Friday, June 17, 2011

Is there a market for campaign worlds?

I just wanted to throw the question out there. I could be wrong but my perception is that the one product that old-school gamers desire least of all is a campaign world. Does that seem accurate? How interested are you in published campaign worlds, and what would one need to be like to be of interest--in terms of presentation and originality? Do you prefer straight up typical fantasy or does a world need a "twist"? How far is too far when trying to be "original"? Just testing the waters.

19 comments:

Greg Christopher said...

I've noticed that generally the best way to introduce one is to design a game to work with the nuances of the world, then people buy into the setting to play the game.

Carter Soles said...

I would say that a "toolkit" or sourcebook can be useful, as in Realms of Crawling Chaos, but a full-blown campaign world? I question it, since so many old-school DMs are world builders already. And I suspect that a "twist" (like the HPL source material you used for ROCC) would be a huge boon.

JDJarvis said...

There's a whole lot of campaign worlds out there.
A lot of games aren't much more then a campaign setting with a whole bunch of house rules.
The answer is I dunno.

Steve Zieser said...

I think a campaign world has to be incredibly original to sell on it's own, but even then it's hard to say. Talislanta is one of the coolest campaign worlds ever, but the books have not been hot-bang best sellers in all their history.

Greyhawk gets lots of love, but I only really remember using the map, and not really looking at the booklets that much.

John said...

I personally would love to see more settings, whether they were part of or the whole campaign world. If I had the skill, I would create ruleset-neutral settings (or multiple-ruleset-specific) in a modular format so that users could mix and match as needed for their personal use and enjoyment. However, I'd probably not want to spend too much on splatwork.

Norman Harman said...

Carcosa, The Majestic Wilderlands, old JG wilderlands stuff, new 3.x wilderlands stuff, old Earthdawn stuff, Gloranthia. Are some of the campaign worlds I've bought or hunted ebay for recently (and enjoyed).

I might be an outlier, but I like settings (even if small like Vornheim) way more than rules. Esp settings that are different/innovative. Don't need another high-fantasy magic is technology cliche fest.

OTOH I almost never ever run a published setting. I much prefer my own (which are a mash ups of all the bits from published settings that take my fancy that week)

Joseph said...

Gods, I certainly hope so!

James said...

I like settings. But, I've never ran a published setting. The closest I've come is the Vault of Larin Karr, which is a mini-sandbox and I placed it in my own Milieu.

But, I still like and buy settings and plan on running Greyhawk.

One day.

I own several settings. Sine Nomine's Red Tide is on my to get list.

Carter Soles said...

To add to my previous comment, I would echo Norman's sentiment that I too buy and enjoy some settings (like The Majestic Wilderlands, Carcosa, Lesserton and Mor, and Vornheim if that counts) but I cherry pick them for cool stuff. So modularity would be another key feature I think.

5stonegames said...

I suspect most of us old schoolers have either a favorite published world or one of our own and because of that AFAICT settings don't sell.

If/when I finish mine I plan on giving it away and maybe selling examinations with a lot of crunch for just this reason.

I also agree with Carter here, toolkits help, worlds not so much.

Dan said...

I don't need a full world. I'd LOVE to see a product detailing an area like the Nentir Vale, though.

Robert Fisher said...

My biggest problem with most campaign world products is that they give too much detail about an overly large area and too little detail that’s on a useful scale.

I think it is nice to have a “no twists” setting available. Generally mostly standard with one twist is preferable. For me.

And, though it may go without saying around here, I think it’s best to keep it static. Publish the thing and leave it alone as much as possible. Leave it to each individual group to make it dynamic and living on their own.

I’m most likely to just read it as inspiration and plunder a few ideas from it rather than running it directly, so maybe a toolkit approach would be better.

ancientvaults said...

I have been asked to make a setting book for my blog but if I had a chance to flesh out a setting I would make a deadly-gonzo Planescape-esque setting that had devils and demons and that city where everyone plays nice? That wouldn't exist.

Flynn said...

I created a campaign world called Hammersong's Legacy, and I've yet to sell more than ten copies. My thought, then, is that there's not a market for fantasy campaign worlds. I cannot speak in regards to other genres.

But that's just my experience.

Hope This Helps,
Flynn

Norman Harman said...

To expand and reiterate what others have said.

Modern settings typically are way too long, have too many words, are filled with fiction, detail too many NPCs, way to interconnected and requiring reading and knowing the whole very long product to use any of it.

That sucks. As DM I don't have time to understand all that. I want to do the interconnecting 1) only way I'll remember it 2) I know best my game/style/group/history 3) it's the fun part.

To me (the best) settings are sandboxes filled with interesting locations and "plot hooks". And they are short!!! 32-64 pages of setting tops. JG products, setting portions of Majestic Wilderlands and Carcosa are like this.

For example I've pulled out settings elements (religion, paladins, myrmidons, magic houses from Wilderlands for use in a campaign. I'm not "running" Wilderlands but it has provided some of the best bang/buck of my OSR purchases

Modularity is key.

Alex Schroeder said...

I liked and bought the Points of Light books, Majestic Wilderlands, Carcosa, and a handful more, but all my mew campaigns have been run in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy. Thus, while I love the format of the Points of Light books, for example, I discovered that I won't be using these books in the upcoming years, wo there really is no point to spend a lot of money.

Travis said...

There may be a market for campaign worlds but it would have to be something very unusual and have some other appeal included as part of the product. Good art? Really good maps? Some other new/innovative design feature?

Even a tool kit would have to have something interesting/unusual/innovative about it. There are a number of "how to" world building guides available.

Rob Conley said...

Obviously my bet is on, yes there is a market for new setting. But... you need to go into this knowing that there are an order of magnitude more referees already wrote their own or chosen a setting.

So you need to keep in mind how referees can modularize your product. If have that as part of your product plan from the get go then you got a shot at making sales.

When I wrote the Majestic Wilderland I knew a Greyhawk style gazette would not fly. So I wrote two more sections of rules related material and even made them the dominant focus of the product.

Plus another trick I did is that the rule stuff provided details for the gazetteer. So the two sections reinforced each other.

I think the only way a setting product can compete in today's market is for it to be useful on several level. The old format of a travelogue with stats is not going to sell.

scadgrad said...

Yes there is, but I believe it is driven by either those customers seeking something incredibly different (Planescape, Carcosa, etc.) or those that are tied to a considerable library of material (Goodman Games' setting and Greyhawk).

My bet would be to produce a volume of quality modules, then having established those and earned a following, tro out the setting. Let's call it the GG Model.