I saw a discussion on the Tenkar’s Tavern* discord server today. One participant pitched a suggestion for a game setting to get feedback from the community. I will call him the Pitcher as it is nicer than participant. The Pitcher was actually looking to do an entire world building job. I had already read a initial draft of the first book and that ran to 86 pages without any game stats, maps, NPCs or art.
The general reaction of the active people was that they thought it would be fun to play for four or five sessions.
I was quite surprised at that at first and it got me to thinking about what makes a setting have longevity?
I suspect that deep down we all want to win. Role playing games are not supposed to be about winning. They are open ended stories that could play out forever. In reality they don’t. After the third time you saved the world it is time to hang up your shield and enjoy your rewards. You have faced impossible odds and won.
The pitch I heard today was such a bleak world that winning would have no purpose. It may have been a case of there is no point in trying to win in a world full of so much suffering and little comfort.
I skimmed the list of most recently released games and eight out of ten were dark, grim and very negatively portrayed worlds. Skipping back a ten years and the games were much more upbeat and about exploring rich worlds and looking for adventure.
Even my own RMu adventure path is about a conflict between two evils, not between good and evil.
I wonder if this is a case of follow my leader. I could imagine one publisher thinking that they could make their game stand out by going all dark and moody. Other publishers see the sudden success of the trend setter and next thing is that we have a fashion or a movement for bleak game settings. Will these games have longevity?
Game of Thrones was bleak and miserable but that has now gone. I am guessing that everyone who wants a bleak and miserable game setting already has one. So how big is the market for more of the same?
More interestingly, I don’t think the setting writers and world builders are going to fall back to high adventure heroics. They have done that and would want something new.
Pugmire, Ironclaw and Ponyfinder all seem to have zeroed in on a particular niche, of animal heroes. In Pugmire you play talking dogs, Ironclaw you can be different woodland creatures and in Ponyfinder you play horses.
Although I read and enjoyed the Martin the warrior and Redwall Abbey books I don’t want to roleplay them.
I think in the fantasy genre people still want elves, dwarves and the rest of the Tolkien races along with vampires and dragons.
The question is how will the world builders pitch that so it is neither high adventure or bleak and pointless?
*An OSR centric discord server.