The Mountains of Morpheus
[This section is incomplete.]
No one has absolute agency in a limiting world. The word “define” etymologically means, “to set limits to.” Role-play isn’t just an expression of an individual character on a blank field, it’s the process of interaction between characters and setting, where the two come to inform and … define each other. So, play the game, but what does the game expect of your character? This is what I’ll write about here. This is not a section on how to portray a three-dimensional character, or how to interact respectfully with another player: It’s a discussion of some of the assumptions and references that are at work in the game world.
The campaign setting of Drau-Mura is a “realistic,” “gritty,” quasi-medieval fantasy world characterized by a mix of low and high magic, a class system resembling feudalism’s, an absence of manifested moral absolutes (e.g. “Good vs. Evil”), persistent violence of various forms (e.g. extralegal banditry, but also structural exploitation). With that in mind, we should think about these various points, that define the setting:
People haven’t read the D&D books. Indeed, an obvious fact, but one that bears mention because players tend to refer to the world through the lens of the Player’s Handbook. For many non-player characters (NPCs), however, the concepts and distinctions it makes are unknown, irrelevant, or overly fine. Lots of people don’t know, say, what tieflings are, or what they’re capable of. The distinction between a wizard and warlock may seem very small to an ordinary farmer whose main interest with respect to either is avoiding them. High-level abilities and spells will seem literally incredible when merely talked about, not displayed.
Explicit social hierarchy is everywhere. This is a world of lords and peasants, people with certain wealth, privileges, and rights, and those without. Most people are one or the other. A minority — maybe 15 percent of the population, at most — have occupations that put them in an “in-between” zone: These could be soldiers, merchants, specialized artisans, priests, magicians, teachers, scholars, and monks (both in the “cloistered scholar” and the “martial adept” senses). We can see how many, many adventurers would fall, or come to fall, into this zone. These people tend to get a flux of the best and the worst class treatment: Nobility might view them as useful talent to be acquired, or as potential threats to be controlled. Peasants might view them as opportunistic thieves, swindlers, and killers, or as prosperous types worthy of aspiration.
(That said, there is tremendous variety within the nobility and the peasantry. There are many “low” aristocrats, who enjoy some land, property, and servants, but have little authority. There are many prosperous farmers too, who not unrealistically aspire to see their children marry into the aristocracy.)
Allegiance and obligation are everywhere. Most people in Drau-Mura might be appalled about the apparent looseness of social connection in America: Fathers and sons
People know about magic, in a practical way. We assume, like in most D&D settings, that magic is nothing new, and has been around for generations. This means people, able to use magic or not, have had a long time to develop practical thinking about it.
Distance bounds relationships and information. It can take over one week to cross from one portion of the week to the other. For the most part, information travels no faster than the people literally carrying it. Vast portions of civilized areas are vulnerable to theft, banditry, or authorized extortion.