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In the past, I've almost always had at least one NPC that would travel with the characters as a type of "lore master" to expand on the story. I've tried to make the character witty and, once the characters have sufficient information, inevitably pulled from the party.

Is there another way I can inject plenty of lore about the "world"/campaign without it directly coming from the DM or my DMPC?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

Was going to avoid answering late at night, but this one begged.

A) I have a wiki for my campaign. And most pages contain a section on, 'What is common knowledge'. Yes, you end up rewarding your PCs who do their homeowrk, but by doing this, you will be amazed at the depth of knowledge some PCs well as the amount of new data you will get answering their questions about these pages. Example from the Town of Igbar I recommend doing this because this allows them to steep themselves in the knowledge you wish them to have on their own time, not game time. Make sure you include the laws of the area in this page, or somewhere. This one is important.

B) In character creation, be very complete in the factions and family the PCs come from. Again, every possible faction should be clearly written about and the PC's should be able to read up on what the realtionship their guild, church or faction has to the the area snd the world. The Hunters of the Shade, in Igbar part of understanding the world and setting you create is in makeing the PCs understanmd their place in your world. Make sure you have these factions clearly designed and prepared ahead of time. I know you are asking how to inject it, but giving the PCs a place to stand gives them a piece of the puzzle ahead of time.

C) Have a broadsheet or somesuch available for daily reading, and make sure you do up some ahead of time. Let the players every day find out about the world through your work and words. This allows you to inject foreshadowing and important information you wish them to have.

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"Show, don't tell" is always the most relevant advice. If the background is important at all, then it should surface in the real world via books, statues/ruins, cultures and common sayings, etc. You know, how we find stuff out about our world and real life. Instead of infodumping, have it come in from various directions - someone shooting the bull in a tavern, an old lady met on the road, an abandoned shrine with an inscription, a couple books in a murdered mage's satchel. Any schooled PC, you can give some of it to them as "Well, you know from back in the Academy that the Knights of Northrop always ride back horses because..." Look for relevant knowledge type skills on the PCs' character sheets as a channel for that. Since you're using somewhat archaic language I assume you mean in a medieval fantasy type game but of course in a modern or future game you have TV, Internet, and ninth grade history class to add to the mix.

I would be concerned with the "pet DMPC" approach because it seems like it would tend to discourage PCs from actually exploring and trying to find out information, out of the assumption that relevant info will be dumped on them. Make them piece it together, seek out sages or other people that might know something, etc. Converting a party into proactive mode always engages them more and gives opportunity for plot hooks/quests.

Also - if it's not relevant to the plot at hand, take a light hand with it. I know, as a DM I want to get across the Many and Varied Wonders of my Campaign World (tm) too, but DMs tend to want about 300% more of that than the players do. I sometimes prepare a world/campaign briefing sheet for my players ahead of time to convey lore they should all just know, and have learned the hard way that if it's more than a couple pages they're not going to read it.

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Use Microscope to collaboratively build your world's history with your players. Then, more people can make more subtle references to events without having huge and boring expository dumps.

Another interesting way is to have fixed-point time-travel (or flashbacks) and allow your players to engage as people of history.

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Seconded, both suggestions. 1) I've never run a Microscope game that didn't end with us having created a campaign world that I wanted to GM in some other system for the next six months. And... – Tynam Apr 7 '11 at 9:52
2) I'm currently having the players in my Werewolf campaign play their own ancestors, in flashback. Not only is it a nice change, but they've gradually realised that their current big-bad-enemy is a hereditary enemy. And I've been able to introduce it's backstory in bits, along with a lot about it's personality, strengths, and weaknesses - setting up other campaign backstory for later while I'm at it. I've also paid off magic items and plots from the current day, by showing them being created and used in the past... adding depth by showing, not telling. – Tynam Apr 7 '11 at 9:53

Have you looked at Apocalypse World? In that game, when you try to find out about something (similar to a Knowledge(X) or Spot check), you get to ask the GM questions, who answers them truthfully. The questions are all listed out, you have to ask off the list. The great thing is, these lists are really aimed at bringing in elements of the setting. Stuff like "Who's in control here?" or "Where's the best escape route?" Questions like that really prime the GM for answers like "The Cult of Kul-a-thul has ruled the steppes for as long as anyone can remember" or "The planes kingdoms always included an escape tunnel to the nearest body of water in their castles."

The best part is, since it's player-initiated, they're already invested in the answers. And, even better, it helps make sure that the GM's only providing information that's actually useful and interesting.

You could adapt the same concept to any number of games. In d20 I'd probably write lists for Spot, Search, and Knowledge. Hit the DC, you ask one, for each 5 over, you get to ask one more.

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Have players submit backgrounds or plot hooks related to their characters. Take the people, places, and things from those ideas and build them into your game world. Work on what the players tell you and add a few elements from your own imagination to keep things interesting. The players get a sense of involvement and importance in ongoing events in your game world.

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Every player should be able to answer three questions about their character: what community their PC grew up in (e.g., "A now-disbanded entertainer troupe, the Fantasticos"), what their religious beliefs are ("An impious follower of the state religion"), and what political commitments they have made (e.g., "The rumors about Duke Darc are treasonous and my efforts dealing with such traitors has been rewarded...") – Alticamelus Apr 5 '11 at 6:19

Something you could look at is the collaborative world building offered in FATE games, such as Diaspora for Sci-Fi and Legends of Anglerre for Fantasy. All the players are involved in creating the base setting, so they already know a fair bit about it and have some ideas that they haven't shared. FATE also includes a mechanic for players introducing information, either casually or through the use of FATE Points.

This latter bit allows things to be really organic, because otherwise having the loremaster travelling with the characters makes the most sense if the characters are from a different world (or different part of the world), and the NPC is literally a friendly guide. That's one of the reasons CRPGs make use of amnesia (cleverly done in Final Fantasy VIII, not so well done in other games) or being thrust into a new world (obviously done in Final Fantasy X, not quite as obvious in Tales of Vesperia, but also using a loremaster character).

If the characters are from the world, they shouldn't need someone to tell them what's already known to them. You could get around this by telling certain players OOC what their character knows about a particular situation, and let them exposit how they see fit. This usually leads to GMing techniques like taking the player aside or passing notes, but it's not something I'm personally fond of. Hiding information can be interesting and add to the sense of adventure, but I think it should be used sparingly, rather than as a primary method of adding spice to the story.

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