Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Who Wants More ‘Settings with Strata’ - Historically Coherent Quick-Setting Tips?

Back in April, I published a blog post called “Settings with Strata: A Quick-Design Method for Historically Coherent Campaign Settings.” In it, I shared my method for quickly creating a sandbox setting where adventure locations are coherent and organically connected to the setting’s history.

Since April, “Settings with Strata” has been my second-most-read post on the blog. Ynas Midgard kindly included the post on an ‘excellence in the blogosphere’ list (thanks!), so I realize that for some readers this post was a gateway into the blog, which may account for a lot of the post’s traffic. That being said, since then I’ve also noticed what looks like a steady drip of readers coming back to that post. So - are folks finding “Settings with Strata” useful as more than a one-time read - and do you all want more of this approach? 

No worries if I’m just misinterpreting the page hits data, but if you would like to see further development along that post’s lines, please leave a comment to articulate that interest, and in particular please let me know in what ways the post has/hasn’t been helpful and how it could be more helpful. Looking at my post, I do see one thing off the bat that I could elaborate, though I’ll want input from all of you to see whether this would really be in demand. 

At it’s core, the method involved four steps:
1 “In just a few sentences, articulate a main concept for your setting.”
2 “Draw or sketch a rough map of a region that fits that concept.”
3 “Write a very brief summary of your setting’s history…write a 1-3 sentence description of 3 or 4 eras/periods leading up to the present.”
4 “For each of those 3-4 periods, moving in order from past to present, mark approximately 3-5 locations that were most important for the history of each period on your map.”

There was much more to say, but that’s the thing in a nutshell. The blog post focused on Step Four, which is where I had the most to contribute at that point. In subsequent conversations, I reflected that I find step 3 pretty easy since, as an academic historian, I carry a long inventory of historical situations and dynamics around in my head, giving me a menu to pick from pretty easily. This may not be the case for everyone, of course, and I’m thinking that perhaps this is where I could add some further support to the system. Clockwork Badger has already riffed off this with a short random table for describing new factions arriving on the scene, which is a cool way to move things forward. 

To go even further, I can envision laying down a number of ideas here…perhaps by articulating random tables tied to select, more in-depth descriptions of ways different actual societies might ‘rise’ and ‘decline’ or even ‘collapse’ (oversimplifying a bit, but hey this is shorthand AND fantasy) - and then offering ideas on how to weave those together, quickly, into a coherent narrative framework for one’s campaign. 

What do you think? Would this help? Kindly give me a sense of how this sounds - whether “meh” or “sure” or “YES, I would want that and use that!” Thanks. 


  1. I wasn't here back in April & technically not sure whats exactly going on but do know history is always important in RPGs & from what I've read here I think that more is better.

  2. I'd love to see more content regarding "settings with strata". It's a simple concept that's really proving itself useful for the creation of sandbox regions, but I think there are definitely a lot of directions you can take it.

  3. Thanks, all! Sounds like lots of interest - stay tuned!

  4. Yes, I would interested, especially in the rise, decline, and/or collapse of a civilization.

  5. Yes I personally would love to see more. Random tables would be a great addition as well.


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