Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Setting Lite™

I got to travel a couple of weeks ago to the Mexican border at Laredo, TX.  From there, I took a road trip up to the Panhandle, and visited my folks who live in the general vicinity of Lubbock, and I got to hike a bit at Palo Duro Canyon, which was for many years a candidate as a national park (to be honest, I don't think it really has quite enough oomph in terms of dramatic scenery or anything else particular noteworthy to be a national park, although it makes a very fine state park.)  As part of that drive, we rode up north through the Texas Hill Country, parts of the rolling hills of the Permian Basin and Edwards Plateau, and of course up the Escarpment on to the Llano Estacado, or "Staked Plain" which is the southernmost extension of the so-called High Plains.  Although it was late spring, the Hill Country in particular had had plenty of rain, and while the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes were gone, there were still vast fields of later blooming wildflowers.  Droughts in prior years had killed many of the mesquite and juniper trees, but there were still plenty that were green as well.  The mixture of dead and live trees reminded me a lot of my trip to the Uinta Mountains last year, which had a similar mix, although of very different kinds of trees, and for very different reasons.

Anyway, as I was driving, my thoughts wandered to my setting development, as it often does.  Texas is home to me, even though I don't currently live there, and the history, character, scenery, and past conflicts are truly with me at an almost genetic level, so its no surprise that the DARK•HERITAGE setting, as it evolved, is heavily influenced by not only Texas specifically, but the whole concept of the Western genre overall; a kind of fantasy that instead of being loosely based on Medieval Europe, is loosely based on the Golden Age of Caribbean piracy and the Old West.  Although, to be fair, I kind of prefer the period prior to the Golden Age of the cowboy; more the first half of the 19th century rather than the second half, with trappers, explorers, mountain men and early Indian fighters being maybe the more iconic model than the traditional cowboy.  More Daniel Boone and Kit Carson than the Lone Ranger or the Wild Bunch.

It also occurred to me that given that my influences are fairly broad; maybe the whole idea of developing a "setting" with a map and all kinds of details—certainly a time-honored pastime for RPG players familiar with the works of Tolkien, Greenwood, and others—may be completely unnecessary.  In fact, maybe the use of real places, without the context that anchors them in the real world, isn't even such a bad idea.  What if I had the Hill Country in my setting?  What if it was the anchor of my setting, but I compressed some of the geography around it; a coast-line with piratey islands nearby, desert to the west, plains to the north, and craggy, dramatic mountains to the northwest?  Do I really need all of this other setting all over the place?  What do I really need to do with it?

Anyway, I haven't really quite figured out where to go with this thought... but I think it's an interesting concept.  I doubt I'll actually get rid of the work I've already done, but I might end up kinda sorta ignoring a lot of it.

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