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Bearfoot_Adam
12-18-2008, 11:27 AM
As fantasy gamers how bound are we to certain "truths". After rereading my rough draft of ideas for my campaign world, or if I'm lucky an actual setting that I may run many campaigns from, I realized how different it is from my initial ideas and goals for a fantasy game. My three main inspirations were Clive Barker's Abarat, Neil Gaiman's Stardust, and Joe Cambell's Monomyth and Hero with Many Faces. I came up with the following conclusions about what I wanted.

1. The heroes are from a non magical society that may have dealt with magic in the past.
2. The magical world shares a physical border with the mundane that can be crossed.
3. Since all myths have shared concepts one can beg borrow and steal with impunity so long as you strip the ideas down to their bare essentials.
4. There are no other races but man. Racial facades are put on humans to better tell a story.
5. When the heroes return from their journey across the threshold they begin to question the reality of the experiance as their spoils and treasures fade (ala Fairy gold) since it can not exist on this side of the threshold.
6 I wanted a small setting, no larger then Great Briton. I felt that if an immence wealth of stories can come from an Isalnd so small then it would be fine for my game.
7. Since magic does not exist in the Mundande setting then magically inclined players will have little control of their magic in that part of the world.

Once I started putting ideas to keyboard I almost imediately had to make concessions due to certain "truths" about fantasy gaming. Some for my players sake, others for the sake of wanting my world ot last for more than one campaign.

1. Players ( I know I would)will be pissed off if their gold turns to leaves and they feel the plast six months of gameing were a dream sequence. So anything happening on the magical side of the threshold had to be real.
2. I also fealt that an all human game/ campaign world would detract from the desire to play.
3. Given these two truths, and the desire for me to run a particular story line that needs a group of magically inclined short people, Races were entered back into the setting and their design was based around certain comforatble motifs. ie. Dwarves are short people that live under mountains,Elves like magic, Halflings are short and happy
4. People who play magical characters want to be able to cast magic. It is bad GM'ing to railroad them into a narrative. If I wanted to do that I should just write a story.
5. Again assuming a succesful campaign I want to leave an out to introduce new lands since players and myself may get tired of the current setting.

So my initial goal which I am still a fan of is hard to see in my pseudo finished product, which is posted in Campaign resources. I like what I have. Though I don't claim that any idea is origional, I do feel that I added a few colors of paint that are rarely seen on the the landscape.

Has anyone else out there felt shackled by these or other "truths" found in the hobby? Have you ignored them and what were the results? I'd love ot here what you all think.

trechriron
12-18-2008, 05:30 PM
I think you can determine the "need" or "popularity" of required fantasy tropes by looking at what settings are more popular and which ones are more niche.

I see Forgotten Realms, Basic D&D, Warhammer Fantasy, Lord of the Rings, Diamond Throne, Eberron, and older settings like Dark Sun, Spelljammer and Planescape being more popular. Common, expected tropes abound, with some alternatives or change-ups.

I see Thieve's World, Lahnkmar, Elric, Conan have a solid niche popularity. Even here, some people don't appreciate human-centric settings, or Sword & Sorcery as default. They have tropes in line with their genre, but it seems not as many people appreciate these tropes as the high fantasy ones.

Talislanta, Blue Rose, Earth Dawn, and the new HARP setting Cyradon probably fall into even tighter niches. I see these challenging some of those tropes, and thereby are going to be less appealing to the wider audience.

Now consider that there are many people who like settings that cater to a niche. The settings may ignore or dramatically change tropes, but there are some people who dig that. Mix your fantasy with futuristic cyber-punk? Solid Gold. Sure, there are some tropes in there, but many of the niche settings challenge or drop some of those tropes. Who knows what new shiny setting could join the big daddies of fantasy settings in the future? :D Perhaps the world is ready for a trope-free fantasy setting!

