Worldbuilding: What are your favorite worlds /settings?

m7600

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Worldbuilding is a huge part of RPGs, sometimes it can even be more important or interesting than the stories that take place in those imaginary worlds or settings. My favorite ones are:

1) Planescape
2) Forgotten Realms
3) Greyhawk
4) Middle Earth
5) Spelljammer

I honestly didn't think I'd place Tolkien's Middle Earth in the fourth place, since I love that world. But at the end of the day, I like Planescape, Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk more.

What about you? Which are your favorite worlds or settings? They don't necessarily have to be from the Fantasy genre, you might prefer the world of Fallout or Arcanum!
 

Antimatter

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The Elder Scrolls setting, for me, hands down. I think I immediately fell in love with it when just started Oblivion and saw this:

oblivion-moons.png


The further I played, the more I was surprised by how deep the lore is. The Daedra, the Dwemers, so many fractions, cultures, races, and regions with their unique customs, habits, stories, and the feel of magic everywhere. It's impossible not to feel something in TES games.

But when I started playing The Elder Scrolls Online, I was impressed even more. Now, I could visit all those regions I previously read about. I could be there, everywhere, from Elsweyr to Black Marsh, from Summerset to Deshaan. It's absolutely insane how detailed the lore in the game is, and how much there is to learn about and try. Check out this post by @Urdnot_Wrex about The New Life Festival for example.

I seriously doubt-for me-there can be any other setting that would be as diverse and deep as what I personally experienced in all TES games and ESO.

But I enjoy other worlds as well. I usually appreciate grim and not black-and-white stories, so the well-crafted worlds of The Witcher and Dragon Age are also my favourite. The Night City and the whole Cyberpunk setting by Mike Pondsmith are great. I'm so happy we'd be getting another game in that setting.

The world Remedy created in Control is very weird but unique and basically, its world is the biggest motivator why I'd like to play Alan Wake 2, even if it's a horror, and usually horrors don't appeal to me.

Disco Elysium had a very distinct and fresh take on the world-building, too bad any sequel is unlikely.
 

Alesia_BH

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My favorite fantasy world is one that I developed myself, with a small assist from Boo, lol

The story takes place on Earth in the 1970’s. Space hamsters from another universe are using inter-dimensional quantum manipulation devices to influence the minds of disco musicians. Their intention is to leave a new bible for humanity hidden in popular song lyrics, in the hope of averting planetary ecological and economic collapse, which they foresee in the mid twenty first century.

The are opposed in this endeavor by their rivals, the Fegs, short for fucking evil guinea pigs. The Fegs are using their quantum manipulation abilities to affect the minds of politicians and corporate executives. Their plan is to nudge us into destroying ourselves so they can take over.

(The Fegs need us to destroy ourselves, and all sentient life on Earth, because they can’t open a portal to a new verse unless all the matter within it de-coheres first, and that requires an absence of conscious observers, as per the von Neumann Wigner interpretation of quantum physics)

A pair of Earthlings whose DNA has been influenced by the hamsters figure out what’s happening. They take it upon themselves to piece together the alien bible and found The Church of Disco. The Church of Disco becomes an underground international intelligence agency seeking to save the Earth. It also doubles as an extraterrestrial embassy.

There's more to it, of course, but that's the premise :)
 
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Cahir

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Forgotten Realms, there can be only one, really. I've started to dig into FR by reading FR novels, even before original BG. I loved the vast, rich world from the first book I've read. Then came the BG, and IWD after that, which only solidified my love for Forgotten Realms.

The other setting I absolutely love is Warhammer (the original, not 40k, which I don't know much). Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay was basically the first pen and paper rpg I have played (well, technically it was Middle Earth, but I only played it once or twice). What I absolutely loved in this setting, was its dark and grim atmosphere and absolutely fantastic adventure books, some of which I vividly remember to this day. I wish there would be a fully fledged crpg game in the original Warhammer setting.

Then there is Mass Effect. Here I love the mix of real world and sci-fi, with alien races, starships and lore rich world. I would totally watch a movie or TV series set in this universe.

I also liked the settings of Dragon Age, The Elder Scrolls, Vampire Bloodlines, Planescape and Arcanum games.

All the above are my favourite worlds, but FR is definitely number one.
 

