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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!

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Stating up front that a lot of my answers are going to have at least some element of a probably-useless-to-you "I don't know, as long as the setting looks like it'd be cool to have adventure in and makes some kind of sense as a place with people in it, I'd be down for almost anything" kind of attitude rather than anything firm:

  • I think the ubiquity of magic in a setting is less important to me than its... I don't know, utility? Versatility? Basically, I don't much like the standard D&D Wizard approach where some people can use magic to do basically everything and most people have no magic at all except through items. I think my preference is that magic should be really powerful but laborious, requiring extensive rituals and lots of components or whatnot to undertake a Great Work, or else there should be some kind of "small magic" that a lot of people can have access to. Glorantha has both, where great heroes can undertake great workings of magic but even your average Orlanthi farmer might know some little prayer or chant that lets him plow a field better. I like that.
  • Again, it's all good. Anything from 10,000 BC to some twist on Napoleonic Europe could be great to see in a fantasy setting. My only issue at all is that I'm just sick of seeing what are obviously late medieval (often with anachronisms that belong more in the Renaissance or the Enlightenment, Pathfinder's setting of Golarion being a prime example) settings where there are either no firearms, or (to pick on Golarion again, even though I actually like the setting for having this pulpy fantasy kitchen sink approach) they're all confined to one tiny corner of the world map and apparently no one's interested in figuring out how to make their own. That said, I definitely feel like it'd be interesting to have a fantasy setting that went straight for the Renaissance instead of "the Middle Ages but with a lot of Renaissance or later stuff thrown in to make it less crappy," because to my knowledge that isn't something that's been tackled as much.
  • Whatever makes sense with the above, I guess. I feel like a good fantasy world where a lot of people might want to have campaigns in would need a range in there anyway, but I guess I prefer a certain level of dynamism in the balance of power in a setting, since totally settled and stable places are only good for certain kinds of adventures. On the other hand, courtly/political intrigue can be fun, but I think you could do that with, like, fractious and quarrelsome city-states or whatever just as well. (I'm realizing that I guess I like the idea of fractious city-states?)
  • Again, probably something where I'd like to see a spectrum, both to provide different options for campaigns but also because I think there's interesting possibilities in characters coming in from different societies clashing in worldviews that are so ingrained they aren't even actually aware enough to articulate them to an outsider properly.
  • I feel like the presence and interference of the divine should have the relative timeline in account. Like, if this is a fantasy world that's drawing on places like the Fertile Crescent or Ancient Egypt or Mycenae, absolutely there should be gods walking among men or whose presence is otherwise very real and felt by everyone, because it's a big part of how the inspirations you're drawing from saw the world and it contributes to the feeling of a world that would later become myth and legend. As for divine morality, there's nothing inherently wrong with a setting where the good and bad guys are pretty clear-cut, but I prefer at least a little bit of nuance to it. Perfect Good and Perfect Evil are equally uninteresting to me, and if a setting has the presence of the divine as something real and felt, I'd rather they have some personality to them.
  • Low to medium, I guess. I feel like I've "saved the world" so many times in games it no longer really has any power to inspire hype in me unless it's done really, really well. Plus, once you've saved the world, where do you even go now? If you're going to save the world, it should be some big blow-out to end something really epic, not just every other year-long campaign.
  • I guess I tend to prefer settings that seem familiar, but something more "alien" can still be great so long as it's sufficiently realized enough that I can look at it and say, "Yeah, given the circumstances I can see that that's how people would live here." Basically, as long as it's fleshed out enough that I can see a clear through-line on why it's so different, that's just grand.
  • I feel like, given where you've put this topic, you're going to get some biased answers in terms of how much buy-in people are willing to give a setting and how much Deep Lore they can enjoy. You can hand me a whole twelve-volume primer on your fantasy theogony, history, culture, etc. and I'd eat that up if it was well-written. Of course, in actual play I consider pretty much all of that as more just groundwork and suggestions, even without the explicit license to do so provided by YGWV.
  • I'd say the first option definitely needs a rather high level of ambiguity and open-endedness to work, to the extent that you may as well just go with the second one flat-out if you're not going to do the third. King of Sartar goes out of its way to make its version of events open to interpretation regarding whether the stuff it recounts actually happened at all the way it says they did, deliberately adding what are clearly inconsistencies and unreliable accounts and etc. to give you as much room to feel justified in saying "this is how it really happened" at your table as possible, and people on this forum have still described worrying that they or their players will feel shackled to following the events it describes, as it describes them.
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36 minutes ago, Leingod said:

I'm realizing that I guess I like the idea of fractious city-states?

