21 May 2011

GM, Creativity and D&D

I take pride in being a creative person. It's pretty much the only area I feel I have any aptitude for at all, in fact.

So how big a sin is it to even consider using a ready made RPG setting?

There's a whole lot of settings out there. I know countless gamers must use them. Popular settings like Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance keep getting new releases as new editions of game rules are published, and new settings still keep popping up, and gaining large followings (take Eberron, for instance). But in the past I've been pretty vocal about preferring to create my own material.

However, when I really think about it, I've actually run very few games in original settings. My first fantasy campaigns in the 90's used the Dragonlance setting. In the early 2000's I ran a game loosely based on the world of Hercules and Xena. Then I spent several years mostly running games set in the modern world. These were of course original, in a way, not being (directly) based on any franchise created by others, but it's not like I had to invent a whole world for them.

Oh, of course I've created several fantasy worlds over the years, but the games based on them have been limited to a few one shots and attempts at campaigns that didn't last more than a couple sessions. That is until Va'ita came along, probably my first and only really successful fantasy world to date.

But to return to my present dilemma, anyone who's been reading my blog lately will know I've been suffering from some sort of D&D bug once again. And when this happens, I naturally start wondering about possible settings for a D&D style classic high fantasy game. And this in turn has led to write-ups of preliminary ideas for several setting concepts (one more of which, by the way, has been added quite recently, with the working title 'Foldstair', although the write-up is still incomplete).

Even though these worlds have all got some potential, in the end I've never really been quite satisfied with any of them. Maybe it's the way many of them are largely based on a single gimmick. Which, while being an attempt to bring some originality into the clichéd world of D&D, is also rather restrictive. They'd be fine for a one shot, but that's not really what I'm looking for at the moment. I just don't seem to have the energy to plan a world wide and varied enough at the moment.

Particularly since I already have one original world in active use. Which is an important point to remember. Perhaps I should indeed devote my creative energies to one original setting, rather than dividing them between that and the already rather crowded D&D multiverse. D&D is a game built on clichés, after all, and with the wealth of ready material out there it would be foolish not to use it.

Of course picking a setting is no easy task. If and when I happen to begin another fantasy game, that is. Since my current choice for D&D edition is in fact not D&D at all, but Pathfinder RPG, the official world of that game is of course a strong possibility (and not necessarily least because the not insignificant amount of material available is directly compatible with the rules). While in many ways rather generic, the world of Golarion does have a large variety of nations, many of which are quite obviously based on different historical cultures, ranging from African jungles and Arabian deserts to northern Vikings, giving it a bit of pulp adventure feel that actually appeals to me. But of course there are other choices as well, including Eberron, for instance.

Ah well, I've spent more time writing these little musings now than I intended. Possibly more out of need to sort thoughts out for myself than believing they might be of any interest to anyone else. We'll just have to see what the future holds for me and my games.

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