Thursday, December 6, 2012 Setting Riffs Compendium

I wanted to make this a thread on RPGnet but for some reason they don't let you edit your posts after 24 hours. So here is a compilation of all the setting riffs recommended in this thread. This is in my opinion the cream of RPGnet's creative output. These threads are submitted by RPGnet posters and listed according to their length.

RPGnet Riffs Compendium

Original Riffs

The Long Stairs (143 pages)
(second thread)
In the 1960s, American scientists accidentally discover a portal to another dimension known as the Dungeon. It is an endless subterranean maze, filled with weird horrors and dangerous treasures. It is a dungeon crawl that makes Tomb of Horrors look like a walk to the shops. Naturally, we send soldiers down to colonise it. In the present day, numerous other nations have their own portals to the Dungeon and are fighting one another for control of it. A consistent theme throughout the riff is the danger of the Dungeon infecting and corrupting our world even as we try to invade the Dungeon.

The city built around the tarrasque (70 pages)
A fantasy setting featuring a city whose entire economy and culture is built off the imprisonment and torture of the legendary monster.

The Twin Cities of Glass (38 pages)
To quote from the opening post, "In this world, the inhabitants are obsessed with aesthetics and themes." A fantasy world in which two primary cities are build of a single material each, one of obsidian and one of quartz. Each city takes the visual elements of their material as the basis for their culture, either opaqueness or transparency. Cultures of the wider world are similarly driven by metaphors and thematic purity.

[Mythos Supers] Oh, what may be wrought with this hideous might (36 pages)
From the shining squeaky-clean paragons of the 70's with their costumes and catch-phrases to a lower profile super-humanity of the late oughties, living in a world which suddenly doesn't trust them anymore. Mix Cthulhu with spies with special ops with counter-culture revolutionaries with drug-culture with criminal enterprises with superhero mythology, blend, and serve.

Counting to Infinity (33 pages)
An enormous, mostly uninhabited starship named Counting to Infinity travels the trading lanes of interstellar space, manned by a tiny crew of outcasts and weirdos from the various planets that it stops in at. The universe is littered with the ruins of collapsed civilisations and failed singularities. Much of the technology used by the crew is no longer properly understood. The mechanics of the game revolve around the concept of Damage, whether to the ship or to the people aboard it.

Dreamers in the Dark (28 pages)
Inception-style dream divers exploring the collective unconscious, which resembles the Dreamlands of H. P. Lovecraft.

Subterranean Fantasy Fucking Vietnam (23 pages)

This isn't a dungeon crawl, it's a dungeon war.

The Secularist Wars (17 pages)
A sci-fi empire of humanity that is dominated by religion, but a religion that's progressive, tolerant and ecumenical. Judaism, Islam and Christianity have long since been absorbed under the one umbrella, although there is still the potential for doctrinal differences. The enemies of this benevolent society are the Secularists - nihilist renegades stretching the limits of transhumanism, attempting to bring down the religious order from the inside with terrorism and insurgency.

Superpowers as disease and deformity (16 pages)
We have seen the face of the superman, and it is scaled and elongated and has too many eyes. The fantasy of superpowers is real, but is a horror. With the power to do the impossible comes bodily distortion, mutation, corruption... no two freaks are alike, and even those who are in some way beautiful are still disturbing.

Retro Metal S&S Fantasy (12 pages)
A fantasy setting with an all-psychedelic rock soundtrack.

A World of Gothic Adventure! (10 pages)

What happens when Ravenloft finally admits that it's not actually 'Gothic' in any but the most superficial sense.

Kung-fu Transhumanism (9 pages)
People have tried to append Transhumanism to a lot of genres; this one is definitely the most original I've ever seen. What if the skills and knowledge to become a wuxia Kung-fu master could be attained simply and easily by everyone? This setting is the result.

Glyph Writing (9 pages)

In this world, magic is "cast" by carving, painting, engraving, or otherwise writing a glyph, or series of glyphs. These glyphs can be used by anyone with no special long as you can draw the correct symbol, you can create a magic effect. 

Left-Wing Military Sci-fi (9 pages)
The ever loveable Trotsky won out, and after the establishment of Socialism on earth, the supreme Soviet was faced with a decision of momentous importance: whether to stick with "Socialism on one planet", or to bring the Revolution to the stars. 
It was decided that the erroneous ways of the traitor Stalin could never be repeated, and the Red Fleet embarked from earth to found the Soviet Socialist Republics of Space.

