Okay! So for Over One Hundred Years on story-games I've said I was going to explain to everyone how to make a great campaign out of a really complex and detailed setting.
Setting books are often disparaged around these parts. "Who wants a list of imports and exports? What story significance could that have?" they sniff. Or "If the players want setting details so bad why don't they make it up themselves HUH, answer me that JDCorley, you cannot." Well sit right down little Billy because Uncle JDCorley is going to explain how those big giant campaign books are not only awesome...but good for story gaming too. So forget all about the supposed commercial motivation for the so-called "supplement treadmill", (which actually contains the refutation to the jargon inside the jargon itself), I don't know anything about business or commerce and have no clue about money and even if the game companies have some sinister or pathetic reason for coming out with super detailed setting books, it's not of any consequence to me as a story gamer, and when this thread is over, it won't be of any consequence to you either!
And guess what, we are going to actually design a campaign (or several dozen) together with a giant detailed setting and you will then see how right I am about everything!
This whole enterprise assumes there's a GM who is in charge of designing a campaign, though really the techniques can be used just as well by players of games where that responsibility is distributed.
Here is the main principle we will use:
It is impossible to put everything in a highly detailed setting into the game, and unadvisable to try.
If you think about the modern world as a setting for a game, the benefit of this approach becomes obvious. If we're playing a game of Texas-based Border Patrol officers fighting supernatural evil summoned by drug cartels, the travails of Czech single mothers may be really interesting, and even exist in the same reality, should the GM decide so, but the relevance to each other is minimal at best (but as you will see, sometimes it will benefit you to look further afield than you might immediately think!)
The "giant detailed seting" I will use for my example is, TA DA, the Kingdoms of Kalamar, the d20 version. This came out in 2001 as one of the first "big setting books" that came out in the d20 boom, and it shows a bit. I'm not picking one of my favorite big detailed settings, intentionally, because I don't want the reaction to be "oh, JDCorley, detailed settings supplements are still terrible, it's just that YOU'RE SO TALENTED AND GREAT and you love this game so much that you made it terrific". I don't really love KoK. I haven't even read it in over 5 years.
Kingdoms of Kalamar is a setting for D&D Third Edition, which is a pulp action fantasy game, in case you hadn't heard of it. Now, I may or may not end up using this system - that's a decision you make a little ways down the road. First, I sit down and read the book! I'll be back when I have something to say about that.