Using Real World Cultures as Inspiration

I’m currently running a Zweihander game, loosely based on the game’s default setting. One of the things that I’ve done with this setting is to expand it past the traditional mythical Germay to include more of Europe. For example, in the area where the players are starting, the general theme is based more on that…

Setting Hook: Superheroes through the Ages

I’m a sucker for a superhero themed game. Maybe it’s my inner comic-geek, but there’s something about a game with supers that just works for me. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to create a setting that is both original and able to compel the players.  Supers really benefit from a sense of belonging to a larger…

Alternative Societal Structures

I’m currently finishing up Kameron Hurley’s different take on science fantasy, “The Mirror Empire.” One of the most noteworthy elements of the novel is the way in which Hurley creates social structures for societies that differ from the traditional European-fantasy. I won’t spoil any of them (and she creates multiple different societal structures), but it…

Setting: Aztec Empire Inspiration

Let’s continue our series on using real-world historical cultures as the basis for a setting. This time, we’ll take a look at the Aztec Empire of South America. The Aztec Empire is an interesting culture in that it represents a relatively small slice of a much larger, more diverse culture. Even better, it’s a culture…

Setting: Mongol Empire

Most people know about the Mongol Empire from Genghis Khan. While Genghis did found the Mongol Empire, the empire continued for another 400 years after his death! As we established with the initial post in this series, we’ll select a set of characteristics from this empire and use it as the foundation for our setting….

Setting: The Cossacks

For the first of our real-world inspired settings, we’ll look at one based on the Cossacks. For those who might not know, the Cossacks are a Slavic people best known for their democratic communities with strong military practice. To be clear, there remain Cossack communities throughout Russia, Ukraine and other parts of Europe. That said,…

Setting: Dusk

Today we’re going to build out a sample setting using some of the ideas from yesterday’s post. Our setting will be a world tapped in a constant dusk, which we’ll cleverly call Dusk. This is being built with a fantasy genre in mind, but the basic ideas could be applied to other genres as well….

Persistent Time of Day

One of the more interesting settings in fiction is the world stuck in a constant time of day. One of my favorite examples is the movie Pitch Black, set on a world that is trapped in near-constant night. I love these changes to day/night patterns, but they tend to fade into the background in many…

Mutant Settings

In our last post, we took a brief look at how to add mutations to NPCs in your games. So let’s follow up with some ideas on how to incorporate mutation into your settings.   The difficult thing about mutation is that it is a deviation from the norm. So to make mutation a part…

Anthropomorphic Settings

(image credit: L5R LCG – Rakshasa General) Anthropomorphism (making non-human things more human-like) is a pretty common thing in RPGs. Ignoring settings based around this concept (like Mouse Guard), creatures like Rakshasas and Dragonkin are essentially anthropomorphic creatures. Why not take the concept and apply it using some non-traditional creatures? Here are a few ideas…

Setting Hook: Playing with Money

Many game systems spend a lot of effort on money. If you look back to the original D&D, there was a surprising amount of content dedicated to talking about money. Seriously…did we really need electrum? Ahem… At any rate, money has always been one of those things that just about every setting deals with. Sci-fi…

Roleplaying with the Copernican Principle

In cosmology there is a concept referred to as the Copernican Principle. There are many implications and details, but simply put, it says that humans don’t have a special position within the universe. The astrophysicist Richard Gott has generalized the principle to something closer to “unless there are other factors, assume that an observer’s position…