And what they found only hardened their resolve. Decadent empires where bejewelled despots lorded over trillions of slaves; vile oligarchies where technology was ruthlessly harnessed to confirm their parochial superstitions of who was "inferior", plutocratic space-swine swindling entire civilisations. Comrades! The revolution is now! 

Webwork Hexcrawl (9 pages)
A hexcrawl created with only one rule: every element proposed must connect to at least one other element proposed before it. Eventually migrated to Enworld and grew into a very large and complex setting called the Shrouded Lands... perhaps too complex to actually use. But the development of it was a fun game in itself.

Standard Fantasy in 20th Century America (8 pages)
Screw the standard WoD "normals must never know of the supernatural". I want New York to have huge temples to strange gods and dirty fast food restaurants and floating crystals and undead crack fiends and vast pillars and arches depicting ancient New Yorkian Emperors and bloodstained subways filled with ghosts of homeless people from the previous Age. 

Legends of the Wulin: The bright clear neon light (7 pages)
Continues RPGnet's tradition of mashing up transhumanism and cyberpunk with wuxia, this time with a stronger mythological bent. Space is one of the final frontiers, but humans are also exploring the mystical realms of the asuras and rakshasas.

Before the Flood (7 pages)
The pre-Flood Earth as envisioned by Young Earth Creationists. Turns out to be a sword & sorcery setting with dinosaur riders and sky pirates, also for some reason everything is pink.

The Venus of Willendorf (supers/alt history) (7 pages)

In 1908 in Willendorf, Austria, an archaeologist by the name of Josef Szombathy uncovered a chamber in a cave while searching for neolithic artifacts. What he found was Venus. (Secret history revolving around a biological treasure.) 

Arthurian Magical Girls (7 pages) 
A mashup of Arthurian legend with magical girl anime. Many different approaches to the concept are proposed, drawing in elements of eldritch fae, time travel, Evangelion, Guyver, Macbeth and others.

 Dimensional shift for $9.99. (7 pages)
Assume humankind never makes it past rockets, but some genius makes a conceptual leap in Brane-space dynamics or whathaveyou and - hey! presto!, anyone with a soldering iron, net access and a couple of hundred bucks can rig up a dimensional shifter.

a military/espionage game without killing (6 pages)
So, take all the hoo-haa these guy's were supposed to have been able to do, and make it explicit and effective rather than dubious probably delusional BS - remote viewing, phasing, invisibility, laying on hands, sparkly-eyes technique. Lots of psychic jedi shit. Lots of psychological warfare, 'hearts and minds', and non-violent co-opting.

These guys really do have psychic powers, but it opens them up to all sorts of metaphysical maladies if they use them to do harm, or take life - even self defense would leave them spiritually dirtied and break their power until they could cleanse themselves mystically. If they use their powers to kill, it'll ruin them.

Naruto done 'right' (6 pages)
An attempt to create a politically and sociologically "realistic" version of Naruto, which leads to some interesting discussions about power in fantasy/superhero settings.

OldKentuckyShark's "Beltway Lords" (6 pages)
For those of you not of the Tangency-Persuasion, one of RPGnet's most gifted writers, one OldKentuckyShark has been entertaining us with his epic pulp political-parody fantasy saga, chronicling the Man Obama's ascent to the Oval Throne.

The original source material is ongoing, and can be found in the fun, funny, and fucking epic stories "Barack Obama VS the Pirates of Wichita," "Barack Obama and the Thunder Zepplin," "Obama at the Gates of Detroit," and "Obamadämmerung."

I was wondering, as was our good friend Vipergrrl, if this great setting could be used for gaming! Let's start off (of course) with the stories, and this New, Never-Before-Seen background information on the Fantastic America and its Beltway Lords...

Behind the Curtain (5 pages)

A fantasy world where the secret major powers are actually the CIA and the KGB, travelling through portals from our world into the fantasy realm to vie for dominance.

Kung Fu New York City (5 pages)
For lack of a better term that's what I'm trying to come up with right now, a setting for a Last Dragon-esque Wushu game I plan on running on the PbP boards here. Basically I'm envisioning a 70's/80's pseudo look at New York City as the center of the martial arts world, ruled by feuding gangs of spectacular kung fu wielding masters and of course their armies of pointy weapon wielding mooks.

My idea is that each of the Five Boroughs (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island) has a Shogun, an idea I got from a poster on this board who had a lovely but never saw what came of it "Grimey Shadows of Shaolin" idea dealing with this sort of subject.

