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Old 06-09-2008, 08:41 PM   #36
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Flushing, Michigan
Default Re: Does GURPS need original-setting world books?

Originally Posted by Agemegos
I too think it is a mistake for an RPG setting to try to be "all things to all men". A timid, consensus-driven approach to setting design tries to assemble a coalition of appeals by throwing in everything that seems cool to anyone. The result is no better in setting design than the same approach would be in cookery: never mind that I like lemon chiffon cream and vinaigrette dressing, I don't want them in my osso bucco, nor pork rinds and chocolate chips in my vichysoisse. That is why I always avoid open calls on public forums to "let's design a collaborative setting".

In my opinion no good setting ever results from a committee or a survey assembling a shopping-list of elements that must be introduced, or even with a designer think "Let's see: gotta have a lake, anna forest, and some mountains, anna city; gotta have elves, and dwarves, and orcs". Good settings, settings that inspire players and GMs, settings that stand out from the crowd, settings that people go to buy rather than standing at the shelves with two products trying to make a line call, result from some person or small group having a good basic idea, and idea which provides as theme. And, as Whswhs can tell you, a theme is a criterion for deciding what to put in an what to leave out.
Absolutely. I think it's tempting to try to put everything into a setting because you want to satisfy as many people as you can. Not to mention that the more bells and whistles you put in a setting the more people may buy it, while a very specific setting, requiring the same investment of both time and money, is a bigger risk; it may be the next Greyhawk or it may be the next [please insert your favorite example of a well-written setting that only sold 18 copies here].

But the more you put in, the more you risk making a setting unwieldy and causing it to lose its unique flavor (or, as you put it, its theme).

There are exceptions. A setting like Traveller is supposed to have every possible location and theme. It's an interstellar ocean with ten thousand islands to choose from. That's part of its appeal.

Maybe the "secret" is to find your theme and stick with it, but to do everything possible with that particular theme. So you're not going to have Wild West shootouts if the theme is Regency intrigue, but you should feel free to steal every trick Jane Austen used, not to mention the ones that show up in Burney, Gaskell, and Eliot.

And if the theme is "Vampires do not control a vast conspiracy with almost infinite wealth, but they are quite cunning, and numerous small colonies and nests are to be found around the world...civilization is not in peril, but many innocent people will die if the heroes fail or do nothing," then you've got something very definite to work with, but enough room to come up with dozens of unique adventures.

You can even expand the theme a little--"Oh, and there are Satanists, too, and sometimes one particular Satanic cult leader will work with a particular vampire, and vampires are really comfortable with the notion of helping out the devil and his servants, as long as they get fresh blood, too, but nothing more organized than that," but you want to make sure you don't throw in TOO many bells and whistles.

Actually, that is kind of a cool setting, isn't it? :)

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