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15 September 2013 @ 07:12 pm
Setting Design and Kitchen Sink-itis  
One of the biggest problems I have when I'm homebrewing stuff or planning out RPGs is the tendency to just throw anything in that I think of at the time. There are a lot of RPGs that I like that do a good job of this--Exalted, Fading Suns, and Shadowrun spring easily to mind--but it's also easy to do it really badly.

Here's an example. The more I read through of Runequest 6, the more I want to convert a setting I've been working on on and off for six years or so to it (you can see an early genesis here). The impetus was kind of a dark fairy tale vibe with creatures based on lesser-known stuff from world folklore, but it evolved a more Russian bent as time went on, with shaman-priests called Vedmak as the protectors of the human villages against the creatures of the forest. Also winter witches who live in the wilderness, a warrior elite who turn into bears, an an almost-consciousness to the forest that occasionally drives people insane. It has a strong thematic hook of humans as interlopes in a hostile world, and I try to keep the new parts I add fitting into that.

And yet...as I've mentioned, I've been on a science fantasy kick, and I keep getting tempted to add a flying castle filled with robots or a crashed starship or something. Something that would totally come out of left field, be completely ridiculous, and ruin the entire feel...but dammit, flying robot castle!

I even had another idea for a setting that it would make more sense with. Taking Runequest's Greek-expy setting, but on a tidally locked world where civilization exists on the middle area. The sunside has jungles getting bigger and bigger until the miles-high trees fade out into desert, the starside has evergreen forests that fade out into fungal forests and then icy wastelands. When the planet's climate depends on orbital mechanics, that implies real-world physics exist[1], and therefore crashed starships and androids and so on actually make more sense there.

Maybe what I really need to do is run Gamma World to get the science fantasy thing out of my mind. I'm running a Fallout game at the moment, but Fallout's tech base is too high for the fantasy feel of science fantasy, and while psychic powers do exist, they aren't really focused on in any way. On the other hand, in Gamma World, that kind of thing is expected, so it's not exactly like Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

I suspect it's because I tend to think longer-term when I'm planning games, so I like more expansive settings that have the capability to go in lots of different directions. If I ran short-run games of half-a-dozen sessions or less, then a very tight focus wouldn't matter. The fact that you can't play non-samurai doesn't matter if you're all sitting down specifically to play Mountain Witch.

[1]: I'm a fan of mythic geography: flat worlds, worlds that exist in bubbles inside an eternal ocean, dyson universes, worlds where the distance between locations isn't consistent because civilization is literal points of light in a hostile and chaotic wilderness. That kind of thing always has a higher buy-in than planets orbiting stars, though.
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