Underused Settings / Themes


Gamer Life General Discussion


I've always been pretty happy with the sort-of Magical Medieval/Rennaissance style of games like D&D and Pathfinder, and honestly I don't think I'll ever get tired of it. It's a comfortable setting and commonplace enough that you can spice it up with just about anything without throwing it out the window.

That said, I do like trying out new stuff now and then.

Which settings, themes, subjects, cultures or epochs do you think have been traditionally underused/ignored by RPGs in general? Which ones would you like to see more often?

Personally, I've always been a sucker for Bronze Age "Cradle of Civilization"-type cultures, like Babylonians, Assyrians, and Sumerians. Something about the awesome beards and towers that pierce the sky.

I also feel the earlier stages of the Age of Discovery have been generally forgotten. I mean, few periods have been more ripe for adventure than the Conquest of the New World, with mustachioed conquistadors searching for golden cities and fountains of youth.

Lastly, though it is generally present in one way or another in most fantasy settings, Middle Eastern settings, both pre- and post-Islamic, very rarely get a properly in-depth treatment, usually just a Hollywood Arabia thing that, while I still enjoy immensely, still leaves out so much awesomeness.


My first experience with AD&D 1e was in a homebrew setting where the Egyptian pantheon dominated the religion. But before that I was always more interested in, as you put it, "cradle of civilization" cultures. My current homebrew is a mishmash of religions, but at an early Renaissance stage of technology, but I take most of the names and such from those cultures. In fact, the world my campaigns are set in is called Nibiru.

I would love to see more material on a fantasy Persian or Indian setting, Eastern European and Slavic cultures, along with the Mesopotamian ones. In my opinion, which is worth whatever one deems fit, the medieval and Renaissance civilizations based on Western Europe and the Chinese, Japanese, etc cultures have been done to death.

Liberty's Edge

I agree, I would love some support for real world settings (like Egypt, Persia, India, etc.)


Klaus van der Kroft wrote:
I also feel the earlier stages of the Age of Discovery have been generally forgotten. I mean, few periods have been more ripe for adventure than the Conquest of the New World, with mustachioed conquistadors searching for golden cities and fountains of youth.

I've been kicking around some ideas of this for a few years now... though in all honesty it was inspired by a game Aubrey the Malformed was considering running on these boards.

I agree with you that it's just ripe for some urban, high-seas, or exploration fun. :)

Dark Archive

Science Fantasy/Planetary Romance/Sword and Planet.
So like Barsoom/Planet of Adventure but with magic/psionics.


the David wrote:

Science Fantasy/Planetary Romance/Sword and Planet.

So like Barsoom/Planet of Adventure but with magic/psionics.

Check out Dungeon planet, that's a good game for that type of setting.

Also I think World War 1 is seriously under used as well as Stone Age, pre-civilization settings.


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There's lots of Louis XIV-era (swashbuckler/pirate) fantasy and Steam-punk/Victorian-age fantasy, but the in-between Habsbourg/Napoleonic era with Eastern-Europe theme is often left out despite its great potential.

I long for a Girl Genius type setting, or some of the not-quite-Victorian Final Fantasy settings in RPGs.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

I've always wanted to play in a fantasy game set in a politically-charged Renaissance-era world, like say 16th-century Italy.


I think that the cultural area centered on India is woefully neglected...


The problem is people work with what they "know". Yes, the D&D depiction of medieval culture is pretty inaccurate, but it'd be far less inaccurate than if someone tried to recreate an Islamic society without making it painfully ethnocentric around western values.


al-Qadim...

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

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Byzantium. It gets left out of History generally and its very cool. Choose your timeframe anywhere from late antiquity to late Middle Ages.

Plenty of scope for politics, religion etc.

Grand Lodge

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Quandary wrote:
al-Qadim...

Al-Qadim was cool, but it made no bones about saying that it was fantasy arabia based upon Hollywood's vision of arabian culture (it even said as much in the "Arabian Adventures" rulebook)...


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Digitalelf wrote:
Quandary wrote:
al-Qadim...
Al-Qadim was cool, but it made no bones about saying that it was fantasy arabia based upon Hollywood's vision of arabian culture (it even said as much in the "Arabian Adventures" rulebook)...

This. Which hits on exactly what I was saying.

I would like to play in a game based on the Classic period but only if the DM was well versed on the classics to make it feel authentic.

"There's some marble statues and democracy/republic and stuff" wouldn't suffice.

Silver Crusade

Byzantine history would make a great period for a campaign setting. I was part of a Vampire campaign set during the later Byzantine Empire and it was fantastic.


