Author Topic: How Much Is To Much Documentation?  (Read 1968 times)

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Jeshin Offline

How Much Is To Much Documentation?
« on: April 08, 2017, 02:02:16 AM »
When you're developing a unique setting without source books or regular books or media associated with it how much documentation should you be aiming to provide to players and how much is excessive? For this purpose lets use the most common of settings feudal fantasy with magic. Lets call this setting FFM and lets say that we're going to avoid some of the more common feudal fantasy tropes so we don't want to lean on other media to inform on our setting.

FFM Documentation
+ Primary Location
     - This document outlines and describes the primary city of our setting. Its known laws, its general attitude, its governance.

+ Ethnicity/Race 1
      - This document gives a blurb about race 1, their appearance, their favoured fashion, any historical relevance to Primary location

+ Ethnicity/Race 2
      - This document gives a blurb about race 2, their appearance, their favoured fashion, any historical relevance to Primary location

+ Ethnicity/Race 3
      - This document gives a blurb about race 3, their appearance, their favoured fashion, any historical relevance to Primary location

+ Religions
      - This document outlines any major religions, how it relates to primary location or the races or big bad

+ Magic
      - This document outlines magic, how it affects daily life, how it's perceived by non-magic users, examples of its usage

+ Big Bad
      - This document outlines the enemies of the primary location or religions or magic or races. Give a little history of the first appearance of the big bad and modern day events.

For a 'unique' setting where you want people to grasp the core concepts of your world and any non-standard information is that part of the game. Is this enough documentation assuming 500 word minimum per section. Does anything need to be added in this theoritical example or is 3500 words to dense for introducing players to a setting?

Many Faces Offline

Re: How Much Is To Much Documentation?
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2017, 01:29:40 AM »
I've really struggled with this question myself.  I have a very good attention span and I actually enjoy writing documentation, which are two strikes against normal people relating to me.

With that said, I think your best bet is to focus on the likelihood that people want to try your game before they commit to it.  There's no reason why you couldn't have a small blurb people can read about each [noun] that represents the minimum knowledge anyone should have about [noun].  For people who want to play a [species/race] [profession] from [place] who have background knowledge of [noun(s)], you have a link to more extensive documentation they can use to get in character better.

You can't do that with everything.  It's really only for cutting down on the flavor spam and IC rules that don't apply to all characters.

Jeshin Offline

Re: How Much Is To Much Documentation?
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2017, 01:35:48 AM »
Part of my writing style when creating documentation is the bullet point which I normally abuse to TLDR or convey high priority bite-sized information. So you would have something like a 500 word blurb and then a list of bullet points that can be scrolled down too. I do think that more is always better, as long as there are TLDRs. Games with strong documentation tend to have more confident players that feel like they can make their characters thematic and react the way staff want. There's a surprising impact when players aren't sure if they're portraying a concept right where they become followers instead of content creators until they are comfortable within the setting or character concept they are uncertain about.

Many Faces Offline

Re: How Much Is To Much Documentation?
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2017, 03:51:23 AM »
I'm not against extensive documentation, but how you organize it is important.  At the very least you should spell out to people, "This is the minimum you need to know to play without ruining the immersion of other players.  Over here is all the stuff you're allowed to know no matter what you place.  Oh, and this stuff here is lost to time, but it gives you some concept of what we're going for."

Clarity Offline

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Re: How Much Is To Much Documentation?
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2017, 04:29:16 AM »
I personally like having a one page primer with the absolute minimum you need to read to create a character and get you through the first week, ideally in bullet point form and available both on game and on the web. While still having more detailed information on the setting for people to pick up on once they become more established.

Exactly what is in the primer will be dependant on the setting, and could include basic information races, location, technology, magic, skills, combat, economy, social systems, religion and any important rules.

I'll admit, I've been put off many times by a game that has had literally pages and pages of content, or rule books that I have to read before I can even conceptualise a character and get started.

