Monday, January 14, 2013

What's Your Favorite "Off the Shelf" Setting?

I've already asked about wether you prefer homebrew or off the shelf settings, but now I'm actually asking about those "off the shelf" or commercial RPG settings.

I want to know which one(s) are your favorites.

For me, there are a handful:

The World of Greyhawk folio - my first ever experience with an RPG setting, this is the one that has stuck with me through the years. Minimalist in nature but continent spanning, in many ways it's the bar I hold other setting up to it.

Blackmarsh from Bat in the Attic Games - an excellent, localized setting that is "hexcrawl" in nature. The price is also right, as it is free in PDF.

Wilderlands of High Fantasy - an amazingly huge hexcrawl setting that is a reworking of the classic Judges Guild line. I have the boxed set. Simply awesome but has the potential to overwhelm. It's also technically for 3e, but down converting is usually pretty painless

Keranak Kingdoms Fantasy Setting - Although technically written for use with Barebones Fantasy, it is actually systemless and would work with any fantasy RPG that uses the usual tropes. My current AD&D / OSRIC campaign is technically set in this setting, but my players are hacking through Rappan Athuk, so setting is fairly minor in importance at the moment. It has a town named Tenkar and a Tenkar's Tavern too ;)

So, what are your favorite settings and why?


  1. Birthright - the Anuirean region is basically just an upside-down Europe, but with hostile and alien elves who didn't trust humanity and dwarves who were clearly isolationist and possibly just a weird earth elemental given mortal life in the ancient past, and halflings also had a strange connection to evil pervasiveness of the Shadow World, the setting was the most Tolkien-esque D&D had ever gotten.

  2. World of Greyhawk box set. I used the weather generator once. Just the once. :D

  3. Greyhawk is tops, although I have a lot of love for Birthright, Mystara/Hollow World, and Ravenloft.

  4. Titan from the Fighting Fantasy series is one of my favourites. It's anything but coherent, but it hangs together somehow despite that, and while it's more than a little derivative in places, it also has some great and unique ideas, like parasitic mind-controlling spider crabs or elves with laser vision. It also looked wonderful, but with artists like John Blanche, Russ Nicholson and Martin McKenna, it couldn't be otherwise.

    It will come as no surprise that I'm a fan of the -- pre-1992-ish -- Warhammer setting for many of the same reasons.

  5. Tekumel from Empire of the Petal Throne. Best setting I've ever seen. Hugely influential on my gaming style.

  6. Greyhawk is the classic. My college 1e group converted to it as soon as we got our hands on it.
    Tekumel is one I want to try again, I played EPT once back in '77 or '78 I didn't understand at the time what role-playing was, much less how unique unique Professor Barker's creation is.
    And any campaign setting discussion should include Pavis & The Big Rubble from Runequest. A massive cross between a mega-dungeon and a sandbox, in one of the richest settings in the hobby.

  7. GURPS Middle Ages or a suitable history book in a pinch, but when it comes to straight fantasy settings I used to lean on Ravenloft for years as a "ready to go" setting when I didn't have one of my own ready. These days I think I'd be up for trying Midgard.

  8. Gotta be Twilight 2000 or the Morrow Project, two really engaging (and convincing) PA settings.

  9. Mystara. It's so crazy it has everything in it. But it's a good example of how a setting can reflect the rules, the 2e version just didn't work compared to the D&D version.

  10. Dark Sun. Even though I kind of doubt that I'll ever run a true old-school game there (I usually use 3e/Pathfinder) it remains one of the most inspiring settings I've ever looked at. Radically different and really evocative.

  11. Titan - a world built for adventuring first, and then rationalised.

  12. Eberron and Tekumel for fantasy, CthulhuTech for sci-fi. I find these three to be the most creative settings ever designed. (I still have my original box set for Tekumel with the big plastic maps and everything.)

  13. World of Greyhawk, before all the canon and metaplot crap ruined it. 576CY or not at all.

    I love Glorantha, Tekumel, and Harn, but they seem a little stifling. Well, I could probably do Harn if none of the players were fans. I could play in any of them.

    I'm also fond of Blackmarsh and the Points of Light settings.

    The Imperium of Traveller, but again there is a point at which the canon took over and made it unusable to me. Again, I'd play in it without question.

    Birthright is pretty cool, but I think that I'd rather play in it than run it, though for different reasons than the ones above.

    Athanor (of Savage Swords of Athanor) looks to be awesome. Science fantasy and sword & planet both turn my crank. For the same reason, Carcosa is pretty cool.

    I never got to play with (or in) it much, but ICE's old science fantasy setting Dark Space is intriguing. It would take some effort to convert it to a system that I'd use, though.

    The Solar System of Space 1889.

    The Atlantean world of Bard Games. It really speaks to the sword & sorcery tropes, feeling a lot like REH, CAS, or Lin Carter.

  14. I steal most of my ideas from Mystara, which I have a strange love/hate relationship with. In my youth, I came to dislike Mystara for throwing in too much detail on my precious "Known World" setting, with timelines and politics and describing every corner. I could not separate that I could just ignore all that stuff, or pick and choose what I wanted.

    I have to give a hats off to Bruce Heard (Bruce Heard Blog) for making the Gazetteers happen. Each one of the GAZ series can be a campaign in its own right.

  15. Wow, I thought I'd be alone in my love of Birthright. I haven't played it in close to ten years now, but I REALLY got into it at the time.

    Second choice, the Known World.

    Non-D&D derivative, WFRP's the Old World. Hands down. I don't care if you're playing 1st, 2nd or 3rd -- and I've played all three. The setting is fantastic.

    A recent favorite, the Phoenix Barony. Simple. Fun. Easy. Not as cheap as Blackmarsh, but at $2.50 for the PDF, a bargain. And it has skaven, they aren't called skaven of course, but a dirty rat is a dirty rat.


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