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Old 12-08-2009, 03:06 AM   #11
Jürgen Hubert
 
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What's the larger cosmology? Is the existence of some sort of "standard pantheon" an acknowledged fact, or does each culture have its own pantheon? Are there any strong differences of power between the deities? Do these deities have their own "home planes" that mortals might be able to visit even before their deaths, or is whatever happens after death a mystery? And are there some eldritch entities in the vein of Lovecraftian Great Old Ones?

And what's the prehistory of the setting? Is the world a relatively recent creation, or is it millions or billions of years old? And even if it is humanocentric now, did it have ancient prehuman civilizations which might have left remnants and artifacts behind?
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Old 12-08-2009, 03:34 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by combatmedic View Post
a great plague has come and gone, leaving the world diminished in population
This would explain the standard RPG fantasy trope why there are so many abandoned ruins around... but with fewer magical items, dungeon delving is not quite as attractive any more.

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a great war was recently concluded
This sounds interesting. I've had a long interest in the period of post-WWI Europe (the Weimar Republic in particular), and post-war politics have rather interesting dynamics. Eberron shows that this can be done well in fantasy settings.

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the collapse of a mighty empire has ushered in an era of migrations and invasions
This, too, could work well. It would be less "civilized" than the post-war scenario (which implies that some social structures have remained), but it could give player characters more opportunity to establish their own realm.

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the discovery of a new continent has opened a cycle of colonization and exploration- and conflicts/collaboration with the exotic natives
Should the focus here be on the new continent (in which you'd have to write up the basic agenda and culture of the colonizing powers, and then develop the new continent as a playground for everyone) or the old continent as well (which would go into the power politics of the various colonizing nations as well)?
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Old 12-08-2009, 07:27 AM   #13
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A further thought: All these scenarios involve some recent change that shook up the setting. The question is: How recent? Depending on how much time has passed since the change, the impact on the setting will be rather different. If colonization efforts have gone on for 50 years it will be a lot different than if it was only five years. If the population has had a generation to recover from the Great Plague, society will act rather different than if the last minor outbreaks occurred last year, and everybody still fears its return. And so forth.
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Old 12-08-2009, 10:03 AM   #14
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My working assumption for mythology is that each culture may have its own gods and myths, and that the 'cosmic truth' is sometimes rather inscrutable. The gods exist, but their number and personal qualities remain a matter of scholarly debate. Souls most certainly exist, but the final destination(s) of human souls would seem to be beyond the reach of mortal magic to discover. No one 'knows' how the world was created, but many religions have their own accounts, which their followers may believe.

As for the age of the world, I am assuming that it is many millions of years old. I rather doubt that most people in the setting realize how old their world is, though, and some cultures may [wrongly] believe the world is only a few thousand years old.

Pre-human civilizations are a possibility, sure. It's also quite possible that humans are, and have been, essentially the only intelligent, naturally occurring species.


My 'big four' hooks seem to have elicited a good response. My personal preference is for the fallen empire/ invasions and migrations scenario, because it creates a really fluid and dynamic situation, and allows for PC to carve out their own kingdoms, just as Jurgen suggests.
An empire allows for a common language, road network, buried imperial treasure caches, etc.

One thing that I'd like to suggest for that scenario is keeping the average TL close to TL 2.
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Old 12-08-2009, 10:55 AM   #15
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Good point.

The humanocentric aspect of the setting tends to set it apart from the majority of the fantasy RPG settings that I've seen on the web. No elves, orcs, dwarves, etc is a pretty big difference.
More of a limitation than a positive difference that will attract an audience. I've no problem with doing away with the standard fantasy races but lack of any fantasy races tends to make things less fantastic to me.

I'm a big fan of cinematic gaming so a setting that's more cinematic than Yrth would be good.

I'd suggest looking for some additional elements that would make the setting more unique and interesting.

One area I'd really love to see is integrating ley-lines into the setting. I'd also love to see aspected mana play into the setting. Hence high mana areas occur where two or more ley-lines intersect to form a node. The more lines and the more powerful the lines the larger the area of the node. Aspected mana would help make for interesting issues for mages that are built around one are of expertise.

Some interesting questions arise when you have ley-lines of a specific aspect. What happens when an Water-ley line intersects a Fire-ley line? Or more interesting is what happens when ley lines that are not diametrically opposed intersect. Say Fire and Earth lines - which I'd put intersecting at a volcano. If the Fire line is strong than I'd make it an active volcano, if Earth is stronger than a dormant one.

I'd suggest looking at GURPS Fantasy and Thaumatology for inspiration to help differentiate the setting.
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Old 12-08-2009, 11:08 AM   #16
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If the several contributors ask for a central 'hook' I have several possiblities in mind:
  • a great plague has come and gone, leaving the world diminished in population
  • a great war was recently concluded
  • the collapse of a mighty empire has ushered in an era of migrations and invasions
  • the discovery of a new continent has opened a cycle of colonization and exploration- and conflicts/collaboration with the exotic natives
Depending on how much history you want perhaps all of the above could occur.

Perhaps for instance, a great and mighty empire has collapsed following an epic war. The shattering of the empire weakened the infrastructure as a great plague swept the land unable to be checked by healing magic or what little medicine exists. As part of the conflict great navies were constructed and with the wars over sailors turn to navigate to new lands. Perhaps a new area such as the Americas are discovered along with exotic natives (that may replace elves, indians, or both depending on the parallels you want to draw).
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Old 12-08-2009, 11:53 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by griffin View Post
More of a limitation than a positive difference that will attract an audience. I've no problem with doing away with the standard fantasy races but lack of any fantasy races tends to make things less fantastic to me.

