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Challenge: Pick Three Books


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There used to be a website that generated a campaign by picking three random GURPS World books. This game is based on that premise.


1. Pick exactly 3 books (not 2 or 4, 5 is right out) you own that fall under a central theme. They should come from different sources/publishers. Magazines only count if the entire issue relates to the central theme.

2. The books should be as system-neutral as possible. No core rulebooks. Game supplements and adventure scenarios are okay if they are generic enough and can easily be modified. Published settings, in literature or in rpgs, don't count: no recreating Middle-earth, Star Trek or the Marvel Universe.

3. Explain how the books can be used to create a setting. You don't have to create the campaign; just show how a book complements at least one of the other two. You can say which book you excluded and why, but this step is optional.


Here are a couple of examples:


Central Theme: Worldbuilding


1. How to Draw Fantasy Art & RPG Maps by Jared Blando
This book shows you how to create a map that stands out. Drawing, painting, and digital options are discussed. Topics such as heraldry and typography are included. Note: I'm still reading this book, which is why I haven't posted too many details.


2. A Magical Society: Ecology and Culture by Expeditious Retreat Press
While my previous choice teaches you how to draw beautiful maps, this book shows you how to create a  fairly realistic world that. The first part talks about geological features, weather, etc. The second part talks about creating societies and their customs. Despite the d20 label, the product is entirely system-neutral.


3. Cities of Mystery by Jean Rabe
While it is listed as a Forgotten Realms product, this AD&D 2nd Edition boxed set doesn't mention any setting. It helps you design cities and includes government types, something strangely absent in the previous book. While the book has a few tables, most of the information is general enough to be useful in any setting. It also comes with cardstock buildings and maps you can use for your games.


Excluded: Wilderness Survival Guide by TSR. Although I wanted to add something that focused on the wilderness to balance the civilization part of Ecology and Culture, this book focused on survival instead of worldbuilding. It was also geared towards AD&D gaming.


Central Theme: Steampunk Airships


1. Architectura Navalis Aeronautica by Matthew JA Slater
This book gives a brief history of airships and shows you how to design a steampunk airship. It also touches upon bases and magical airships.


2. Great War at Sea: Airships by Avalanche Press Ltd.
What's an airship campaign without airship battles? This product presents different scenarios for naval and aerial battles. While the adventures are set during World War I and after, it's easy enough to ignore real-world references.


3. 1000 Steampunk Creations by Dr. Grymm
I'll admit this one is a bit of a stretch. While this book doesn't focus on airships, it includes some paintings and sculptures featuring them. The book also shows items that may be inside an airship, and what the crew wears and carries.


Excluded: Airship Pirates RPG by Cubicle 7 and Champions of Mystara by TSR. These books had too much setting information and too many game system rules. They have a few airship floorplans, so ruling them out was a hard decision.

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I started this thread on another discussion board, and there has been a bit of confusion about what counts as a book or what the game's objective is. So here is my explanation.


Books can be novels, picture books, instructional manuals, or game books. In the last case, game books should have minimal stuff dedicated to a setting or game system. I put in that rule so that the book can be generic enough to use for any game system. Magazines aren't books per se, but I'd allow an issue devoted to a single subject, for example an issue of Scientific American that's all about Mars or even the Solar System itself.

Things to consider are:
1. What is the central theme? How do these books fit in that theme?
2. How do you blend the information in the books to fit with one another?

My first example went from general to specific in the order I presented. You can go the other way when designing your game world. My second example used the first book as the main reference, with the other adding flavor or presenting adventure seeds to the main work.

I hope that clears up any confusion.


Edit: Kindle books and pdfs are allowed, as long as you actually own the books.

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Here's an example of how to use nonfiction books for this challenge, although the result looks more like a story than an adventure seed.


Central Theme: Travel, personal development


1. The Student Pilot's Flight Manual by William K. Kershner
I'm not a pilot, but my dad was; I inherited this book from him. The flight manual seems geared more toward personal aircraft than commercial airlines. I could have used this book for my Steampunk Airship example, but I didn't think of it back then.


2. Concise Atlas of the World by Dorling Kindersley
No explanation is needed on this one.


3. The Essence of Zen, Compiled by Maggie Pinkney
This is a collection of Zen sayings, hence the personal development part. Why did I include this book? It was mainly to provide a twist. I could have included a book on hand-to-hand combat techniques and made this closer to a campaign setting, but I decided there would be nothing distinctive about it. Likewise, I could have added a book about archaeology (my initial choice) and a mythology book, but that would have made it too much like a rip-off of the Indiana Jones movies.

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Part of the difficulty is that I have... eclectic taste in books.


Theme: Merchants and Mayhem on the Silk Road


1. Life Along the Silk Road, Susan Whitfield

An excellent howto for any time traveler.


2. Warriors of the Steppe: A Military History of Central Asia, Erik Hildinger

This is not the only Central Asian history book I possess.  What's awesome about them is that they read exactly like fantasy novels.


3. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

While it isn't set anywhere near the Silk Road, this acclaimed novel is about a journey.




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