JustKneller

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Planescape definitely is a top tier setting for me. I still remember the first time I played it. My gaming group had been playing in Faerun forever, and we were frankly getting bored of it. Our GM sorta blindsided us with it all of a sudden when we had just started a new party on a more traditional premise. My mind was blown.

Before that, my top D&D world was Ravenloft. I liked that it was dark and gritty as opposed to traditional heroic fantasy.

Many of my other favorite settings are homegrown. I've been building RPGs forever and I almost always build a custom world for the game. I really like the Lovecraftian games (and Arkham), but I've also build my own system to play in Jazz Age New Orleans (which brought in Voodoo in a historically accurate way) and Niagara 1901 (which was kinda Teslapunk also in a historically accurate way).

Middle Earth has a soft spot in my heart. I definitely don't know it as well as most fans, but I like the more toned down magic and the pastoral charm of it. I've always been curious about what it would be like to play in the second age. I also had an idea for a game in the fourth age, but I don't know the lore well enough to pull it off.
 

Skatan

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I enjoy most the worlds that has something unique and hard to pinpoint. There needs to be a balance in them, between gods and sentients, between species, between magic and technology etc. It seems most worlds have a tendancy to bloat over time as writers expand on earlier works and push the boundaries which make some worlds less appealing to me over time.

Star Wars was the first one I can remember that I loved. I loved that Jedi was powerful but not god-like. Their powers made them different from "humans" but in the first movies they aren't invincible, they can be killed, their powers are strong but not god-like. It was something different, more low-key than high-fantasy magic. I am not an avid reader of the expanded universe, then canon, now non-canon (If I've understood Disney right), but I spend a boring summer at work basically reading the entire wookiepedia and when it comes to the Yuuzhan Vong I lost interest, they took it way too far. I also enjoyed the animated show Clone Wars, but I found both those witches (forgot their names) with their actual green magic, and how now everyone could fight jedis if you had a electro-staff or similar to be somewhat offputting. Still great and cool, just no longer in line with the original universe of the original movies which was more grounded. But nonetheless Star Wars is probably my number one favorite world to get lost in, via movies, games and just plain old fantisizing while listening to music.

Arcanum's world is unique, so much so, that I got pulled in deep and fast and dreamt of living there. What they created with Arcanum is glorious, and the specific rules of that world, how technology is making magic redundant, weaker, is very, very cool. In a sense, it feels reminiscent of Tolkien's depictions of 'industry' vs 'rural countryside', the new vs the old and how it impacts those living during that transitional times. On top of this the aestethics are gorgeous, the top hats and monocles, the gowns and canes and the music, oh lord the music. Everything ties together into a perfect blend that set you into that world from the first second. Total immersion.

Mass Effect was not just another sci-fi, it did things differently that made me feel more than I thought possible for a game. Humans weren't only victims, we were bullies, the council of races, the looming threat, the comraderie and more. Why and how could they take something so used and make it feels so fresh and new? I'm not sure to be honest, but I just got the feeling the world felt _real_ you know, like this could actually have been a future for humans if the first contact had happened as depicted. The idea that humans would actually unleash hell on their enemies with nukes and whatnot and become an aggressor is, as I see it, the absolute most probable outcome considering our inherent aggressive nature.

The lack of classics like Tolkien's works, Forgotten Reals is because of the bloat. Even middlearth's later depictions became too much high fantasy for my personal taste, everyone shooting fireballs from their fingers, something not even Gandalf could do in the original works. I liked the old ways better, the more low-key and grounded low-fantasy. FR is fun, but whenever I read something about the big god wars, one god turning of magic for a while etc etc, it gets a bit too overwhelming for my personal taste.

Honorable mentions would be PoE who had a very deep lore that still felt grounded and plausable. The ~16th century aestethics really appealed to me personally too and how they portrayed the gods was a refreshing take. Fallout 1-2 are among the best games I've ever played and I greatly enjoy the aestethics of the time era, and to play a character in that world. I just don't ever really feel that urge to dig deeper and read about things happening outside of the actual game.
 

BelgarathMTH

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I like a lot of the ones mentioned here, so I'll give a shout out to the world of Enroth, which hasn't been mentioned.

It's got cool politics via the succession war between Roland and Archibald, and lots of faction interplay. A lot of it is to give story underpinnings to the strategy series Heroes of Might and Magic, where you play as one of the many factions, but I've always appreciated that there's story that goes with the fighting.

