What settings are the Tekumels and Gloranthas of today?

edited November 2010 in Story Games
Fantastical & exotical yet antropologically correct.

Settings that, despite the "fantastic" elements, are capable to resonate strongly with our own human nature and world. Llike a big mirror reflecting us in our various facets (mythic thinking and culture in case of Glorantha; linguistic and social evolution in case of Tekumel).

Where are they?

Comments

  • I already mentioned Reign in the RPGnet thread, but people seemed to ignore my answer. I'd also consider Houses of the Blooded part of the clique, although in a specific way.

    The other side of the coin is that there aren't any, because we already have them. How many Tekumels can such a hobby hold? They're already here, why make another?
  • I've always viewed Near from Shadow of Yesterday as a sort of Glorantha in the making. Perhaps Glorantha seemed like that when it was just a couple of years old.
  • edited November 2010
    Some bloke called Tolkein did something a bit like that, IIRC. I think he called it Middle-Earth or something similar. You don't hear much about it nowadays though.
  • Posted By: Dave HallettSome bloke called Tolkein did something a bit like that, IIRC. I think he called it Middle-Earth or something similar. You don't hear much about it nowadays though.
    You're thinking of Discworld. Common mistake.
  • Posted By: vini_lessaFantastical & exotical yet antropologically correct.
    In the RPG world, Legend of the Five Rings has been doing this for some 15 years or so, in CCGs and TRPGs.

    Also, I'd put that a lot of the interest in the reading cover-to-cover of old oWoD setting books for the various games come from this interest as well. Focused more on personalities than "cultures", sort of a micro instead of a macro glance, but I think it's the same sort of thing, just with less mythical weird beasts, Except for all the PCs and everyone they personally know.

    -Andy
  • Exalted certainly tried and is perhaps the most evocative for the current generation of roleplayers. How many "Exalted hacks" are out there?
  • Tolkein and M.A.R. Barker worked off of imaginary languages.

    Perhaps the next interesting fictional world could riff off of some linguistic inventiveness out there.

    (Instead of "It's Orcs ... but film noir Orcs!")
  • Posted By: epweissengruberPerhaps the next interesting fictional world could riff off of some linguistic inventiveness out there.
    There's a lot of language work in Joshua A.C. Newman's Shock: Human Contact.
  • Posted By: Troy_CostisickDoesPtoluscount?
    It's got to count; the thing is way too big not to count.

    Did you see the announcement about the expansion book, 'Guide to Praemal'? It'll be a hardcover so it can be used as a game table.
  • Ry: You made that up, but it's hilarious. ;)
  • I guess my question would be did anyone ever use those settings to much effect?

    Did you manage to get those elements that "resonate with human nature" to come about during play very much. Did it work more than it would have in a generic world?

    I think the problem I've found with these huge settings is that you need to get those things across and it can easily get lost in all the detail of a diverse setting. Most of my play would have involved people looking at the books and deciding to create characters from anywhere across the world that caught their interest. Made it hard to focus on a situation that equally impacted them all.
  • Posted By: Robert BohlPosted By: epweissengruberPerhaps the next interesting fictional world could riff off of some linguistic inventiveness out there.

    There's a lot of language work in Joshua A.C. Newman'sShock: Human Contact.

    Yes, that was in the back of my head when I made my post. But I couldn't think of a recent fantasy example, except for the Zu language in TSoY.
  • Posted By: Vernon RI guess my question would be did anyone ever use those settings to much effect?

    Did you manage to get those elements that "resonate with human nature" to come about during play very much. Did it work more than it would have in a generic world?
    I think the main advantage of a big setting is the variety of situations that you can put a single set of characters in. In other words, the fact that it's the same setting is important. The answer to your question is "yes, absolutely they were routinely used to enormous effect and benefit of some really great games.".
  • I think it's a shame no one is mentioning the stock D&D settings. They're developed as much as Tekumel or Glorantha -- if not more so -- and are in great use by players. I'm talking about Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and Eberron, but Dark Sun, Planescape, Ravenloft, and Birthright deserve a mention.
  • Dang right Planescape deserves a mention. I used to spend hours reading rumors and new cant on Mimir.net
  • Maybe that's all fair. I guess my problem was with all the implied situations it was hard to get a group focused on specifics. I guess it didnt help that the typical way to make characters for our groups was let everyone look at all the books and pick out any old mix of race and class and homeland that interested them. The D&D settings were particularly bad for this, except maybe Dark Sun cause hey slavery levels the playing field pretty quickly.
  • Posted By: Adam DrayI'm talking about Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and Eberron, but Dark Sun, Planescape, Ravenloft, and Birthright deserve a mention.
    When I heard "of today", my thought was "still in print/still being worked on/etc".

