Stealing settings for fun (and possibly profit)

Rather than trying to invent some wholly original game setting (and then trying to explain it to the players), often it's easier and more immediately fun to take an existing adventurous setting and modify it to your needs.

Love Star Wars and Spaghetti Westerns? Do both at once! Just watched Jason and the Argonauts and Pirates of the Carribean? Merge them!

How do you do that? Break it down into essential parts of the setting you want to emulate, and think about how to translate those into your planned setting.

So - what are the essential parts of the setting? Let's look at a couple of examples.


Cowboys in Space
(or wherever)

- making a Wild West themed setting in any genre

You will need:
  • The Old World
    • The planet (or planets) from which our Colonial settlers' ancestors hailed - representing Europe (and Asia and Africa) in our real world history.
    • The Old World has its problems, which may still influence what happens in the New World, but usually only at arms' reach: a war in the Old World might send more emigrants to the New World
    • Example: Earth-that-Was in Firefly. We assume this was our Earth, and Firefly is set in our future. Earth-that-Was is gone, and has no further influence over the setting.
    • Example: Mundia in the Helios system is the Old World. It is home to the human race, and is thought to be the orignal planet on which humans evolved and developed all civilisation. Its continental superpowers fluctuate between cold and hot war.
  • The New World 
    • The region that has been settled by the colonials.
    • The New World is largely virgin and unspoiled; rich in resources, but hard and wild.
    • Including:
      • The Established Colonies
        • The early colonies which have had a hundred years or more to settle down and expand - the equivalent of the 13 colonies of the US.
        • Example: The Sapiens Cluster. The initial colonisation of the Cluster was acheived through the creation of an artificial wormhole, allowing vast insterstellar distances to be travelled in a single short hop. The Cluster's several adjacent star systems were swiftly colonised by sub-light expeditions, and are now teeming hubs of industry and commerce.
      • The Wild Frontier
        • The regions of expansion, where the established colonies are pushing into the hinterland - the Wild West of the mid-19th Century.
        • Example: Since the colonisation of the Cluster, the invention of the FTL jump drive has allowed for interstellar expansion beyond the Old Colonies. The dozens of new frontier systems see explorers pushing back the edges of the known systems, prospectors following mineral rushes seeking fast riches, terraformers trying to create new farm lands, emigrants looking for a new chance - and the inevitable opportunists who support and prey on those waves of migrants: gamblers, grocers, doxies, doctors, engineers, bandits and marshalls.

Optional content: 
Some of the elements that go to make up the Wild West genre may be contentious and delicate, touching on real-world issues that are distasteful and perhaps out of place in an adventurous game setting - treat these with care.
  • The Recent Civil War
    • The Established Colonies and certain of the New Frontier regions have engaged in a bloody and devastating war over slavery or some similarly divisive ethical issue. The slump experienced by the losing faction causes resentment and division for decades to come. 
  • Various Natives - oppressed, belligerent, friendly, etc
    • Attempts to civilise the natives
    • Annexation of native land and resources

Pirates of the Mediterranean
(other seas are available)

- a Greco-Roman themed take on swashbuckling piratical adventures

You will need:
  • Civilised trading nations
    • The sophisticated empire and other regions between which expensive and exclusive goods are traded - so that the pirates can steal them
    • These will be your stand-ins for England, Spain and the "exotic" regions they traded spice with.
    • Example: Greece and Carthage trade around the Mediterranean and beyond, clashing with each other, but more usually coexisting as rivals - up to a point.
  • Naval authority
    •  The civilised nations have their navies who protect their trade ships.
  • Unexplored regions full of native riches
    • Standing in for the Meso-American civilisaitons plundered by the European colonials
    • Example: The African and European hinterlands are largely unknown lands to the Mediterraneans - so we can have hot and cold lands to explore and exploit, and all the alien cultures to go with them. With our mythic theme in mind, we can add legendary monsters and dangerous wizards into the mix.
  • Lots of uncharted islands and coasts
    •  Standing in for the islands of the Carribean, the Mexican Gulf, etc.
    • Example: The Greek Islands themselves, as well as invented myriad islands for adventures among hidden coves, smugglers' stashes, pirate havens and isolated cultures. In this mythic setting, these islands can be plucked straight from the Odyssey, with cyclopes, harpies and all.

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