Empire of the Wise (4 pages)
Magical talent is not hereditary, but utterly random; however, making use of that talent requires education from a master mage. The result is a world where noble mages and prospective apprentices/heirs play a game of politics, marriage and power, all in the halls of the wizarding academies. Exalted meets Harry Potter?

Horrible Light (4 pages)

Turns the most basic horror trope of "Light = good, Darkness = bad" on its head.

The World is Young (4 pages)
An antidote to "Ancient civilizations making things we can't hope to recreate"

World City Cartographers (4 pages)

The whole world is covered by a city, built by constructor golems whose masters have long since vanished. Humans and other races survive between the cracks of a city not built for them. 

21st Century Graverobber (4 pages) 

Throughout recorded history, a secret elite have been borrowing the personal mojo of the good and the great by having their bodies sectioned up and parcelled out as a series of charms, amulets and decorative keychains.

Refuge Sol (3 pages)
Aliens arrive, and they are refugees from an interstellar cataclysm. Think District 9, but instead of one refugee ship there are two... then three... then dozens...

The Tyranny of the Druids (3 pages)
A world ruled by mad druids imposing their stupid nature-protection rules over everyone. A few renegades use forbidden wizard and cleric magic to overthrow them.

Starcana (2 pages)

Epic space fantasy where each of the key players correspond to a different element of the Tarot deck. The heroes are the Knights, who have the choice between Pentacles, Staves, Cups or Swords. The Major Arcana are eldritch extradimensional entities against which the Arcana Knights struggle. 

Chac Mool Mythos (2 pages)

A "vastly more terrifying" take on the old belief-is-power trope.

Derivative Works

Princess: The Hopeful (link to 6th thread, which links in turn to other threads and wiki) (624 pages)
A New World of Darkness splat about magical girls and princesses who fight the darkness of the world with the power of hope.

Genius: The Transgression (292 pages) (link to 3rd thread)
A several-thread-long exploration of Mad Scientists as a World-of-Darkness splat.

Leviathan: the Tempest (165 pages)
A nWoD fan project based on being a Lovecraftian water monster.
It has a spot on the rpgnet wiki here.

Federal Space (44 pages)
An alternate Star Trek universe.

Hyboria+Mushroom Kingdom (26 pages)
Grim 'n gritty Super Mario Brothers, viewed through the sword-and-sorcery lens of a Conan or John Carter. With a side journey into a Nintendo-franchise-shared-universe, but the meat of this one is the Mario The Barbarian aesthetic.

Muppet: The Puppeting (24 pages)
The Muppets universe played straight.

Marvel-punk (21 pages)
Marvel comics in a cyberpunk universe? What's not to love?! It's a little more Shadowrun than Marvel 2099 in most of the posts, and there's the standard amount of debating over what makes a setting truly "punk," but this one has some real gems.

The Seventh Age of Middle-Earth (17 pages)
One of several similar such threads exploring the re-emergence of Middle-Earth in the modern era, this one is much better than most. The "found documents" expanding the setting are particularly cool (and I'm not just saying that because I contributed one!).

Bogge: The Labyrinthine (13 pages)
A New World of Darkness splat, based loosely on the concept of bogeymen. Bogges were once human beings who became lost in their dreams and entered into the Hallways - a world of nightmare unreality below the realm of dreams. Now, whenever a Bogge goes to sleep they are sent back to the Hallways and pursued by their Labyrinth: an entity of extradimensional horror that exists solely for them. Each Bogge has physical characteristics corresponding to one of the five senses, and they can join various social groups corresponding to the five stages of grief.

Harry Potterverse in America (13 pages)JK Rowling mentioned a few of the other schools of wizardry in Europe, but America goes completely unmentioned. This thread is fantastic and really long, looking into how the wizardry of the Old World would have changed as it came over to the New. IIRC, you've got people teleporting through telegraph wires instead of the Floo Network, you've got a Freemason-inspired school in New England, an Appalachia folksy school, an American Indian influenced school... a lot of great stuff in here. 

[Battlestar Galactica] Build me a second fleet (10 pages)
Most civilian craft that escaped the destruction of the Twelve Colonies were at the rally point set by President Roslin. However, out on the fringes of the colonies, another rally point was broadcast. The smugglers, pirates and fugitives that congregated in and around Hera and the outer reaches of the colonies maintained a certain ‘honour among thieves,’ and kept their own broadcast codes, which allowed those outside the law to communicate without the authorities being able to figure out what they were saying. Sure, the authorities would break every code eventually, but the codes changed every few months, often in ways that were designed to trick the authorities into believing that a previous code was still being used. It was in this smugglers’ code that the second rally point was broadcast.I want you to help me build the fleet of ships that responded to this broadcast. 

