Thursday, 19 June 2008

My Secret Obsession

I recently came across a new blog while I was supposed to be at work trawling the internet. It's called RPG Diehard, and it's interesting reading so far. One of the authors set out his favourite kind of fantasy recently, and while our likings differ somewhat, I couldn't agree more when he writes:

I don't really care [much] about setting. In general, rpg setting materials don't inspire me all that much (I know this isn't the case for....probably many other gamers out there). So, I'd rather create a setting for myself that contains the elements I find interesting. I mean, if you've been playing rpgs for long enough, can't you just spout out "desert world" or "cities floating in a gas giant", start drinking a cup of coffee, and write down a page worth of ideas come out by the time you get to the bottom of the cup?

While my love of Planescape is well documented, and I've been known to dabble in Dark Sun, I've never cared much for published settings either - or published adventures, for that matter. I'm a great believer in what Gary Gygax once said: Why let us (i.e. the designers) do your imagining for you? I really like the RPG Diehard author's comment that "If you've been playing RPGs for long enough, can't you just....start drinking a cup of coffee, and write down a page worth of the time you get to the bottom of the cup?" That's more or less my philosophy too. And once you have that page of ideas, the others naturally follow.

I'll let you in on a secret. I have a secret obsession with coming up with settings, and I estimate I've only ever used about 2% of what I've ever come up with in actual games. Some of my recent ideas, jotted down in a notepad while sitting in McDonald's, include:

  • A game set in an area something like Southern Africa, ruled by Dwarves with an isiZulu-like culture.
  • A game where the player characters are the advance scouts of a vast armada of settlers and explorers who are expanding across an island-strewn stretch of ocean, as with the first wave of South Pacific colonisation.
  • A game set on a mountain so high that it is connected to the moon.
  • A game set on a planet which is almost entirely land - the 2% or so of surface area covered in water is situated in one lake/sea on the equator, around which are clustered all the planet's civilisation. The rest of the world is almost completely unexplored because nobody can get further than a few days ride from the lake/sea and its surrounding rivers. All anybody knows is that there is a lot of life out there, because every so often bizarre monsters come in from the vast, arid plains, seeking food, slaves or something else...
  • A game set in a city made entirely out of grid-iron, built up into a vast tall structure, like a supersized version of the Blackpool tower with houses and other buildings clustered on the struts.

I find wikipedia a great source of inspiration, because as well as being the world's most eccentric source of information, it is also a fantastic source of photos. Take a look at this picture of Mount Everest; can't you just imagine those mountains being the home of something alien, mysterious and terrible?:

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