I try to do something unique with each of my settings. Of course, eventually it’s obvious that nothing you do is really unique, and it’s all been done.
But the operative word above is ‘try’.
The Old Crown started as a setting for 4e D&D, and it’s morphed through FATE and could probably be run in 5e, if I could be bothered to convert it.
I was originally just picking and choosing rules and bits and pieces I liked. It’s now been in the process of work for about ten years though, so there’s a lot to it, and it’s very much a labour of love.
The uniqueness of the setting is probably that it’s all in my head most of the time. There’s plenty of information that hasn’t made it to being written down (have I ever mentioned the Guardian of the Black Gates? Nope.).
It’s very much just unique to me.
Cambria started at a setting for D&D 3.5, and it’s gone through a few revisions. I’ve only really thought recently that it’s Dark Sun with a jungle instead of a desert.
I threw in some monsters from d20 Modern, build some ideas of ruined megacities in a jungle, and dumped psionics into the setting. Magic is illegal, please try not to do it, etc etc.
It’s not exactly a unique idea, but it was something I’d not considered before back when I came up with it – so almost fifteen years ago.
Ditto the above for Ostromarka. It’s a hybrid of 5e and OSR stuff, trying to be a few things at once.
It’s not that fleshed out yet, and it’s a bit of a Greyhawk shades-of-grey clone really.
But my take on it.
FATEPunk was originally
a ripoff heavily borrowed from of a friend’s cyberpunk game, but with a rules change and a few other slight alterations.
Changing location to cyberpunk Africa, and reading around Afrofuturism and Afropunk here and there, means its a bit more unique.
It’s still influenced by a lot of the same things. Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner, Akira, Black Lagoon and Cowboy Bebop are now joined by Black Panther and Martha Washington, music by Deltron 3030 and Brass Against, and books like Mothership.
After a lot of looking at the African Union, and speculating where that might go, I wanted to include Arab Futurism and Indian Futurism too, although they were a bit more difficult.
The Endless Sea is my pirate, swashbuckling D&D setting.
Again, probably not unique, but I started working on it before Saltmarsh came back so it’s at least a bit mine. There’s definitely some Planescape tones to it too, but maybe more of a lost and wandering adventure feel.
Any uniqueness comes from researching legendary sunken islands and lost civilisations, and throwing them in there. All of the locations – Riemerswaal, Ravenser Odd, Ys, Hybrasil – are stolen from myth and legend as sunken places.
After that, I wanted to move away from the base PHB races. I put Minotaur in from Unearthed Arcana because they fit the setting. I took out Elves because I didn;t really want them around.
The latest version in my head strips out a few more races, and throws Ratfolk and Hadozee into the mix. Ratfolk and Hadozee had always meant to show up, but I hadn’t quite worked out how to make them work yet. Now I’m just going to
steal borrow the rules from somewhere else.
Out West was an attempt to do Weird West with D&D.
Culling a few of the standard subraces, I wanted things to feel like they were warped by the Lich Wars in the background.
Wood Elves are gone, Shadar-Kai replace them. Hill Dwarves are gone, Duergar replace them. The Tiefling options use the full gamut of subraces from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes.
The effects of a long civil war should be felt in the setting, but not necessarily in the rules. I’m considering adding action points though, and probably something with cards.
And finally Ginnungagap, the sci-fi vikings setting.
Again, a slow burner. After I was building things for a year or so, someone else went and published their sci-fi rules, and it’s been happening since.
It would be a lot easier to steal stuff at this stage than to build from the ground up, and I’m fine with that. It means less playtesting and balance work for me.
Again, it’s a setting that builds the uniqueness, though sci-fi in a fantasy roleplaying game should do some of it.
I tried to research Norse myth as much as possible and build from there. I had to work out whether Yggdrasil would be a space elevator or something else – it’s something else, because how else would you reach the different Nine Realms without the World Tree?
I don’t know how unique any of these really are. But they’re unique to me and what I do and how I work, so that covers my prompt.