Fresh JRPG settings.

Everyone loves adventures; magic crystals, orcs, world saving, the return of ancient magics, being the chosen one and so on, but isn't there more out there?

JRPGs tend to stick to fantasy or Japanese styled sci-fi settings. Let's freshen things up a little! Here are five suggestions for interesting settings to make your JRPG stand out.

1. Urban Fantasy

Urban Fantasy takes place in the world we live but exposes something we don't know, some hidden world most people never see. In the shadows of deserted alleyways, magic and paranormal powers crackle and sparkle. Secret meanings and portents exist hidden under manhole covers we step over, in the graffiti we ignore, behind boarded-up windows and in the eyes of strangers passing by.

Your JRPG gets to reveal this secret world all around us! Here are some terms to fire up your imagination.

  • Magick
  • Chaos Theory
  • Cities at night
  • Unwalked Alleyways
  • Homeless
  • Abandoned places
  • Scared spaces
  • Forgotten and abandoned spaces beneath cities
  • Familiars
  • Signs
  • Crimes of an unusual nature
  • Lairs
  • Crows
  • The morgue
  • Eccentrics
  • Rats


2. The Near Future

The near future is one of the most exciting settings around with strong themes of privacy, consciousness, corruption, the rich poor divide and what's coming next! We live in exciting times and an RPG is great way to explore what might be just around the corner.

Imagine, or cast your mind back, to the 80s and 90s; how different the world was only a few decades ago! Here are some phrases to spark off some ideas.

  • Moore's law
  • Crypto-currencies
  • Militarised police
  • Internet of things
  • Hacking
  • Implants
  • Nanotech
  • Biotech
  • Gene profiling
  • Life extension
  • Climate Change
  • Terrorism
  • Drones
  • Boston Dynamics
  • Augment Reality
  • Virtual Reality
  • 3D Printing


3. American Gothic

Imagining wading waist deep though the cool waters of a Louisiana swamp. It's dusk, insects buzz around and the air is muggy and pungent. In the distance you see a small island, with a black altar. On top of the altar there's something you can't quite make out, not until you get closer...

American Gothic is a really rich setting, lots of small towns, distrustful of strangers habouring secrets to discover; it's great stuff! Families tracing their roots back to the old-country, what did they bring with them? Adventures with a heady mix of western, native American and African mysticism.

Here are some phrases to get your imagination started.

  • Hoodoo
  • Rootwork
  • Hexes
  • Gris-Gris
  • Swamps
  • Old families
  • Ancient relics
  • Rougarou
  • Haunted houses
  • Appalachian Mountains
  • Ancient forests
  • Deep caverns
  • Pre-colonization civilizations
  • The Devil


4. Spies

What's better than fighting in the shadows to save the world the majority never knew was in danger. My ideal spy game begins by asking your name, then your cocktail of choice with measurement and mixing preferences. Drink choice then has serious in game repercussions.

This kind of game gives the great opportunity to display newspaper headlines where you know the actual story is quite different from what's reported.

Here are some starting off points:

  • Conspiracy
  • Cloak and dagger
  • Power struggles
  • Betrayal
  • Secret truths
  • Brokers; information, people, weapons etc
  • Secret societies
  • Corporate and national interests
  • Terrorism
  • Traitors
  • Gadgets
  • Agendas
  • Realpolitik
  • Stealth
  • Guns
  • Foreign locales
  • Martial arts
  • Hackers


5. Space Opera

Space sci-fi isn't well represented in JRPGs and the Space Opera niche even less so. Few RPGs start and stay in space despite space having such a lot to offer!

In a space opera, all characters are in the tight confines of a ship, that restriction helps focus any story. Think Alien or Event Horizon, the fact that everyone is trapped in the ship is part of what makes the stories so good. Spaceships also make excellent hubs for spin off missions for something more like Star Trek. And really, who doesn't want to play a game with laser rifles?

Here are some diving off points to get you started thinking about the space opera setting.

  • Seed ships
  • Aliens
  • Drama
  • Stasis
  • Horror
  • Captains
  • Space Battles
  • Empires
  • AI
  • Ventilation tunnels
  • Research Deck
  • Hydroponics Deck
  • Isolation
  • Nano blades / Ceramic Knives
  • The Warp
  • Space Rangers
  • Sick Bay


Get to it

Hopefully you're now bursting with new ideas for your game. Any settings you think I've missed? Feel free to send me a tweet @HowToMakeAnRPG.