On the surface it all seems like stock-standard fantasy tropes, but when you dive deep enough into the RPG side of the franchise, you find out that nothing in the world is what it seems to be. The "demons" are an invading, conquering alien species with a highly developed technology. The "angels" are artificial intelligences built to serve the mysterious "Ancients", who sent out colony ships to populate the galaxy and work to protect the colonies from "demon" invasion. Many of these worlds fell to "barbarism", i.e. swords and magic over technology, after apocalyptic events.

You start out in a D&D fantasy with sorcerers, knights, clerics, elves, dwarves, and goblins, and wind up in a science fiction with spaceships, stargate networks, and lasers.

The original company that produced the Might and Magic franchise went bankrupt, and rights wound up with Ubisoft, which re-worked the franchise in a new setting called Ashan. Many if not most of the fans of the original hated it, but I find that it has some compelling and interesting world-building. In Might and Magic Heroes 6, we begin by playing Duke Slava, who has five children. His sister Sveltana is a necromancer, but necromancy has a very interesting implementation in this world where it is not seen as inherently evil.

Slava's daughter Anastasia is temporarily possessed by an evil force and kills him. His son Anton takes the throne, and despite the fact that Anastasia was not in control of her actions, and with the same evil that possessed his sister whispering in his ears, he has her executed for the murder. Anastasia's aunt Sveltana resurrects her as an undead free-willed necromancer, teaches her about necromancy, and together they raise an undead army to challenge Anton's forces, who are under the command of corrupt church leaders. The other three children of Duke Slava scatter to other nations, becoming allied with the barbarians, the naga, and the "demons", respectively. (Remember, nothing is ever what it seems on the surface in these settings.) These five children of Duke Slava become the leaders of the five factions that fight during the campaigns of the game.

Ashan also comes with a lot of interesting lore where the deities of the setting are dragon gods, who are archons of different aspects of existence like Life, Light, and Death. As mentioned, it also comes with what I find to be a unique interpretation of necromancy.

So, what engages me in world-building in a game? Nation-building, culture-building, lore, and politics are certainly important elements to me. I'm also a sucker for gods and cleverly written fantasy religion. I also like there to be layers of meaning, where the game reveals over time that what you thought was going on in the world at the beginning of the game is not really what is going on, i.e. it subverts your expectations in some way.
 

Cahir

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I wanted to mention one more setting, which I opted out in my previous mail, because it wasn't utilized in computer gaming so far (at least for grander scale). It's the universe of Babylon 5 sci-fi TV series, that was aired 1994 - 1998. Its creator, Michael J. Straczynski was able to write a truly fantastic setting, where the main centre of the story is Babylon 5, a space station that was constructed as a hub for humans and all alien races in the galaxy, and was often referred to as 'the last, best hope for peace'. For me personally, it's the best sci-fi series ever created.

I'd love to play an open world game, in the vein of Cyberpunk 2077, that takes place entirely on B5 station, heavy with spyware, diplomacy, secret wars with psi-corp. This would be a dream come true to me. I would also love to learn the events behind the first contact between Humans and Minbari, that lead to the catastrophic Earth-Minbari War, told from a different perspective. Or even learn more about the first ever human contact with an alien race, that were Centauri representatives. There are a lot of angles to go for.

Of course, I'd play this game to death even if B5 was not the centre of the story, but it takes place in other planets, like Centauri, Minbari or Narn. Each of those races has a rich history, full of strife, treason, epic scale events and iconic characters.

Hell, I could even play a crpg game that recreates the events from Babylon 5 series from a different perspective, after all this space station is home to 250,000 inhabitants, so there are plenty of characters to choose from.
 

Cahir

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@Cahir I need to watch that show again. It was a favorite of mine during the '90's. The Centauri, the Narn, and the Minbari are truly fascinating sci-fi cultures, the characters are memorable, and the world-building is top notch. Walter Koenig as a corrupt psi-cop for the win. :)
Alfred Bester (I didn't know back then, he was named after Nebula award winning sci-fi writer) is one of the best written and terrifying antagonist I have ever seen on screen. The whole psi-corp organization, even if conceptually isn't unique, was really well thought and brilliantly designed. The whole telepatic power level (psi-level) was a very rpg touch, that I absolutely loved. If B5 game would ever becomes a reality, I want it to give me a way to play a telepath. And yes, Walter Koening deserves all the praise for this stunning performance.
 