Bronze Age Aegean, Anatolia, Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Mycenaeans, Minoans, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and so on.

or

World War 1.


Late 1800s ~ early 1900s analogue (non-steampunk); perhaps with a bit of supernatural / magical flair; secret societies & conspiracies; non-adventuring characters & classes.


No one's mentioned Mesoamerican or sub-Saharan African civilizations.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

now someone has!

/adds to the pile.


American Revolutionary War
Golden Age of Piracy (1650-1730)
Native American (pre-European)
African
Viking Age


In all fairness, most common RPGs are based on fantasized periods that are important to the western culture, either in history or from fiction (literature and film), because these are settings we can relate to.

There are not a lot of Native american-based RPGs and to be honest, I don;t think I can play one without being either cliche of totally off, to the point of insulting my Mohawk friends (basically, I know enough of their culture to know that I don't know much of their culture).

That's why pseudo-european settings are easier to pull off. That and way-out-of-there fantasy settings...


Ha, good to know at least some people are interested in "Cradle of Civilization" stuff. I'm working on a region like that for my homebrew. It does require a fair bit of research to feel like I'm not just phoning it in :P


East india trading company era/birth of finance, set in the Netherlands and colonies
The Silk road caravans, historical or in another setting
A medieval european setting that does NOT assume a static world for a few centuries


Has Native American tribal been mentioned?

Silver Crusade

Pioneers conquering the west.

World sorta like the Change books, where all the technology goes out all of a sudden.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

For fantasy, I'd like more settings that are less obviously based on Earth cultures. While we may need to look at Earth cultures and sociology for some baseline, I like to see that played with more than worlds that have "obvious Egypt analogue, obvious Russian analogue, obvious British analogue," etc. etc. But rather cultures that are very well developed but in a unique direction so that they are NOT just obvious expys of real world cultures.

For historical games set on Earth, I'd actually like to see more ancient cultures stuff. I see a lot of things that draw on ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt in particular but little that specifically takes place in those worlds in a real world setting. This works for lower-fantasy supernatural/urban fantasy kind of games set specifically on Earth as well.

In fact, for supernatural Earth based games, one of the best things I think that came out of the whole World of Darkness concept was the historical WoD games (sadly now out of print): Vampire: the Dark Ages, Mage: the Sorcerer's Crusade, Werewolf: the Wild West (AWESOME Wild West/Frontier game), Wraith: the Great War. Can't remember if a Changeling one ever came out or if it did, what it was. Really, really well done games and they worked very hard to reflect the historical eras they captured. Mage the Sorcerer's Crusade, speaking as a big fan and sometime (now extraordinarily rusty) scholar of Renaissance literature, was one of my favorites.

For urban fantasy, a game set in the 1950s and 60s would be interesting.

Also the stickler in me would like to note there is very little "medieval" at all about most fantasy adventure settings -- no "those who work, those who fight, those who pray" hierarchy, no greatest authority being the church, and little of the technology or agriculture resembles the era at all. The few really fantasy-medieval games I've seen -- notably Chivalry and Sorcery and Ars Magica -- have been really well done, Ars Magica especially (C&S is ridiculously crunch heavy).

I seem to vaguely recall some kind of game or story setting that was sort of Wild West Steampunk, would love to see more of that. Or something akin to steampunk, but actually based around 18th century clockworks (which could get amazingly advanced even IRL) and set in an 18th century-esque world.

I've love to see more superhero stuff... there's some good superhero games, but very few SETTINGS that are original. The only ones that come to mind are Aberrant (which I disliked) and M&Ms Freedom City.

And more post-apocalyptic games! There are actually very few of those that I can think of, with the notable exception of Gamma World. But other options could be a post Rapture game, a post plague game, post non-nuclear destruction/war game, post massive EMP destroys commonications (a la Alias IIRC)... etc. etc. I always wonder why those aren't as of interest.

Spy games. All I can think of is Spycraft. Who wouldn't want to play James Bond in an RPG?


Electric Monk wrote:

Byzantium. It gets left out of History generally and its very cool. Choose your timeframe anywhere from late antiquity to late Middle Ages.

Plenty of scope for politics, religion etc.

The basic D&D world (Mystara) had a Byzantium inspired empire (Thyatis)

DeathQuaker wrote:
I seem to vaguely recall some kind of game or story setting that was sort of Wild West Steampunk, would love to see more of that. Or something akin to steampunk, but actually based around 18th century clockworks (which could get amazingly advanced even IRL) and set in an 18th century-esque world.

