Why some mysteries are left unanswered?

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Why some mysteries are left unanswered?

Postby Spader » Tue Mar 31, 2015 2:13 pm

I just read the section "What has come before" from the GM guide preview. (Thanks for that, by the way)

There is some questions that are left unanswered in it. For exemple, what triggered the conflict in Harwood between the merchant caravan and the theran patrol? Or why the elven Queen order the massacre on the Theran troops? Some theories and debates are given but no clear answer. Why?

It is not the first time, a book targeted for game masters sets mysteries in their stories without unveiling them. And I always asked myself why, because I thought that, as a GM, I should have access to every secret a world has to offer. I mean, if a GM is not entitled to such information, then who is?

Of course, I came with some ideas, but I'm very curious to hear the insight of the developpers.

The first that came to me was: the authors don't know it either because they were too lazy to work those parts (sorry for the authors, I mean no offense. It's just a thought. I love your work, you're doing a great job and I know you're not lazy)

Then on second thought: Maybe the mystery will be unveiled in futur complement. (but it's rarely the case)
Or: they intentionaly left blank spots to allow game masters to fill them with their own story arcs. Something I do on a regular basis.

But what the devellopers has to say about it?

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Re: Why some mysteries are left unanswered?

Postby etherial » Tue Mar 31, 2015 2:22 pm


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Re: Why some mysteries are left unanswered?

Postby Kasbak » Tue Mar 31, 2015 4:03 pm

If the whole of the story is already told, then what story is there to play through? Leaving several big and interesting holes open gives you lots of hooks to catch hold of and base your campaign, your story, on. Of course, you can completely ignore the metaplot and just do your own thing, but not everyone choses to go that route, and if you're not using that plot anyway, there's no real difference if it's completely filled in.

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Re: Why some mysteries are left unanswered?

Postby Flowswithdrek » Tue Mar 31, 2015 4:17 pm

This is an interesting topic.

A good source book or world history should especially leave the GM asking questions. This leads to inspiration.

Having done some writing for several RPGs and Video games there seems to be several types of secrets.

The never reveal: These are big background secrets about how and why the world works and why things are, but go beyond what a GM or a Player needs to run the game (these are often core to an IP). This is the stuff that only those creating new content need to know so they don’t go off the rails or delve into. It’s also stuff that sometimes is quite naff in the context of the game and might even break the suspension of disbelief. A purely hypothetical example would be a fantasy world where physic abilities are actually a result of the planet being in the path of Hawking radiation leaking from an intermediate mass black hole. Something no one in a fantasy world could ever know but might be used as a baseline by a developer during the course of the IPs development to describe how future mechanics and ideas might work.

The Mundane: Every book, novel, IP, video game has masses of smaller content that’s required to build a world, but isn’t required in any way for the world to work, but again is required by authors further on down the line so they don’t contradict stuff. So authors need to know this as well as the published canon, so yeah, laziness is not generally a reason for a secret.

Metaplot: This is the world’s plot arcs and stuff that binds much of the unfolding events together. These are secrets that may or may not be revealed depending on the decisions and directions taken later by the developers/authors. So sometimes it’s also about not being backed into a corner from day one by a specific idea, even a good one.

Inspirational Mystery: Some if it is also left open for the GM/Fans to develop as you have rightly said. Dunkelzan’s Will for Shadowrun, was a big book of mostly unexplained secrets specifically designed to inspire GMs into creating adventure content. Its one of the best Shadowrun sourcebooks in my opinion. There is nothing quite like a good mystery, or a secret to get speculation running rampant to generate that sense of who is doing what behind the scenes and why, and mystery is a source of inspiration and gives the feel of a living, breathing world.

If you were to reveal every Earthdawn secret where would you stop? Seriously, think about how many unanswered questions Earthdawn actually has. How boring and mundane would the world become if you knew everything for sure? There would be no sense of wonder as there is in the real world. If you were to reveal the Harwood Secret the first thing that would happen is the players would know about it, by buying the GM book or reading it on the net. Then that would be a spoiler for every adventure from day one.

Knowing exactly how the Harwood incident comes about, in my opinion as a GM, would cut of avenues to explore via adventure and stifle imagination.

So in the Travar book, I might say that some rumours suggest that the adepts that ‘might’ have been in Harwood ‘might’ actually be champions of Travar. This may or may not be true, but it suddenly adds a whole new dimension, another possible player. I could then base several adventure hooks on this little nugget of specualtion. But if every GM knows for sure exactly what happened, who was there, and why, that cuts of a lot of possible threads of exploration and adventure.

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Re: Why some mysteries are left unanswered?

Postby Mataxes » Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:38 pm

tl;dr The prior posters have the general gist of it.

That said, I do want to address something here, and it is a tradition going back to the earliest days of Earthdawn. Much of the setting information is presented from inside the box, by unreliable narrators that don't necessarily know the truth, or perhaps have some kind of agenda behind the story they present.

What Has Come Before is an attempt at capturing some of that essence. It is not intended to reveal, but to inspire. It raises questions, and doesn't answer them because the question of "What next?" or "What does that mean?" can lead to great stories, and I want the setting of Earthdawn to inspire GMs to create their own stories, not to impose my own.

I left some things open because I want to leave room. Rather than have the story tied to iconic NPCs, the openings are there for a group to fit their own characters in. (Note how many references to "a team of adepts" appear in the description of events in the war. Hello, Player Characters!)

The Harwood Incident is left intentionally vague, and is likely to remain so. In one sense, the details aren't important -- clearly something happened, and that event served as the catalyst for what followed. Like an adventure framework, enough is given that if a GM is so inclined, he can use the information presented to spin his own version of events, bringing in details from his own game to make it "his".

It's certainly not laziness. Maybe when I have more time I'll go into a bit more depth about the thought process behind the events of the war and developing the setting for ED4.

As to why Alachia ordered the massacre of the Therans... that goes back quite a ways. The roots of that event go back some time, even before the Separation of Shosara, the exile of the Martyr Scholar, and the founding of Thera. And the story doesn't even end at Willow Grove (indeed, part of the resolution doesn't show up for a few thousand years). In short, there is nothing quite as nasty as a long and bitter family squabble, and nobody holds a grudge quite like an immortal being.
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Re: Why some mysteries are left unanswered?

Postby kosmit » Wed Apr 01, 2015 5:07 am

I only got one question: What the hell the Prophetess told Valurus that pissed him off? :D
Duvvelsheyss

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Re: Why some mysteries are left unanswered?

Postby Mataxes » Wed Apr 01, 2015 8:18 am

She won't tell me.
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Re: Why some mysteries are left unanswered?

Postby Telarus_KSC » Wed Apr 01, 2015 2:07 pm

LOL, that's always bugged me too.

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Re: Why some mysteries are left unanswered?

Postby Mataxes » Wed Apr 01, 2015 6:22 pm

In the spirit of the day, and with a (kind of pathetic) bit of fridge logic, here are some alternate takes on what she told him:

* She spoiled the season finale of The Walking Dead
* Firefly would be canceled after only 13 episodes.
* Shakespeare in Love would win Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan.
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Re: Why some mysteries are left unanswered?

Postby Sundahk » Wed Apr 01, 2015 6:47 pm



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