Favourite RPG setting
I’m gonna cheat yet again and call this a tie between M.A.R. Barker’s Tékumel and Greg Stafford’s Glorantha. I’m all assuming that the topic addresses published RPG settings, and not setting types or home-brew settings.
I’m also sort of cheating because I have had very little actual play in these settings. I’ve played two sessions in Tékumel, one using Guradians of Order’s Tékumel: Empire of the the Petal Throne RPG, and one using Barker’s home-brew rules as GM’ed by the excellent Victor Raymond. The only Glorantha proper session I’ve ever played was a fantastic HeroQuest event run by Ian Cooper at last year’s GenCon.
But! These settings have intrigued me since I was a wee lad. Both are so vividly realized and detailed, and both target various tastes of mine. In the case of Glorantha, it’s the Dark/Bronze Age Europe and western Asia feel, plus the rich mythology. In the case of Tékumel, it’s the heavy dose of India mixed with semi-classic-SF trappings — yet without feeling like a “kitchen sink” of swords and lasers and random stuff. Honestly, neither of these settings feel anything like others I’ve experienced.
And also, importantly, they feel organic — pure creations of their creators and the fandom they inspired. It could be my ignorance talking, but I don’t get the impression that any parts of these settings were created out of some business or marketing need. Maybe I’m a snob, but for me that makes them somehow “pure” or “genuine”; a product of the hobby, not the industry.
Runner-up for this category would be WotC’s Eberron. Yes, it’s sort the polar opposite of my winners above: a corporate artifact created out of a need to sell books. Despite that, I still think that Keith Baker managed to create one of the best D&D settings to yet see print, especially if we restrict ourselves to the original 3.5e setting book and ignore a lot of the supporting material that came later. I think it fits the D&D paradigm (especially the 3.5e paradigm) better than any other setting, and has lots of “situations pregnant with crisis” baked right in: the mystery of Cyre’s destruction, the status of the warforged, Five Nations politics, House politics, mysteries of Xen’Drik, etc. Sure, it has its issues (Xen’Drik-as-Africa and the tribal drow), but overall I think it’s pretty cool.