I recently went to New York City for the first time. Wow. New York is one of those places that gives you no choice but to be inspired. It is the eternal muse, setting the imagination ablaze with imagery and verse. I was impressed. Today's post is about the value of a good setting for the purpose of teaching through Skill Centric Role Play.
A setting is in itself like a character. It is most arresting when it has a gripping story, a personality and at least a couple of personal "flaws". A setting in a tabletop RPG has two very important tasks when presented to the Participants; to engage and entice them. A good setting fires the imaginations of both the Participants outside of game and their characters in-game. Some of the most beloved novels and films have settings with names that provoke reflexive imagery; Hogwarts, Mordor, Cloud City. These settings are as unique as the characters that exist within them.
For the purpose of skill acquisition during skill centric play, an engaging setting further acts to build investment on behalf of the Participants. Their characters may develop friendships with NPC's or long standing rivalries. They may stand in defense of their home city against the onslaught of an undead army, or they may raise an army of their own to free the land from an oppressive sorcerer king. Developing a world that lives and breathes, teaches cause and effect through the in-game narrative. The setting responds to the in-character actions of the Participants which can later be reviewed during the Session Debrief at the games conclusion.
An engaging setting stays with the Participants after they leave the table as well. It gives them a place to look forward to visiting in their imaginations, even when their personal lives might be at a difficult point. A good tabletop RPG setting bestows a sense of agency that might not be readily found in our day to day lives. Its empowering to act and watch the world ripple.
New York is an amazing city, an amazing setting from which to draw inspiration. It pulses with its own life and echoes the dreams of countless characters. What is your setting? How does it inspire you?