You and me both, buddy! You and me both! 

Dang it, I posted before I was ready. I also wanted to thank you for the input! It's all good and we line up on the majority of points. Thanks for your time humoring me.

Edited by Shawn Carpenter
Posted too soon.

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3 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:

Now, on to the annoying questions:

I'm not sure a questionnaire will really help you figure out what you want in an RPG setting -- at best it will give you a skewed version of what a subset of the people on this forum enjoy, and that means it will be skewed at least two or three times cumulatively... But hey, I like questionnaires! :D 

3 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • 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)?

No preference but I like leaning into it: if it's high fantasy then make it HIGH FANTASY GODDAMMIT. It could be a "Futurama-style satire" where magic and monsters are everywhere but are mostly there for the social commentary, or it could be a high-concept thing where you really dive into "What it would look like" if there was, indeed, that much magic and this many monsters.

On the other hand, if magic and monsters are rare, they should be scary or super powerful or other similar inflated importance to compensate for the fact that they're rare (like, say, what Cthulhu Dark Ages or Cthulhu Invictus try to do). That one of the things I don't like so much about Harn: it tries to be a super realistic medieval simulation, but it half-heartedly throws a bit of fantasy in there without really making much use of it IMHO.

3 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • 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?

Whichever. It really has to do with the themes and feel of the setting. Plus, in a high fantasy setting where transportation, resource production, warfare, communication, and even maybe entertainment are all virtually 21st-century level thanks to massive amounts of magical infrastructure, it doesn't matter so much whether that's complemented with Renaissance-style muskets vs. Medieval-style swords vs. Stone-age hatchets IMHO. I guess what I'm saying is that your fantasy elements might take over your technology levels... depending on how your magic is, i.e. "magic as science" (like most mainstream fantasy settings where you have a list of reliable spells) vs. "magic as alchemy" (where it's not as reliable) vs. "magic as a truly alien/unpredictable/corrupting/whatever thing".

At this point I should really plug books like GURPS Fantasy, GURPS Thaumatology, and other similar "GURPS genre books" which are, like, 90% systemless, and really go into this kind of meta-analysis of genres to show you all the options you can imagine for a custom game/setting, what that means, library/cinema references for all of them, etc.

3 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • 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?

Again, depends on the themes you want to deal with in your setting. I personally tend to fall back more often on the human side of things, i.e. Magic Colleges ruining the environment by harnessing natural forces beyond what is safe, political alliances with nomad clans and monster factions and what that means for the local population caught in the middle, the ravages of imperialism, the dangers of nationalism, etc. A feudal system is good for some commentary on the modern loss of the middle class and the power structure of the 1%. Etc. It's not so much what the setting is, as much as what the setting is trying to tell, and how. That's often the difference between a good sci-fi or horror movie, and a "meh" one, even though both have flying cars or cool death scenes or whatever.

3 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • 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?

See above: whichever, it depends on what the setting's "heart" is. I'll add that the advantage of feudalism is that everybody know about. The further you stray from it, the more the people reading you book need a history lesson 101.

3 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • 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?

Gray is always better IMHO because, first, it reflects our real world's inherently complex reality, but also because it offers more opportunities for intrigues and storylines. That said, sometimes it's nice to have a simple black and white world where you play the good guys against the bad guys. I find it harder to pull off however because it requires a particular treatment throughout the setting that really screams "this is a comicbook world!" or "this is an anime game!" or something, and that often breaks down when you have adults playing that for longer than 3 sessions in a row (which means you would need to make the setting mainly appropriate for one-shots). But maybe that's just me and my group, we try to overthink things?

3 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • 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?

Again, it depends. In a REALLY HIGH FANTASY world where you play the Uber Mages and you can influence entire nations, destroy a castle in minutes, and flatten an army in seconds, you better make the stakes high! On the other hand, a gritty street-level fantasy world where you play orphans recruited by the thieves' guild would have stakes only as big as the neighbourhood or, at best, the city itself (and this might actually be more dramatic and gut-wrenching than when the stakes are impersonally wide!). It could even be small stakes in a high fantasy world: try to save your family while 2 Uber Mages destroy your entire valley because it happens to be in the way.

