Monday 14 November 2011

Setting or no setting? {RPGs}

Up until recently I've been a big fan of setting-less games, such as Dungeons and Dragons and Tunnels and Trolls. I know there's a bunch of campaign books for the former and a loose historical and geographical setting for the latter, but by default both of these games are bare bones systems that you can weave your own world around. I love the creativity inherent in these games, allowing you to come up with whatever world you want, its societies, history and notable people.

The trouble is, while I think I'm quite creative, there's only so much I can come up with. Sure, I can constantly build on the mythology of my setting as the campaign continues, but things can get a little uneven and continuity can get a little screwed up. If you have a campaign world all packaged up for you with a nice nerdy bow on top then at least there's consistency in your game.

My sudden change of heart came from reading Shadowrun 4th Edition, which I picked up the other day. I drank up the setting like a cool cola on a hot day and loved every part of it. As I read I was constantly coming up with ideas for adventures, from the exclusive VR clubs you have to hack into to thwarting gangs of astral ninjas. Maybe it says more about Shadowrun as a game than it dos about general settings, but it definitely made me want to write a full on setting for Tunnels & Trolls.

So what do you guys like? Setting or no setting?


  1. I prefer when Setting and System are entwined, but I have enjoyed systems in different settings, and, vice-versa.

  2. I've never been able to play in a setting-less game (it's OK for one shots). I really enjoy the depth well-described settings add. Currently I am playing T&T in Glorantha.

  3. I've enjoyed being a player in settings like Glorantha. There is something to be said when you meet another role-player and you've adventured on Griffin Mountain. But then again, D&D players get that same rush from playing in the same scenario without a set world per se.

    As a GM, I cannot abide a whole world made by someone else. Granted it takes a lot of discipline not to make a new world and new cosmology every two weeks.

  4. There have been very few settings which have captivated me enough to want to play in them. There have been even fewer games where the setting and rules mesh well.

    Shadowrun is one of the games where I adore the setting and the rules. A newer game Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies is an awesome setting but I don't like the rules at all and would probably run that setting using 7th Sea rules.

    The upcoming Mistborn game looks like it might be a great marriage of setting and rules.