Designing a Setting for Maximum Conflict (part II)

Earlier, we talked about the importance of conflict and two types of conflict for your setting.  Now for the other kinds of conflict: person vs. nature, and person vs. self.

Person vs. nature conflicts are a staple of roleplaying games.  Think of all the traps you’ve defused, all the rocks that have dropped on you, and all the trackless deserts you’ve crossed.  “Nature” doesn’t have to mean “outdoors” either – whenever a character finds it harder to get what he wants because of a thing not a person, that’s a conflict with nature.  Classic Dungeons and Dragons style dungeons full of traps are an excellent example.

Traps also show the trap of person vs. nature conflicts.   Continue reading

Designing a Setting for Maximum Conflict (part I)

On Monday, we learned that you need conflict for a game to be interesting to play. What does this have to do with setting?  Everything.  Your characters are going to be defined by the setting, so your setting needs to help the players create conflicts.  I’ll show you how.

Tigers Fighting by Tambako the Jaguar

What would be the most boring possible setting for a roleplaying game?  Probably a utopia, a perfect society without fear, hunger, or want.  You can see this if you’ve had the misfortune to read any classic utopian literature – it’s terrible.  Why?  No conflict.  If everyone can get whatever they want, there’s no stories to tell.  Good living tends to make bad gaming.

How can you build a roleplaying game setting to have lots of juicy, interesting conflicts in which player characters can get embroiled?   Continue reading

How to Make Your Setting Not Suck: Conflict

What makes a setting fun?


Conflict, conflict, conflict!

There are a lot of similarities between world-building for a roleplaying game and world-building for a story. Open up any book of advice for fiction writers and it will tell you that a conflict is essential for an interesting story – and the books are right. You can write a story without conflict, but it’s going to make the reader want to light the pages – or the author – on fire 99 times out of 100. This is one of the few times where the RPG designer has a harder time of it than the fiction author: if you design a roleplaying setting without conflict, it’s going to put your players to sleep 100 times out of 100.



Your setting needs conflict. What is conflict? Conflict is what happens when one character wants something, and someone or something opposes that goal. Continue reading