3 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • Do you like a game world to be strangely familiar (like Harn or Glorantha) or utterly alien (like Tekumel or Jorune)?

Hey, that's the one thing where I can something else than : "it depends"  :)  I like some element of familiarity, or at least some kind of internal consistency or basic rule by which you can grasp how this setting works. I like the idea of Numenera's setting, for example, but I had problems relating to it because it felt a bit too much like an "anything goes" kind of setting.

3 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • 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?

I'm OK reading dozens of pages if the first page grabs me :)  Ideally, all the other pages are just refining this first picture and "concept" of the setting... and you could potentially skip 3/4 of the lore and still fill in the blanks during play and end up not too far from "canon". In Glorantha, for example, you can explain the basics of the world and of an Orlanthi clan in under a couple pages, and then you can sprinkle the rest in the character creation process (family history, homeland, cult). You might spot that's kind of what RQG does.

3 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • 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?

Either way is fine by me. I'm more interested in having a clear picture of what everybody's agenda is, so I can extrapolate future events, rather than reading a pre-established future history and having to reverse engineer the NPC's agenda in order to know how they would react to the PCs interfering. If the future history is also given as a bonus, that's good too but it's optional, and, frankly, for a new setting, I wouldn't spend much time on this until after I know that people like this setting enough to play more than a few scenarios.

There, I hope it helps!

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4 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • What level of “fantasy” are you looking for in a fantasy world?

Rather high, I guess. One of my earliest world-building project long before I encountered codified role-playing was about humanoids without any humans involved, with pecari-like steeds, and a different feel for physics as the humanoids were significantly smaller than humans. Applying the square/cube law does change "minor" things like carrying capacity.

No spell magic - all magic comes from items. Creating these requires special substances.

4 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • What level of technology do you prefer?

Rather pedestrian Iron Age or late Western Roman, with magic stepping up some of the technologies. Metal may be inferior to knapped jade-like crystals that can be endowed with special effects, so technologies may retain skill sets you don't expect in Dark Age or Medieval fantasy.

The setting has gates to other places and realms under different skies, connecting to a crystal world. This does effect travel and trade.

4 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • 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?

Yes. Given my topologically linked system of (presumably) planets, expansion into the wild away from the gates is a big disadvantage. Depending on how far the gates are spaced apart, the wild may be less interesting.

4 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • Do you like medieval European feudalism in your world?

Dark Ages feudalism is fine. High medieval feudalism has been done to boring death. 

4 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • Or would you prefer a more tribal organization? Or territories ruled over by satraps appointed by a royal or imperial bureaucracy? Something else?

All of that in their places, modified by the topological network and unexpected interactions.

Warfare across the gates isn't really an option, unless you manage to create a bridgehead strong enough and sufficiently supplied to ward off the previously unchallenged power in place.

4 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • 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?

There are realms which have deities or demon-like beings that would be as active as Icelandic folk lore has the elves and trolls to be. There are invasive supernatural powers.

Shades of grey is what you'll find.

4 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • What are the ideal stakes of your world?

I like my low stakes tying in to higher stakes.

4 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • Do you like a game world to be strangely familiar (like Harn or Glorantha) or utterly alien (like Tekumel or Jorune)?

Yes. I have at least one realm in an asteroid belt with breathable atmosphere, for instance. And realms with "bad atmosphere" requiring breathing aids or filters or isolation. These may still be interesting because they may provide short cuts between gate routes.

4 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • How much effort are you willing to sink into learning a world as a player or GM?

I admire the concept of the Ports of Call in Men of the Seas, and that concept is applicable to space ports or gate-connected places just as well. I guess in QW terms, you could assign certain difficulties based on the nature of the current realm.

With my quite fragmented setting, you would learn about the world as you explore it, be it into the wilds, or be it into the network of gates. Discovering gates in the wilds is a major theme, I suppose. Having a non-secret gate will make the place somewhat less wild, or at least very well protected.

4 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • 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?

I am a world builder at heart, and my setting allows lots of world building. I like living worlds, and accumulation of lore.

4 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • Do you want your world to have a well defined future history?

