I mean, face it, we have all had (or been) players that could care less about the difference between a Lannister and a Stark without just wanting to know whom to attack and which dice to roll for the attack. And, save all (or at least, the majority) having read some of the books, it would quickly and easily turn into a generic fantasy campaign without a great deal of work on the GM’s part to constantly drag the player’s into the world. It’s often hard enough to keep players focused on the game without going off on tangents as it is…
And so, that’s a HUGE reason I’m thoroughly enjoying running my Star Wars Dawn of Defiance campaign right now. Regardless of what players may think about the validity of Episodes I-III, or how the d20 Saga doesn’t do this right, ALL of us know the Star Wars universe. I don’t need to fill them in on how a senator named Palaptine was recently elevated to Emperor, or how there was once a religious order called the Jedi that was decimated by his right hand man Darth Vader, or even that a Twi’lek is a humoid creature with long head tentacles. We all have the same background knowledge of the world, and its as simple as saying the Wookie bounty hunter wears a bandolier of thermonuclear detonators that fills the same image in all the players minds (and identifies him as one mean NPC not to mess with).
Prior to starting this campaign last year, we’d been playing in the World of Greyhawk for close to the past 10 years, well, actually, probably longer than that; and even then, it was still very much “wait, Veluna is a theocracy also? I thought it was the Theocracy of Pale?” With this being the first time I’m regularly running a “shared background” game, the difference is so refreshing!
I think in the past, that was why I enjoyed running games like Shadowrun, Dark Matter, or more recently, Gamma World – I could set it in the context of the real world, a truly shared background. In the future, I think this could very well be a much larger draw to bringing in others who otherwise aren’t inclined to game with us. In particular, I’m thinking of all our wives/girlfriends, who wouldn’t come near our games now agreeing to play a game based in the Harry Potter or Twilight universe.