Thursday, March 24, 2011

Epiphany, Obsessive Compulsive, or Attention Deficit?

Started slogging away at the mini-gazetteer and got to staring at the screen. 'This is not what I want. This is not what someone else wants,' kept popping into my head. Then, for inspiration, I turned to the net. Low and behold, I find three posts where I had a 'eureka moment', when I found 's blog entry on RPG Settings: Show, Don't Tell. This lead me to the source, How I Want To Hear About Your Setting on the blog, Playing D&D With Porn Stars. Mentioned in the remarks, of one-or-the-other, was 's reply on the Trollsmyth blog where he talks about Minimalist Setting: Timeline Example and the originating post, Zak Offers Up Another Plate of Sacred-cow Burger.

So, what do all these links mean to me? In reflection, I just had a similar but unrealized moment a few days back, when I was reviewing The Majestic Wilderlands. The thing I loved about the book was the mechanical implementation of the setting; the Character sections, the rules for Orders, Sects, and Culture, rules for Magic, etc. That is what I remember, not the overall fluff, but rather how the fluff was brought to life with just enough 'rules spin' to make it unique.

I think something else that I should keep in mind, as I continually develope Ukarea, is the success I had with a 'Rumors at the Inn' Microlite20 one-shot that turned into a somewhat serious campaign, though it flopped miserably trying it via Play-by-Post. Basically I drew a quick map for this one-shot and said, "Alright, your in the inn, having some drinks... yadda yadda... and you hear someone mentioning... what?" They all looked puzzled. So, I encouraged them to think up rumors that they were hearing as they sat there. It took a bit, and they started off slow; "I heard there were giant spiders in Ol' Man Bidnee's Stable..."  I scrambled for my pad, and pencil, and jotted that down, puting a 'F' after it. The players had no idea if what they were 'hearing' was true or false. If I put 'F', I thought up reasons why the rumor wasn't true. "Ol' Man Bidnee's business partner was spreading this rumor to reduce business so he could buy the place cheap." I had no in depth fluff, other than what the characters came up with sitting at a table in an inn. Before long, elaborate tales were being cast and local history evolved; "Well if Ol' Man Bidnee hadn't had skipped on his responsiblility to help the town with the Goblins two summers ago...", etc. You can't make the stuff up that they came up with, and been able to present it the way it came out. It wasn't my setting, it was ours. I would overhear them between the few sessions that we had, talking about what rumors they thought true and why, what to investigate next, and how could Ol' Man Bidnee have left with a stable to run... and a baby on the way... keeping up with them was the hardest part. As I recall, this was just after I read the Western Marches experiments.

In short, GMs aren't going to want to run my setting and Players don't want to play in it either. They want, or so I am led to believe by the first links, something unique that they can make there own. I had developed setting before, and the group went along and played it. It wasn't until they were 'co-developers' that we really had fun I suppose. Developing a setting for release isn't as easy as I had originally thought.



  1. As with rules systems though, settings can serve as examples for people's own homebrews. Innovative content or presentation are always useful to look at.

  2. You bet. Concure 100%! I got to ruminating on presentation just last night. I remembered a setting I read not too long ago that I recalled had just the mix of detail to rule ratio that I personally liked. Unfortunately, it seems to have gone the way of vapor ware (either that, or I am searching for the wrong thing). Think I might have a copy of it elsewhere though. Just didn't have the time to check all the PCs in my house last night.

    See, that's just it. I realized people don't want to play my setting or rules as writen. They have their own house rules and setting that they enjoy. What, hopefully, will garner the most attention is a presentation and detail that will have the setting / rules plundered for house rules or cool bits. Probably the best one can hope for is a WAR oneshot from people.

    I just need to stop thinking FR / GH level setting and think... OMG! The Pheonix Barony, that was just what I was hunting last night! *poof*


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