I'm looking for a setting which should answer these rather specific key points:
- Pre-made and detailed. I would like the heavy-lifting to be done for me. There shouldn't be too many holes left that I keep having to fill them in.
- EDIT: If possible I would prefer a setting I can start playing with only a few books such as a main book and two or three more, whether they be scenarios or region books. Two reasons for this: monetary firstmost, and then time. Having to read 5+ books just to "get ready" would seem overkill. Obviously, if the setting works out, nothing says I can't buy more books fleshing out more of the setting as I go.
- Any system or system-agnostic. I will probably use a generic system such as Fate Core, PDQ# or HeroQuest 2 to run game anyway. Bonus points if it's easy to decouple setting & system.
- Not grimdark or gritty. Not even "realistic". It doesn't have to (shouldn't, really) be pure comedy, but I'd like a setting that seems mostly nice to begin with, where not everyone is a miserable peasant slave under a tyranny of darkness and where it is possible to trust a good deal of people without ending up backstabbed for it. Bad guys are necessary for conflict and some gray areas are always interesting if only for variety's sake, but I'd like negative aspects to be mostly the realm of the PCs' enemies. Bad places and bad organizations certainly exist, but they should not be the default and most common thing. This is probably the most important aspect of my research. Many settings go for the "mature" route and this is so not what I'm looking for.
- Adventure! Action! Daring! Saving the day! (doesn't have to be the world, though)
- Rule of Cool is rule #1!
- Includes exotic locations. Things like deserts and pyramids, ice wastelands, incredible forests and jungles, impossible cities, flying islands, grandiose palaces, underwater civilizations, etc... Most locations should make your mind-eyes pop out and be awesome in one way or another. Not everything has to be over-the-top (mind-eyes need their rest too) but it should be a world (or worlds) you want to see a lot of.
- Encourages travel-based narratives. I'm a sucker for variety, so it should be possible, if not encouraged, to travel to the aforementioned exotic locations during adventures. A setting where one adventure takes place in an ancient-asia-inspired wondercity, the next in Africaland and another at the top of snow covered mountains would be nice. It doesn't have to be Asia or Africa inspired, but it's the kind of geographical and cultural variety I'd like.
- Non-media-franchise. It's hard to live up to existing settings from movies or series and I know I wouldn't feel comfortable running it unless I know everything.
Is there such a setting in existence? Or at least something close that could work with a few tweaks?
EDIT: I realize I am asking for a lot. As such, if you know of a setting approaching these criterias but not quite meeting them, I believe it's still worth mentioning, along with the bits that don't quite match.
To help refine things, here are other points, though they are more optional:
- A High Fantasy or Heroic Fantasy setting would be my preference but I am also curious about Sci-Fi and anything a few centuries back such as Victorian era, Wild West, Musketeers or Pirates of the Caribbeans stuff.
- I'm not big on Modern, Post-apocalyptic or Cyberpunk settings because they are usually entrenched in darker tones and gritty realism. An Urban Fantasy that's not all about dark moody cities may possibly work though.
- Clichés are OK. I still consider myself a newcomer to roleplaying games and I have barely touched anything in-depth yet. As such, I am not sick of your classic elves and dwarves at all.
- Normal stuff is OK. Having a some "normal" places to contrast with exotic locations is not a bad thing.
- Multiracial. Whether it's high fantasy with dwarves and elves, Sci-Fi with aliens or urban fantasy with clockwork robots and feys.
- A little room for expansion and tweaking. While I need a solid base to work from, I'd like to avoid the opposite extreme of being "stuck" in a setting so tightly made that inserting or modifying anything breaks it all (or is just not that setting anymore). This can be anything from small geographical regions left as a blank canvas, to setting mysteries with an answer left to the GM but, very important, with examples of what might be the truth (for inspiration).
- Not too much politics, or at least avoidable. I'm just not big on that at all and it doesn't scream "adventure!" to me :). This also goes for wars with big armies (focus should be on individuals and small groups of heroes). It could serve as background and explain why some parts of the setting are the way they are, though, but I wouldn't make adventures out of it.
- A setting not overly detailed but with enough adventure modules to serve as examples may work too.
Here's a list of works that mostly represent the tone and elements I'm looking for:
- Indiana Jones
- The Mummy
- Uncharted videogame series
- Pirates of the Caribbeans trilogy (not seen 4th one)
- Stargate SG-1 TV series (and the original Stargate movie)
- Tintin comics
- The Princess Bride
- Some James Bond and Mission Impossible movies may well fit the bill for the "impossible action" thing, less for the spy thing.
- National Treasure (I didn't like the movie, but the theme fits, very Uncharted/IJones-like)
- Hellboy movies (if at least for the exoticism and over-the-top action)
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie (over-the-top action and steampunk bits)
And as it turns out, none is really "high/heroic fantasy", mh.
Finally a list of (some) settings I have either read, played in or heard of that may fit the bill or, on the contrary, don't work for me:
- Pathfinder Inner Sea Setting. I like the variety and somewhat optional nature of the many lands, but there also tends to be a dark undertone in the setting books. Sometimes less in some modules and Adventure Paths, but sometimes also much more. It's also not quite over-the-top enough at low levels thanks to the d20 base, but this may be fixed in a variety of ways (higher level, different system). This setting could work for me with a lot of cutting out the darker locales/civilizations, giving everyone Belts of Being Good +5 and pushing the awesome levels up to 11. But then, is it still Pathfinder anymore? For reference, I'm currently mostly intrigued by Qadira, Osirion, Jalmaray
- Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies. Very very close. Floating islands, varied places, definitely doing the swashbuckler adventure thing with terrible villains but also honorable heroes. It even encourages you to create your own islands and pick which nation is the Big Bad and which one is the Force For Good. In a sense, all it's missing is more playable races and more material to devour :)
- Spirit of the Century. This is made of derring-do and seems to have the right tone for me overall. Sadly, this is a ruleset first and a setting second. I think I need more content for this one.
- Kerberos Club. Victorian + Fantasy + Pulp + Superheroes + Steampunk? Yes please? But why so dark? :( Something similar with less Gothic would probably work well enough for me.
- Vampire, Werewolf. As a counter-example. Generally dark and political (at least Vampire).
- Forgotten Realms. I'm barely familiar with it. This way work for all I know. Seems like it requires a LOT of material, though (a lot of it out-of-print too...)
- Eberron. While I like the fantasy steampunk part, the Noir part, not so much.
- Planescape. Absolutely amazing at exoticism, but the many dark undertones have kept me from actually doing anything with it.
EDIT: If you believe one of these settings actually fits my request or can be easily tweaked to fit, please do mention it.