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Bathe Your World in Lore

by Mike on 8 January 2024

Lore matters. The histories and backgrounds of the worlds we run in our RPGs makes them unique among all others. We don't need to write a thousand pages of lore for our world but we need enough lore continually flowing during our game to make our world and our campaign stand apart from every other fantasy world out there. The lazy trick is to take lore from published settings. If you're making your own world, be ready to keep digging ever deeper into the lore of your world: gods, history, people, factions, and empires. Continually reveal these facts of your world through secrets and clues as the characters explore the world around them.

Setting Our Games Apart

Without the lore in our games, each game would feel very similar. You delve in dungeons. You walk across dangerous lands. You have hard conversations with people. You pick up treasure. You fight monsters. What keeps us going week after week, year after year, for decades?

The story. The lore.

It's not just a dungeon – it's a lost laboratory of the shadowy Netherese. It's not just a ruined tower – it's a ruined watchtower of Thrakus the Witch King. It's not just another noble fop – it's Artinias Faine, whose bloodline goes back over fifty generations to the empire of Vorigan.

Lore Matters

When we talk about spiral campaign development we talk about focusing worldbuilding around the characters and their location. You don't need a full pantheon of gods, fifty thousand years of history, and a detailed atlas of the twelve empires ruling across the world.

Or do you?

Well, not really, but it sure helps to have enough details to set your world and your campaign apart from every other generic fantasy world out there. This is why secrets and clues are so powerful – you can take a bunch of lore and break it down to ten one-sentence bits you can drop into your game wherever you need it.

Embrace Published Settings

In a previous article I talked about running homebrew adventures in published settings and I think using lore from published settings is the most valuable lazy way to ensure your world is set apart. Your typical adventures of dungeon delving, overland exploration, and NPC interaction feel completely different if you're running them in Eberron, the Forgotten Realms, Midgard, or the Gloaming. The setting makes our adventures unique and published settings have already done the heavy lifting. They have the pantheon, the history, the people, and the empires all written up and ready for you to break down into secrets and clues the characters discover in the game.

Staying One Step Ahead

But maybe you're stubborn and want to run your own world. You don't have to write a 400 page sourcebook to do so. You can start small – keeping the focus on what the characters find around them. You don't need all the gods, just the ones the characters follow or the gods followed by those individuals and groups who oppose the characters. You don't need a world history, just the history of the local town and the dungeon below it.

Focusing on just the stuff around the characters keeps you one step ahead without needing to overprep. Each session you'll want new pieces of the world you might reveal that slowly teaches them (and you!) what this world has to offer and what makes it unique among fantasy worlds.

Don't Forget the Importance of Lore

Lore is easy to forget. We get caught up in the game's mechanics, the stories of our individual sessions, the actions of the characters, and all the rest. It's lore, however, that makes our adventures truly unique and noteworthy in the sea of fantastic worlds in which we surround ourselves.

Bathe your game in lore.

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