Setting House Rules Summary

Some games have drastic shortcomings in their settings. Painting in a broad brush, this is usually the result of games where some starting assumption has been put in place and then the attempt to write a setting and backstory for it doesn’t quite come together and make sense.

Or in other words, starting with “Wouldn’t X be cool!” and trying to build a world around that, rather than “if the world is like Y, how would it turn out if Z happened”.

The entire Hunger Games series (of novels and films) is a perfect example of this problem.

The various tabletop wargame made into a roleplaying game type also suffer from the same problem to varying extents.

Not wanting to name names for particularly bad examples, but, here are some names:

Eclipse Phase

The primary problem with Eclipse Phase is that in the name of pandering to political correctness, the entire backstory makes no sense and actually severely undercuts the settings nearly-post-human feel. When looking at a lot of ‘current demographics’ in the game, they make no sense. When looking at the flimsy justifications for them, they make no sense. And when looking at the chain of events in the backstory, the current demographics should be utter nonsense. Furthermore, the impact of the technologies and events upon society and culture should be significant but have actually been glossed over completely.

In fact the only way that the setting presented in Eclipse Phase could have come about is if it is a VR simulation inflicted upon non-survivors of the Fall by the Titans.

Either the setting needs drastic and extensive correcting, or literally “it was all a dream”.

Macross (RIFTS version)

…long story short, if you go with the Macross version rather than the Robotech version then it’s all actually pretty solid and non-corny.

Except Macross 7. That’s pretty corny.

Black Crusade, Deathwatch, Only War and Rogue Trader

This needs not so much a correction as an established one-orthodox-version of the fluff (for each campaign). The backstory for the different factions varies somewhat but their incarnations vary enormously between different versions of Warhammer 40,000.

For instance in some versions (closer to 2nd edition) the Adeptus Mechanicus are forward thinking, curious, eager to reclaim humanities former technical sophistication and willing to research alien technology to advance human understanding. In the current edition they are the polar opposite, they are stymied by religious superstitions about technology, abhor curiosity, fear humanities former technical achievements, and shun all alien technologies. And, IMHO, the former is much cooler than the latter.

Then we have Imperial organizations who will wipe out a world at the drop of a hat, and in other incarnations will fight tooth and nail for centuries to hold onto each Imperial world. Or will dedicate centuries to colonizing and developing a new world…verses it being all too hard and the Imperium not able to muster the forces to settle a new world and/or fearing anything new.

And so on, and so on…

In particular for Black Crusade and Deathwatch, a lot is needed to define what a Space Marine chapter is like, and what their interactions with the rest of the Imperium is like. More “historically” in the case of Black Crusade.

Based on some versions of the canon, a Space Marine is like a living avatar of the Emperor and will be an uplifting presence for Imperial soldiers, a sign of hope to rally around and an example to attempt to live up to…and in others they are a WMD that the common Imperial citizens fear and dread as a harbinger of doom and about to fight with scorched-earth tactics always being Plan A.

Not to mention WTF40k in general.

Shadowrun 3rd and Shadowrun 4th

What is mainly needed here is a “how common are things” check. How common are magic users, how common are deckers, how common are riggers, and how common are “street samurai”.

Now…I don’t mean “PC level Shadowrunning NPCs” here. Well, I do, that’s part-b. What I mean is in day to day life how common and noticeable are these types of people?

Riggers for example:

  • Is every trucker likely to have a VCR-1 (or better)? Or might only the most elite race car driver have a VCR?
  • Are drone riggers common or just ultra-specialists in high price security firms?
  • Is remote operation of vehicles common? Might a PC rigger have a day-job remote-controlling mining vehicles on another continent and then do Shadowruns by night? Does the taxi have a driver present?

Deckers for example:

  • Are Datajacks common? Should every citizen have a point or two or three of computers skill?
  • Is the world filled with lots of ‘hackers’ and wannabes like the real world, with most being fairly petty and a few being remarkably skilled?

Cyberware…is it common or uncommon to get work related cyberware? If you find someone with titanium bone-lacing and a cyber arm with strength enhancement would your first thought be ‘combatant’ or ‘labourer’? How common is “injury repair” cyber verses “upgrades”? What are the normal elective-cyberware of the public? Things like datajacks, knowsoft links, retinal image displays, and so on. What would “security” cyberware be like? How much police augmentation would be going on? And military.

Magic seems relatively common, given the number of people with some talent. One assumes that magic practitioners will generally gravitate up the social ladder. So in the slums there should be one or two or three magical people and pretty well known, like “the rat shaman who lives under the bridge” and stuff…and to be blunt each one needs a really good reason why they don’t just get a job as a magic user and move up in the world.

But maybe for the upper middle class magical people should be more common,the equivalent of unique special tradespeople. You might choose to go to the chiropractor or the local mage specialized to healing magics. And for entertainment see ‘the real magician’ the raccoon shaman who uses a mixture of sleight of hand and actual magic for a magic show. And so on. Like the technologies, the magic in Shadowrun needn’t just be for Shadowrunning.

As for Part B, “enemy Shadowrunners” or “Shadowrunner Hunters” should be PC level and have a chance to pull PC-like planning and preperation, not just be plonked onto the game-map like wandering monsters in DnD are.

Overall Shadowrun’s setting is very good; weirdly it’s just this “establishing the levels” issue, the tone of the world and people’s familiarity with the technology and magic.


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Setting House Rules Summary

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