This is more about tabletop-game design theory with slight social discussion. If that’s not your thing, tune in next week for some game reviews.
This started while I was working on a review of d20 Modern. I was having trouble explaining why the “D&D crossed with action movie” vibe didn’t really work. Part of the game’s problem is modern times.
Most RPG games, such as Dungeons & Dragons and Shadowrun require a certain wildness in the setting. Not complete anarchy, but bad enough to justify people hiring mercenaries AKA the Players. Typical D&D further requires unexplored dungeons and wilderness full of outlaws and monsters. That’s why settings like post-apocalyptic landscapes, frontiers, and medieval fantasy are popular. They allow the players certain freedoms, such as loot. In real life, if you discovered treasure in a ruin there would be various legal issues before (if ever) you could claim ownership. In D&D, it’s yours unless a dragon shows up and eats you.
It’s possible to have a civilized setting but with characters at the fringes of society or in times of general upheaval. Star Wars games usually sets the players as rebels or criminals against the Empire or in other times of intergalactic war. Shadowrunners are by nature criminals; how much of that is due to player tendencies vs. unjust laws is up to each player and the GM. But most games need that opening of social disorder.
But not all tabletop games. Call of Cthulhu and White Wolf games can exist in “civilization” due to A) not being as combat focused and B) being about the terrible reality behind the facade of their “normal” looking world. Mystery, spy, and political games all work in the modern world because they don’t focus on violence as a major mechanism of the game.
If you want Hack and Slash, you have to fit it in to the world you’re building. If everyone is on board you can create an 80s action movie of cowboy cops and repercussion-free violence instead of police officers having to file a report every time they fire their weapons. Understand, however, that while a movie can gloss over plot holes, you the GM A) expect your players to think and B) are there to answer any questions or challenges of your mini-verse’s logic and consistency. So decide and justify the amount of law and order your players will deal with.