    That's why I didn't mention BLUE PLANET, which while not as known as others, definitely has all those things.

    -Andy
  • Posted By: Vernon RI guess it didnt help that the typical way to make characters for our groups was let everyone look at all the books and pick out any old mix of race and class and homeland that interested them. The D&D settings were particularly bad for this, except maybe Dark Sun cause hey slavery levels the playing field pretty quickly.
    Sure...the benefit in play was that your group of wandering rockstars, I mean adventurers, could get themselves into all sorts of wildly diverse situations over an extended period. Often times big thick setting books had no help whatsoever on how to start using them, sometimes quite literally, as I discovered when I reviewed Kingdoms of Kalamar for that one thread back in the day. This is actually true of Glorantha and Tekumel as well, as I recall, or maybe my teenaged brain was just too thick and broiling with hormones to grasp what I was supposed to do with it.
  • Good point, Andy. But Forgotten Realms, Eberron, and Dark Sun are still being worked on!
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  • As much as I hate goddamn Exalted … Exalted.

    *goes to check the Exalted forums … again … because it's like a disease*
  • I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Harn. I'm not all that familiar with it myself, but it seems to attract a depth of study and gloss that I associate with Tekumel and Glorantha.
  • Well, Harn is only marginally less old than Tekumel and Glorantha, I guess the question was about "newish settings"
  • Harn, Glorantha and Tekumel are the "Holy trilogy" of rpg settings, because they were created for games (or at least are not derived from movies or famous books). And they avoided the pitfalls of crass commercialism that marred Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms and others. They stayed under the control of their creator.

    I don't think that, after the '80s, there were the conditions for other setting like these. The market wanted "stories", megaplots, and the settings were created with that in mind: often with no single creator, often totally obscure to the players.
  • I think creating settings is more fun than reading settings. As Rob says, Shock:Human Contact (over herebtw) has some basic setting stuff, some aesthetic principles, and then tools to create your setting in play.

    The principle in Human Contact is that the given pieces of setting are pregnant situation; they're things that, once you engage with them, will change (or will change other things). The setting you make is in response to that.

    If I were to publish a huge setting book, it would become increasingly obsolete as your game progressed. That is, the larger a setting, the less each word matters, not only because you read less of it, but because as soon as you engage with it, it changes the circumstances and the book can't keep up.

    If I ever get around to engaging with it seriously, this is the heart of what Xenon: will do. Only in future versions of the game, it will be fun, instead of what it is now.

  • Posted By: epweissengruberPerhaps the next interesting fictional world could riff off of some linguistic inventiveness out there.
    I used Maori language and culture as a basis for my mini-game Giant Slayer. I'm thinking about remaking it in a much larger, more complete form at the moment if I ever get the funding.

    -Ash
  • I just read Paul Elliott's ZENOBIA. It is, in a word, genius.

    At first glance, it looks like a sprawling, old-school "D&D done right", set in the ancient world. But it's so much more than that. It's filled to the brim with clever mechanics, evocative writing, and practical tools for play.

    I know I'm a little late to the party. But I'm blown away. Definitely worth checking out if you haven't already.
  • Posted By: Moreno R.Harn, Glorantha and Tekumel are the "Holy trilogy"
    Ahem. That would be "Jorune, Harn, Glorantha and Tekumel are the holy, er, tetralogy...?" Though to my mind Harn is rather more historical and less original than the other three, but that might be just because I don't know a great deal about it.

    The rest of your post I entirely agree with!
  • Posted By: Dave HallettPosted By: Moreno R.Harn, Glorantha and Tekumel are the "Holy trilogy"
    Ahem. That would be "Jorune, Harn, Glorantha and Tekumel are the holy, er,tetralogy...?" Though to my mind Harn is rather more historical and less original than the other three, but that might be just because I don't know a great deal about it.

    The rest of your post I entirely agree with!

    Jorune has never been detailed to the same degree as Glorantha and Tekumel though. It's an example of an inventive setting, certainly, but not something that really meets the questions laid out in the first post here (in particular it's notable that Jorune is specifically intended as a "real world future" rather than an alternate world, and also that it relies on some very dodgy "science").
  • All kind of true, but the OP didn't say anything about "insanely detailed". I think Jorune is more than capable of acting as a mirror for the modern day - there are plenty of big issues you could address with it. It's certainly detailed *enough* in my book.

    The "real world future" doesn't matter at all - you could throw it out and lose nothing whatever (and indeed the same is true of Tekumel, supposedly settled by humans 60,000 years into the future). The dodgy science is hardly essential either - choose your preferred form of handwavium. No big deal.
  • John, that looks really cool.

