How faithful do you stick to the lore of premade settings?

Marktplatz

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When you run games in a pre-existing setting, like Warhammer, Greyhawk, Golarion, or Middle-earth, how "faithful" are you to the lore of that setting? Do you play it strict and purist? Do you play it fast and loose and not worry too much about your game's "accuracy"? Do you change things or add your own material, carefully or liberally?
 

opaopajr

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It depends on scope and time/space location. If my scope is (typically) smaller than the grand campaign, Licensed Property's apocalyptic story arc, then there is little to worry about overlap, as the gravitational pull is too far to affect within my reduced scope. Similarly my worries about canon gravitational pull is lessened when it is before (if it has not been already filled) or far away. It is when timed during or after, and similarly nearby, that things get complicated. Then I have to adjust or outright let things fall where they may with the main story being a mere likely events calendar.

So yeah, I will not likely run lovelorn romance triangles in Alderaan during the time of the first Death Star. Though that could be absolutely hilarious with a Depletion Roll with gradually inflating d%; at any time in a star-crossed romance all of your PCs & NPCs just blow up without much warning. :grin: "Huh, look a new moon! :heart: Bobby I love --" :storm::sun: Aaand you'll never know it was you that they loved, Bobby. You'll never know. :hehe:
 

TristramEvans

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it reeeeeeaaaaally depends.

Warhammer I stick to the lore, but only the lore circa the first edition RPG/third edition WFB - later stuff i consider non-canon and will draw on individual elements only if I like them

Middle Earth I stick to the lore exactly, but set my games in the 4th Age (the setting of Tolkien's unfinished sequel to LOTR)

Superhero games I treat as if an animated series adaptation where the PCs are the main characters. So the rest of the universe - be it DC or Marvel, exists in a streamlined, simplified form with the possibility of involving players in iconic storylines.

Star Wars I stick to the lore only of media I liked - so the original trilogy, the Thrawn trilogy, Shadows of the Empire, Dark Empire 1 & 2, and first 2 seasons of The Mandalorian. It's been a long time since I ran a Star Wars game, but if I ever were to again, I think it would be based on the aborted Kenner sequel setting that they developed to continue the toyline...


Star Trek I stick to the lore circa TNG and DS9, mainly because that is what I know, and I'm not much interested in anything else in the IP, so I'm not going to research it. I am mildly curious about the variant Star Fleet Universe though...

Gaming Campaign settings - Planescape, Ravenloft, oWoD, etc I see only as gristle for my imagination to chew on, and dont pay any mind to what's "official"
 

Simlasa

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One of the reasons I stay away from licensed settings (at least the most popular ones) is that I do not want to feel confined by the 'canon'. I'd rather run (or play in) an -ish version of something. File the name off, go for the atmosphere.
 

thebigh

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Generally I try to avoid grand changes to existing settings, unless that setting is the real world. Modern day Earth where magic is slowly seeping back in, or where Doggerland never sank, or where Mars and Venus were terraformed by mysterious now-departed precursor aliens- fine. But I'm not going to take a setting like Middle Earth and say, "It's LOtR but Feanor and his sons are still around and making nuisances of themselves." Fictional changes to a fictional setting are confusing to people familiar with the original and, at that point, I'd be better off making my own home-brew setting.

No problem adding details that are consistent with the lore but not mentioned in it. Most NPCs I come up with will be of that sort. There is, after all, no reason given in LOtR why there shouldn't be a hobbit NPC named Thorold who's quietly amassed a small fortune in trading between Bree and the Shire.

Star Trek is kind of a subversion to that rule though. I haven't watched much of the series newer than Enterprise and what I've seen hasn't been very interesting or good. And I figure Trek has had enough time travel shenanigans that official canon is a hazy concept at best, so if something in the setting I'm working on contradicts something that happened in Season 4 of Discovery, say, then I just don't care.
 

