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February 18th, 2011, 03:55
Jay Barnson's latest editorial discusses hurdles in presenting a unique setting to players because they lack the context that comes with familiar settings - but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done:
For me, as a player, I want just enough background at the outset to know why I should care. The rest I can take in as I need it. The world should not be one that requires a massive info-dump at the outset.
Tolkienesque or D&D-style fantasy worlds have had decades to simmer in the popular geek culture’s mythology. That makes it very easy to use as a foundation for a setting and provide shortcuts to the player’s understanding. With just a few visuals or lines of exposition, you can effectively say, “Medieval fantasy world. Elves. Dragons. The orcs are named ‘borks’ but are functionally identical. We’ll tell you more later.” Done. You can then explain the critical importance of the annual Bork Pride Parade in the capital city of Sniffleheim at some point prior to the player needing this information.
It’s really hard to present a really unique fantasy world to players. Quite honestly, we tend to lose interest early on because it’s hard to construct that new mental model of the setting. This is why we keep falling back to variants on this traditional setting.
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