviously." Thus, there are a large number of humanoid Rapid Aging Explosive Breeder races who the gods of the setting created solely to be slaughtered by roaming adventurers. Redcloak is a member of one such race who has lucked into an absurd amount of power, and is planning on doing something about it even if it destroys the entire universe.
  • Overside, without question - with an indeterminate number of strange, fantastical creatures who are constantly meeting, merging, or competing with each other, with plenty of ancient legends, relics, and ruined empires from the days of yore to go around(some of which get rebuilt and repopulated by successor empires which later collapse and leave new ruins on top of the old ones)... Overside is a world that is made for tale-telling.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Critical Hit's Season 1 and 2 World is one of these - it's a loosely affiliated continent of kingdoms, with monsters to the north, ancient ruins of Tiefling and Dragonborn civilizations, an underground city of robots, and even a moon full of Insane Gods and their creations.


Gamebooks[edit | hide]

  • Titan, the world in which the majority of the Fighting Fantasy games are set, is constantly having some part of it threatened by some sort of evil villain in order to support numerous homeless mercenaries the reader plays as. Most of the markets only seem to sell adventure-related gear, though it's mostly indicated that they also sell lots of other stuff, and the items the reader can buy are just the useful things that are on sale. Interestingly, Black Vein Prophecy and The Crimson Tide do make some effort to show a wider economy, and the effects of the wars and conflicts on ordinary farmers and craftsmen.
  • Magnamund, the setting of the Lone Wolf gamebooks, is constantly being attacked by the forces of Naar necessitating the Kai Order running about essentially putting out fires. When the Kai Order is down to one person, Lone Wolf has to do this all by himself...


Other[edit | hide]

  • With Strings Attached is set in an Adventure Friendly World that ran out of adventure. The society on Baravada is a crumbling anarchy, and the people are literally dying of boredom.