Amateur Hour – Writing Campaign Settings For The Masses Or Just for Yourself?

Every time I write new work for whichever campaign setting I happen to be working on at the time I get that thought in my head that basically works out as why am I doing this? I know why I’m doing it as it’s something I love to do and even if the only person that was to ever read the work was myself then I couldn’t care less.

Photo by Timothy K. Hamilton

But it does make me wonder. Just how many people out there actually trawl through the internet looking for a pre-made setting for their games? Does anyone actually do that? I can only comment for myself because as you obviously realise I will write my own setting even before heading to the shops and buying one so surfing the internet for one really doesn’t appeal either.

Do you any of you, my good readers, actually use anyone else’s settings that they come across or do you just read it and maybe crack a smile if you find something you can use in your own game and leave it at that?

Curious minds would like to know.

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  1. geekgazette says:

    I spend a lot of time reading comic book and gaming sites, so I naturally come across adventures on the net. I generally write my own, but I am not above using ideas I find on the internet. I don’t search them out, but if I happen upon something done in a way I hadn’t thought of I’ll “borrow” it for my games.

    geekgazettes last blog post..New RPG "The World of Chronos Guidebook"

  2. Chgowiz says:

    I just spoke about this on my blog entry about my Vale Campaign today. All it took was two paragraphs and I had a springboard to creating a long-imagined campaign setting.

    It’s rare that I’ll lift something out word for word and use it. Sometimes I will find a trap, a room, an NPC or even just an idea or spark.

    Grognardia’s post today is case in point about a spark. He reviewed a book in which a thief had abilities that were almost magical. Suddenly, a whole new concept of why a “thief” is really a thief and not just a slick fighter, and why those dice rolls matter.

    I’ll use some modules, but I most often change monsters or treasure or do something to fit my world and my style.

    Chgowizs last blog post..We play old school – Wife’s solo game becomes a campaign

  3. PrecociousApprentice says:

    I generally don’t use settings that aren’t my own. That being said, I end up using a fair amount of adventures from the internet. I always modify them, and make them my own, but I use other people’s plots/maps/enounters/NPCs a lot. I just throw them into my world as best as possible, and since I subscribe to the minimalist camp for setting design, I can stick anything into my games. It usually requires a little massaging to get the tone right, but it always fits.

  4. Bob says:

    This is what I figure most most GM’s end up doing. I’ve just yet to hear of someone taking setting wholesale from the net and using it.

  5. Bob says:

    Give me fluff and I’ll find a way to use it but barebones stats for NPC’s and monsters just turn me off using an idea. I think with the fluff I find it easier to mould that hint of an idea into something I can use.

  6. Bob says:

    I usually stick to the minimalistic approach for my actual games but I like to have lots of background to give the game flavour for those that haven’t been in it for very long.

  7. Swordgleam says:

    I enjoy making my own stuff too much to ever use someone else’s. Even my 4e game is set in a post-apocalyptic low-magic world that’s completely different from the assumed 4e setting. I’ll look at ideas and get inspiration, but I rarely lift something even partially, and never verbatim.

    I wouldn’t make a campaign world just for myself, but I do sometimes make elements of worlds as they occur to me, and hope to use them later. I make campaign worlds for my, well, campaigns.

  8. Josh says:

    I enjoy creating my own campaign settings… and they usually take the form of mental notes and scribbles in a notebook more than anything anyone else could take advantage of. The development of my Shadow’s Apex campaign is the first time I’ve ever shared much of a campaign setting with anyone outside my play group.

    I never use the settings of other DMs, but homebrew settings are often ripe with inspiration so I enjoy reading them even if I would never use more than a cherry picked idea or two.

    Joshs last blog post..Shadow’s Apex Part 19: Regional Map (Just the Landforms)

  9. Wyatt says:

    I’m a weird one in that I have two settings, one which I write on my blog mostly because I WANT to play in it (but haven’t gotten to complete a serious game in it) and another that is highly successful with numerous campaigns under its belt but that I don’t share with anyone (until now, where I wrote an adventure using it).

    Wyatts last blog post..The Primus Libris: Chapter 1

  10. Great post. I think a lot of people do read that type of information, but more often than not it’s kind of like an information buffet. They pick what they want and create their own thing. I know a friend of mine that has great ideas, but can’t ever think of names. So he just steals names of people and places. I personally sometimes lack ideas. So I’ll go out there and poach fresh ideas for campaigns and settings.

    Samuel Van Der Walls last blog post..Old School Gaming – Marvel Super Heroes RPG

  11. Bob says:

    So how far does your inspiration go? For instance is it the tiny things that bounce about in your head and set your mind of on a tangent or do those tiny ideas build up to something together?

    Always curious to know how others minds work

  12. Bob says:

    It’s something I very rarely read to be honest. Unless it strikes me straight from the off as a really well thought our world I generally wont touch it.

  13. Bob says:

    I dont think I could ever stick to just two settings in my head. I might only ever play one but I’ll always have 4 or 5 on the go in there.

  14. Bob says:

    Thanks :)

    I tend to ‘nick’ my ideas from books and movies rather than other GM’s systems. Maybe I should start doing that?

  15. Lunatyk says:

    I can’t say I ever written a campaign setting from point blank. Even with my ongoing campaigns, Exalted and Scion, there isn’t much in terms of setting that I write. I just make up the politics, interpret how the world works and customise canon information.

    Having said that, I don’t like using other people’s settings… I could get ideas from them or interpret them my way but never take them as they are… to me, playing is something personal and I would like a game to cater to the group as a whole, making a setting without a specific group in mind seems like it just won’t be that fun…

  16. HermitDave says:

    In the old days I was in love with Greyhawk and The Forgotten Realms. I love the amount of details available, especially the plethora of Ed Greenwood notes. I made a few attempts at original worlds but never got anywhere. At some point I realized I should be doing my own but really, never had the time or the gumption. But at some point, right around the time I wasn’t playing much, I realized I wanted to make a Sandbox (didn’t call it that then as it was before i heard it) world where I could constantly just write more and more and someday actually drop some characters into it. More failed attempts came and went but one idea kept on coming back, my concept of a FlatEarth fashioned out of a godly rug. Weffenruuga or “the woven rug” is what I chose to focus my 4E reading and creating on. Its taking its time but here’s to hoping it won’t fade away like the others.

    HermitDaves last blog post..fatigued disposables

  17. Bob says:

    I loved the detail in those settings as well. It seems as though folk thought there was no room left for a DM to create their own stuff in it though which is rubbish.

    Good luck with your writing :)

  18. Please put an attribution next to my photo, as required by my Creative Commons license.
    It should read “Photo by Timothy K. Hamilton”
    Thank you, and thanks for using my photo.

    Timothy K Hamiltons last blog post..Low Down Snake in the Grass

  19. Bob says:

    No problem. Its the one thing I keep forgetting to add. I used to have a plugin that did it all automatically but it fell by the wayside after my last site rebuild :S

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