There is a delicate balance between revealing enough detail and lore to give the game some realism, while at the same time leaving enough “unknowns” to entice them to keep exploring. For younger players especially, it also creates a sense of discovery and excitement when they uncover new secrets about the world!
But be careful, because dropping too much lore all at once not only risks turning your game into a history lesson, but it leaves less for your party to discover later on. It also breaks that narrative immersion if you reveal more than your characters should reasonably know.
Here are some tips to help you keep the balance!
This is is an obvious one…but the biggest way to balance lore drops with gameplay is by revealing them as your players explore, rather than rattling off information without a narrative tie-in. Additionally, if you wait to reveal the bits of history until the party starts investigating, you can learn what captures their interest and use those elements to emphasize future story threads. The Skill Checks most connected to lore drops are History, Religion, and Arcana…but remember, only reveal what the character would actually know. A wizard who has spent years studying might have insight to magical artifacts, but they might not be as well-read in regards to ancient religious worship. Anything outside their scope of expertise would be harder for them to discern. Maybe they’ve heard rumors of a place or item, but they wouldn’t know much more than that.
Chances are, there are plenty of locations that your party will explore that aren’t exactly “new”. Every castle, every old shack, and certainly every classic dungeon, has some sort of history. What were those old ruins used for before? Who lived in those halls before the goblins and skeletons moved in? If your party is fighting undead in that dungeon crawl…who were they before their untimely demise and how might they be connected to the setting? This is your chance to let your homebrewing shine through! A world with a history, with remnants of ages long past, give your sessions much more depth and complexity.
Another way to reveal the history of a setting is through the items your players may find there. Old books, weapons, and magical items are prime vessels for dropping some lore. Who owned the items before? What were they used for? Did that sword once belong to a mighty champion? Magical items don’t just appear…they all came from somewhere!
Last, but certainly not least, use your NPCs to tell the tale of that old tower that’s been abandoned for years, or share with the party some local legends and folklore that lives on in the imaginations (or fears) of the townsfolk. This is also a fantastic way to not only reveal the history of something but to give the party insight to how the locals feel about a place as well. This is where rumors come into play, and it’s up to the players to investigate whether or not the stories are true.
A Final Note:
When determining how much information to reveal, think of the ways we learn about our own world…lessons in the classroom, going to museums, research, local stories and legends….Remember to keep the lore drops natural, to enhance the players’ exploration and actions with the environment you’ve created for them!