And likewise I've been put off by games that once I've become settled, there's little in the way of further reading on the setting, yet still with the expectation that characters adhere to theme that has only been established on RP and not in documentation.

« Last Edit: April 10, 2017, 04:30:55 AM by Clarity »
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Re: How Much Is To Much Documentation?
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2017, 09:22:17 AM »
It's my opinion that most games over-invest on massive word-counts to describe the history and NPCs in exquisite detail while forgetting to write down the information that players need to bring their characters and the setting alive, that is the culture.

When I want to create a character that comes from the land of Bobistan, then I'd like to know what people from Bobistan look like, how they dress, which slang they use, which honorifics they use, which parts of their culture is unique to other parts of the setting and which sort of beliefs and pre-conceived notions come along with that.

Reiloth Offline

Re: How Much Is To Much Documentation?
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2017, 06:05:21 PM »
Having been responsible for writing and rewriting quite a bit of documentation for ArmageddonMUD (Sun Runners, Al'Seik, Arabet, Tuluk), I can say for me as a Player, concise and straight-forward documentation is the best. For Staff, detailed and situational documentation is the best.

What this means, broken down, is what the Player needs to play a game to the best of their ability are guidelines. What Staff needs are guidelines and goalposts. So while details are great and welcome in Player Facing documentation, they can come off as stuffy and overly intrusive in their play, when it comes to a RPI. Details for Staff, on the other hand, can provide useful insight into how a clan/area of the game should be run, or could be run, answering in a sort of FAQ style what/how/why.

What's worse than woefully complex documentation (Such as the Tan Muark Gypsies, in ArmageddonMUD, having an entirely invented language for example) is woefully simple, misleading, or improperly contrary documentation. Woefully simple documentation asks more questions than it answers. Misleading documentation could, for example, pit one organization against another with extreme language, but not explain why. Improperly contrary documentation could, for example, pit Organization A openly against Organization B, reflect that with detail in Organization A's documentation, and make no mention of it in Organization B's documentation.

Important Areas to discuss (In my opinion) in documentation for a Clan/Organization:
History - Recent, far past if relevant, otherwise obscured and mysterious (See: Malleable)

Structure - Who's the boss, why, for how long. Can they be deposed, how. Who's below them, why, how many.

Purpose - There's hundreds of secret societies, but they all join together for a reason. What makes this group special?

Likes/Dislikes - Rivals, rival organizations, grudges. These all make relationships more interesting from the get go, but don't need to be so extreme as to be 'Always' and 'Never'.

Rewards/Punishments - This was always tricky as a Staff member. Not being up front with what punishments happened to whom lead to a grey area that was more sticky than helpful (as every DM/GM knows, a little bit of wiggle room is nice). Having vague 'this is what happened to this guy/gal when they did this' can help give a sort of guide post. It's nice to put this ability to reward/punish in Players hands rather than Staff hands, either providing a role for an Arbiter type, or simply let them figure it out.

Goals - What does the organization want to accomplish? Some societies/groups want to just own a bar and have it be members only and be able to get away from 'the others'. They like rituals that bring them closer together, and be surrounded by people they can trust (for the most part). Others have more nefarious goals -- gaining money, notoriety, power. Others are in it to win it -- Together they rise, apart they fall. What are the goals of the organization, more or less? Vague and simple is best, a motto even.


Like Groth says above, the major point of player documentation should be the simple 'What You Need To Know To Be X'. In an RPI, it means not sticking out like a sore thumb. You can get into the game, talk the talk, and walk the walk, by reading the documentation. So having more detail for the curious is great, but forcing someone to sit down and read 20 pages of documentation to only 'kinda get it' really sucks. Like with all great things in life, there's a happy medium. Provide the simple up front, allow the detail if interested, and keep the details complete for Staff.
"You will have useful work: the destruction of evil men. What work could be more useful? This is Beyond; you will find that your work is never done—so therefore you may never know life of peace." ~ Jack Vance