    Can you point me to your personal boat-floaters in it? I'm just enthralled by the setting.

  • Oh man. The experience system in Zenobia is amazing. (p.72, 73)

    After an adventure, you get an Experience Point. But do you get to spend it, just like that? Oh no. It's much cooler than that.

    Did you notice how Paul goes into a huge amount of detail about all the cults, their practices, tests for initiation, all that? Aside from cool setting material, it plays directly into the experience system. Because, when you want to spend your XP and level up, get this: you have to commission an engraved stele to be placed in the shrine of your cult's temple. You pay an initiated priest 1000 denarii for this service.

    So, just with that one mechanic, Paul links together four game elements: 1) The rich details of the religious cults, 2) The money you collect from adventuring, 3) An interesting path for character growth (initiate to priesthood), and 4) A concrete fictional component to the level-up mechanic.

    So cool!
  • Posted By: J. WaltonExalted certainly tried and is perhaps the most evocative for the current generation of roleplayers. How many "Exalted hacks" are out there?
    See to me Exalted is the other thing.

    Like, the OP said:
    Posted By: vini_lessaFantastical & exotical yet antropologically correct.
    Exalted isn't anthropologically correct. It's in fact often deliberately anti-anthropological. Its more gonzo anime-fantasy jumping off an airship and fighting with a flying roc knight while the soul of the unborn king of the dead green sun tries to seduce your soul mate from another life play.

    In some ways I think the Exalted's of the world are diametrically opposed to the Tekumels and Gloranthas. Cause much as those two settings are full of dumb in their own rights they have a fundamental approach that is structurally based on anthropological principals, while Exalted and its like have a structure that is fundamentally based on the principles of AWESOME.

    Ditto a lot of the D&D worlds. They're based on a lot of internal logic and fantasy trope, but much less of it is based out of anthropology geekery.

    With that in mind, I think some of Stolze's stuff for Reign touches on it. Its not as geekily freakily rigorous though. Like, you read enough Glorantha and Tekumel and you start wanting to laugh because you're like "Oh shit dude, I remember reading that essay on socio-religious interplay in linguistics in the Zagros during the Sassanid Empire you archaeological nerd!" because its so clearly formed out of the fevered imaginings of someone who has spent too much time reading text books. When you read Reign its more like "Hey, Greg is fucking clever, look at the fucking clever thing he did."

    Eero's version of Near feels like its going that direction, where Clinton's felt more sweaty and drug addled.

    There are a lot of folks doing really good work in historical gaming, or semi-historical gaming, like Paul or Mark Galeotti's Mythic Russia. (Perhaps not coincidence that Mark was involved in Glorantha's development.) But to me those feel different again, as they're mostly historical and less fantastical. Sort of like they go in the opposite direction from Exatled and go to historical detail rather than anthropological speculation or AWESOME.

    So... I dunno. I suspect that the kind of dedicated anthropological geekness that it takes to make and support a setting like those two is moderately rare in the modern gaming scene, and already so dominated by those two settings that it doesn't have a lot of leverage to get off the ground.
  • edited November 2010
    Posted By: Brand_Robins
    So... I dunno. I suspect that the kind of dedicated anthropological geekness that it takes to make and support a setting like those two is moderately rare in the modern gaming scene, and already so dominated by those two settings that it doesn't have a lot of leverage to get off the ground.
    Speaking for myself, that anthropological urge, once past a certain level of geekiness, transcends it to become actual knowledge; at which point the real world becomes more interesting than a fantasy approximation (no matter how detailed). Hence:

    There are a lot of folks doing really good work in historical gaming, or semi-historical gaming
  • J,

    I find myself in the same place. Recently I was thinking about doing a Lunar Empire game with a heavy emphasis on the cults and such and started thinking about the analogues that were used as a base for the setting and suddenly found myself uninterested in Glorantha and with a huge urge to play an ancient Khorasan game.

    Again.
  • I'd play that!
  • My chosen timeperiod for historical gaming is approximately 1890-1910, and now Google Books has justified that decision for all time by making it wonderfully easy and cheap to read up on the details.

    Anyway, slight derail, no wonder I never liked any of those trilogy (tetrology?) and preferred the Forgotten Realms. I don't have to be true to shit, there.
  • Posted By: Brand_RobinsSo... I dunno. I suspect that the kind of dedicated anthropological geekness that it takes to make and support a setting like those two is moderately rare in the modern gaming scene
    I'm gambling that, if it's stuff you create during play, stuff you need to make stuff happen, that won't be the case. We'll see. So far, I've had a surprisingly and satisfyingly large number of anthropologists and social scientists sign up to play at cons.
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