Why I Stopped Exploring in Pseudo-European Settings
It's always been odd to me that whenever I sit down to a game of Dungeons and Dragons that I'm expected to be playing in a pseudo-European setting where the social pressures and standards for morality of an imaginary Europe (typically England, but not always) are the accepted practices that I must follow. The problem, however, is that I am not European so mocking their ways has always been an issue for my own delicate sensibilities as the effort tends to make me inconsistent and heavy-handed. Which for a Dungeon Master is a terrible practice to ever engage in.
About nine years ago I moved my game away from the pseudo-European worlds that have dominated my friends campaigns and solidly into a mock Americas world where I am intimately familiar with the social mores and interactions of its many peoples. At first the move was a difficult one as most of my players came into the games with certain expectations built around the inherited European background, but once I was able to break that notion from them the games really started taking off.
We were able to leave behind the expectations that our world was locked into the same steady march that always accompanied pseudo-European campaigns and were instead able to explore the vast richness in a world that was barely explored with indigenous peoples, both kind and hostile, waiting in the vast expanse in front of us. The sort of people who made those treks into the wilds of my pseudo-Colonial Americas are the very type of people that all of us grew up telling wild tales about. We are now Daniel Boone, Davey Crockett, and the countless frontiersmen who explored the lands we call home. Our natural disdain for authority in all its multifarious forms isn't an automatic derailment of the setting as we hurl our insults at whichever heavy-handed prick comes to the fore to tell us what we're to do - instead its an asset that rings true in our worlds.
Europe may have it's knights but we've got cowboys, Indians, pirates and the explorers that everyone grew up dreaming about being. We've launched explorations west and fought ancient civilizations while searching for golden cities that may never be found. And we've searched for buried treasure along the coast; all the while fighting against the repressive powers from lands we've only heard about in stories and books.
Playing at home, here in the Americas, has allowed me a wider freedom to explore the legends and wild tales that have dominated the consciousness of these lands since it was first discovered by the white man. It's a freedom that I never found in Europe and by bringing it into my games it's allowed my players to stop worrying about the setting and to really start digging into the world about them.
What about you?