This setting of mine does have some major struggle, but it is protagonist and antagonist driven. And every now and then you will encounter a new antagonist with a new scheme that may have been in operation for very long.

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16 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

I'm not sure a questionnaire will really help you figure out what you want in an RPG setting -- at best it will give you a skewed version of what a subset of the people on this forum enjoy,

I'm primarily interested in seeing what people other than me and the folks I play with look for in a game setting because I'm nosy. I've posted this several places, so I'll get several skewed subsets to look at. It's been fun to read people's input so far. 

19 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

No preference but I like leaning into it: if it's high fantasy then make it HIGH FANTASY GODDAMMIT.

I agree 100%, no both this statement and the one on Harn. When I ran Harn,

I stripped all the fantasy out of it other than the gods and some fey stuff I jammed in for my own entertainment. 

22 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

I'll add that the advantage of feudalism is that everybody know about. The further you stray from it, the more the people reading you book need a history lesson 101.

Feudalism is "transparent" to most players. It also gets a knee-jerk "just another western European medieval game" shrug-off from a lot of gamers because it's been so widely done. Still, I love me some barons and house knights. ;)

24 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

There, I hope it helps!

Absolutely! Thanks for taking the time to play along!

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6 minutes ago, Joerg said:

I like my low stakes tying in to higher stakes.

Agreed. It's fun to see something that seems straightforward escalate. 

It sounds like you have a great world of your own in the oven. Is it for personal use or do you have larger plans?

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32 minutes ago, Shawn Carpenter said:

Feudalism is "transparent" to most players. It also gets a knee-jerk "just another western European medieval game" shrug-off from a lot of gamers because it's been so widely done. Still, I love me some barons and house knights.

One thing I forgot to mention is that the questionnaire was a bit leading in terms of "fantasy world" as something set somewhere between the late Stone Age and the High Middle Ages. It might be on purpose, but it might not be. There are some cool fantasy things to be done outside of this range... Wyrm is taking care of the early Stone Age, 7th Sea is taking care of the 17th century stuff (mostly European but not just that), to some degree Blades in the Dark and others are taking care a bit of the 18th/19th century but I think there is a LOT of wiggle room to do more here (and Victorian London doesn't have to be limited to Cthulhu by Gaslight horror games). There are some games of urban fantasy set in the modern days, from the more classic (Dresden Files? Tales from the Loop? Maybe Rivers of London?) to the more weird and dark (Unknown Armies), but that might not quite be what you have in mind when you talk about a "fantasy world".... but hey, even when it comes to some Magicians/Harry Potter/Mortal Instruments type modern fantasy world, I think there's also still stuff to be done in the gaming space...

Edited by lordabdul
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5 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:

Agreed. It's fun to see something that seems straightforward escalate. 

It sounds like you have a great world of your own in the oven. Is it for personal use or do you have larger plans?

That setting is about 40 years old, without me having done much in these past 40 years about it, but your questions got me thinking .of this setting that was not written with any rpg magic system in mind. The writing and some of the concepts are accordingly quite juvenile... but that might be refreshing to revisit. If I had time to finish a couple of Glorantha projects first.

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2 hours ago, Joerg said:

If I had time to finish a couple of Glorantha projects first.

Glorantha First! Make Glorantha Great Again! Glorantha über alles! 😜

To answer @Shawn Carpenter's question if not questionnaire, what I would want from a QW fantasy world is... Glorantha! 😇

Edited by Christoph Kohring
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15 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:

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?

 

Hey Shawn, whatever setting you'll come up with in the end, these are certainly some interesting questions! Since you've asked about things that other published works don't quite deliver and that we would like to see: I'd really love to see a fantasy setting that deals in an interesting way with social change triggered by a major epistomological change; a "true" Renaissance game, not in the sense that it has some real-world historical trappings of that era, but that it really deals with people developing a whole new view on what it means to be human (or whatever other intelligent fantasy species you might happen to belong to ...). Take, for example, a fantasy society where magic has always been bound up in religious ritual, but recently, a more scientific approach called "sorcery" has been developed - what does it actually mean if humans can wield magical powers without recourse to gods or spirits? What kinds of upheaval would follow from that? You wouldn't even have to combine something like that with a Renaissance-like technology level, it could just as well be a stone-age setting.

