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There are a lot of fantasy worlds out there for gamers to choose from. D&D offers several official settings and a slew of licensed worlds, Pathfinder has its own world, there’s a cornucopia of “system independent” settings, and there are the massive old grandfathers of fully-fleshed out worlds: Glorantha, Tekumel, and Harn. All of these worlds have things going for them. The lore of the D&D and Pathfinder worlds are tightly linked to the rules of those systems, relieving the GM of any work in figuring out how to represent the effects of setting specific elements, such as monsters or magic. If you’re not into D&D or Pathfinder, though, they may not appeal to you. System independent settings get around this by designing the world first and either providing guidelines for using it with different rules (Primeval Thule is a good example of this) or simply leaving it to the buyer to sort out. The looming Old Ones of game-world design (Glorantha, Tekumel, and Harn) offer players dense lore accreted over the decades of their existence. they can also be a bit intimidating to new players and GMs. None of these worlds offer everything a player could want, because that’s an impossible task. For me, Glorantha and Harn come closest to ticking all my boxes, but neither is exactly what I’d like to see in a game world. That’s not a criticism of either setting, because even I don’t know exactly what I want from a game world. Despite that lacking that critical piece of self-awareness, I’ve always wanted to design a commercial game-world. I’ve designed several worlds for my own use, but most of those were comprised of little more than a couple of maps, a few notes, and a relatively firm feel for the setting in my head. I aspire to going whole hog, though, and would like to create a world that GMs and players who aren’t sitting at my table could stomp around in and make their own. I have some ideas of what I’d like to see in that world, but I’d be grateful to hear what kinds of worlds other folks would like to plant characters in to watch them grow. I’m not trying to crowd-source a setting by any stretch of the imagination, but I would like to know what elements other players and GMs would like to see in a game world, particularly things they can’t find in other published works. To that end, I’ve put together the annoying questionnaire below. I don’t expect anyone to fill the thing in completely, I’m just offering it as a framework to shake loose opinions that might not have occurred to you. Now, on to the annoying questions: What level of “fantasy” are you looking for in a fantasy world? High fantasy where magic, monsters, and elves are common place? Medium, where such things exist, but they’re rare and remarkable? Low, where magic is scarce as hen’s teeth and monsters and fey folk are the stuff of fairy tales (that may be true)? What level of technology do you prefer? Stone-age? Bronze-age? Iron-age? High medieval, Renaissance? Some mixture? Swords only? Swords a muskets? Swords and early revolvers? How wild do you prefer your fantasy world to be? Tribes and clans struggling against nature and the unnatural to survive? City states surrounded by howling wilds and roving nomad clans? Feudal kingdoms sprinkled with wild places and separated by swaths of wilderness? Stable kingdoms and empires with wild lands beyond their borders? Do you like medieval European feudalism in your world? Or would you prefer a more tribal organization? Or territories ruled over by satraps appointed by a royal or imperial bureaucracy? Something else? Are the gods real in your ideal fantasy world? If so, do they interfere directly in the mortal world, or do they work through mortal intermediaries? Do you like your gods wearing black or white hats or do you prefer them to wear dove grey? What are the ideal stakes of your world? Are they high, with a big bad that will destroy the world unless your character finds a way to stop it? Or medium, where the threat is often aimed at one of the world’s kingdoms/city-states/tribes? Or they low, with the threat usually directed at the PC group itself? Do you like a game world to be strangely familiar (like Harn or Glorantha) or utterly alien (like Tekumel or Jorune)? How much effort are you willing to sink into learning a world as a player or GM? Are you okay with reading dozens or hundreds of pages of lore and exposition to get your feet on the ground, or do you prefer a world that gives you the high points of the setting and allows you to fill in blanks as you play? Do you want your world to have a well defined future history? Or would you prefer a loose guideline of optional ways the world might evolve over the next few decades? Or do you want history to end at a given year so that you and your players are free to develop it as you will through play? That’s it for the questionnaire, although I may come up with follow-up questions based on your responses. Again, you don’t need to slavishly provide answers to each question (feel free to do so if you have the time and inclination, though). Answer the ones that jump out at you or hit one of your hot-buttons if that’s all you feel like. Any input is good input!
So the Skae; (Skaerune') project has been a long one, way longer than I ever anticipated. Lots of changes along the way and lots of re-design. The system of course has changed and gotten tons better, but the world itself has evolved significantly. At a point, about 18 months ago I realized I was telling the wrong kind of story with the setting. Skae' is a world and game of and about immigrants. Yes, the dragons and giants (mostly) and Caretakers were part of the world already. Yes the gods, whatever they gods end up being, made the world as a kind of left over, a collection of crumbs from their own universes. The Four Cities though, the central players and originators of conflict, are newcomers to the world. And that is pretty significant. With the creation of mythological creatures based on the influence of the cities, these cultures have a strong influence on the land itself. In many ways they redefine the land. This is really important and a central theme. So what are the conflicts? Rise or Fall of the Glorious Empire and the prevention of the next /last city Discovery of the "Fallen" Cities, one of which is known to exist, City of the Jade Turtles. Deeper mysteries of Skae', the Deep Waters, how and why the world was created and Shadow Takers, the mysterious anti Caretakers. Taming of the land itself by one city or another Chaos and chaoskampf in the form of Entropy creeping in. The infusion of new ideas keeps the world from sliding into dangerous stagnation. But why? Even I do not now the answer here, but I feel I want to take the Order/Chaos conflict many (not just d100) games have used and flesh it out in different directions. I am learning a great deal as I go. It is not outside of possibility that we will see Runed Worlds before we see Skae get published, but better to do it right than rush things. Stay Tuned...