View Full Version : Cross-Edition Settings?

2014-11-16, 10:30 AM
In the broadest terms, how feasible is it to develop a setting that supports multiple editions of a game?

Most of my gaming experience has been in the Forgotten Realms, where they have grand convulsions every time there's an edition shift. Are there settings out there which have been designed up front to support different editions, as smoothly and non-convulsively as possible?

2014-11-16, 01:13 PM
Generally speaking, the only ways this will work are with 1) super generic settings, or 2) game systems with mechanics designed around the setting rather than vice versa, for example Ars Magica or the Star Wars games.

The main issue with doing this for D&D or similar systems is that they start with the rules and then leave it to the player or designers to come up with a setting rather than having the setting and rules tied up in each other. Which is great, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying anything against what D&D and similar games do, it's actually pretty cool and I enjoy building worlds, but it makes your desire nearly if not totally impossible.

I mean, unless you think you can design a world based on current game mechanics that has no chance of getting blasted apart when the game mechanics change, inevitably, yet in unpredictable ways. The alternative is for WotC or other similar company to avoid changing mechanics that might clash with any of their established settings when a new edition comes out, and I certainly wouldn't want to limit the evolution of the rules because of settings when the settings are supposed to spawn from the rules.

(Also, I suppose, unless you can see the future. If you can do that, you can make a non-generic setting that won't "convulse" every edition.)

EDIT: Or did you just mean one that works in multiple of the already-existing editions? That's a good deal easier, though the mechanics are different enough for it to get... A little tricky.

2014-11-17, 02:26 AM
It's probably pretty easy with most games. On one end of the spectrum you have generics (it's really easy to design a setting for every edition of GURPS), on the other you have highly customized games for a particular setting. It's pretty common even for games like Legend of the Five Rings, highly customized for a setting, to change little enough between editions that you can make a persistent setting for all of them - it will just take much more effort than for something like GURPS.

2014-11-17, 03:52 AM
Isn't D&D kind of an outlier in this respect? And the changes for 4 more drastic than usual even taking that into account?

If that's true, then essentially the big, dramatic upheaval that FR went through is actually due to the drastic difference between how 3.X and 4 handle the mechanics, particularly magic. Even then, couldn't they have mostly just fudged the differences within their established settings? Are there any other examples of major system revisions causing huge setting changes in-universe?

(And before it's brought up, nWoD is basically an entire new setting from oWoD, to go with the new game system - there was no in-universe upheaval, nWoD has always been like this, it's its own separate thing.)

2014-11-17, 05:08 AM
It depends how different the systems are, I guess. I'd assume few systems have changed as drastically as D&D did from 3E to 4E, as an example. If one tried to make 3E fluff work with 4E or vice versa, that would be quite strange, since everyone would suddenly have very different abilities and some of the novels love describing a character's "sheet" in exclusive detail.

2014-11-17, 06:37 AM
I was always under the impression that newer editions of most RPG's try to represent the same setting in better ways.

I thought everyone lost their poop when Forgotten Realms went into 4th edition because it was unusual for a setting to change so dramatically into a new edition.

Mark Hall
2014-11-17, 01:06 PM
Depends on what you mean by that, really.

I think you can easily design a setting that can be played under multiple different rulesets, and make use of the material across those rulesets... you might play Star Wars with WEG's rules, their updated d6 Space rules, or with Star Wars Saga Edition, and all of the world information is easily and readily transmissable; I can use the Dantooine and Bespin supplement from WEG Star Wars as background information for a SWSE game, no problem.

The difficulty comes in on the meat... the mechanical bits that leverage off the bones of the setting to make things run. The meat of d6 is very different than the meat of SWSE, even though they're laid on roughly the same bones, and you can only use d6 meat to inform what has to be a complete creation for SWSE... "If I want to represent a wookie's potential for 6D strength in SWSE, what does that mean? What does it mean in terms of Constitution, a stat that d6 doesn't even have?"

It's easy to put together a skeleton that can be run by a lot of different set-ups. It's a lot harder to move meat across systems.