Bunch

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I've come to hate canon unless it is very short and open to interpretation. I don't think I'd play in any of the major IPs with people who really really know it because I don't and I don't care more than broad strokes. I'd totally port Iron Man to my champions setting but he would only have the Marvel baggage the player brought with him. Same with just about any other IP. I love that others get so deep into it and love it but that's not me.
 

Rob Necronomicon

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Hm... It depends on the setting, tbh. Generally, I'll always change it up a little bit.

I'm pretty much in line with WFRP v1's lore so that's always minimal changes. Unlike VtM or WoD which gets shredded to pieces because of the bloated and invasive metaplot.

Of course, the players will probably force me to change the lore (even a bit) if it's a long campaign - because of their actions, etc.
 

Andrew J. Luther

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I use whatever makes my job easier. When it comes to published RPG game settings, since I’m a forever GM, I always know more about any of these settings than my players, except for Greyhawk. So I use anything that I think is interesting, cool, or convenient, and ignore anything that makes my job more difficult.

For example, I’ve run multiple campaigns in the Forgotten Realms and the characters have never heard of Drizzt (he doesn’t exist) and I’ve used Elminster only once (as the Sage of Shadowdale, a wise old scholar who found the outlandish and completely false rumours about him in other parts of Faerun to be both amusing and baffling).

For games using a famous IP, I always state up front that my game is an alternate take on the setting, like the MCU is different from the comics universe.

I’ll keep all the broad strokes the same, of course, and the important little things, so that it captures not only the feel of the setting, but also allows players to assume the game works generally like in the movies/books.

As an example, for Star Wars, I might say that the original three films are canon, but nothing else. My players will be able to play in the setting fully understanding the kinds of things they can definitely do, but I may decide to have a history in which the Clone Wars were completely different than in the prequels. So if in my campaign the players stumble on some ancient vault that hold a bunch of clones in stasis, I can make them be whatever I want.
 

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Depends on a) player knowledge and love of lore; I don't want to confuse or annoy them; and b) my own respect for the lore. LotR, I am not going to mess with. Most RPG settings, I will happily chop up. For Trek/SW, I would only feel some obligation to fidelity to the content I appreciate.
 

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I try not to make sweeping changes to the lore, cuz...TBH, WTF is the point of playing in a setting if you're just gonna butcher it? But at the same time I don't let it tie me down, and I will only respect the parts of it that I like and freely ignore the rest—particularly later additions to the lore that suck or don't make sense.

Like for instance, if I'm playing Star Wars, only the OG trilogy, bits of the EU and the prequels, and most of the Mandalorian are true. The sequels never happened and only the most cursory elements of the prequels are true. Otherwise I try to stick to the lore—at least to the degree I know enough about it. But don't beat myself too much if I don't know.
 

Akrasia

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It depends on the setting.

Like a few others above, when it comes to Middle-earth I try to stick pretty close to canon. I might change a few minor things that aren't really clear anyhow from Tolkien (e.g., how Glorfindel returns to Middle-earth after being slain in the First Age) but nothing major. I know the world quite well, so I'm comfortable working within it.

For a setting like Greyhawk, I'm far more ready to change things. In fact, I treat only the 1980 and 1983 versions as my main references (and related notes from Gygax pre-1986) and build from there. I'll take what I like from later material, but for the most part I just ignore it. A few things I've come up for my version are entirely new (e.g., the origin and nature of the "Mage" of the "Valley of the Mage").

For Call of Cthulhu I usually just stick with what's written in the material I'm running, but it's easy to add new things given the nature of the Mythos.

Those are the only "premade" settings I've used as a GM. (I'd like to try Lyonesse and/or the Dying Earth someday...)
 

MoonHunter

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If we are playing the game because of the setting, then I am fairly consistent with the setting and follow with it. Star Trek I am looking at you here, though Star Wars and others are also looked at. (Though in a WoD/CoD scenario, I tend to stick to the core book and ignore all the splats.)