Are the gods real? I consider both "they are definitely real and active" and "There's no proof of them being real whatever" interesting; for some reason, I don't really like the "they're probably real but keep in the background" middle-ground. And I'm not very interested in "good" and "evil" gods in a pantheon. Still, they can serve as interesting philosophical concepts in a gaming world.

Ideal stakes for me a medium, it just seems most playable.

I tend to like my game worlds either utterly alien or very down to earth - once again, what I'm least interested in is the middle-ground. Harn feels a little to familiar to me (I'd probably like it better if it were a humans only setting). I love weird settings with lots of intelligent species like Talislanta, but I want them to make sense (I played Numenera for a while, but all of the cool elements where just there, with no connective tissue that made them feel like they were belonging to the same world and being in relation to each other). I don't really like any more or less creative new takes on elves, dwarves and the likes - they have been done, and they have been done well, but I really don't feel a need fo any more of that.

Regarding details: I kind of prefer slim, but focused setting material. Give me a lot of broad strokes, but also some very detailed elements that I can use right away.  I find that I can make most uses of the extreme ends of the scale at the gaming table - very broad descriptions that just give me a general idea of a place, and fine details about one thing or the other (a castle, a group of NPC, an inn ...).

I like to have some near future history of the world (two or three years), but only in very broad strokes and only as suggestions what will happen if the PCs do not interfere.

 

Also: yay to city states!

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5 hours ago, Christoph Kohring said:

To answer @Shawn Carpenter's question if not questionnaire, what I would want from a QW fantasy world is... Glorantha! 😇

Same for me. While I may invest time reading other fantasy worlds (e.g. Jordan's Wheel of Time world, Brandon Sanderson's worlds), my gaming (and game writing) focus is Glorantha.

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4 hours ago, Jakob said:

I'd really love to see a fantasy setting that deals in an interesting way with social change triggered by a major epistomological change

Social upheaval or sea-changes make great "inciting incidents" for a setting. "There's so much action now because of (the filthy levelers and their mad ideas, the rise or fall of a patriarchal empire, the rise or fall of a major religion, a cultural shift in world-view, etc.).

4 hours ago, Jakob said:

I kind of prefer slim, but focused setting material. Give me a lot of broad strokes, but also some very detailed elements that I can use right away. 

I have a seat in this boat, too. I like new settings to be broad enough to leave room for me to put my own mark on things during play. Spots of detail help add depth to the world in future publications.

Thanks for the great input, Jakob!

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7 hours ago, Christoph Kohring said:

To answer @Shawn Carpenter's question if not questionnaire, what I would want from a QW fantasy world is... Glorantha! 😇

I'm all for that, too! I'm already working on a QW Glorantha project for Jonstown Compendium. I like to design for different settings, though, because it keeps them all fresh for me and often the insights gained on one project will directly impact another.

Plus its fun and I'm a grown up ADHD kid! ;)

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On 5/28/2020 at 10:23 AM, Shawn Carpenter said:

There are a lot of fantasy worlds out there for gamers to choose from...

To me, you've missed an obvious truism -- that we can like a lot of DIFFERENT things.  Modern Urban fantasy?  Hell yeah!  Medieval-esque pastiche?  Hell yeah!  Etc etc etc.  My "favorite" today may not be my "favorite" tomorrow, nor was yesterday's "favorite" either of those...

I personally find that the "kitchen sink" approach is less interesting, these days.  I'd rather a really rock-solid internal consistency, and a vivid vision, than to jump through hoops to contrive a reason for including  every.  last.  fantasy.  trope.  under one homogenous cover.  Yes, the hoops can be jumped-through.  Yes, you can claim that (having jumped) you have achieved "internal consistency," but I never find those hoops and that consistency to be satisfactory, over the long term.  I enjoy the cleverness of the contrivances, when I meet an original one... but occupying that world means I meet that same contrivance over and over and over again; and eventually the rationalle wears thin (for me).

 

On 5/28/2020 at 10:23 AM, Shawn Carpenter said:
  • 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?

As I said above -- I could really enjoy any particular point you pick.  Vividly realized and self-consistent are what make those details meaningful, rather than where on the sliding-scale you set them.  One note -- the principle of "sufficiently advanced" suggests that if you have lots of magic, and it's broadly powerful, it's hard to justify the mechanical side of the universe being unimpacted and exactly-like the historical world.

