#12rpg Question 3: You’re building a fantasy setting for the RPG of your choice. Which ingredients to you put in? Which “standard fantasy” elements would you choose to leave out?

The more Tolkien I read, the less willing I am to consider a fanatsy land with elves, dwartves, orcs, and maybe even hobbits halfllings as some sort of “default”, so I would say that’s a “standard” that would not go unquestioned were I engaging in this lonely fun exercise.

A lot of folks have also said “no ‘evil’ races”, and I basically agree with that, though it has me wanting to talk about how this concept, which everyone seems to atributte to Tolkien, is actually not his fault. Orcs in middle-earth are elves that have been subjected to generations of breeding experiments and torture at the hands of Morgoth (and later Saruman with the uruk-hai), and so they are seething with hatred (go Burning Wheel!) for those who were spared this misery, which is all a much more intersting concept than “evil race”.

That said, I like the idea of objective good and evil in fantasy settings, so I’d maybe find a way to incorporate that without the assumption that any mortals are “born evil.” (Again, in Tolkien, evil is almost always inflicted; it’s generally never inherrent.)

Beyond that, lots of tropes and whatnot are up for grabs. Given my druthers, I tend to lean towards “realistic” settings that draw upon real-world mythology — think Ars Magica. Anything that smacks of superheroics or video games is generally not on the menu… but never say never.

And it may seem cliche, but I like magic to be unreliable and mysterious, rather than a dependable technology — though if it is, the setting needs to embrace it whole-hreatedly, e.g. Eberron or Glorantha.

Aside: as for “RPG of your choice”, we’d be talking Burning Wheel, or maybe RQ/Mythras, HERO, or GURPS if I want to get all simulation-y. Hacking TSoY would be fun, too.

That said, there are a whole host of fantasy RPGs I’d be happy to play for which I would not indulge in this kind of world-building, either becasue they have their own settings, or becaue they have so many defualt assumptions (e.g., D&D) that they obviate this level of input (IMO).

N.B.: I was going to punt on this one again and just share Paul Beakley’s post, but really these blog challenges are for learning about each other, not providing a “best” answer, so eff it.

6 thoughts on “#12rpg Question 3: You’re building a fantasy setting for the RPG of your choice. Which ingredients to you put in?…

  1. I can understand the dislike fo the ‘races that are inherently evil”, but then again, if the idea is to play some kind of moral conflict, I prefer to play ‘humans only’. This is great for political intrigue games, and for swords and sorcery style games. I use Burning Wheel for that, and maybe Mythras. For straight up fantasy? I prefer the inherent evil races. You see them, there’ s no moral quandary. Kill them because they will certainly and inequivocally kill you if they get the chance. No chance of redemption. Makes for an action-heavy, solve problems with a sword type of game, which is sometimes just what I want. B/X D&D or 5E do the trick for that.