OrlonKronsteen

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In D&D I'm partial to Ravenloft as I'm a big horror fan. Unfortunately, I was only able to dip my toes into it very briefly. But if I were to play PnP again, it would have to be that.

In games I've played, I have to say I was really impressed by the worlds in the KOTOR games. Beautiful to immerse yourself in, and they felt organic and real. I also loved Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri/Alien Crossfire. That planet had real atmosphere, aided by a visually great interface.

In movies, and overall, I'll vote for the world of Blade Runner (cheerful, I know). Just so atmospheric and beautifully constructed. And, since I'm not a fan of the sun anymore, I could actually live there now, lol.
 

m7600

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One thing that I would really like is an RPG with a predominantly aquatic setting. Like a planet that's 90% water or something like that. There was never any D&D setting like that, as far as I know, even though there are several water-based adventures, and there is a water planet in the cosmology of the Forgotten Realms (called Karpri).

I really like aquatic worlds. For example, I've seen the movie Waterworld many, many times, and I never get tired of it. It was a disaster at the box office, film critics hated it, and it almost destroyed Kevin Costner's career. But for some reason I really like it, lol.

EDIT: And, growing up, I absolutely loved The Pirates of Dark Water cartoon. But that show did so bad that they didn't even finish the second season!

You could say that aquatic worlds tend to do really bad as far as economics go. But I absolutely love them.
 

JustKneller

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One thing that I would really like is an RPG with a predominantly aquatic setting...

I didn't even think of that, despite playing a great tabletop campaign in an archipelago work using the original Iron Kingdoms as a base. I also remember Waterworld (the kid in the movie was the kid from Alien and Deb from Napleon Dynamite) and Dark Water (they had some serious VO talent on that one). As for the game, it actually worked really well, economics and all. Different islands had different currencies and trade goods, so negotiation came in really handy. We had our own boat and it was like a road movie in an RPG. Good times. :)
 

m7600

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As for the game, it actually worked really well, economics and all.
Oh yeah, in-game economies in these worlds can be just as good as in any other setting. What I meant is that they tend to do really bad economically in the real world, lol. Waterworld and The Pirates of Dark Water were both economic disasters.

Traditionally, you can make an aquatic setting work as long as you turn it into a swashbuckling, pirate or naval adventure. Those genres have their respective crowds. Anything that strays a bit from those formulas is risky. Though there are exceptions, like Subnautica, which I've been meaning to start playing for some time now. I think I'll get it next month and give it a try : )
 

JustKneller

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Oh yeah, in-game economies in these worlds can be just as good as in any other setting. What I meant is that they tend to do really bad economically in the real world, lol. Waterworld and The Pirates of Dark Water were both economic disasters.

Traditionally, you can make an aquatic setting work as long as you turn it into a swashbuckling, pirate or naval adventure. Those genres have their respective crowds. Anything that strays a bit from those formulas is risky. Though there are exceptions, like Subnautica, which I've been meaning to start playing for some time now. I think I'll get it next month and give it a try : )

I'd recommend talking a look at Sunless Sea. It's kind of a grim, steampunk, gothic aquatic exploration game. Not for the faint of heart, though. :)
 

Nimran

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A lot of my favorite worlds are ones that I’ve made up in my head.

As far as the worlds of others go, Storm Thief by Christopher Wooding was honestly my favorite book growing up. He also wrote the Broken Sky series of children’s fantasy books, which helped give me the taste for fantasy that I do now.
 

WarChiefZeke

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My favorite setting that has never been used is the entire underwater world of DnD. I want a purely aquatic adventure at this point. That ends in the Elemental Plane of Water or in the floating ocean section of the Astral plane. There are entire factions, species, worlds-within-worlds that have never gotten to be explored in any context because while the writing and lore are there for many underwater creatures, adventures featuring them prominently do not.
 

m7600

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Yep, I hear you. An underwater setting would be a dream come true for me. I even started to homebrew one for 5e, but it's really difficult to pull off. The biggest hurdle IMO is the Atlantis is Boring trope. Solving that problem is not as easy as it may seem. The setting itself might be cool, but then you have to write up an interesting adventure for your players, with plot hooks that make sense and that will keep them engaged, and for me that's incredibly difficult to do with an underwater setting, at least beyond the first two or three sessions, after the novelty of the setting has worn off.
 
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