What are your thoughts on system-less worldbuilding/setting books?

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I've been aware of that since before 2004.... I've got two adaptations, but that's utterly irrelevant to the books themselves, which predate the RPG by 30 years.
I know how old the TTA books are.👍🏽

I’ve never seen the RPG myself, though, and I’ve always been curious about if it merely translated the books into RPG form, or if the designers added additional elements.
 

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aramis erak

Legend
I know how old the TTA books are.👍🏽

I’ve never seen the RPG myself, though, and I’ve always been curious about if it merely translated the books into RPG form, or if the designers added additional elements.
the currently available one (for Savage Worlds) is focused upon the aftermath of the Proxima War arc. It adds a little outside that particular timeframe. It's not a substitute for the books themselves, either, and it uses the revised timeline from the Morrigan Press reprints (shove almost everything back a century).

The Morrigan Press one uses the same system as their edition of Talislanta, called the Omni System, and gives a bit more breadth. Sadly, I didn't get the dead tree... just the PDF.

And Morrigan got in some legal issues with their new art not being different enough... especially for Spacecraft 2100-2200. Artist complaints, or so they said.

If one is a neurotic completionist, the Morrigan Press version has about a dozen copies available through amazon.com... a couple below cover price!
 

dragoner

solisrpg.com
My stuff isn't exactly system-less, though while made for Cepheus Engine, it has been played with m-space, and mothership, that i know of.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
the currently available one (for Savage Worlds) is focused upon the aftermath of the Proxima War arc. It adds a little outside that particular timeframe. It's not a substitute for the books themselves, either, and it uses the revised timeline from the Morrigan Press reprints (shove almost everything back a century).

The Morrigan Press one uses the same system as their edition of Talislanta, called the Omni System, and gives a bit more breadth. Sadly, I didn't get the dead tree... just the PDF.

And Morrigan got in some legal issues with their new art not being different enough... especially for Spacecraft 2100-2200. Artist complaints, or so they said.

If one is a neurotic completionist, the Morrigan Press version has about a dozen copies available through amazon.com... a couple below cover price!
I THOUGHT there was an older RPG than the Savage Worlds one! It didn’t pop up in my cursory search. I might have to snag that. Thanks!
 


MGibster

Legend
These days, I expect the rules to be strongly tied to the setting. I don't enjoy using games like GURPS to build or adapt the rules to a particular setting, so a setting book is of limited value. I could probably make an exception for a ruleless setting that followed the conventions of a typical genre or game. I could easily use the rules for Deadlands for most westerns and just use D&D for any "not-D&D" fantasy setting.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
I own and use systemless setting books, most notably, the systemless Pirate's Guide to Freeport that came out in the 3E/4E transition era. For the most part, such books created for roleplaying purposes have clear analogues in the most typical rulebooks anyway (if there's an animated skeleton in the setting book, I'm pretty sure I know where to find it).

I often change ignore the stats in the rulebooks that have them anyway to scale up or scale down challenges as I see fit, so having the numbers be a loose guideline to begin with aren't an issue for me at all.

On a related note, for the Alien movie franchise, there are a lot of field guide and blueprint books that I think of as being ideal accompaniments to the Alien RPG, even if not everything in it shows up in the RPG with stats. Just knowing that there's a gun out there that's slightly different in X or Y ways, or the ship the PCs are on is this big and has those features is almost as good as having full stats to begin with. (In the Alien RPG, I'm not likely to have a lot of ship-to-ship combat to begin with.)
 

Voadam

Legend
I am a big fan of a number of systemless setting books.

The Pirate's Guide to Freeport is statless and was both fun to read, established a great setting for use in games, and super useful for me in running the Freeport Trilogy of adventures.

The World of Warhammer: The Offficial Illustrated Guide to the Fantasy World is fantastic. Short heavily illustrated chapters on each of the factions from the classic era with zero game rule stuff (minis game or TTRPG).

A lot of great gazetteer stuff is either systemless or has minimal stats like "F18" next to a leader's name.
 


MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I use The World of the Lost Lands by Frog God Games in my current campaign. The setting book itself is system neutral, but they sell crunch supplements with custom classes, etc., for a couple of systems, including 5e, Swords & Wizardry, and (I believe) Pathfinder 1e. They also have an excellent version of it on World Anvil. Having a setting book with a hyperlinked map linking to information on regions, settlements, etc. and the ability to turn on/off various layers, including a layer showing adventures and other regional setting books pinned to the related area of the map is wonderful. If I stop playing 5e, I can use the book and World Anvil realm with other fantasy TTRPGs.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I say again: none of these are worldbuilding books. They're pre-made setting books.

As such, they have little to offer on how to build your own other than their one finished example. You get to see the end result but you don't really get to see how it got there.

What I'd like to see are books that give tips and pointers and multiple system-agnostic examples on how to build your own world/setting from scratch to finished product. Are there any out there?
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
I have always liked the Citybook Series published by Flying Buffalo.
Different businesses you can drop into your own cities if you need something and fairly easy to modify.
Flying Buffalo is obviously very happy to be extremely low key at this point (I get the idea that it's a one man operation and said man is elderly at this point), but the Citybook Series is one that really cries out to be dusted off, given an updated art and design pass (and maybe a sensitivity read -- I don't recall anything, but it was very much a late 1970s/early 1980s series of books) and brought back into the mainstream conversation, especially with how much more popular urban adventuring is now.

This would be a great brand for Goodman Games to acquire, given that they've already done some stuff with Grimtooth's Traps.

EDIT: Holy crap, they updated their early 1990s website finally! Now it's an early 2000s website!

EDIT 2: OK, said elderly founder, Rick Loomis, died in 2019. That explains a lot.
 

Voadam

Legend
I say again: none of these are worldbuilding books. They're pre-made setting books.

As such, they have little to offer on how to build your own other than their one finished example. You get to see the end result but you don't really get to see how it got there.
Which is fine. The thread is about "system-less worldbuilding/setting books" so a number of people are talking about the system-less setting books that interest them. :)
What I'd like to see are books that give tips and pointers and multiple system-agnostic examples on how to build your own world/setting from scratch to finished product. Are there any out there?
There are a number of worldbuilding books out there that are systemless.

I believe Kobold, Expeditious Retreat Press, Troll Lords (Gygax's from the d20 era to the extent they were systemless) and others have put out a number, as well as there being some non-RPG books on advice for building fantasy worlds for novels and such. I think TSR had some advice type books about making D&D campaign worlds that might or might not have been rule set specific.

I have no real interest in them. :)

Things like The Art of Magic The Gathering Innistrad though looks like it would be a great art and lorebook for use as inspiration or a setting if you are running a D&D fantasy gothic horror game.

And even from the OP the Dinotopia stuff I remember seeing in passing and they could be great.
 
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Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
I say again: none of these are worldbuilding books. They're pre-made setting books.

As such, they have little to offer on how to build your own other than their one finished example. You get to see the end result but you don't really get to see how it got there.

What I'd like to see are books that give tips and pointers and multiple system-agnostic examples on how to build your own world/setting from scratch to finished product. Are there any out there?
These, and they are wonderful. I used the Western Europe book to build my campaign setting. You will know more than you probably ever wanted to about how your campaign world works (and how most campaign worlds don't) after using these books.
 

Voadam

Legend
These, and they are wonderful. I used the Western Europe book to build my campaign setting. You will know more than you probably ever wanted to about how your campaign world works (and how most campaign worlds don't) after using these books.
When I saw the concepts I thought they would be right up my alley. Factors and thinking about conditions that magic would affect in European fantasy medieval worlds, magical ecology, fantasy spice roads, etc. I found out they are really not.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
When I saw the concepts I thought they would be right up my alley. Factors and thinking about conditions that magic would affect in European fantasy medieval worlds, magical ecology, fantasy spice roads, etc. I found out they are really not.
It is very much like saying you'd like someone with a history degree to take a look at your campaign notes and finding yourself reading their PhD thesis instead. It's very hardcore. But for the folks who want that, there's nothing else like it out there, as far as I know.
 

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