There is no reason to not try and offer something different and see where the players take you. If they don't like it, you can always fall back on the tropes! :D

fmitchell
12-18-2008, 06:26 PM
Let me emphasize a previous comment: the only people you have to please are yourself and your players. Thinking through the consequences is a good thing, but don't abandon the idea just because it changes game play. For example, adventuring in Elfland might bring other rewards than gold, perhaps intangible blessings or innate abilities, which *would* carry over to the mortal world. The fool who wastes his time grabbing all the gold he can might deserve what he gets, especially if the other residents of Elfland tell him time and time again that "gold will gain you nothing".

Rich Burlew is writing a series of articles on creating a new game world (http://www.giantitp.com/Gaming.html, bottom of the page). It's interesting to look at his initial decisions, and how they change in subsequent installments. For example, gnomes are the main non-human race, and he's developed a non-stereotypical culture around them; he had other ideas such as half-orcs and some sort of flying species, but they fell away when he decided to limit the number of intelligent races.

Bearfoot_Adam
12-18-2008, 07:13 PM
I actually discovered Burlew's essays yesterday. That's what got me thinking about how much changed in my world.

fmitchell
12-18-2008, 07:56 PM
The idea of a (mostly) mundane human realm and a magical Otherworld is a good one, though. If you situate your campaign on the border between The Fields We Know and the other realm, with some residual influence outside the Elflands, you could still run some interesting games.

I've even toyed with the idea that "elves" are just humans who live in "Elfland", and once outside its influence are indistinguishable from humans. Katherine Briggs's An Encyclopedia of Fairies tells the apocryphal tale of the "Green Children", who originally were completely green and who behaved in very odd, fairy-like ways. One supposedly died, but the other eventually lost her green color and became a good Christian girl.

I'd suggest finding the Mythago Wood novels by Robert Holdstock, although I'll warn you his writing style is a bit slow and dense. For a lighter treatment of the same idea, watch The Spiderwick Chronicles or find Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter.

hueloovoo
12-21-2008, 03:04 AM
Shades of Piers Anthony's "Xanth" novels? I loved those way back... Seems like it would be a fun game, but then I like puns...

Etarnon
12-21-2008, 09:29 AM
I've never worried about changing it to attract people to play, other than changing it to make the omnipresent theme, and setting clearer.

So for example, If I say Human-centric world, no elves, no dwarves, no orcs, no arcane magic, AD&D 2e, Charlemagne's paladins, circa 1200 AD, low level clerical magic, most clerical magic accessible only via miraculous access...The Priests of the Western Church on the border of Saxony, spreading the word of the Holy Western Church;

That's what I'm running, no matter what, since I decided. I then decide, based on how much work I've put in, how long (in months) I want to wait for players to show up from ads, how many players I'll accept as "Full."

People that show up and say "I want a half-orc sorcerer", I invite to another game in the area, because it doesn't fit my setting, even if that's the only player that showed even a slight bit of interest.

Conversely, I might run a star trek game, centered on planet Vulcan, where I have decided it's the reverse of the star trek setup, where 90% of the PCs are gonna be vulcans, and a singleton Human.

In a reverse fish out of water story. I'll make maps of vulcan, and the science academy, and the mountains, and the interior politics of reunification, perhaps with a few romulan spies.

Someone who says "I want to play a tellarite," It's not gonna happen.

So I lay out what I want, and people self filter.

Likewise if some other DM / GM clearly defines what they want, what the setup is, say battletech /Mechwarrior, light 'mechs only, I'm not gonna push for something medium or heavy, because it violates the setup as detailed by the person who is gonna run it.

Some games are a process of adaptation on both sides, some are defined, and players self filter.

Now, for example I might decide I am running Twilight:2000, anything goes, as long as it is pro "the last survivors", so we might have a Polish priest, a female civilian who was once a stage actress, a Russian deserter who always wanted to live in America, and a force recon marine who was wounded on his last jump into the radiation scarred city, and can only walk kind of fast, and throws up a lot.

It all depends.

