On Information in RPGs
This is an expansion on the comments in the previous post.
One of the biggest challenges in RPGs is information flow. The more information the players have, the better decisions they can make and the more invested they are in the world. But then again, everyone has heard the anecdotes or seen at the table that the players don't want to receive this information by reading ("nobody read my 16 page setting primer... boo hoo") nor by long GM narrative ("blah blah, when can we play?"), so the question remains how to introduce that information.
In video game, the solution is to make you a moron. Everyone you talk to is part of one long terrible movie scene of exposition. "Well, as you know, the Empire of Glar has been at war with the Schmarrites for centuries". Everyone you talk to reveals this information in chunks.... poorly. And the worst thing is that it is kinda forced on you, because in a video game you usually have to talk to everyone to avoid missing "the clue" that will let you move forward. It's a key in verbal form. You have to find it to open verbal door X in some other place. Very lame, in my opinion, but a limitation of the medium I guess.
So what is the solution?
I have attached an image to this post. It is a Venn Diagram, but you will notice the overlaps are perfect. This divides information into three categories.
The big circle is the kind of information known to everyone in the world. World is used loosely here as game world This could be "Christendom" in a European medieval setting, as nobody in Norman England is going to know a lot about the Aztecs. Or vice versa. It could mean the whole galaxy in Star Wars. Whatever.
This big category is a lot of the stuff that video games transmit with that shitty dialogue. Stuff you really should already know, but which you lack the patience to read or listen to the GM deliver.
Within that is a circle of information that only someone in this limited region would know. Everyone might know the King of Glar, but someone from outside might not know the names of the Dukes and Counts and whatnot. Or the plant life in that region. Whatever type of info. This is not secretive info and someone should have no reservations about telling it to you. But you just don't
And within that is a small circle of secrets. Mr. Bingo is sleeping with the maid. The thieves guild is hidden underneath the tavern. The Lich King is amassing an army of undead. There is a dryad that lives in the Forest of Angry Beavers. Stuff like that. This information is only known to a handful of individuals and should almost always be either physically discoverable (the person on the shadowy ledge listening to the bad guy conversation) or uncovered with some kind of test/check/roll.
How can we use this information model?
I think the first thing is to try to make the secrets circle as small as you can. Make a lot of things "public secrets" that are known to the local population but not a few important people (important relative to the info). Turns out that ole' Mr. Bingo's secret is known by the entire town, just not his wife. That way, you are shifting the players from being investigators to being the decider of how to use the info that is known. Maybe they blackmail him, maybe they feel bad and tell the wife thus setting something else in motion, whatever. Much more interesting than investigative work, in my experience.
So only keep truly secret secrets in that little red circle. And only force people to "roll for information" on this kind of stuff.
Then think about how you can give as much of the yellow circle to the players in the form of your exposition as a part of the game. When you are describing the approach the town, you could say "and you see a few glarberry bushes near the main gate. They have small red berries that you have eaten before, they taste sweet and you have heard they are used to cover up the taste of poisons by assassins". Or whatever. Just build it into your exposition but in tiny bunches. Unlike a video game, you can narrate these things into your "visuals" relatively easily.
So all that leaves you with is the orange circle. The stuff that the locals know, but not outsiders like the party. On this, you can treat people like moron tourists because well.... they are tourists. But the NPCs should volunteer a lot of it because they also know that you are tourists. "Well, you would need to speak to the Duke about that. His name is Sir Denksalot and he lives in an old castle outside Denksburgh."
I wish I had a clever way to end this post, but I don't. The end. My lunch hour is over and I got work to do. Ciao