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On Lore, Canon, and Making Stuff Up

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I have a weird sort of question and wanted to get the community's thoughts on making additions to the lore.


When writing a background for a character, how acceptable is it to make assumptions about a race's culture by adding elements to it? A personal example would be Sea Wolf spirituality: the character I'm developing has a healthy fear of a certain group of female Roegadyn magic-users (helpfully called Sea Witches). This assumes that the Sea Wolves' culture (or parts of it) reveres the sea, and that there would be a line of mystics who draw their power from it. Since female Roegadyn are NPC-only, it made sense to me that these mystics might all be women. (It's probably also hugely cliche, but that's a discussion for a different time.)


I'd like to develop the culture, or at least my character's exposure to it, as far as possible, but there isn't a lot of information to work with. At the very least, having elements like this would make for interesting conversation, but I don't know how kindly others would take to the additions. Of course, it goes without saying that when canon lore is made available, I'd stick to that, but until then, I'd like to make things as colorful as possible. That, and start learning Welsh.


I'd appreciate any comments or insight on this, as would my highly overactive imagination.

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When it comes to sticking with lore, I find myself at something of a halfway point. I'm a big fan of following lore, but I'm also a fan of working creatively within the lore. Basically, I usually won't blink at somebody's creation as long as it does not go against something that is explicitly known to be true in the world. But I believe providing some wiggle room really lets you stretch your creativity and expand on what the game may never give us.


Of course, there's always the awkward question of what happens to your unique and creative idea when official lore is revealed that contradicts it. That, however, is something that could probably be addressed on a case by case basis.


I roleplayed in Lord of the Rings Online, and as much as I enjoyed some of the RP community there, I personally felt rather intimidated and trapped within -- not the lore -- but the standards at which people held the lore. At times it felt as if there was no wiggle room, because if it was not explicitly stated, then therefore it could not exist. At least that's what it felt like many of the hardcore community seemed to believe and dictate at times. All in all, it was a rather intimidating experience, especially whenever I found myself wondering if a little bit of creativity within how I saw the lore would have people looking down their nose at me.


Granted, FFXIV have nowhere near the amount and depth of lore that Tolkien created, but I would hate to see such a thing happen here as well.


Now, as to your idea, I think it sounds absolutely fantastic. I have not seen much in game and had assumed that the Roegadyn in XIV were genderless as they were in XI. I'm assuming that's not the case anymore though. I really need to catch myself up on some of this stuff. :P

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Eh... some people would probably seize up if they heard such a sweeping change for the entire Roegadyn race. Which, to be fair, makes sense. You wouldn't want to have to know other people's take on the canon, right?


I'm not sure how you are doing it, but what I would think would be a fair compromise (and a lot harder to get people upset) is to have this particular devotedness and fear limited to a much smaller group of Roegadyn -- like a clan of them, or perhaps a community that live close to the see. That's a lot harder to object to, because instead of saying "all Roegadyn do this," you are saying "these Roegadyn do this."

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I think the idea is perfectly acceptable as long as two requirements are met:


    [*]The extrapolations are reasonable, and

    [*]You write them in such a way that they don't impose your story on others, including the developers'.



    What you've described sounds fine to me on the first point. The second point is trickier and gets to the type of assertions one might make. For instance, if you claim that the Sea Witches are just one group of mystics in some parts of Roegadyn society, and that they don't exert any inordinate power (i.e., your character fear them because of a personal grudge, not because they're a world-spanning conspiracy holding the ear of most leaders, or because he had a run-in with them and they're the most revered group of female spellcasters so all Roegadyn are against him), you don't really "take control" of any part of the lore, nor do you step on canon at all. This route ensures that of others want to claim they're, say, a field agent for a different group of female Roegadyn spellcasters, your extrapolation doesn't affect their claim, and you can both have your backstory and RP together. If SE comes out with some new canon that steps on your backstory, you can make changes and say that your backstory is an exception to the newly described setting.


    Basically, point two is a matter of respect for other roleplayers and their stories. By restricting your effects on the world as much as possible, you ensure that you don't box other players into the position of either accepting your extrapolations from canon or calling your character crazy. You also have an out if the canon changes out from under you. Ways to stay in line with point two are not to make any sweeping statements about the world, to limit your extrapolations to a single village or other small area specific to your character, and to always use existential quantifiers ("some female Roegadyn casters are Sea Witches," as opposed to "all Roegadyn casters are Sea Witches").

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@Gossamer: Oh yeah, wow. I would be really intimidated in that type of community. Needing to read three to seven books just to take part in an RP would sure as hell scare me! =X Fortunately FFXIV does allow for some flexibility. =D


@FreelanceWizard: Great minds think alike =D

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Yep yep, LOTRO was really intimidating... but that's because the lore was really REALLY developed, and older than any of its players.

FF XIV's lore on the other hand is brand new and little developed in comparison so there's a lot of room right room.

It's just a matter of, as it's been said, being reasonable and in line with what little is there.

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I agree completely on avoiding sweeping pronouncements for the entire race. I don't think I meant to imply that all female Sea Wolf casters were Sea Witches, but the idea could stand some clarification. It makes far more sense to say that it's one path of many, and that they can be found wherever the Wolves tend to be truer to their viking forebears and keep to more primal beliefs. With the Twelve being revered as they are, I think it would be safe to say that these enclaves would be few and far spread, and a callback to the Wolves of old: bloodthirsty pirates who took every opportunity to cut and rip.


I get the feeling that it may be easier to introduce other materials to hint at the culture: "traditional" Roegadyn sea shanties or ballads, or myths and legends from the days of high adventure. Does that seem a better way to introduce an idea? It strikes me that a people with such a strong maritime tradition would have some version of Sindbad or Erik the Red, with different groups of Roegadyn telling different versions of the tales, or claiming that the character was based on an ancestor's exploits, or some such. With the current lore being as wide-open as it is now, it seems a safe way to go, especially if the lore changes: turns out no one has the story right at all, which is bound to happen after handing it down through countless generations.

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Your Sea Witches background, I think, is well circumscribed, though I'd recommend saying that they can sometimes be found in those locations, rather than asserting merely that they can be found there. As much as "weasel words" aren't advisable in most writing, when dealing with the touchy subject of extrapolations on lore that might affect others, they're quite handy. I would personally go so far as to say that the only area they've been confirmed to exist is the place where your character is from, which should reasonably be a fully player-created location that doesn't exist in game. That way, there's no way you can step on others' stories and you give them the opportunity (with your consent, of course) to riff off your RP to expand their backgrounds.


I would be very careful going down the road of introducing these sorts of player-created stories, songs, and the like. This gets to another issue, which is IC assertions versus OOC assertions. If your character says, "this is a traditional sea shanty of my people," that's okay. It doesn't make any statements about the world that can't be refuted; after all, your character could be wrong. If you OOCly say something is a traditional sea shanty of the Roegadyn, then you're making a lore assertion that could very easily step on toes. Note that just because there's no obvious effect on others' stories doesn't make it any less an exertion of control on them. I realize this is a fine line, but I feel it's an important one to draw in a setting where the lore is so open. As long as you're not asserting OOC that your character's statements about how traditional something is are true, then you should be in good shape.


Really, this concern about OOC versus IC assertions is really just something to keep in mind while writing this non-canonical lore (and I sure hope you'll write it up for the RPC wiki, once it opens :) ). Your posts so far lead me to believe that you're not actually trying to define the overall lore, just your character. Just be careful about how you phrase things and you should be okay. ;)

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