Whenever I discuss putting a setting in a game I always run into those who say that it restricts their freedom. Indeed, having a setting may be a narrower range of options than a blank page, but there's something that doesn't feel right about this argument. Let me start exploring what I want to discuss with an example:
Game 1: has a monster called Dwarven Warrior
Game 2: has 2 monsters, Dwarven Warrior and Dwarven Miner
Game 1 has less setting, but it suggests only one type of action, to fight. Meanwhile, game 2, with more setting, suggests some additional activities, such as freeing miners, or perhaps trade for metals. It seems to have more adventure possibilities.
There also seems to be a way to write games that limit adventure possibilities. White Wolf's World of Darkness and various games from Dream Pod 9 (Tribe 8 and Heavy Gear) seemed awful for this. For example:
Game 1: you worship the avatar of your god, who is the inspiration for your society and its ideological battle against the enemy
Game 2: you worship the avatar of your god, who awaits you on the other side of the enemy forces, so that together you may fight the final, war-ending battle
In this case game 2 is forcing the story in a particular direction more than in game 1, and doing so through providing more details.
I ask this because I am currently working on a game design for which I want to provide a lot of detail to the setting so that gamemasters can, in a moment of hurried need, open up the book and find something helpful. At the same time, I don't want to make the gamemaster feel forced into a corner, story-wise. So, now I pose a question to you, what is the difference between the two examples? Why do some setting details seem to open up possibilities, while others seem to close them?