Episode 116: Mapping the Kitchens of Camelot

This month, Roger and Mike discuss settings that didn’t start as RPGs, and how to make your home base more interesting.

We mentioned:

Eclipse Phase at the Bundle of Holding (until 3 August), Fading Suns, Transhuman Space, Pendragon, Roger’s Firefly game, Firefly wiki, the Belgariad, Blades in the Dark, Talislanta, Gloomhaven, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Leverage, Ars Magica, The Adventures of Indiana Jones (TSR), The James Bond 007 RPG, Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, the West End Games Star Wars RPG, 2000 AD, the official Alien RPG and GURPS Adaptations,

We have a tip jar (please tell us how you’d like to be acknowledged on the show).


I think the thing I most want to know about the Rulers of any setting is… are they overpowered dicks who will spend the game bullying the PCs and denying me player agency? Vampire The Masquerade I’m looking at you, here!

Other RPGs with bullying NPCs are available.

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I will say, as a gamer who came across it circa 1996, that the appeal of Talislanta is the art of PD Breeding-Black and the more louche tone of it when set next to, let’s say, Dragonlance and the Forgotten Realms. Say whatever else you care to about Talislanta (and even as a fan the “still no elves” tagline is a tagline I dislike immensely) PD Breeding-Black put a very distinctive vision to it and for me it was evocative.

I don’t know if Talislanta ever reached the UK in quantity - certainly I don’t remember seeing it in the games shops I frequented, though that doesn’t mean much.

@DrBob - some years ago I looked at the Vampire setup, and thought that the only campaign I’d be interested in was one in which the PCs are trying to tear down the whole system. You offered a different vision, in which the bosses were relatively hands-off or off pursuing their own goals, and I think that also worked well.

There seems to be a background assumption that the game world is created by the GM who then presents and describes it to the players. However, I feel this puts too much burden upon the GM (unless you’re the sort who likes doing it and thus don’t see it as a burden at all). Many/most of the details spoken about in the podcast and that make the world “come alive” can be provided by the players themselves. The GM can give them ownership of what the local brew tastes like, what clothes are in fashion, when folks go to religious services, etc. These details can be improved during play rather than having to be prepared and/or memorized by the GM ahead of time.


I think this may reflect our backgrounds. But also I worry about finding myself saying “no, because I have half an idea for an adventure and that would invalidate it”.

GMs are still free to (preemptively) add their own details.
I come from a very traditional, simulationist, character immersion forward, roleplaying mindset. I barely immerse myself in my own culture much less a fictional one. I don’t connect to game worlds as a player or GM. So as a lazy GM, I don’t mind offloading world-building aspects to players. After all, if a campaign only lasts 6-12 sessions, you don’t really need that much background.


Yeah, what drew me to the newest incarnation of Vampire (5th ed) was the fact their setting upgrade said that most of the overpowered bullies were dead, dead, dead, and the power of the Camarilla was broken. So I set mine in an Anarch run town, and just let you guys grab concepts like the egalitarian hippy vampires using a talking stick and run with them…


For purposes of making your city seem more real, I’m reminded of a questionnaire written by Proust where he laid out 30 questions to describe a character. I’ll bet that 10 would do a great deal to round out a settlement. I would start with:

  1. How do most people make a living here?
  2. Who are the secular authorities that hold hard power?
  3. Who do people listen to that hold soft power?
  4. Where do visitors come from, and why?
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