If we are playing a game because of the system or the idea behind it, then anything goes. I usually define the setting pretty well before we play in it. (Have we not discussed that my chronicle packets tend to be 32-128 pages long?). Once we have a setting, we stick to it fairly tightly.
 

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Mostly joking although yeah if playing in Middle Earth or whathaveyou I'd stick closer to the 'lore' as much as I could. For rpg settings like Greyhawk, the whole point is to make it your own.
 
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PolarBlues

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What is this lore you talk about?

I definitely play fast and loose with lore, whether its from an fictional IP or actual history. No one can tell me that Star Wars gangsters don't have tommy blasters with nice, round drum magazines.
 

AsenRG

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When you run games in a pre-existing setting, like Warhammer, Greyhawk, Golarion, or Middle-earth, how "faithful" are you to the lore of that setting? Do you play it strict and purist? Do you play it fast and loose and not worry too much about your game's "accuracy"? Do you change things or add your own material, carefully or liberally?
Depends on 1) how much I know, 2) how much I remember and 3) how good of a job the setting creator did, in my opinion.

For example, there might be things that are set in Tekumel lore that I don't know. If I don't know them, they don't exist, or exist differently.
Then, there might be things that are set in Exalted lore that I don't remember at the table. If I don't remember them, they don't exist, or are changed.
And of course, there might be things in Glorantha or Star Wars lore that I don't think make sense. If I don't like them, they are changed. (If it's a retcon in a new edition, you can almost bet that it's going to get this treatment, and doubly so if it was introduced for PR reasons:gunslinger:).

Note: that's a very different attitude to the one I apply to historical (and history-inspired) settings:thumbsup:.

Also, tl;dr the setting is my bitch:shade:!
 

Zebraman

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I stick closely to established lore, but that may not be the most up to date edition. Warhammer and WH40K being the obvious examples.

In addition I will often set my games in either in the blank spaces of the map or at a scale where lore hasn't been established (generally low level, the back allys or backwood villages).

So if the PCs do stumble onto a historic event (rare) it will likely play out as written but will only ever be a backdrop to whatever drama they are dealing with.

One exception is Legend of the Five Rings which has pretty messed up lore to my mind. I understand that this is due to a mash up of the influence of the card game with established rpg writers. Regardless I move parts of L5R around or disregard entirety pretty liberally. The joke at the table is all the lore happened, but some of it only happened in a kabuki theatre play.
 

SmallbutVicious

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Caveat lector! Old man coming through with clouds to shout at!

I actually hate the word 'lore' used in this sense. When I was a kid, we called the fictional background details for games 'fluff', and this terminology far better reflects its importance, in my eyes. Even worse is the word 'canon'. What the hell does that even mean? Most of the IPs that people are talking about in this thread are corporate properties that have been around for decades and have 'official' stories written by dozens of different people. They are filled with inconsistencies and contradictions already.

The only preexisting settings I've run games in are ones created specifically for games - not ones from TV or films. And I've almost never run a game in a setting with which any of my players were familiar. I don't need to worry about them having misconceptions about things that exist in the world from reading someone else's intepretation. The only exception is Warhammer, because I have a deep affection for Warhammer dating to childhood experiences, but then I just make it clear to anyone familiar with Warhammer that my version is going to be largely based on what I remember from the 90s and might differ from what they know. I think I only ever had one guy (a Total War player) quit due to mismatched expectations, and that was more a matter of tone that actual setting details.

If I wanted to run a Star Wars game, where my players probably know the fiction much better than me, I think I'd just do a cheap, knockoff version and call my space wizards something different than Jedi. Just to make clear to the players that they shouldn't anticipate any faithful adaptation.
 

Zebraman

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Caveat lector! Old man coming through with clouds to shout at!

