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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

When it Comes to Pre-published Settings, Do You Prefer Detailed or Simple?

This kinda cropped up in an email conversation earlier today, and I thought it was worth asking
my readers - do you prefer detailed or simple commercial RPG settings?

See, for me, my preferred setting is something like Blackmarsh - enough to include some possible story hooks yet not so detailed that I feel like I need to memorize a 4" think tome before I can even run it.

I would take the Greyhawk Folio over whatever shelves of books the Forgotten Realms occupies these days.

So, what is your preference? Detailed or simple or something else entirely?

22 comments:

  1. Appreciate the shout out. While I am a big champion of the hexcrawl format. I think the Travelogue format has it place. For example my Majestic Wilderlands Supplement. But in either ease brevity is the way to go. Say way you need and no more.

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  2. Simple. That way if my players run off with a wild hair up their %$#, I can make stuff as I go. And who has ever heard of players doing a 180?

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  3. The Greyhawk Folio is just fine here. Unfortunately having a basically one-shot product doesn't cut it with the bean counters any more...

    @ baron: Heh.. the players here turn 360's, 180's and everything in between. Keeps the DM on his toes.

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  4. What Rob said. Give us the crunchy bits for reference, leave all the fluffing to the referee.

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  5. Put me down on the side of "less is more". Although I'd say the Greyhawk Gold Box is the standard. The folio was perhaps just a tad too sparse.

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  6. Joe said it; If you want "more," give them less. No room for "growth," for imagination, when the setting is too detailed.

    I don't mind "more" detail in a Source Book, say one outlining the World I'm gaming in, but few details in the actual "to be played" Modules.

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  7. Simple. The Greyhawk boxed set is pushing the limit of what I consider acceptable. Something like Forgotten Realms is far, far past it.

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  8. If I want a simple setting, I can create it myself faster than I can study someone elses creation. I mean simple is a hex map with a few locations with a sparse description. To get a feel for the place and understand the distribution of towns, baronies, etc you still have to read everything. Otherwise when you stumble across the Halfling village in teh middle of some hexcrawl you really will be winging it.


    I view boxed campaign settings in the same way that I view published adventures. I am paying for the creators vision and what he decided was worth developing in the first place.

    So more is definitley what i want if I PAY for something off the shelf.
    I can write less myself.

    Now, that said, I prefer to run simple stuff because I use all sorts of modules and sources in a campaign. Blackmarsh is pretty awesome for this, I will admit.

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  9. The Greyhawk folio was excellent for gaming purposes, but lacked the encounter tables (necessary for the D&D style of gaming!) of the boxed set and some other things. The boxed set had a little fat that should have been trimmed (the weather system, notably, but a few other things as well) and had a worse map than the folio (the paper was much thinner, more like a poster than the folio's map), but otherwise was almost perfect.

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    1. Which is me coming down on the side of "simple", but not too simple, if that wasn't apparent.

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  10. Fairly simple - like the 4e Forgotten Realms Campaign Sourcebook. >:)
    2e & 3e Forgotten Realms were far too much info for me. 1e Forgotten Realms was probably too much also, in some areas. 1983 Greyhawk doesn't give me enough societal info to get a handle on the setting, eg I still have no idea how religion is supposed to work, with Theocracies and Holy Sees and a Polytheist setting.

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  11. I would like a broad overview, with a small area worked out in detail to serve as a starting point and/or inspiration. I can't think of anything I've seen that completely fulfills this.

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  12. if the fans and players read setting more than me i wont run it - i liked mystara when was just known world but did like the gazeteers - still felt like roomy. Greyhawk felt roomy but i use my own setting - overwritten ones just ideas not for play

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  13. I also prefer simple. One of the reasons I've stalled on my work with Chanbara is that I know too much about medieval Japanese history/culture, and I'm having a hard time not going on and on and on about my pseudo-Japan setting. An overview of political entities, some rivalries/clashes, a bit of religion, lots of adventure hooks, and just a few quirky cultural or economic details to add some flavor works best for me. I'm trying to stick to that in my work.

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    1. Haha! Yeah, that's what has happened to me just about every time I sit down to work on a medieval Irish-based or -inspired setting. It's hard to keep from including the really colorful details.

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  14. I think the original Forgotten Realms grey box got it perfect: Sparse but evocative detail on the majority of a vast and varied world, but zooming in on a good-sized subset of that world. The idea of leaving one nation (Sembia) and several wilderness regions deliberately underdeveloped for the DM to develop himself was, I thought, pure genius (even if it didn't last). I also liked that there was a lot of history hinted at but that few dates were really set in stone.

    On the other hand, I'm currently running a campaign set in the Kingdoms of Kalamar setting. Lots of humano-centric political detail and history built in, while leaving the wilderness areas with just enough flavor to let the DM flesh them out. However, the big selling point of that setting for me was the Atlas, which details the entire continent at roughly the same level of detail (25 miles/inch instead of 30) as the zoom-in maps for FR. I've been able to find analogues for most of the stuff I've wanted to "import," like Blackmarsh. It makes for a good balance, but isn't quite ready to use "out of the box."

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    1. I feel the same about Midgard from Kobold Press. In fact, the writer even mentions things like "borders can change" based on PC actions. Enough flavor detail, with plenty of room to toss in locales even from other publishers.

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  15. Carcossa: too little.
    Forgotten Realms: too much.
    Blackmarsh: Just Right.

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  16. It also depends on your size and scope. Jack Shear worked up the World Between with a paragraph per country. I expanded that to 2-4 pages per country, and that still does not feel constricting to me. I did not put one detail into the World Between that did not add gameable hooks. I think the approach Jack used and the approach I used are both viable and good.

    He focuses more on random tables for random elements, I focus more on tables that connect directly to character creation and monsters.

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  17. Grey box Forgotten Realms was my sweet spot. Greyhawk folio was too little. I haven't looked at a Gold Box Greyhawk in a very long time.

    I do like city books. I liked that the Forgotten Realms hardback had a bunch of short city write-ups.

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  18. It depends on the situation for me.When I'm using the setting as a setting for a game, I prefer the simple overview so I can use it as a simple foundation for my own ideas and creations.

    However, if I just want to sit back and read a setting book for the fun of it (I'm weird like that) or mine the book for ideas, I prefer it to be more detailed.

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  19. For 90% of my D&D I use my own setting and I've been running games there since 1980. The thing has taken on a life of its own and grown to Forgotten Realms proportions, but much of the data is scattered across two dozen notebooks or just rattling around in my brain. I have recently embarked on a project to gather things together in a Greyhawk folio style format if even only for my own use.

    For me the most important part of any setting is the map (you can see my world of Quindia on my sorely neglected blog at http://realmofquindia.blogspot.com/2010/05/discovering-realm.html?m=0 ). A good map can inspire more stories than some canned text anyway.

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