The Long Road Home - Design Diary 1

This is the first of my design diaries for The Long Road Home. The Setting.

At the start of a game session the players have to set out some of the ground rules for their setting, and this is done by considering the following options:

  • Literary Style
  • Theme
  • Enemy

You can also consider

  • Purpose
  • Magic Style

Literary Style

At the current time I’m suggesting four kinds of literary style in the rules. The players choice here will inform some of the concepts and threats they are going to deal with, and how grim and gritty they want their stories to be.

  1. Child Friendly (like Narnia, the Hobbit, Redwall)
  2. Young Adult/YA (like Percy Jackson, Shadow and Bone, Affair of Poisons)
  3. Heroic (like The Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, The Sword of Shannara)
  4. Grim (like Game of Thrones, Rhenwars)


I’m also suggesting four broad themes that can be used for the story (of course others are available, these are starting points)

  1. Sylvan - deep woods, mighty mountains, verdant fields
  2. Fey - highly magical and mysterious, associated with the realm of the fairies.
  3. Faded - it was once glorious, but much has falled away and decayed. Remnants of great empires whose secrets have been forgotten.
  4. Shadowed - a world that is already under the thumb of the great enemy, with darkness and evil round every corner.


Who is the great enemy, the focus of the quest which you completed?

  1. A Tyrant, the ruler of a nation who is conquering and subjugating others. A king or queen, witch or wizard, high priest or priestess perhaps.
  2. A Dragon, a magical and monstrous creature of incredible power.
  3. An Undead, an enemy from beyond the grave who commands the undead.
  4. Otherworldly, some supernatural demonic or divine force. Perhaps attempting to break free or recover the lost item they desire.


Agreeing on the underlying purpose of your quest can help give a unified direction that the stories move towards.

  1. Free someone or something that was able to overthrow the enemy (The Neverending Story)
  2. Weaken the enemy by destroying something that is important to them (The Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad)
  3. Imprison the enemy or stop the enemy breaking free from their existing restraints. (The Wheel of Time, Chronicles of Thomas Covenant)
  4. Overthrow the enemy and break their power. (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Game of Thrones)


You don’t need to agree up front what kind of magic will be used in your setting, but once again it can be helpful to make sure that you are all on the same page with what makes sense in a story.

  1. Artefacts only - rare and infrequent magical armour and weapons, potions and amulets.
  2. Magical spells which can be learned by anyone.
  3. Innate power which is only available to those born with the power.
  4. Sacrifical magic which requires blood, animals or even people to power the magic.

Once you have your setting, you need to choose some details of your mission and then create your home and your characters. That will be for a subsequent design diary.

Are there any literary styles, enemies, or themes which you’d love to see in the game and you think are not represented? Please let me know on twitter or mastodon and I’ll see what we can do!