I actually hate the word 'lore' used in this sense. When I was a kid, we called the fictional background details for games 'fluff', and this terminology far better reflects its importance, in my eyes. Even worse is the word 'canon'. What the hell does that even mean? Most of the IPs that people are talking about in this thread are corporate properties that have been around for decades and have 'official' stories written by dozens of different people. They are filled with inconsistencies and contradictions already.

The term canon always gets on my nerves as well, especially given the sheer amount of retconning that goes on in fiction these days. When people say "Uhm actually that's no longer canon" I just think "You know all of this shit is made up right?"
 

arjunstc

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Even worse is the word 'canon'. What the hell does that even mean? Most of the IPs that people are talking about in this thread are corporate properties that have been around for decades and have 'official' stories written by dozens of different people. They are filled with inconsistencies and contradictions already.
That applies to the canon in original sense too...
 

Lychee of the Exchequer

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When I set my mind on a setting as a game master, I think about it not in terms of fidelity to it, but with a mind to its practicability at the table, and its inner coherence.

In practice, it usually means that I change as much or as little of it that I need to, but I record thoses changes so as to propagate and /or mitigate their impact on the in-game universe, and I take care of appraising my players of those changes so as not to confuse them vis-a-vis their expectations re-the game.

This means that I can usually keep much of the published material, including published adventures if there are any, which reduces considerably my prep work as the game master.
 

Savage Schemer

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I don't remotely make any attempt to cleave to canon. All the touchstones you'd expect for a given setting will likely be there, however. So, if I'm playing in the Traveller OTU, then Vargr and Aslan and so forth are definitely a thing. Jump space works the way the setting says it does. Things like that. But I'm not going to put even the tiniest effort into making sure things stay that way. Once the players are let loose in a setting with their characters, anything goes.

I have also come to a point where there are some well-known, beloved settings I simply refuse to run anymore. Star Wars being one of them. I just can't do it anymore. If my players want to play Star Wars, well I'm sorry but we're not going to. We will, however, play a game that looks like Star Wars and has a very similar look and feel, sure. I've got no problem with giant evil space empires and mystical space knight-wizards and whatnot. But Star Wars itself is a sandbox that's been pissed in just way too much and I don't wanna play in that particular sand anymore.
 

Mangoplum

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I stick closely to established lore, but that may not be the most up to date edition. Warhammer and WH40K being the obvious examples.
Those two especially are ones I'd like to play in/run, but I'd stick to their earliest incarnations.
Same with World of Warcraft, which I've always wanted to try running games in, but using the 'vanilla' setting and expanding on the vague/undeveloped elements.
 

Lofgeornost

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Reading the replies above, it seems that I’m pretty standard in my approach:
  • For settings that come out of fiction that I respect (like Middle-Earth) I tend to keep pretty close to what was written, though with Middle-Earth I like the old ICE dodge of picking a date earlier in the Third Age when we don’t really know that much about what was going on.
  • For settings that are composite based on a wide range of literature—which I guess means Pendragon’s Arthurian Britain—I’m much more willing to hack things and change elements, based on my own favorite elements in the tales.
  • For settings that were simply created for RPGs, I’m happy to take what I like and leave the rest. The exception to this is Tekumel, but it wan’t really created for RPGs anyway.
 

ffilz

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I pretty much avoid running "media" settings.

On RPG settings, well, the big one for me these days is Glorantha. My Glorantha is built from what I have absorbed over the last 45 years of running in the setting, MOSTLY based on stuff from the early days. I mostly ignore the setting wonks. Sure, if some interesting tidbit drops out, I might use it. I have had players who come to my campaign with setting knowledge of their own but I have not had any player complain about anything which makes me suspect a lot of that setting wonkery is about stuff that actually has little impact on play or is just "color" that can easily be adjusted to. There may have been something about female initiates of Orlanth during my 2005 campaign but the players who were setting wonks just rolled with my Glorantha.

When I ran campaigns in Tekumel and Talislanta (both pretty short lived), the players had no setting knowledge so it didn't matter how close I was or not. I also did both of those with Cold Iron (I also did 1 or 2 sessions of Talislanta with GURPS) so some setting stuff got yanked around due to mechanical differences.