If a wall isn't a great impediment, walled cities and castles won't be used (but may, as with our world, exist as historical artifacts) -- again, self-consistency of the universe is the issue.

 

On 5/28/2020 at 10:23 AM, Shawn Carpenter said:

...

  • 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?

I find my players mostly uninterested in deep dives, these days; at least as an up-front "expense" of the setting.  It makes me prefer a world that's explicitly based off of our world -- modern urban fantasy, Victorianna, etc.

It is VASTLY easier to say "the pope" than "Archprelate of <funky made-up religion>" and have my players understand.

Infodump NPC's & vast expositions are not fun for players.

I make a lone exception for Glorantha, because I myself have loved it for about 40 years; I'm working on getting my players onboard ...  

 

Edited by g33k
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10 minutes ago, g33k said:

One note -- the principle of "sufficiently advanced" suggests that if you have lots of magic, and it's broadly powerful, it's hard to justify the mechanical side of the universe being unimpacted and exactly-like the historical world.

Absolutely. I wrote a fantasy naval novel that hinged on that. Why build chronometers when you had magical clocks? Why worry about longitude and latitude when you can pin point your location with soil samples from three different points? And these considerations expand to impact other tech: if you don't need chronometers, you don't need delicate and consistent springs, minute hardened gears, etc.  Not only are those things not developed, neither are the tools and techniques to make them - or to make the tools used to make those tools. It snowballs gigantically in a very short time.

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3 hours ago, Shawn Carpenter said:

Why worry about longitude and latitude when you can pin point your location with soil samples from three different points?

You only need one soil sample, if your magic can tell you both a precise direction and a precise range!

Part of every captain's gear would be a case of samples from every port they had ever visited.

Likewise, a ship would carry samples; and bring (e.g.) samples home from a valuable trading destination, to share with other ships belonging to the same nation/league/whatever.

Spies would be hired to sneak in and scramble the samples, or substitute a bunch of rocks from a shallow reef that rips out the bottoms of ships; etc.

We can ask if someone can raise a shield, to block such tracking?  Can someone at a port reverse the magic, send hunter-killer monsters to find all ships carrying their samples?

etc etc etc.

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12 hours ago, g33k said:

Modern Urban fantasy?

If I was to do something non-Gloranthan, than this might be the most appealing.  Set alongside the "real-world" is that of "faerie".  Inspired by the works of Charles deLint, Raymond Feist's "Faerie Tale", Stephen King/Peter Straub "The Talisman", and others.

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2 hours ago, jajagappa said:

If I was to do something non-Gloranthan, than this might be the most appealing.  Set alongside the "real-world" is that of "faerie".  Inspired by the works of Charles deLint, Raymond Feist's "Faerie Tale", Stephen King/Peter Straub "The Talisman", and others.

For this kind of setting I was recently tempted to have a look at 'Liminal' ...

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A game that captured the feel of DeLint's Moonheart would be fantastic. Faerie Tale and Talisman were also great - but Moonheart was my introduction to urban fantasy back when it first came out in paperback. I've got a huge soft-spot for it. :)

Maybe I should re-read that and some of his other works. 

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On 5/31/2020 at 8:07 AM, jajagappa said:

If I was to do something non-Gloranthan, than this might be the most appealing.  Set alongside the "real-world" is that of "faerie".  Inspired by the works of Charles deLint, Raymond Feist's "Faerie Tale", Stephen King/Peter Straub "The Talisman", and others.

We may have something similar to this on our list of projects to do at some point. The list is long and the order shifts near weekly. Hey, keeping @Shawn Carpenter on one thing can be hard some days! But, the fae are high on my list of things to touch on. 

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I'm not that into worlds but probably shortish, maybe 5-20 pages of setting information to either clone a known setting or lay out a compelling background concept for a short game.

Crunchwise I'd want a lot of guidance about what magic can do and how to play it in QW.  I feel that the spell list (as it were) is the main meat of any fantasy RPG.

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I want ... well, I want a lot of things.

 

But one thing I think would be fun and that QW could do well is a game that leans heavily into social mechanics & interaction.  Gormenghast, Jane Austin, about a quarter of the Game of Thrones TV show... I think that would be cool.

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