Sunday, October 27, 2019

Looking for Feedback: Anybody Made a Setting Using My 'Settings with Strata' Method?

Hi folks!

A while ago, I introduced my 'Settings with Strata' approach for quickly designing a campaign sandbox (or sandbox-able) setting with historical depth and coherence. Since then, I've returned periodically to a series on how to flesh out the more complex background concepts one might bring to that straightforward approach. I have a number of ideas about ways to flesh this series out even more, including possibly releasing an inexpensive published tool laying out the method and offering various supports to make it even more effective.

But first, I would really love to get some more specific feedback on others' experiences actually using my method. It works really well for me, but that's no guarantee of how it fares for other designers. And I've had lots of positive feedback about the series (thanks!) but it's one thing to file away a cool technique, another to put it into use! (no worries of course - we've all got cool blog tips coming out our ears).

So - if any of you has direct experience putting my method into practice - if you've actually tried making a setting within an afternoon using my approach - could you please offer some quick feedback in the comments? Any success stories? Anything that turned out to be more challenging or vague than you'd hoped? Were you comfortable supplying rich concepts to get the process rolling? (As a professional historian, it's pretty easy for me to find good historical concepts to inspire something in a setting, so this is one of the things I think about as I ponder tools to add to the series).

Thanks! And of course, if anyone's just bored right now, you could always grab an hour and just create a brand-new setting right now! :-) 


19 comments:

  1. I've never gotten the chance to go through the method fully, but I've got a very loosely Greek setting halfway done, if that counts?

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  2. Sure! Any feedback (positive or negative) you have to offer would be welcome. How did you find the parts of the method that you did use?

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    1. I thought the method was pretty thorough, and it did create the start of an interesting history. I generally liked it as is.
      one problem was not having anything but the examples on the page to base the locations/events on, so a table of examples could help.
      Also, I found that it didn't handle subtle events/changes that well (like having an assassination at an existing location, or a destruction of a location through erosion), same with very, very long periods of time that would have destroyed some locations. Having a system for developments in location would help with a complicated history, and the loss or destruction of a location could also have a method for it.

      It really is a good system, really glad that you made it.

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    2. Thanks very much - I'm glad to hear that overall it worked well, but I also appreciate the critiques you suggested, which I'll think about! I'd like to make sure I've properly understood those critiques and ask a couple of follow-up questions, please:
      + first, 'not having anything but the examples on the page' ... 'a table of examples could help' - I think you mean that it would help to have a more detailed guide suggesting possible kinds of places and kinds of events that might change the setting? That's definitely similar to some of the follow-up resources I'm pondering. By any chance, did you ever have a look at my blog post on collapsing societies? It has a die table suggesting different factors that might contribute to social collapse. Is that the sort of thing you're imagining when you call for examples?
      + second, you noted that 'it didn't handle subtle events/changes that well ... same with very, very long periods of time that would have destroyed some locations.' That's interesting; thanks. In my own settings I handle these just by making notes as relevant and then changing my own icon from (say) settlement to ruin as relevant. It works for me but clearly something about the way I suggested things didn't translate well, so I appreciate you pointing that out. I'm curious whether you think this is an issue where I just need to suggest the way I do it more clearly, or did you find something in the actual method to conflict with or prevent what you're imagining?

      Thanks for bearing with my questions, much appreciated!

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    3. First:
      Yes, actually, I've checked it out. Something like that, maybe with a few nested tables, would definitely be useful. It's not always easy to come up with relevant historical changes, so having some random tables to bounce off of would be useful.

      Second:
      The problem here is probably on me not getting it, so a good explanation of how you handle changes would be good. There wasn't a distinct step for 'updating' old locations, and it wasn't focused on, so I forgot about doing that. Seems to me that theres a missing opportunity there, because reusing some locations for later events could create cool situations, and would make locations more dynamic - maybe a city grows during an age, maybe it shrinks, etc.

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    4. Thank you again. Yes, re-using old locations and keeping them 'active' between periods is absolutely what I intended, where relevant, so I will need to work out a better way to streamline that clearly into the process. This is helpful feedback!

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  3. I took Beedo's Black City campaign and added another layer over the top to make an 1850s campaign. Probably not exactly what you mean. The city is also "live" so things will happen between expeditions, sometimes on a scale of days to weeks.
    Empire of the Petal Throne often has layers of history to pass through as you go deeper under cities. Phil was a historian by profession so it isn't surprising you see that happening.
    In years past I've done wargaming campaign histories in a very similar way.
    Playing a game of History of the World can give a feel for civilisations washing back and forth over an area of interest.

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    1. Yeah, giving at least some sense of the history can be really enriching (for GM as well as players). From your comment, I take it that you're talking about something you expanded not using my system, right? It sounds like a fun modification to a city setting.

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  4. I will try to rustle up a setting tomorrow to road-test your rules. I'm a fan of your blog and purchased Brazen Backgrounds, so its the least I can do!

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    1. Much appreciated on all fronts! I'll look forward to hearing how it goes, though don't hesitate to mention any problems or obstacles you encounter. Thanks!

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  5. Working on my own setting for my next semi-sandbox campaign. Like you mentioned in your post it's quite neat how much you find out about the setting while working on the setting itself.

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    1. Totally - I find that most fun, I think, and I enjoy being surprised by what comes out in that mid-stage creative process as I start slapping things down to flesh out the broad concepts. I'd love to hear how the process goes for you.

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    2. Good actually, have to refrain from prepping too much. I'm actually doing the same for the starting area of my players -- adding relatively recent history for a smaller area, yet based on the history of the bigger area. Seems like it works on all levels.

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    3. Sweet. Thanks for the input.
      These days I tend to design pretty tight campaign settings (often 100 mi across or much smaller) but yeah, I imagine you could even use a similar 'strata' method to design something like one valley, paying attention to the ways local land-owners' past modifications, hidden cult sites, secret treasure burials, etc. shaped the present landscape. Hmmmm.

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  6. Nothing specific as I am currently getting a new laptop so I can run GIS software to build maps then build up the history of a region from there.

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    1. Wow! Do you mind me asking whether you've worked with GIS before? If you're an old hand at GIS then you'll be able to school me and do amazing things - if you haven't used it much, you might think about which components you really need. A good GIS suite is a super-powered analytical tool using maps already created and layered. An Ivy League academic GIS professional once cautioned me (when I was looking into GIS for my dissertation research) that half the people he helps actually just need to make really cool maps, but they don't really need to invest time or money in the analytical capabilities of a full GIS suite.
      I apologize if it seems like I'm trying to tell you your business, not my intent - just thought that depending on your exact background and goals, you might be able to save a lot of $$$ and still do exactly what you want with slightly simpler software.
      On the other hand if you do certainly want GIS, I would love to hear more about what you have planned if you feel like sharing details. Good luck and happy world-building!

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    2. Sorry for not replying sooner; usually not active on blogspot.

      As someone who uses GIS in his research, I know what I am getting into ;). But yes, the field of GIS has become extremely cheaper and has a lower barrier of entry into the field with programs such QGIS becoming an actually legitimate form of doing work. Especially with rise of programming languages such as R and Python being able to run GIS analysis. Both of those languages are free to use, and any required submodules being free as well.

      And even ArcMap, the industry standard for GIS, only cost $100 per year for a personal license.

      So overall, it is not much of a problem for me especially with programs such as Azgaar's Fantasy Map Generator being free options for GIS compatible file types.

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    3. Yep, you're clearly well-prepared for what you're up to then! :-) If you feel like showing off what you end up creating, feel free to poke me - I'd love to have an admiring look at it. Happy gaming!

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