I have run D&D campaigns in Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, and Mystara but they never got very deep into the setting and didn't run all that long.

Blackmoor, Wilderlands of High Fantasy, and Blackmarsh are settings without huge amounts of lore.
 

Fenris-77

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The only lore I actually try to follow closely is Middle Earth. For things like Starwars its more about my head canon and some of the stuff from the core movies. For published RPG settings, and in general, I'll use what bits I like and turn the rest into rumours and lore that may or may not be true.
 

ffilz

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I try not to make sweeping changes to the lore, cuz...TBH, WTF is the point of playing in a setting if you're just gonna butcher it?
That's a valid point, but not always the whole story. Sometimes folks want to try a setting but "what if X is changed?" Other times, as you point out, people might pick and choose from the source material.

Ultimately the question is how much change can you make to a setting before your players revolt.
 

E-Rocker

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When you run games in a pre-existing setting, like Warhammer, Greyhawk, Golarion, or Middle-earth, how "faithful" are you to the lore of that setting?
I don't run games in pre-existing settings at all. I just use them for inspiration.

So players might encounter a Glitter Boy from Rifts, a Mind-Flayer from D&D, the Hand ninja clan from Marvel Comics, etc., but that doesn't mean that any other Rifts/D&D/Marvel Comics/etc. lore applies.

I'll also usually slightly change the names of such things as a nod to a fact they're not the canon versions, frex "Glitterboi," rather than "Glitter Boy."
 

hawkeyefan

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I think it depends on why I chose to play in a given setting. Chances are there are bits of lore I want to use that made me pick the setting. But depending on which setting it is there’s likely a bunch of other lore that I’m less interested in.

So I usually make it clear ahead of time what will be in play and what won’t, and anything unaddressed up front will be decided as needed during play. I’ve run both Marvel and Star Wars games with this kind of approach and it’s worked fine even though I had players with significant knowledge of the setting lore.
 

Vile Traveller

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I think the only premade setting I ran for any length of time was Middle Earth by I.C.E. I stuck to it pretty closely, to the extent of running every book as written regardless of which age or year it was set in.
 

Marktplatz

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That's a valid point, but not always the whole story. Sometimes folks want to try a setting but "what if X is changed?" Other times, as you point out, people might pick and choose from the source material.

Ultimately the question is how much change can you make to a setting before your players revolt.
That's how I look at it. There're several published settings out there that I like some parts of, but don't like other parts of. I'm more inclined to take the parts I like and bolt them onto a custom setting rather than hammer the parts I don't like into shape, though. Getting out from under the shadow of some other author or authors' intentions, so to speak, as well as player expectations.
 

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For heavy lore settings like Tolkien's Middle Earth, Numenera's Ninth World, RuneQuest's Glorantha, Warhammer Fantasy's The Old World, etc etc (even D&D's Forgotten Realms), I'ld definately keep to at least the broad brustrokes and major milestones of the setting, although any small scale stuff is up for grabs, and often I may make up an entire small locale to sandbox about in unless one has been provided that feels this is what it's meant for. Sometimes I'll take a village/locale setting from another game and customise and retrap it so it works for what I want.

I think it is important to be unfetted to an extent, so that the PCs feel they have a meaniful impact on the setting, but I don't like altering metaplots or anything like that, I just keep them as background canvas while the PCs have their own plotlines.

For Star Wars I'ld do pretty much the same. However for the New Republic era I would prefer to use the Legends/Old EU for guidance, as I just don't accept the Sequels films into my canon. I like the Rey and Finn characters, but the entire plot of the Sequels was an embarressing debacle, so I've editied it out of my mind. So far so good with The Mandalorian series however.
 
