The Propaganda Machine, Part 1

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Revision, Dec 7, 2012.

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  1. The Propaganda Machine, Part One

    So you have your world nice and tidy and almost done. You know who is doing what, which political powers are major, where the wars are and where the treaties are tenuous. You know who the gods are, if they are real or imagined, what the actual power behind the throne is. There are relics, fossils, legends, myths, princes, presidents, and popes. You know it all, every detail there in front of you. You may think you are done, but the truth is, you are nowhere near ready to introduce your world to your players or readers.

    When all is said and done, when everything is laid out in nice lines, one thing remains. Smudge the lines. Spread the lies. It is time for disinformation, propaganda, and classified documents.

    Unfortunately, much of what most worlds know will be untrue or flawed. Even the most powerful leaders are unlikely to know the whole story unless they are truly incarnate omnipotent deities. However, this state of untruth allows for a richer story world, a chance for the heroes to end up on the wrong side, and amazing politics. Too often, the story told is the honest story when it comes to setting crafting. When you present the world the player characters will be in, you need to present the lie. *

    Why is the lie, the cover up, the propaganda important?

    1) Even if it is never directly in play, it builds a richer, more real world that humans can relate to.
    2) It often allows for an inevitable betrayal moment, which can be a defining factor in character development.
    3) Many times the fight for the truth is center stage in a story. Especially in low fantasy and cyberpunk, lies, corruption, political maneuvering, and coverups (known collectively in fantasy as intrigues) become a huge part of the game. This is a great plot device, especially if it turns out that the “truth” isn’t really true after all. Many times, the struggle to either keep going for a purer truth or to admit one can only champion a lesser evil is an amazing way to develop characters.
    4) In archeology based games, or any game where the characters are unearthing the past, this can lead to the “reorganizing a civilization” moment, which may involve rebellions, assassinations, and other fun things in darker games.
    5) Your characters may actually be on the other side, and suppressing the “heretical” voices may be important for many reasons. In this case, your characters may either believe the lies or know that they are lies and still fight to preserve them because something more is at stake.

    There are more reasons to create a layer of propaganda and classified information, but those are five of the big ones. Admittedly, it won’t always play a major role. However, there are some genres it is very important to and offers storyhooks that are sometimes too good to pass up. These genres include, but are not limited to:

    Low Fantasy
    Arthurian Fantasy
    Social Science Fiction
    Historical Roleplays of any era
    Military Roleplay
    Grimdark Roleplay
    Espionage Roleplay
    Highschool Romance

    Genres that don’t benefit as much from this sort of thing are:

    Sword and Sorcery Fantasy
    Adventure Military
    Monster of the Week Anything

    You may have noticed that there are many more in the former list than the latter. That is because it is so vital a part of human society. Even if you make a world that is completely honest, they are likely to be looked upon oddly by other worlds, or the important plot element will be the one liar in the bunch.

    Now you know why and when to use propaganda and withheld information. Part two will tell you a bit about why it exists and how to integrate it into your world.

    *It is perfectly fine to tell the players the full truth about the world if you think they will not metagame. However, be sure you also present them with the lie that their characters will be interacting with, as well.

  2. I like the advice at the end. :D
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