Clockwork and Chivalry has clockworks in the English Civil War

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Ooh, also, a Temeraire based RPG would be amazing (Napoleonic wars with aerial combats fought on dragonback).

Pual, interesting.

Liberty's Edge

I'd really like to see somebody take a serious crack at a stone-age fantasy setting. The "pre-historic" games I've seen mostly play the setting for laughs, giving all the men comically oversized clubs and one-word vocabularies and all the women leopard-fur bikinis and body types notably ill-suited to a rugged hunter-gatherer lifestyle. :P

Dark Sun did the stone age-weapons thing, but paired it with a grimdark post-apocalyptic setting, and those always bore me. Other settings have drawn inspiration from various historic Native American groups, but it seems like in doing so they usualy end up setting artificial limits on their creativity.

I mean, D&D and Pathfinder settings are rarely shy about blending ideas from different mythologies or even different genres of fiction; I'd love to see the same done with a stone age setting. Just finding food and shelter and getting by from day to day could be an adventure in a world of strange wonders and horrors, where people are few and monsters are many, and heroes must fight for the very survival of their species.


darth_borehd wrote:

American Revolutionary War

Golden Age of Piracy (1650-1730)
Native American (pre-European)
African
Viking Age

I've wanted to run a First Nation campaign for so long, themed less on actual history and more on a sort of magitech-ish not-Stonepunk. To wit, achieving more of the convenience and analogs of their European counterparts but with more emphasis on magic and products derived from said. Weaponized necromancy in the form of ghost steeds and cursing weapons bound with the shades of the wronged, crafting of wendigo to unleash on enemy tribes, empowering the totems of expies of the Pacific tribes to function not unlike those of shaman from a Certain MMORPG™, using said to power water and wind mills, contrasting against the more architecturally inclined peoples of a Southwestern Tribes analog (Zuni, Pueblo, etc), while being very different from the cultures of the Iriquois, the Blackfoot, and generally having lots of contrast, and room for themes both stereotypical and genre-defying. While I would not be adverse to the presence of braids, beads, and buckskins, I want to go beyond those, to covering concepts that would analog without exactly approximating the core and base classes.

In essence, I would gladly and eagerly throw money at a Nyambé-styled First Nation book, with the replacement classes being archetypes of the EXISTING classes rather than complete copy-pastes. Warriors would have different focuses, rogues would be more likely re-flavored as scouts, rangers would be mostly unchanged, cavaliers would be a Plains Rider thing, Witches would fill the Medicine Woman role, and Oracles would be far more likely to be a thing than clerics. While there'd be room for alchemists and summoners, I would see the focuses varying greatly with which regional tribe one is working with.

The American Revolutionary War, the Golden Age of Piracy, and the Viking Age interest me far less than a Fantasy India does, but then again, Paizo got me interested in more than just fantasy analogs of Japan, China, and Korea with the Dragon Empires, so I think that, done right, any of those could be recreated in a fashion that compels me to scream 'SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.'


DeathQuaker wrote:
...Werewolf: the Wild West (AWESOME Wild West/Frontier game)...

O_0 Omygosh! I must google this now! I am SO in!

DeathQuaker wrote:
..massive EMP destroys commonications (a la Alias IIRC)...

Did Alias do something like this, too? I stopped watching after the first (or maybe second?) season. I seem to recall there was an entire series named Dark Angel set up around that premise.

Regardless, I want me some post-apocalyptic fun, too!


Dark sun remains one of my favorite settings. I didn't care for the south American influence of a few crucial parts is the world, however.

Also, spelljammer, especially the latter stuff that was fantastic without being silly or suicidal regarding combat.

Y know what? Everything other than forgotten realms, which should be forgotten indeed.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Pippi wrote:
DeathQuaker wrote:
...Werewolf: the Wild West (AWESOME Wild West/Frontier game)...
O_0 Omygosh! I must google this now! I am SO in!

If you find a copy, have fun. It was a neat set up, and for Werewolf themes I actually really liked what they did (since it's the idea of the settlers going west and the Werewolves trying to stop the Wyrm corruption that comes along with it).

Quote:
DeathQuaker wrote:
..massive EMP destroys commonications (a la Alias IIRC)...

Did Alias do something like this, too? I stopped watching after the first (or maybe second?) season. I seem to recall there was an entire series named Dark Angel set up around that premise.

Regardless, I want me some post-apocalyptic fun, too!

