Looking for good quality non-Euro-centric RPG campaign settings
August 17, 2015 6:53 AM   Subscribe

I recently received the Southlands campaign setting from a Kickstarter that I'd previously funded and forgotten about (seriously, Kickstarter is like sending your future self a present). Flipping through it brought back memories of reading Conan comics as a kid and reveling in how different it was from what I was used to, setting-wise. Most of the popular fantasy settings in fiction are all very Euro-centric. Help me find some good table top RPG settings that step outside this mold. More within.

You know, I like my knights and kings and Tudor-style houses and taverns and all that. It's fun. But I'd just like some settings that I'm less familiar with.

For example, does anyone remember Jade Empire? It was an awesome, awesome, awesome Xbox RPG set in an Imperial China-inspired fantasy world. I would love to find a good RPG campaign setting in that type of world.

Southlands is very Arabian in influence with a bit of Africa as well. I'd love to find some good Afro-centric fantasy.

Final Fantasy X (at least a good chunk of it) was very SE Asia / Islander-influenced. I found this to be very cool and a really fun changeup.

So let's hear some suggestions. Pathfinder is my preferred system, but I'd love to hear whatever you might want to throw out (D&D, video games, books, whatever). Thanks!
posted by JimBJ9 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
GURPS Fantasy II: The Mad Lands (one of the worst-named supplements ever) is about as far from swords and chivalry as you get.

Play as a member of a hardscrabble village of hunter-fishers in a cursed land of insane "gods", be stalked by once-human monsters, try not to get abducted by immortal sorcerers from the dimension next door. Dabble in magic in secret until you're caught and banished or worse. The culture of the Madlanders is a bit like the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest but warped by living in a land of unrelenting hostility.

(Also the first published work by Robin D. Laws, who went on to do Feng Shui, Hero Wars and The Dying Earth RPG.)
posted by murphy slaw at 7:16 AM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm personally a huge fan of Dark Sun, though as a setting it's a bit tough, as it has had spotty support over the years.

Short story is that it's a desert world that was ravaged by magic (in a sort of early-90s allegory about environmentalism), with most of the inhabitants living in or around totalitarian city-states that cling to the remaining arable bits of land. Each of the city-states is overseen by an effectively immortal Sorcerer-King, and they all have different takes on society and their place in it (which range from free market capitalism, to ancient mesoamerican influences, to communal goddess worship, etc).

One of the primary influences (though not explicitly acknowledged, IIRC) is Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom books (e.g. A Princess of Mars, etc), and originally the creators weren't even going to include any "standard" RPG races. Marketing people at TSR made them go back on that promise, but nonetheless they did tweak things a lot (e.g. cannibalistic feral halflings, thieving elven tribes that trance-run through the desert, mantis men that are as like to eat you as talk to you, etc).

The bad news: after D&D 2e, Dark Sun got kinda ignored (there was a 3.x official version that was crap).

The good news: WotC actually gave permission to some fans to basically become the unofficial official 3.x keepers of Dark Sun. So, you can get a lot of good 3.x details at Athas.org.

Also, there was a D&D 4e book that has some decent fluff material, though as a bit of a purist I find some things they changed about the background a bit upsetting. Thankfully, I have an enormous cache of PDFs of all the original box sets and such (places such as DriveThruRPG have had them on sale for years), so if all you want is setting detail you can find it.
posted by tocts at 7:21 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Legend of the Five Rings - it became the standard setting for 3.x's Oriental Adventures reboot, but if you go back to the original texts you might find what you're looking for.

Hillfolk - An award winning game set at the dawn of civilization.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:59 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, no list of non-euro fantasy would be complete without mentioning Tékumel, the world of M.A.R. Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne. It's a massive setting with decades of material across multiple systems, but the website is a good start and if you want a quick taste of the setting, Choice of Games released Choice of the Petal Throne, a gamebook for Android and IOS.
posted by murphy slaw at 8:02 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Spears of the Dawn is a sandbox RPG with an African inspired setting. I have not played it myself but anything from Sine Nomine is usually worth a look.
posted by antiwiggle at 8:21 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding Tékumel.

You might also find the Palladium Fantasy RPG setting interesting. While somewhat traditional fantasy in terms of foes (orcs, giants, etc), there are some very interesting locales, like the primitive and tropical Yin-Sloth Jungles or the northern empire run entirely by anthropomorphic wolves. The game itself was sorely unbalanced but I think you'll find a lot of cool ideas to pilfer.

On the same note, as a rich source of ideas, Glorantha has at least a half a dozen different human cultures based on different real-world societies.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:45 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sengoku is an rpg source book about the Warring States period that was written by a Japanese history graduate student. The system is dated, but it could be adapted to whichever one you want, and it has conversion notes. I think it is the best source book I have read.
posted by Quonab at 4:24 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

This thread:

In a wicked age - fantasy arabesque.

There's an rpg based on American south western Indian culture which I unhelpfully can't remember the name of.

Night Witches - ww2 female soviet air regiment
Dogs in the vineyard sort of counts - it's based on early mormanism

Dogs in the vineyard is a shoe in - it's based on early mormanism

Microscope is a world building rpg which would be great for creating a non western setting in collaboration with your group

I'm sure I'll remember more later....
posted by Erberus at 6:42 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Swords without master
Steal away Jordan
posted by Erberus at 6:43 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, folks!

I went out and bought Spears of the Dawn and Ehdrigor because I have impulse-control problems. I'm going to give Legend of the Five Rings and Tékumel a look at some point, too.
posted by JimBJ9 at 6:45 AM on August 19, 2015

« Older Italian Singer/Songwriters   |   How can I print and bind a document in a way that... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.