Tuesday, 28 November 2017

More Thoughts on Setting

A brief discussion on TRPG settings the other day actually had me feeling a bit at odds with a number of posters involved - in no means a bad way, as exchanges were pleasant and of the "this is my preference" variety rather than the "this is the absolute truth" you see so often in hobbyist debate - but still, I was much more invested in things than I normally am, especially since it revolved around The Outer World, BREAK!!'s standard setting.

A significant number of people expressed desire of a fully (or at least well detailed) area being more useful than a more zoomed out view of the world. There are a number of good reasons for this thinking, and I believe it is a reasonable and worthwhile viewpoint.

In contrast however, The BREAK!! rulebook provides a sort of broad overview of The Outer World, each known realm is covered more or less equally and the numerous factions and odd geography is outlined.

There are two big reasons for this (beyond my own stubbornness):
  • There is a setting chapter, but the setting itself leaks all over the rest of the book. The Callings, Species, Gear, Character Origins - all connect to the Outer World in someway. Not so much that they could not be divorced from it by an enterprising gaming group, but enough that the Setting Section itself ends up being a sort of net to bring that information together to make it more meaningful overall.
  • Even straight, out of the box character creation will yield characters of numerous archetypes and homelands. This is intentional, as an underlying theme of the game is people of various backgrounds coming together to do cool things. I feel like having one part of the world featured as the "main setting" would take away from this; that part of the world would seem more real, the rest becoming "exotic" by proxy.
However, as a compromise there is a small region that is presented afterwards as a sample map. This area includes numerous adventuring sites, settlements, hooks and a random encounter chart (with monster stats, even!). The hope is that this provides a place that can be used right off the bat, but also gives people a chance to see how to take the world and themes provided by the book and make it into something game-able. 

I do worry this might undermine my previous reasons just a bit, but I can't deny it's utility. My hope is providing it as a sample of what you can do (rather than as a definitive) will let me have my cake and eat it too.

(As always, I thank poor Grey for indulging me with this; I always end up making more work for him!)


  1. I'm not even sure it so much preference, just different tools for different games. For some games, its better for the setting to be as removed from the referee's judgement as possible (in this way, the module/setting itself may be more important in determining 'the game' than the rules). For other games, the relationship between GM and players might be where the former could come up with a... city made of gigantic floating stone pillars, over a lake of acid, inhabited by rusting automatons that falsely believe they are human. That's just what some people are comfortable with, and lots of lower-level detail can get in the way of that - I had that issue with early Exalted, making up setting things for my games off the cuff, and then having to deal with setting details that greatly contradicted my own, and made it difficult to use published material. It sounds like that should be a minor issue, but it really wasn't, and made me no longer interested in running it, as my ability to improvise without consequences, gained consequences.

    1. Yeah, I am careful to say that the setting is something you can and should be willing to mess with and make more fitting for the group. Additional stuff will be presented as suggestions/cool stuff you *can* put in your game for that reason as well. I am a big fan of setting as a spur rather than a boundry.