2014-07-03 Publishing a Setting

Gregor Vuga recently asked on Google+, “Is there a need for a new fantasy setting? What’s the appeal of published settings for you, if any? What’s useful about them? Even if you don’t use published settings, what would make you take a look at it?”

I said:

I wish all those new referees to have a great selection of settings, each catering to different sensibilities. As for myself, I already run a long-term campaign and thus I don’t really have a need for new settings. But what are the needs of beginners? Art, inspiration, fans, forums, so many things beyond the simple text.

If it’s a mini-campaign setting like Qelong, I can fit it into my campaign world (which is what I have done), just like adventures.

If the setting comes with a small package that can be played as a one-shot at a convention or at my indie nights, then that’s cool too. Things like Lady Blackbird, for example. That is, where rules, setting and adventure are so short, they’re one. All in one document to be experienced in three hours.

I document my long-term campaign setting as we play. It’s mostly for my players, though. Who else would want to read it? It’s too big, idiosyncratic, not enough illustration, not well organized… The campaign wiki has 489 pages. I don’t want to repeat the mistakes that so many others have made before me and publish a long and sprawling book that will not be read and used.

Thus, given how little need there is, what remains is inspiration for others, sharing ideas in order to have more ideas. What works and what doesn’t work. A conversation about the setting. I guess that’s what I’m mostly interested in.



There is always need for more settings. But what is needed is not just more settings, but new settings. Settings that offer something different from what has already been released. A new attempt at a slightly better Greyhawk/Forgotten Realms/Golarion would have a very difficult time. People who want that kind of setting already have picked one and are very unlikely to switch.

What a new setting needs it’s a new style and feel that is different from what’s already around. There is no money to be made in generic worlds. Therefore, I think it makes much more sense to create new settings on a medium or small scale, which has one consistent tone. The big kitchen sink settings are really just five to ten smaller setting glued together and most of the time connected only by the pantheon of gods. There’s no need for that.

And coming up with a new idea really isn’t that hard. Recently there has been a Japanese Horror setting, I think called Kaidan, or Totems of the Dead, which is inspired by Vikings invading America on a large scale. My own setting is based on Bronze Age central Asia with elves and gnomes, which focuses heavily on a massive primal forest and spirits. There isn’t anything like it anywhere to my knowledge.

– Anonymous 2014-07-03 16:45 UTC

I agree that there is a need for new settings, somewhere. But from my perspective, I need a new setting very rarely indeed. How often do you start new campaigns? I’ve run several campaigns in three different settings over eight years, now. At first, I had no real setting but just kept expanding my Kitsunemori mini-campaign. Then I ran and played in Golarion for some years, and finally I’ve started games in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy (plus some Planescape and Spelljammer, naturally). When will I change again? I’m a big proponent of a persistent campaign setting. When I get bored and switch at last, I have a number of things on my shelf I’d like to go back to: Golarion, Forgotten Realms, Al-Qadim, Carcosa, various periods of Japan and China, various Old School Renaissance settings implied in random tables and little booklets, and maybe some new stuff. So yes, there is a need. It’s just very small, for me.

AlexSchroeder 2014-07-03 16:59 UTC

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