Crossroads - Table of Contents
Friday Five: The Covers of Something Wicked

Friday Five: 10 Great Gaming Worlds

This week's Friday Five features, Den Patrick. If you follow his blog, you'll know that Den's a man who's worked a game or two in his day. No surprise that he's now off brewing up a fantasy world for the big guns at Gollancz.

We cover some of our favorite settings: console, tabletop, PC and (randomly) CCG... what are yours? Tell us about your game world of choice in the comments.


Den

When I’m not being Den Patrick I’m usually having fun being someone else, someone else that is somewhere else...

Iron-kingdoms-logo-whiteIron Kingdoms. Before the Warmachine and Hordes existed (both superb tabletop war games) the Iron Kingdoms were home to the Witchfire Trilogy, a campaign using the 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons rules set. I was completely hooked and ran a heavily modified version of the campaign. Two of my players are none other that the very creators of this fine blog. Iron Kingdoms isn’t steampunk in the classic sense, it doesn’t hark back to a fictional Victorian age where the Empire is held aloft by coal and binary code. Instead IK is a ‘full metal fantasy’ where steam-powered technology stands shoulder-to-shoulder with magic, good sharp steel, and ranged black-powder weapons.

Greyhawk. I was fairly late to the D&D party (pun intended) and it wasn’t until the 3rd edition that I was invited to play by some friends in Southampton. Naturally, I played a likable (I think) cocksure and foolhardy rogue, who went on to become a Shadowdancer. Greyhawk is less classic High Fantasy than Forgotten Realms to my mind, but that makes me like it even more. We played a distinctly Norse themed campaign and I often find myself reminded of it when reading the work of Joe Abercrombie, particularly his Northmen like Black Dow, the Dogman and Logan Ninefingers.

Halo. The future’s bright, the future’s seen through the Heads Up Display of your Mjolnir Spartan armour. The future’s so bright in fact that a cabal of alien races are destroying entire planets, exterminating all humans in the name of Holy War. The Halo universe is a constant source of widescreen wonderment. Everything is beautifully designed, from the epic technology of the Forerunners to the vehicles used by the United Nations Space Command. The Anniversary Edition of Halo: Combat Evolved was pure joy, but Halo Reach rewards time and time again with its gorgeous environments, from frigid tundra to dogfights in space.

ChaosWarhammer 40,000. Looking back it’s easy to see some of the DNA that Games Workshop wove into their phenomenal futuristic tabletop war game: Heinlein’s power armour, internecine disputes straight out of Dune and baroque weirdness in spades. And let’s not forget the fantasy races made popular by Mr J.R.R. Tolkien. 40K combined a gothic future with an eternal Ragnarok that encompassed countless star systems. That Black Library have capitalized on the rich background of this setting is no surprise and is well served by their superb stable of writers. I still keep my Space Marines despite the fact I haven’t played in years.

Fable 2. Albion is the setting for Fable 2 on the Xbox 360, and what a setting. Frankly, I never wanted to leave the gypsy camp near Bower Lake, but a hero needs to travel. Albion is an Enlightened fantasy world, so expect pistols and fencing swords. And expect my character to dress up as a highwayman, because, you know, highwaymen are badass. Fable 2 is also fun because the actions you take shape the land itself. I’ve only played it once, but would love to start over, making different choices and seeing different outcomes.

Jared

I have to admit, we may need a follow-up column: worlds that should have games in them...

Dragonlance. Although I started with the 'Red Box', the Dragonlance world is the one stuck in my head whenever I think of my formative years as a dice-rolling nerd. It certainly jumped the shark a few (dozen) times, but this was a lavish, gutsy world with a very different twist on the high fantasy standards. A fantasy world where Good didn't always win... (and Elves were jerks and Dwarves were blessedly largely absent). If it weren't for the Kender, it would've been perfect.

Lego anything. I don't even play console games (at least, not very much), but there's something wonderful about how Lego recreate the physics and the rules of gameplay. Death doesn't exist. Everything is meant to be destroyed. Every move is physical comedy, straight out of Chaplin (or Carrey). They replace Newtonian physics with a sort of consistently irrational logic. Of course the shovel would be used for that...

24002400 A.D. I had it for my Apple IIe. Stop laughing. First, it was a legitimately good setting - the first SF (as opposed to F) world that really pulled me in. Orwellian future with alien overlords, the Tzorgs, surveilling your every move. The last independent humans live in the sprawing sewers of a the planet-sized city of Metropolis, the rest all crawl along the surface as bureaucrats and slaves. Not bad, right? Second, this was the first non-linear game I ever played. So rather than being railroaded into a scavenger hunt, I had the freedom to explore. Mostly I exercised by freedom by trying to shoplift (a rebel's got to eat!) and being repeatedly pulverised by security cyborgs. WHATEVER. #occupyMetropolis

Heresy: Kingdom Come. About thirty people in the world ever played this (long-defunct) card game. Den and I are two of them. The other 28 might still be playing - the games went on for aaaaaaages. Despite the utterly borked gameplay, the Heresy setting (in which Heaven and Hell come crashing into a post-Singularity Earth, due to a glitch in the internet) is absolutely marvellous. This should've been an RPG or an HBO series - cards alone (even oversized ones) couldn't contain the ridiculous ambition of the Heresy universe. [Random plug: if you are ever interested, try the Heresy Google Group. Folks still buy and sell these things.]

Paranoia. Failure to include Paranoia would reveal me as a Commie mutant traitor. Please report to your Happiness Officer immediately. [Random plug: @Friend_Computer on Twitter.]

Honorable mentions: Fallen London, Spelljammer, Call of Cthulhu, Al Qadim, SimEarth [any world with flying omnivorous squid as the apex predator deserves a place on this list], Baron Munchausen. 

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