Exalted: the Echoes (9 pages)
A riff that attempts to take the myths of Exalted and create a nWoD game with them, much in the same way vampire and werewolf and wizard myths were the basis of the other games. Note: this is NOT Exalted in the modern world, it's thoroughly a nWoD game, with Exalted as it's inspiration. Towards the end of the thread, I point out how well this works with the Dark Hero archetype from Mirrors...

What if Cthulhu is really just misunderstood and you are his secret agent (9 pages)
"So, PC's do covert occult ops for Cthulhu because Big C wants a post-roll-for-san-loss future for the species, a Humanity sufficiently evolved so ordinary cosmic realities don't shatter our tiny minds anymore.

The twist on this is that from the outside, what they're doing is indistinguishable from delusional cultist Cthulhu worship."

Manifest Destiny+Oz (or: Victoria conquers Wonderland) (7 pages)
What if the childhood discoveries of fantastic places lead to the rest of the earth getting in on it and conquering those places?What if Dorothy lead America to take over Oz and if Alice lead the British Empire to colonize Wonderland? 

Reinterpreting Cthulhu Mythos: Cthulhu (7 pages )
Inspired by the Ithaqua thread. How would you reinterpret/update the big guy Cthulhu?

The Battle for Neverland (6 pages)
Where I get really inspired by the art of Jeffery Thomas' Twisted Disney Princess and try to make a setting out of it. Tinker Bell is the mad ruler of Neverland and she uses various fairy paths to other worlds, and other Disney Princess realms, to send armies of Lost Boys.

Transhuman Space Brainstorming: The Robot Whisperers (5 pages)

The concept: A group of pansapient rights activists are funding an expedition to capture TSA AKVs that went rogue at the end of the Pacific War. Once a capture is accomplished, they plan to remove the AIs (the models TSA used were LAIs, but I figure a couple -- or, hell maybe even all of them -- could have evolved) and "resocialize them." 

Gotham City Inverted (5 pages)
Fortunately, the city is blessed with an abundance of crimefighters and vigilantes. There's the Clown Detective, who brings his twisted insights to every case, along with his balloon animals and squirting flower. There's Black'n'White, who can switch from thinking like an honest man to getting in the criminal's head as easily as flipping a coin. There's the Puzzlemaster, who uses his enormous knowledge of trivia and logic to unravel the most baffling crimes. And Shabazz, who came from distant lands with his beloved daughter, and now protects his adopted hometown with the ferocity of a mystical tiger.

Midichlorian Outbreak (4 pages)
A cyberpunk-ish take on Star Wars where midichlorians are actually a virus. A small percentage of people who contract the disease survive and end up with Force powers.

Exalted: 1,000,000 BC (4 pages)
A "naturalistic" take on Exalted, that supposes Exalted as the prehistory of our earth. It's... a little hard to explain, but I guess if one were to compare it to original Exalted, it'd be like comparing Science Fiction to "scifi," does that make sense?

G.I. Joe, deconstructed. (4 pages)

Premise: After years of research and countless failed attempts, the finally found it: the formula to make a super-soldier. The details aren't important; maybe nanotech was involved, or perhaps quantum something-or-other, if you're feeling daring. The important part is, this procedure allows its subjects to bend reality in subtle but far-reaching ways. They aren't necessarily any stronger, faster, tougher, or smarter than their unenhanced peers; however, when they attempt something suicidally improbable, somehow, it usually works. Essentially, each and every subject becomes an action movie hero. 

My Ideas for an Inhumanoid Campaign (2 pages)
Where I take the Inhumanoids cartoon from the 80s and turn it into a space opera.


Real-World Campaign Concepts (9 pages)
Campaign concepts that are set in the real world - no supernatural, fantastical or science fiction elements. Most of the concepts also stick roughly to the modern era, since historical concepts are a different matter again.

Replace the word superhero with another word (5 pages)
One-post setting pitches where superpowers are tied to a particular class or profession, such as spies, drivers, or cowboys.

(more collections coming soon...)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I just finished writing up a complete compilation of the Shrouded Lands (the setting that was built off of the webwork hexcrawl thread that chutup linked). It has all of the City of Shuttered Windows content (all 37 sub-hexes) included now...