For me the best RPG writing explains the rules clearly and inspires at the same time. It sends my imagination over the edge, gets me excited about the setting, the possibilities of the game. Most important of all it makes me want to play.
In writing Redwald I’ve tried to hit a tone that fits the setting, and I’ve tried to seed enough setting flavour to inspire, without going over the top. I’ve also tried my best to avoid canon. As a GM I find nothing can ruin a setting for me quicker than canon, and obsessive encyclopedic detail. That’s why, as best as I can, when adding historical, political, social, and mythological detail to the setting I’ve tried to a) spread it over the rules in small bite-sized bits and b) sometimes make it contradictory, or obviously untrue. Most of all I’ve tried to only make it a suggested or implied background. To give the referee choices and suggestions rather than fact and setting canon. For example take this entry from the bestiary for the Werewulf . . .
Little is known about these beast men, some believe they are trapped in the twisted form that is half-man, half-beast, others that they can change at will from man to beast, or to man-beast. Ancient Saga’s tell of warriors who transform when in a berserk rage, and other tales claim that they live their lives as normal men, but for once a month when the moon is full and they change into beasts.
The bestiary entries are peppered with geographical information such as in the Niht Genga entry . . .
There are now only three tribes remaining. One tribe lives deep in the wild forest on the border of Eastlund Seaxe but their numbers are few and they have thirty warriors at most. Another tribe lives in the marshes of Southlund Seaxe and are on the brink of destruction with only ten or so warriors left. The most numerous tribe live under the mountains of Westlund Seaxe and even though their warriors number in the hundreds, between the Dragons and Dweorgas that they share the mountains with and the powerful Westlund Seax nearby, their fate is as precarious as their less numerous kin.
. . . that I hope give the referee’s information they might find handy (where the players are likely to encounter Niht Genga), but isn’t set in stone, isn’t canon. A referee can always throw in a lost tribe of Night Genga somewhere else.Another way I’ve tried to do this is with the magic items. Each one is associated with a myth, story, or a bit of history that if a referee wants can be used as setting background, but if they don’t like the details outlined then by the very nature of them being folk tales and myths means they’re easy to ignore because everyone knows it’s just a fairy tale. Either way, just because it’s written in the book doesn’t mean that’s how it happened in the history of your Redwald.