This is a good thread, since it gets at what is the core of the creative process in DMing games, I think.

tesral
12-21-2008, 10:19 PM
That particular layout isn't unknown. Narnia, The Thomas Covenant stories, and a number of others.

fmitchell
12-22-2008, 01:00 PM
1. More on the Green Children (http://anomalyinfo.com/articles/sa00022.php). (Note: I don't endorse the woo found on the rest of the site.)

2. Restricting the setting in a way forces the GM and players to be more creative. Instead of the usual dungeon crawl or Tolclone, you're giving the players an interesting setting to play in, with different rules and dynamics to explore. If you help them create characters appropriate for that setting, and reward them for using the constraints to their advantage, you create a much more memorable experience.

Two of the best games I've ever played in used a restricted setting. One was Midnight, where magic is forbidden (but still practiced in a limited form), other character classes are changed somewhat, elves and dwarves aren't available as starting races, and all PCs are peasants. The other was a custom campaign where we all played a famous paladin's children or their companions; all the children had to be human (except for one adopted Dragonborn and me playing a Tiefling born under unusual circumstances), and a large part of the game involved running a kingdom.

Maybe the trick is that, for every option you take away, you have to add some new and interesting element. E.g. you can't be an elf or a dwarf, but you fight against the Shadow that has conquered the known world.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
12-22-2008, 01:07 PM
That particular layout isn't unknown. Narnia, The Thomas Covenant stories, and a number of others.
Someone mention "Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever" series? Loved it. In fact, It got me hooked on fantasy other than REH's Conan stuff back in high school. I guess there is a third trilogy out now?

When designing games and worlds, i have never felt 'shackled' to a particular design. I just design what i believe to be interesting. I may even take in requests from my gaming group if everyone around the table were in agreement with a certain themed game. I just... allow, and all things just seem to fall into their rightrul place.

hueloovoo
12-22-2008, 01:39 PM
The Thomas Covenant books were good, though a bit dark for me. That guy really got handed the short end of the stick.

Bearfoot_Adam
12-22-2008, 01:41 PM
That particular layout isn't unknown. Narnia, The Thomas Covenant stories, and a number of others.

Another good one is Terry Brooks Magic Kingdom for sale series. I haven't though about those for years. A common theme with all these stories though is that they are modern times. Even stardust is set in the mid 1800's. So one of the major themes is the modern to medieval fantasy contrast. If one wants to have a similar set up where the magical world is on the other side of the threshold in a dark ages setting much of that contrast is lost. I don't see this as a problem it's just that a lot of that culture shock wouldn't be there since the technology level would be similar.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
12-22-2008, 01:44 PM
The Thomas Covenant books were good, though a bit dark for me. That guy really got handed the short end of the stick.
If you found the Thomas Covenant books a bit dark, then trust me when i say, never ever read a warhammer fantasy novel.

Even though it can be argued that he may have been handed the short end of the stick, if he saw things in a glass half-full perspective, he'd be happy that the (omitted due to being spoilerific) was curing him of (omitted due to being spoilerific).

tesral
12-22-2008, 02:00 PM
If you found the Thomas Covenant books a bit dark, then trust me when i say, never ever read a warhammer fantasy novel.

Even though it can be argued that he may have been handed the short end of the stick, if he saw things in a glass half-full perspective, he'd be happy that the (omitted due to being spoilerific) was curing him of (omitted due to being spoilerific).

Main reason I never could get into them. The "hero" was a real downer.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
12-22-2008, 02:06 PM
Main reason I never could get into them. The "hero" was a real downer.
I actually enjoyed the first trilogy, although i do recognize what you mean. As far as the second trilogy is concerned, i could never get used to seeing events, not from Thomas' POV, but the girls POV.

