Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Importance of Setting

What is the importance of setting for you, fellow gamer?
I'm not talking about whether you prefer a home-brewed setting, a published setting, or a hybrid of both that you create. I'm talking about the importance of setting to your immersion in a campaign.
For me, my connection/appreciation/enjoyment of a setting is vital to my connection/appreciation/enjoyment of a campaign.
I would be immensely happy to create my own home-brew world that incorporates what I love from my many sources of inspiration (novels, films, non-fiction/documentaries, etc). But alas, my current lifestyle does not afford me the time I need to create such a world to my own standards. If I can't do it "right" (i.e. in a way that lives up to my expectations of what a world should include, with the level of detail I want), I don't want to do it at all. Which is a shame, because I have ideas that I would like to flesh out into a campaign world. I am confident that such a self-crafted world would easily keep me inspired from week to week when game night comes around.
So, for some time now I've been exploring numerous campaign settings, seeking those that hit the right roleplaying buttons for me. I've run a goodly number of sessions in the Forgotten Realms, so I've gotten the most mileage out of that setting. I tried a few sessions in Greyhawk, but didn't find myself so taken with the setting after a relatively short amount of time. The Dragon Age setting has been of some interest to me of late. And I've found some things to like about the Dawnforge world, as well as the Midnight setting. Oh, and then there's the worlds of Golarion and, more recently, Midgard for the Pathfinder system (though I am confident I could easily use those settings while running Castles & Crusades).
All I know is, I'm feeling eager to stop the "setting merry-go-round" in my head and once again find a campaign world that makes me happy, keeps me coming back for more, and is ultimately worthy of my precious free time.

So, what settings, home-brew or otherwise, inspire you and keep your passion for the game alive?


  1. I like ambience and mood. I'd go so far as to say that setting doesn't matter to me at all, in the sense of history and geography and all that. I only want the brushstrokes that actually contribute to play, whether through atmosphere or direct player interaction. Planescape's a favourite. Dark Sun, if like me you don't read any of the history text. When I homebrew, I write what the players will see and try to let that carry the mood.

  2. Setting's a big deal to me, too. It's pretty much definitive, in fact. Like you, I've always wanted to do a home brew, but my attempts have always met with failure because I usually end up finding a published world that does it better.

    What I've been doing lately is tying specific settings to specific rules that I find work well for the "ambience and mood" (as John puts it) of the setting. So for my sentimental favorite of Magnamund, which scratches my 80s high fantasy itch, I use Savage Worlds. For Dark Sun, I'm looking into Dungeon Crawl Classics. I've recently decided to take a look at melding B/X D&D with my all-time favorite contemporary setting, S. John Ross's Uresia (highly recommended as a tonic to fantasy gaming blues--and it's systemless, so you can bolt it onto whatever system you like!).

    Pairing system to setting (and limiting myself to one system per setting!) has given me a nice sense of stability, I have to say.

  3. I especially like rather confined settings; my advanced gamer ADD rarely allows me to play in a setting for long, so I appreciate focus and short evocative descriptions above all.

  4. I'll assume you've considered making a limited area of your own homebrew, and just expanding it bit by bit as time allowed...

    I mean, no one can play in the *entirety* of the Forgotten Realms in a few sessions (even if you're gating from place to place, you're still not actually visiting all that much); a group could take years to see all of a world like the Realms (or not all of it in that time), so you could have years in which to build it out.

    1. Yes, I know that many in the blogosphere, such as yourself, tell me that I shouldn't be worrying about having a fleshed-out home-brew world right from the get-go. But, I have to say that my players have the potential drive to say, at any given time, "Let's see what's out there in the world beyond the current map!" And that's not a bad thing, in my estimation. You know, I want them to be able to do that, to strike out for parts unknown if they so choose. So, I feel I have a duty to be able to accomodate that desire to explore the unknown. Ultimately, I personally don't feel like I'm doing my job if I have to tell them, "sorry, I haven't created the world beyond the map yet." To me, that would be the ultimate anticlimax...maybe that's just me, though. This is probably just my personal hang-up. I haven't actually asked my players what they would do if I told them that the world beyond the map doesn't exist. But I know that, as a GM, I would be like, "Wow, this sucks."