The Great Hundred

March 21, 2010

A few years back, Ryan St created a project called The Great Hundred. It was an exercise in collective world-building – he sketched out a Bronze Age land of god-kings and city-states and invited the community to fill in the gaps.

The project led to dozens of pages being created, but it never built up momentum and the proposed final book (with one page for each of the best 144 entries) never came close to publication. Still, creating a campaign setting collectively and in encyclopedia form struck me as a sound idea.

I prefer lite and freeform games without rich and well-developed settings. Working with no or little setting is great because you can give your ideas free rein. The problem is that sometimes you need rich and well-defined ideas and none come to you.

That’s why I’ve reimagined The Great Hundred as an encyclopedia of role-playing elements. Some might be loosely connected to other entries, but mainly they should stand on their own. That way, people can insert as few or as many as they need into their games, when the need arises.

If you have fantasy ideas you’ve never put to use, and you’re happy for them to come under a Creative Commons licence, please post them on The Great Hundred.

Problems with the Original Great Hundred

  • Too wide. The setting had dozens of cities, dozens of god-kings and dozens of barbaric tribes outside the cities. It was huge, yet empty. None of the cities were tightly fleshed out. Few of the gods were. In fact, the barbarians came across as the most well-rounded – and I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that they had the least to do with the god-kings.
  • Which brings me to my second point, which that it was too narrow. Having produced dozens of god-kings, Ryan had an understandable desire to focus on the god-kings – but the stories people wanted to tell didn’t fit with them.
  • Differing visions. Ryan’s goal was for a book with 144 microfiction entries which, together, created a shared world. But people were writing encyclopedia entries, and good ones too. A role-playing campaign setting can be written from subjective perspectives (‘Report on the Barbarian Hordes’, ‘Reasons to Hate the Yuan-Ti’) but I don’t think it can be written as fiction.
  • Changing conditions. Ryan’s original vision of the project changed, meaning articles that had been marked publishable-quality now needed substantial re-writing.

This is not to diminish Ryan’s efforts – after all, he did get scores of entries and was an enthusiastic and wise driver of the project. But they’re thoughts I’ve kept in mind for this new Great Hundred.

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