Running Your World in Multiple Systems

Welcome back! Are you all still there?  Good.

Today, with my triumphant return, I want to talk about settings. During an interview (coming to the internet later this month) with Rich Baker and Dave Noonan for the Iconic Podcast, Dave explained how Primeval Thule developed and how building for the 13th Age rules influenced the design of the world. This articulated an idea that has been rolling around in my head as I continue to build out Ta’nar.

You should be running your setting in multiple systems.

That seems counterintuitive, I know.  We, as GMs, pick a ruleset that fits with the style and genre of game we are going to play.  Some of us even develop a setting specifically out of a game we want to try.  And all that is ok.  But there is something very beneficial to viewing your world through the lens of multiple systems.

When I started Ta’nar (back when it was Ta’an Nar), I was writing it for the Hero system.  This was fantastic as I was able to build anything I wanted.  Yes, it was time consuming, but it was also freeing.  The world was my limit. And I ran a number of great games with that iteration. Ta’nar was a world I wanted to keep playing in, so when I became intrigued with ACKS, I started a conversion of the world to that system.  ACKS, as you may already know, is an OSR game that has a heavy focus on Domains. While I was trying to convert Ta’nar, I discovered that the ACKS ruleset add a lot of verisimilitude to the world.  Suddenly, I had a mechanical reason to look at the nations, the towns, and even the map of the continent.  This is content that I might not have gotten around to writing for years, but ACKS forced me to dig into it.

13th Age forced me to take a good look at developing the movers and shakers of the world and the conflicts I wanted to explore.  DnD Next/5e helped me define the new races I wanted to incorporate.  And RQ6 is guiding me through establishing the pantheons, cults, and magics of the world.

Again, this is all material I might have eventually come up with.  But by interpreting my world through different systems, the content is developing in ways I could not have imagined.


2 thoughts on “Running Your World in Multiple Systems

  1. Evan Franke says:

    This is a great insight.

    If you have not discovered him, Rob Donoghue (who is one of the best writers on practical and applicable theory for RPGs, over at has several times mentioned this kind of approach. There never has to be a one to one fit between system and world. Choices just have consequences. You can run any setting with any rules set, but it will feel different, and will put emphasis on different aspects, perhaps in unexpected ways.

    It looks like you have adapted the approach to help build out your setting, which is a fantastic application!

    I have always wanted to take the time to set up a series of linked adventures where each session was played with a different system (Gumshoe, Cortex+, BRP, Savage Worlds, One Roll Engine) and try to match the themes of each chapter to the style of play supported by each game system. Alas, I have done plenty of thinking, but not enough doing.

    Your setting sounds great.

    • defoggijm says:

      Evan, thanks! Thanks for the link. I love Rob’s stuff and will check that out. And thanks for the compliment on the setting. I hope to run some online games of it next year!

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