In Dragon #125, Ed Greenwood had an article on the trees of the Forgotten Realms; lovingly describing the physical forms, colours, preferred climates, types of wood, and purposes of a swathe of fantastical greenery. This article's contents would subsequently be republished in a few FR products -- one off the top of my head is Volo's Guide To All Things Magical -- and one could take that as a sign of the staying power of trees ...
... Or, being more accurate, the staying-power of this kind of detail.
The Realms gets a lot of flack for its detailed setting, and as far as some of the NPC individuals and organizations go I can understand that. But to give slices of how-things-work, the kind of information that, offered in a small capsule of data, can give a flash of insight into how a world is meant to work by its creator? I could eat that like candy (well, pizza maybe, I'm not much for sweets) and I try to evoke at least an inkling of world-detail in what I write.
My world-building projects, especially, hinge on subjects much like Ed Greenwood's trees; though I'm painting with a broader brush yet, I want to know and have at hand the trees in those places, and yes the animals and the types and make of clothing and all the rest. I want to be able to answer people's questions when they ask "so what grows in that place, and what do people do with it and how?"
It's not for everyone, and that's fine by me. Hell, a lot of the detail I work on may never see the light of day. But I know the trees, and that's good enough.
This is something I really struggle with. I love this level of detail and sharing it with my players. And I love players who are interested in this sort of thing. But when I'm looking at publishing something, I want to keep it lean and easy to grasp, because there tend to be details more central to the setting that are difficult enough to get people's brains wrapped around.
Lately, I've been trying for more of a suggestive style, focusing on the themes and pounding on those, but leaving the details, like trees, up to individual GMs. I'm only just now really thinking about seriously publishing something like this, though,so maybe I should try one of each sort?
I had unusual flora and fauna in my campaign world long before I heard of the Forgotten Realms, or even read Trees Common to The Flanaess in the World of Greyhawk boxed set... and still the players stared blankly until I gave them a monster to fight or treasure to loot *sigh*
I must admit, the Spine Trees of my world are inspired by a bit on dying gods in a Douglas Adams book - and that it is even more frustrating when players who are fellow DA fans not only don't get the reference but pass up the opportunity to learn something really interesting about the campaign world.
Apologies for venting...
I have wanted to find a good place for the "slurping grove" for a while now - where the trees use suction to raise water up their trunks in stages.
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