World Building Part 4 – Campaign Setting Genre

Last week, I took a short break from this series because of travel and the holidays, but I am back this week to talk about the genre that your game world is going to fit into.

In the last post in this series, we talked about the importance of deciding the tone you want for your world. While world tone is the first thing you want to think about, genre definitely comes in a close second; it is extremely important to understand your genre or genres before you go full steam ahead.

There are many genres that you can choose from when you start building a campaign setting. It really comes down to YOUR personal preference when you choose the genre for your setting. A lot of people advise you to work with your players when building a setting for your game, but in all honesty, there are some things that you should decide for yourself and world genre is definitely one of those things. In the end, the setting is going to be your baby, you may have people help you raise that baby, but you are going to be the one taking care of it on a daily basis, so making sure that baby has the right footing is up to you.

I don’t want to go into a discussion of all the possible genres that are out there in this post because frankly, there are simply too many out there to properly define. Genre is a really big, and also very vague term. For our purposes here, we are referring to the category of game that your setting fits into, whether that be steampunk, high fantasy, or science fiction. There are other ways to look at genre, especially when you talk about video game genre, or musical genre, but that is an entirely different type of discussion.

In all likelihood the genre of game that you are most used to playing, or currently have players for, will become the deciding factor in the genre of the world you want to build. However, maybe that isn’t the case. I actually suggest you let the game genre you want to play in dictate the choice of game system that you want to play. It may very well be that you want to build a Cyber Punk Style world, in which case, you may not want to use 4e D&D for your game. There are lots of game systems out there; don’t let yourself be tied down completely to a single game system. Look around. Chances are, you may even have a couple of these games around.

At the onset, my current world building project was geared for 4e D&D, but lately, I have been thinking about changing the system that I am using for my setting. Basically, to summarize my humble opinion about all of this, I value setting over system. Pick a genre you want to write in and build in and then figure out the game system when you start worrying about mechanics… that is a long time down the road.

That is all for this week. As always, you can see where I lay my coat at You can also contact me at thedumpstat(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Hey everyone! I'm a gamer, husband, and father living in Japan. I teach High School English to Japanese kids. I started playing games about 13 years ago and have been blogging about gaming for the last 5 years or so.

2 thoughts on “World Building Part 4 – Campaign Setting Genre”

  1. I can definitely agree with “Setting over system”. There are dozens of systems out there that can be easily adopted to almost any genre, so it’s sometimes better to work with these instead of sticking to a system that doesn’t really fit.

  2. I’ve run games in multiple genres and rules systems, and one thing I consider when deciding what to run for a particular group is whether someone else is already playing in a similar game. For example, before I chose FATE 3e “Starblazer Adventures” for a homebrew space opera, I had noticed that other people were already using FATE with “Legends of Anglerre” (fantasy) and “Dresden Files” (modern supernatural), so that said people in my local pool of role-players were happy with the system and in different genres. That, combined with various D&D4e and “Pathfinder” groups for fantasy, encouraged me to choose space opera.

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