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Moonglum

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I'm of two minds about this subject: truly iconic, beautifully crafted and immersive settings (for me, the Hyborian Age, Middle Earth) I will make sure that the undisputable FACTS of that setting and its basic timeline are followed pretty closely but fan/community assumptions, extrapolations, etc. mean nothing to me and I have no respect for them (e.g., various blathery things people like to say about the nature of magic and magicians in middle earth - subjects that are open to interpretation and will be handled as I see fit in my game). On the other hand, the settings that show up in game books are usually not good enough that I think they represent a really coherent, widely understood thing that should be followed and I tend to just pluck out components that are useful at the table (maps, stat blocks) and completely ignore the rest.
 

Silverlion

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When you run games in a pre-existing setting, like Warhammer, Greyhawk, Golarion, or Middle-earth, how "faithful" are you to the lore of that setting? Do you play it strict and purist? Do you play it fast and loose and not worry too much about your game's "accuracy"? Do you change things or add your own material, carefully or liberally?
Depends on the setting, however, I'm reminded by one of my communications & speech professors: "This is the book, it is the only one, I'll teach you what you need to know out of it, the rest you don't need." That is pretty much how much concern over "canon" that I have for most settings--though Middle-Earth is one I'm always careful with. In short: Take what I want, ditch the rest. This is true of licensed settings like Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. etc.
 

Moonglum

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p.s., Glorantha is a good example of an 'edge case': I love, love, love the first wave of Runequest setting materials (the core book maps; Pavis; the cults; Borderlands; etc.) and I try to follow the facts and spirit of the thing reasonably closely. But the broader metaverse of subsequent history, detailed mythology, etc. just feels way, way over engineered to me and I don't pay attention to it.
 

Lofgeornost

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Similarly, there are imagined universes where I like the original version written for fiction, but dislike at least some elements of the way they've been developed in gaming supplements. For example, Elric's world--the published supplements, particularly from Chaosium, leaned too hard into the 'Law = Stasis = Bad' interpretation for my taste.
 

ffilz

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p.s., Glorantha is a good example of an 'edge case': I love, love, love the first wave of Runequest setting materials (the core book maps; Pavis; the cults; Borderlands; etc.) and I try to follow the facts and spirit of the thing reasonably closely. But the broader metaverse of subsequent history, detailed mythology, etc. just feels way, way over engineered to me and I don't pay attention to it.
Yep, that's pretty much where I'm at. I will occasionally grab something from newer material. And actually, seeing as I didn't get Pavis until near the end of my 1990s campaign, and Big Rubble until 2005, I've never actually ran the scenarios in those, so I've never had the cradle go down the Zola Fel. So my Glorantha is really based on RQ1 (I also didn't get RQ2 until 2005), Cults of Prax, Cults of Terror, Griffon Mountain, Apple Lane, Snake Pipe Hollow, a bit of Borderlands (which I've never done more than started), and various bits from Different Worlds, The Wild Hunt and Wyrms Footnotes and a few other random bits. I did get all the RQ3 material but haven't really absorbed THAT much from it.
 

Vile Traveller

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Similarly, there are imagined universes where I like the original version written for fiction, but dislike at least some elements of the way they've been developed in gaming supplements. For example, Elric's world--the published supplements, particularly from Chaosium, leaned too hard into the 'Law = Stasis = Bad' interpretation for my taste.
I think it's remarkably hard to translate fiction into games, because most fiction is able to make places seem mysterious and unknowable. I felt that way about Thieves' World - once you put Sanctuary on a map, especially with a place like the Maze, it just becomes small and disappointing.

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Pavis was much more interesting to me from the Griselda stories than the actual city boxed set when I eventually got it. I think that was the death knell of my interest in Glorantha, actually - anything beyond the hints in the core book. I remember an early online map which made the Big Rubble 10 times the size compared to New Pavis, and that felt much better than the official thing.

The lesson, to my mind, is to keep things as vague as possible, adding detail only as and when needed. Preserve that sense of wonder and mystery.
 
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