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?
Oh man so many assumptions built into this question. Can we talk about that for a minute? And this is absolutely, positively not a criticism of Paul Mitchener as a person or a gamer or anything at all. But it’s super interesting to me anyway.
You’re building a fantasy setting, well, that really only happens if you’re working with a toolbox game, yeah? Like, D&D or Dungeon World or GURPS or Burning Wheel. So that kind of leaves a lot of choices out. Anything with an established setting gets left out. No 13th Age or The One Ring or Exalted.
…for the RPG of your choice. As a practical matter I’d probably only be setting up a fantasy setting in Dungeon World or Burning Wheel. Just me! Can’t imagine ramping up on D&D or GURPS or Champions just to have a fantasy-tuned toolkit.
What ingredients do you put in? Well! That really depends on the players if I’m the one doing the setting up, particularly if we’re talking DW or BW. What I know for sure is that if it’s Dungeon World, the easy answer is to rely on trope-y stuff that’s already in the rulebook. And if it’s Burning Wheel, I need to make sure there’s some built in tensions between the ingredients. But in both cases, my approach personally? Is pretty reactive.
Which “standard fantasy” elements… Oh my stars! Insert the evergreen “why is it there are standard fantasy elements but nobody can agree on what the fuck is even science fiction?” discussion here. I could write until the end of my days about my problems with fantasy and nostalgia.
…would you choose to leave out? Okay, so if I were pre-emptively X-carding fantasy tropes during our collaborative world-building, “evil races” will not appear in my game. Not ever. No. Alien, sure, otherworldy, you bet, culturally aggressive toward everyone and everything, why not? But fuck evil races right in the ear.
Not sure I’d outright ban anything else; nothing else is that offensive to my fantasy sensibilities. Like, I greatly prefer meaty, history-based politics in my fantasy. Some vague King/Queen character without all the attendant baggage of feudalism is super-boring, so it’s not so much leaving it out as ensuring I shove it in.
Probably this is among the more straightforward questions in the #12RPG series, but mostly it highlights just how far away from this stuff I’ve gotten. Ye gawds I cannot imagine what would possess me to build a fantasy setting, from scratch, on the scaffolding of a generic fantasy engine.
Now building a very specific and iconoclastic fantasy game for a very specific and iconoclastic fantasy setting of my design? Yes please. I’m doing that right now.