I'm a big fan of cinematic gaming so a setting that's more cinematic than Yrth would be good.

I'd suggest looking for some additional elements that would make the setting more unique and interesting.

One area I'd really love to see is integrating ley-lines into the setting. I'd also love to see aspected mana play into the setting. Hence high mana areas occur where two or more ley-lines intersect to form a node. The more lines and the more powerful the lines the larger the area of the node. Aspected mana would help make for interesting issues for mages that are built around one are of expertise.

Some interesting questions arise when you have ley-lines of a specific aspect. What happens when an Water-ley line intersects a Fire-ley line? Or more interesting is what happens when ley lines that are not diametrically opposed intersect. Say Fire and Earth lines - which I'd put intersecting at a volcano. If the Fire line is strong than I'd make it an active volcano, if Earth is stronger than a dormant one.

I'd suggest looking at GURPS Fantasy and Thaumatology for inspiration to help differentiate the setting.

I completely disagree with you about the 'non-humans.' Elves, dwarves, hobbits, etc have been done to death in a hundred imitations of Tolkien. I've gotten positive feedback from others on this.

I'm not really sure what you mean by a cinematic setting.
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Old 12-08-2009, 12:12 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by combatmedic View Post
My 'big four' hooks seem to have elicited a good response. My personal preference is for the fallen empire/ invasions and migrations scenario, because it creates a really fluid and dynamic situation, and allows for PC to carve out their own kingdoms, just as Jurgen suggests.
An empire allows for a common language, road network, buried imperial treasure caches, etc.

One thing that I'd like to suggest for that scenario is keeping the average TL close to TL 2.
OK, then let's go with these.

However, this still leaves us with the question how long ago it was that said empire did fall. And did it die with a bang (a giant horde of barbarians overruns it and crushes the central province in one fell swoop) or with a whimper (the central government is incapable of holding on outlying provinces which declare independence one after one until the center collapses)?

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More of a limitation than a positive difference that will attract an audience. I've no problem with doing away with the standard fantasy races but lack of any fantasy races tends to make things less fantastic to me.
Not necessarily. Take Exalted, which is very much a humanocentric setting - nonhuman races exist, but they are clearly a sideshow and only exist in fairly small numbers. And yet the setting is very much fantastic.

I think if we do want to showcase the fantastic nature of the setting yet combine it with both humans as the predominant sapient species and the low-key magic, we could focus on fantastic flora and fauna. Gigantic beasts of burdens used by the invading barbarian tribes. Forests with trees higher than those of any terrestrial forest. Fierce predators lurking in dismal swamps. Unique crop plants with strange life-cycles affecting the societies that live off them.

The model I am thinking of here is Talislanta, where each region has its own weirdness and its own strange animals and plants. This way, the setting can be very fantastic yet still fit into the guidelines presented above.

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I'm not really sure what you mean by a cinematic setting.
Perhaps it means where player characters can get to very high character point totals and still find plenty of adventures worth their while. I have to admit, I'd like to see this as well - GURPS still has a reputation for only being good for "gritty games", even though this reputation is clearly undeserved with GURPS 4E.

To facilitate this, it would be good if we mention some historical characters now and then who have changed large swathes of the world thanks to their own deeds - this way players will be given to understand that their character can have the power to change the world all by themselves. Furthermore, the societies of the world will also recognize that fact (by having lots of songs and stories about the deeds of great heroes and villains) and will be more wary and/or respectful towards powerful living heroes.
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Old 12-08-2009, 12:23 PM   #19
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I don't mind leaving room for high-powered games, but I want plenty of territory staked out for grittier, lower powered games, as well. Guess which kind I like to run/play.


Including fantastic flora and fauna sounds good to me. There should still be room for earthlike ecosystems, but there's no reason to exclude things like gigantic beasts of burden or weird plants.
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Old 12-08-2009, 02:06 PM   #20
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Not necessarily. Take Exalted, which is very much a humanocentric setting - nonhuman races exist, but they are clearly a sideshow and only exist in fairly small numbers. And yet the setting is very much fantastic.
That was regarding lack of human races being less fantastic. It can be done, I think the Black Company novels do a great job with this. But the Myth computer series is similar and though it ditches the elves it adds the dwarves back (with a twisted humorous slant to them)


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I think if we do want to showcase the fantastic nature of the setting yet combine it with both humans as the predominant sapient species and the low-key magic, we could focus on fantastic flora and fauna. Gigantic beasts of burdens used by the invading barbarian tribes. Forests with trees higher than those of any terrestrial forest. Fierce predators lurking in dismal swamps. Unique crop plants with strange life-cycles affecting the societies that live off them.
I'm all for the fantastic beasts and plants, but I'd like to see magic remain powerful. Limiting magic via ley lines and aspecting can keep magic strong without totally overwhelming things.

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Perhaps it means where player characters can get to very high character point totals and still find plenty of adventures worth their while. I have to admit, I'd like to see this as well - GURPS still has a reputation for only being good for "gritty games", even though this reputation is clearly undeserved with GURPS 4E.
The Black Company novels are very fantastic and cinematic in many regards while be very gritty in others. That's the sort of balance I'd like to see.

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To facilitate this, it would be good if we mention some historical characters now and then who have changed large swathes of the world thanks to their own deeds - this way players will be given to understand that their character can have the power to change the world all by themselves. Furthermore, the societies of the world will also recognize that fact (by having lots of songs and stories about the deeds of great heroes and villains) and will be more wary and/or respectful towards powerful living heroes.
I definitely agree on this. Background history, legends, tales, and songs about heroes, villians etc. is of great importance. The backstory in the Black Company novels and the Myth computer games is one thing I really appreciate which helps keep the interest of the reader/gamer.
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