Before we release any more Official Series Bible settings, I want to go back and revise and expand the core book. Once that’s done, we’ll revise and expand the settings we’ve already released, and make sure they’re in “compliance” with the core book. The line has been well reviewed and reasonably popular, but my inner persnickety creative type isn’t satisfied. It can be better. It can be a better all-around worldbuilding tool.
One of the first upgrades I want to add is a setting “stat block”. Something right at the beginning that, in simple terms, explains what the setting is. the question is, what belongs there?
Genre is a given. For mixed genres, I want to add percentiles to better indicate the mix. Saying it’s Hard SF/Cosmic Horror is useful to the consumer/reader, but I think saying its Hard SF 70% / Cosmic Horror 30% might be more useful. I’m open to suggestions.
In the core book I want to list some common genres, based on existing and forthcoming OSB releases, with the caveat that the list isn’t all-inclusive.
Time Period is both obvious and problematic. It’s obvious because it’s good shorthand for real-world settings and fills in a lot of gaps. It’s problematic because it can be inconsistently general (“the Old West”, “the Victorian Era”) or specific (“the 1920s”, “2001″). I’m not worried about that, because I think it’s okay to flex with the needs of the product. Where it becomes tricky is in describing fantasy worlds. We can call a sword-and-sandle setting “pseudo Bronze Age”, or a relatively standard high fantasy world “pseudo-Medieval”, with the assumption that unless differences are called out, assume time period defaults for cultural cues. It’s not entirely satisfying to me, though.
Tech Level is something that only struck me after I’d written a few of the Bibles, and needed to call out specific gear that exists within the setting. I know that there are games that have their own tech level ratings. Obviously, I don’t want to swipe those, but I want readers to be able to easily correlate them. In some ways, the time frame and genre already define a lot of it, but not always. The Intervention is modern-day superheroes, but it only has real-world modern day technology, not standard superhero-world technology. That can be called out in the longer setting description, but how do you quickly and easily convey that in a stat block?
Location could be useful, for someone shopping for something specific to wedge into an existing campaign world, but the existing “Scope” could be better. If this going to all take place in one small town, is it going to be a globe-trotting campaign like a James Bond movie, or will it span across planes and planets? Probably some combination of both.
What else? What would you like to see in a setting description that will tell you right up front what the setting is about, so that you know what you’re getting going into it?