Continuing the discussion from How to write a series bible:
- Statement of your show’s setting in terms of both where and when . For example, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a single-camera episodic comedy set primarily in a Brooklyn, New York, police station. Grey’s Anatomy is a serialized medical drama set primarily in a private teaching hospital in Seattle, Washington. AMC’s Mad Men was a serialized period drama originally set in a mid-sized Madison Avenue ad agency in 1960. FOX’s The Orville is an episodic science-fiction comedy-drama set aboard a starship in the 25th century. Settings are extremely important to a series as they tend to not only reflect the show’s genre, but also its style and content. We know that shows set in police stations are going to involve crimes and mysteries. Shows set in hospitals are going to involve life-and-death medical issues. Shows set on starships are going to involve fantastic alien encounters and cosmic phenomenon. Settings are often as much a character as the people themselves. And having an unusual setting can help distinguish your series from its competitors.
Setting is a subject that roleplayers have already discussed at great length on forums such as this, and I’m not sure that i have anything fresh to say about it now. It’s the Z in “the PCs are X who do Y in Z”. Even Dungeon Fantasy is making a statement of its setting when it says that it is set in the Dungeon and that Town exists only as an abstraction.
Many RPG systems are dedicated to a particular setting, such as RuneQuest to Glorantha, Paranoia to Alpha Complex, CyberPunk 2020 to the Earth of a future past.
Ken Hite says that if you want to make a setting for an RPG you should first consider starting with Earth because it has been really well play-tested, has a huge amount of reference material, and has truly outstanding maps. Nevertheless far more RPG campaign than TV series are set in wholly fictitious settings.
RPG campaigns have the advantage of very, very cheap location shooting, sets, props, and wardrobe.
Distinguishing your campaign from its competitors is I think not so important for RPG campaigns as it is for TV series. And there is a very definite advantage to setting RPGs in a setting that is familiar to the players. Quite aside from the comfort of familiarity, a familiar setting gives players extra agency, more capacity to participate meaningfully in the collaboration, because they know about setting features that their characters can exploit and manipulate.