Monday, August 20, 2012

Wondering about settings

At Gencon Wizards announced that Forgotten Realms will be the focus of D&D Next. That and a post by Random Wizard got me thinking about selling setting products.

In the upper right corner of my blog you will see this


To me the Old School Renaissance is not about playing a particular set of rules in a particular way, the dungeon crawl. It is about going back to the roots of our hobby and seeing what we could do differently. What avenues were not explored because of the commercial and personal interests of the game designers of the time.


I have to wonder if Dragonlance/Forgotten Realms approach to setting supplements is the way to go. Why not release a series of more limited setting designed to dovetail into existing D&D campaigns? Give them a loose background that ties them into the Forgotten Realms/Greyhawk/Dragonlance/etc but your meat and potatoes products are the mini-settings of 200 miles by 100 miles.

Yes I know I am tooting my own horn here considering my work on Blackmarsh, Wild North, and both Points of Lights. But think about it, even for Forgotten Realms, Harn, Glorantha, Tekemul, and other setting with a long publishing history the amount of written details barely fill what one could write about a real country like France, China, or Mexico. The settings I mentioned have a ENTIRE WORLD of possibilities unexplored and unwritten about. This especially true of kitchen sink settings like the Forgotten Realms. Moreso you are not limited in time as well. You can make mini-settings set in the past as well to take advantage of interesting circumstances.

The tie-in novels can continue the way they do now.  Organize play material is not changed. The only thing that changes is that for your RPG audience you sell them Blackmarsh size or Nentil's Vale size chunks of the setting. If you need to explain the background of the setting you get your novel division to release the Gazeeteer of the Forgotten Realms just like Martin is releasing an Westeros Atlas. Or Kurtz released the Deryni Encyclopedia. If you want to adapt your generic genre RPG to the published setting then release a Majestic Wilderlands style supplement that focuses on that task with a short overview of the background. The idea here is to make the RPG product line modular to better serve how referees actually run their campaigns.

I want to close with that detailed settings like Glorantha, Harn, Tekemul are not bad. If an author has a specific vision and executes it well the result can make for a memorable RPG experience. But if you want as broad an audience as possible then a different approach is called for.

3 comments:

Erik Tenkar said...

Rob, I like your idea - but it's just not "corporate" enough for WotC ;)

Seriously, there is a lot that can be done with your thoughts, and as settings can be pretty much stat and rules free, there's lots of markets out there for some good setting books.

Rob Conley said...

I agree that it would not be perceived as being "corporate" enough. But I think the volume would be way higher for the RPG side as the individual products are more generally useful.

And the novel and organized play side would not have to change.

Philo Pharynx said...

The issue with smaller chunks is that you need a pretty standard background for it to work. I could see transplanting places between the Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Middle Earth, and so on. But it doesn't work for Eberron, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, etc.

You'd have to standardize anything that was bigger than a region - races, dieties, organizations, etc.