Perfect Locations: Who’s There?

My participation in RPG Blog Carnival: Fantastic Locations continues!

Light levels in a scene may be one of the most subtle ways of creating the mood for the perfect version of a location, but they’re not the most counterintuitive way; that honor goes to the people who create a location. After all, people aren’t part of a location, per se; they wander off, or just plain don’t show up, and it might seem like a bit of an insult to think of someone as living scenery. Even so, there are some locations that are defined by the people in them: either the class of people who occupy them as a whole, or the one or several individuals that make the location theirs and by being there make it matter.

Sometimes, of course, it’s just having people present that matters. A construction site would look odd without its workers; a school playground just isn’t the same without children; a battlefield isn’t really a battlefield if nobody’s battling on it. At this point, the locals are living scenery—they can be characters in their own right, but they don’t have to be. They’re interchangeable, and their effect is a result of there being, well, a bunch of them.

At other times, there’s a specific character (or at least one member of a very specific type of character) who serves as the living scenery. A shop might be defined by its shopkeeper, for instance, or a classroom by its teacher; whether the character interacts beyond being someone who can be interacted with for the purposes of the location is unimportant, just that that person is, like always—and like they should be for the perfect version of the location—there.

Then there are characters from whom the setting just can’t be separated, usually because the place is where one goes to talk to them. It’s not just that if they’re missing, it looks a little odd—the entire tenor of the place changes. They’re not just there, but interacting, either changing the scene by their presence or actively engaging whatever viewpoint characters happen to wander into their sphere of influence. It doesn’t matter if they’re sitting at a desk, running around cleaning the place up, or actively For instance, one of the major characters in my game is almost invariably found in his office. Only one person has ever successfully knocked on the door, and that only when he was out; every other time, just before they’ve reached the door to knock they’ve been told “come in”.

Do you have any locations that are further refined by their occupants?

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