One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” -Hunter S. Thompson

Friday, May 6, 2011

Making A Setting Your Own

Yay! The internet is back.

I wrote earlier that I had picked up the Savage Worlds rules and thought that they were pretty wicked awesome. I also have been musing on various ideas that I would love to use in a weird western campaign. Naturally, the Deadlands setting lends itself very well to this concept.

But, yeah here comes the but, here's the problem.

While I think there's a lot of cool stuff with the Deadlands story and world, it's not really what I want for MY Deadlands game. Which got me thinking, (I know, I do that too much) I have this real problem with all too often trying to stay true to the setting or world. I'm not sure why I do this, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this kind of obsessive compulsive need to make sure I've unearthed every little piece of information on a campaign setting. Heck I even do this with books. I refuse to read a series of books until I figure out which books come first even if it's just not all that important. I mean for a lot of books, the publishers want readers to be able to jump into a series with whatever book the reader just happens to find lying around.

In thinking about this there are a few pros and cons as to why you might or might not want to use the campaign setting as written:

Pros for using a published campaign setting
  • Everyone is on the same page.
  • Less work for the GM in preparing his adventures.
  • Easy to provide the player access to information on the setting.

Cons for using a published campaign setting
  • Some adventure ideas might need a lot of work or just wont work at all in an established campaign setting.
  • There's a lot of information for both the players and GM to take in.
  • Some of the mystery and newness of the campaign can be denied to the players.
  • Established events can be messed with as new source books are published.

I feel like looking at that list I'm hating on campaign settings. I don't really think that's fair. I do think that campaign setting have their place. I guess what it comes down to is that like rules bloat, I'm also tired of setting bloat. In particular it's the campaign settings that have a storyline that changes and reveals itself as more an more books come out, or as a new edition moves time forward that have really started to bother me the most.

I blame this on the need to sell books. Look, I get that publishers are out there to make money. I don't begrudge that. But I think it's safe to say that we've all been there before when one of your players knows more about the world than GM, just by virtue of having the disposable income and desire to buy the latest book. The only thing more annoying than a rules lawyer is the setting guru. Both deserve a punch in the neck if you ask me.

So yeah, here's my new gaming resolution, and it's one I think many of you out there who feel the same as I might want to adopt as well.

Screw the campaign setting. It doesn't matter what's written in the book. It's my game after all, and I'll cry if I want too...wait...that's not right. Anyway, you get my drift. Say it with me now:

I will not be a campaign setting whore, I will run my game the way I want to, not the way a book tells me I should. I am a rebel, I am creative, screw canon and the horse it rode in on. I am the Game Master, not the game reader, and in this world my word is that of God.

That feels better. I'm glad I got that off my chest. Aren't you?


  1. I never used a published setting in its entirety, and only a few times have I hewn even close--I guess other than one came of GURPS Conan. In my brief attempt to play Exalted (which has a world with a lot of cool elements to me) I just had to change some names and things. Strangely, I can play in historical eras and resist the urge to fiddle with them.

  2. I guess I just developed this complex over the years in which I felt that I wanted to stay true to the setting, but also be able to nip the canon lawyers in the butt. From now on I'm going to make whatver I use distinctly mine and be damed whats already been written.