11 August 2021: What I Want from a Wilderness Setting

Hold on your your wigs, folks. I’m about to go on another diatribe about tabletop roleplaying’s roots in wargaming. Here’s another post where I discuss how the emphasis on combat has imposed limitations on TTRPG as an art form. Why? Because here’s what I want from a wilderness setting.

For a start, I’m going to write this setting in the future. I have notes collected with the intention of making it a supplement for Hippogryph. It will also fit nicely with Pastel, when that’s ready to go (at this point, probably sometime next year).

What I Want from a Wilderness Setting

Exploration, investigation, diplomacy, and creation. I want a setting where characters can wander about discovering things without having to fight wild animals, other people, or monsters. Sue, maybe they track and hunt for food, but that’s a skill-based challenge rather than a combat scene. They should come across interesting things accidentally. There might be specific things they’re looking for, like resources, or a lost traveler, or the ruins of an ancient settlement.

When they do encounter people, they trade rather than fight. They can trade supplies, or information, or help each other through bad weather or difficult terrain. The worst that happens if an encounter goes bad is that the player characters don’t get something they want or need. The real struggle is to play well with others so they survive.

They will also need to make things. Build shelter. Cook meals from gathered herbs and vegetables. Create useful things from the materials at hand. Replace lost or damages equipment using salvaged items and creativity.

No Assumption of Combat

Because early tabletop roleplaying games were an outgrowth of wargames, there is an assumption that all TTRPG require combat for conflict. Not every story in fiction is about epic battles. A wilderness setting that puts the emphasis on exploration, investigation, diplomacy, and creation would be a ton of fun. There are plenty of opportunities for conflict and drama that don’t involved intentional acts of violence.