2 hours ago
Monday, January 26, 2015
The Shifting Setting
Changing elements of continuity or setting through retcon or revision are common in comic books. When we include alternate universes like the Ultimate Universe or DC's multi-Earths, the number of variant characters, organizations, and situations gets even greater.
Reading Viriconium by John M. Harrison was the first time I had seen this sort of thing in a fantasy world. Characters often retain the same name and vaguely similar characteristics, but their histories are different, and so is the history of the city they inhabit. Viriconium always seems to have the same streets, the same neighborhoods, even the same shops, but it doesn't always seem to be same place.
I imagine Harrison feels like he does this for different reasons than comic book writers, but ultimately I think what they have in common is a desire not to straitjacketed by the past in the stories they want to tell.
It got me thinking about how rpg settings don't have to be set in stone. Maybe instead of growing into Tekumel with a lot of detail, each campaign can be sort of variations of the same basic setting sketch. It seems like this could have a few advantages: the style of the setting could change--new elements (new rules, new races) could be easily introduced that might have been uneasy fit before. At the same time, a familiarity with basic things like locations and cultures could be maintained.
This would also be away to participative setting development to players that might be a be hesitant. They get a "first pass" where the GM does most of the work, then a "redo" where they reconfigure things as they go.