You're right, it was Dark Angel. Sorry, misremembered the right badass chick show. :)


DeathQuaker wrote:
Pippi wrote:
DeathQuaker wrote:
...Werewolf: the Wild West (AWESOME Wild West/Frontier game)...
O_0 Omygosh! I must google this now! I am SO in!

If you find a copy, have fun. It was a neat set up, and for Werewolf themes I actually really liked what they did (since it's the idea of the settlers going west and the Werewolves trying to stop the Wyrm corruption that comes along with it).

Quote:
DeathQuaker wrote:
..massive EMP destroys commonications (a la Alias IIRC)...

Did Alias do something like this, too? I stopped watching after the first (or maybe second?) season. I seem to recall there was an entire series named Dark Angel set up around that premise.

Regardless, I want me some post-apocalyptic fun, too!

You're right, it was Dark Angel. Sorry, misremembered the right badass chick show. :)

you mean I'm not the only one who liked wild west? There...are OTHERS?

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

You are not alone, Freehold DM. I was in an unfortunately short lived Werewolf: Wild West campaign... I really loved that character. She was a Black Fury who was a caravan guide... helped the good humans survive, and the wyrm-tainted ones got "lost," and kept them from settling in sacred areas.


DeathQuaker wrote:
You are not alone, Freehold DM. I was in an unfortunately short lived Werewolf: Wild West campaign... I really loved that character. She was a Black Fury who was a caravan guide... helped the good humans survive, and the wyrm-tainted ones got "lost," and kept them from settling in sacred areas.

ragabash?

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Freehold DM wrote:
DeathQuaker wrote:
You are not alone, Freehold DM. I was in an unfortunately short lived Werewolf: Wild West campaign... I really loved that character. She was a Black Fury who was a caravan guide... helped the good humans survive, and the wyrm-tainted ones got "lost," and kept them from settling in sacred areas.
ragabash?

I think she was philodox, but I'm not sure.


QXL99 wrote:
I think that the cultural area centered on India is woefully neglected...

I have a present for you.


So we actually are doing something like you are talking about. In our new line of "mini-campaign settings" We are exploring a verity of often under-explored genre/themes/cultures. Here is the thread of our first one "Of Angels & Demons" which focuses on a "War in Heaven" style setting.


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I'm with the handful of people who mentioned Stone Age settings. I think an Ice Age game could be really fun... so much so that I'm currently planning something of the sort using Epic 6 Pathfinder rules.


I one time was working on a setting idea that was, like, based on old children's fables, as well as stuff like Nemo in Dreamland, where the players are basically children in some weird surreal world trying to find their way home. It was pretty awesome, but -so- much work.


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I'm kind of trying to figure out exactly how stoneage is supposed to work? I can only imagine the weapon table..

"Rock...better rock....other rock....stick....bigger stick"


kmal2t wrote:

I'm kind of trying to figure out exactly how stoneage is supposed to work? I can only imagine the weapon table..

"Rock...better rock....other rock....stick....bigger stick"

Pff, Better Rock is way OP. I mean, sure, it tries to fill the niche between Rock and Even Better Rock, but clearly the designers have no sense of scaling.


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That's not even the issue, really. I mean, historically, Better Rock is used as more of a 2-handed clubbing tool. Giving it slashing damage for balance reasons is just lame.


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Well, I have trained for more than a decade with better rock. I can tell you that the table is correct. It is far more common with cutting wounds. If anything, it should have a bigger crit range.

Liberty's Edge

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kmal2t wrote:

I'm kind of trying to figure out exactly how stoneage is supposed to work? I can only imagine the weapon table..

"Rock...better rock....other rock....stick....bigger stick"

That's one of the things I find attractive about the idea of a stone age setting: the equipment *has* to take a back seat to the characters. When sticks and stones are all you have to work with, individual skill and cunning make all the difference. Or, to paraphrase a tagline from Iron Heroes

Spoiler:
“You are not your magic weapon and armor. You are not your spell buffs. You are not how much gold you have, or how many times you’ve been raised from the dead. When a Big Bad Demon snaps your club in two, you do not cry because that was your +5 Flaming Burst Club of Disruption. You leap onto its back, climb up to its head, and punch it in the eye, then get a new club off of the next humanoid you head-butt to death.”


I lol'd at the rock comments. I could just imagine the threads on the forums for this game... "Is the Neanderthal class OP?", "Question about the Rock Dollars WBL", or "Why this game needs a Monk Cro-Magnon Archetype"

And Gnoll Bard, I thought you were gonna finish the beginning of that spoiler thing with "you are the all singing all dancing crap of the world". I can't imagine I'm the only person who read it that way.

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