To Build A Setting

Lee "The God of Gaming" Langston

One of the most common questions that new GMs ask when trying to run something original is, “Where do I start?” My first question to them in response is:

“What is the setting?”

That can be one of the hardest to answer as it is made up of so many aspects. First, think about what kind of game you want to run; is it Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, or Espionage? Really, what genre are you looking to set the game in? I find most gamers from the beginning have an idea of what they want to play. Most already have a favorite genre for TV, Books or Movies. It is, however, the next question that makes it harder.

“What makes it different from already established settings?”

This can be a simple twist like, a Fantasy world that was once a High-tech world, eons ago. It may also be a “punk” twist or have a Sci-Fi world that has lost technology that no one knows how to reproduce or fix if truly broken. It may be a Superhero setting on a lost earth colony in the Alpha Centari system. Some of the most successful mash-ups in game settings are Shadowrun [Fantasy/Cyber-punk], Iron Kingdoms [Fantasy/Steampunk], or Agents of Oblivion [Horror/Espionage]. It is not hard to mix and match settings, but it can be difficult to get it to look less like you combining your 2 favorite genres and more like a cohesive setting.

“Now that I have a concept, what do I do now?”

Here is where it gets tricky. First, you need to put enough of the setting together with history, so that your potential players can look it over and get an idea of where the setting looks like it is going, but also to get enough of a taste to wet their appetite for playing in the game. For as every GM knows, if you have no players, you have no game. Feel free to explain your idea to others and make sure you listen to your potential players. Suggestions they make could take your concept in a direction you had not anticipated. Understand that this is an interactive story with rules. You can’t beat your players into playing a game that is unappealing to them.

“I have them hooked, now what?”

Well, make sure you have an idea of where the plot is going, what you want to accomplish with the story and what story you really want to see told. Just remember the most important piece of advise I can give you…

No Plot Ever Survives Contact With The PC’s!

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