Thursday, January 14, 2010

Setting vs System

And here's why I don't talk much about setting here - setting is peculiar to the game, while System can be abstracted and borrowed, amplified, tweaked, extended, and components used in a variety of ways with other games. I posted a huge setting exposition yesterday concerning Outremer, but no one commented, asked a question, or made a suggestion - and this is typical when I talk about a Setting.

Setting somehow "belongs" to the designer in a way that system doesn't - and this is true even for copyright purposes. You can legally take mechanics you didn't create, and, so long as you express them differently, use them as you like. If settings are too much alike, you can have real problems.

So the setting "belongs' to the designer, to be accepted or not as is. When I talk about settings, I'm flying blind. I'm not getting any echoes. I just have to go with my gut, which I've been doing all along. This blogging format does me no good. With System, I get return, feedback. It belongs to everyone, and everyone feels they can comment. That rocks! It's a totally different feel.

So there you go, Bill, Mr. Setting! Why I don't talk about settings.



  1. It's not really a question of ownership so much as it's about arts and crafts. Setting design is an art, and there's no real way to say "You're doing it wrong." System design is a craft, which can be perfected. To a degree, anyway.

  2. I would disagree Doug, setting is very much a craft much like writing is. It has its tools and it has its craft which can be perfected over time. Setting uses a space, though, different from system. Some folks are strong a system and others at setting. I have not seen folks truly strong in both. Not to say it cannot happen so much as I have not seen it.

    The problem you face Clash, is that you speak of setting the way a man might speak of a woman. To him, she may be beautiful because of her eyes and the way er hair falls but to another she may e a hag and harridan who rains sorrow on him noight and day. Setting is subjective, setting is the designer's opinion. System is his credit rating, his drivers license. System is filled with fact that can be proven, setting is filled with opinion that can only be critiqued,

  3. Hi Doug:

    I think Bill is right - this is a craft. I'll be posting later on about that. For some reason, I can post from work, but I can't comment. I made a long involved post in answer, and it got wiped. Aaaaargh!

    @ Bill:

    I agree. It's hard to see a setting through the author's eyes, but that's kind of our job, isn't it? :D

    @ 桃花源

    Thank you very much for the encouragement! It is appreciated! :D