Ok so yeah I am teasing everyone by not just jumping in to World Building 109 and closing out the series. That is going to be a slightly longer than usual post and I am trying to build things up so I can cover everything I want with less than my usual grammar errors and not be quite as stream of thought as I usually am.
Now then the title of this article may be a little misleading to some. I am not talking about worlds here, but the settings we set up for individual game sessions. The tavern, the house on the hill, the local graveyard and so on are the topic of the day.
Depending on the person running the game your settings can be as simple as – You step out of the hallway and into a really big room with all sorts of wall hangings and a throne – all the way up to – As you are coming toward what looks like the end of the hall way you note the flickering of lights that you have come to associate with multiple torches. There is a scent of some kind of incense in the air that just barely covers the smell of worn and ill treated cloth. As you cautiously enter the room ahead of you, you can see the tapestries that cover the wall, once well made but now filled with mildew and rot surround a dais and throne. The flickering light you noted in the hall is coming from braziers on either side of the throne that give off an oddly colored smoke. Which may be the source of that incense you smell.
Now personally I enjoy adding as much description to things as possible, but I really dont see anything wrong with either of those descriptions. The first one is something I would use with a group that just wants to get in and hack and slash their way through the game. The second I would use for a group that wants to roleplay more and also for a group that wants to investigate everything.
I was going to put a link in for a manga-ish graphic novel series called King of RPGs but the Wiki sort of sucks and I cannot find one by the author himself that is not really a sales page. KOR is the only place I have seen setting up the setting go, in my opinion, too far. I mean when you need to set up a tent so you can add a dry ice smoke machine and have coolers set up with different sealed items to bring the correct scents to the game space and you brought your friends constrictor snake to put onto the game table with the minis so that you can have an accurate representation of the big bad monster snake… yeah… a bit far.
Also I have talked about music in games before, and I really feel like having a bit of well selected music can really enhance the game session. Adding music though you really have to consider the setting and the music you want to use. Its hard to mix things together unless you really know your group. Cranking up I am Iron Man with a fantasy setting may not be the best, unless you know the group loves rock, loves the song, or you just need something a little more intense for that Iron Golom that just crested over the trees. I can say that with all the streaming music apps though that you really want to have a plan going where you do not have commercial breaks as they can completely kill a mood.
Now then normally in an article like this I sit back and stress that every game, and every gamer is different. And that everyone needs to do what they enjoy or are comfortable with or whatever. Never feel pressured into doing something you dont want to do in a game. I would in this instance though like to suggest, that instead of thinking about yourself. You think about the group you are gaming with. Establishing a setting, be it the way a game master does it for the players, or the way the players establish their own presence in a setting, can have a serious impact on everyone who is playing. I know that many game tables have a mix of players at them, some wanting to roleplay until the world ends and some wanting just to get to the next combat. And that can be a hard mix to balance if you are trying to establish a setting. So make sure you have out of game conversations to really see what everyone wants. It may actually be possible to add a lot of detail in things like online blogs or classic blue booking to give the more detail oriented players what they need, and keep the time at the table fast and furious for the combat junkies. Then again other things may be needed.
What I am trying to get to here, really, is that the single most important setting in any game, ANY game, is the communication setting between whomever is running the game and the players. If that setting is get in, game get out, that is fine, just make sure that everyone has agreed to that setting. If the setting is tell a rich in depth story with every detail milked for the most dramatic and emotional response… again make sure everyone has agreed.
I am not going to drop a link in here but almost two years ago I did an article about sound tracks and theme music if you want to know my thoughts on that topic in more detail.
For the moment though I think I have the point across. Communicate. Build settings that you as a GROUP can get the most out of. And have fun damnit.
Ok now gimme the dice I need to see if I can pickpocket myself without me noticing…