Thomas was a glass half-empy type of person, laden with the boo-whoo with me syndrome. It did get old. In fact, there were a couple of times in the book that i thought, if i were standing next to him, i'd smack him with a reality check. Truth be told, some people you just cant save, Thomas being one of them. But for you readers out there, it was a good trilogy, a trilogy who's rights were bought out for the potential of making a movie one day. I hope they do it, for i found the stories to be a surprisingly good read. :biggrin:

Etarnon
12-23-2008, 05:40 AM
I thought that the Illearth War was the best of the series.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
12-23-2008, 11:47 AM
I thought that the Illearth War was the best of the series.
Ah, book 2. Hey, wasnt that the book that introduced the Blood Guard? I thought the idea was great, btw, and have incorporated it into some of my games later on.

Aidan
12-23-2008, 02:47 PM
I actually enjoyed the first trilogy, although i do recognize what you mean. As far as the second trilogy is concerned, i could never get used to seeing events, not from Thomas' POV, but the girls POV.

Thomas was a glass half-empy type of person, laden with the boo-whoo with me syndrome. It did get old. In fact, there were a couple of times in the book that i thought, if i were standing next to him, i'd smack him with a reality check. Truth be told, some people you just cant save, Thomas being one of them. But for you readers out there, it was a good trilogy, a trilogy who's rights were bought out for the potential of making a movie one day. I hope they do it, for i found the stories to be a surprisingly good read. :biggrin:

I couldn't stand them. Read the first book and got about a quarter of the way through the second book and threw it across the room and refused to pick it up again. I'm a voracious reader of fantasy and sci-fi and there are very few books that I don't finish if I pick them up. Thomas Covenent was one of them. The first book in the Wheel of Time series is another.

Malruhn
12-24-2008, 12:16 AM
The Thomas Covenant books were good, though a bit dark for me. That guy really got handed the short end of the stick.A bit dark?!?! The books were totally bleak and so damned depressing that I didn't make it through the third book... and I'm a voracious reader that can read ANYTHING!!

He was not only a glass-half-empty type of person, he dumped the damned glass OUT!!! Yes, he had some bad luck, but most of his hell was self-inflicted.

I've been able to take something from every fantasy or sci-fi book I've read and incorporate it into my campaign - and the ONLY thing I was able to steal from the Unbeliever series was two twists on his name... Half-Hand and XX-fingers (depending upon how many were gone, and if they were counting both hands or only one).

I'd like to call the series "Crap," but that isn't fair to things that are truly fecal in nature.

nijineko
12-24-2008, 02:09 PM
i did not like those books. i refuse to read the second trilogy, and i won't reread the first. i'm a very positively oriented person. i'm not interested in depressing.

however, i found the giants that healed by fire interesting, as well as the leather thong that, as promised, kept the wearer alive... at all costs... even buried alive. now, who wants this "special" ring of sustenance?



what was the topic again?

(goes and checks) oh, yeah.

create your own world, one that you are happy with, just ignore whether you are using "conventions" or not and you'll be happier.

Bearfoot_Adam
12-24-2008, 03:59 PM
what was the topic again?

(goes and checks) oh, yeah.

create your own world, one that you are happy with, just ignore whether you are using "conventions" or not and you'll be happier.

Actually that is really good piece of advice for me to remember. As is all the others. Thanks everyone.

jade von delioch
12-30-2008, 12:29 PM
Very true. You only need the game world to work for you unless you plan to sell it.

Another series that you can take a look at, though it is a bit more modern, is the Elves on the Road universe series by Mercedes Lackey. the first book is called Bedlam Bard. Or even the Dresden files can give you good ideas on how to keep the two world separate.
One other thing to keep in mind is that that the other races may not cross the border between the two realms because, much like in Stardust, they thrive from a magical enviroment and could possible die if they leave it. Plus, on the other side of this coin, very few Humans even know that this border exist and think that the other realm is only a myth.
Another good book that shows this is the First Von Beck book in the eternal champion series by Michael Moorcock. It has shown up in some of the other books as well, but here they use the roads between worlds to maneuver around hostel areas in order to complete their goal.

hueloovoo
12-30-2008, 01:15 PM
Another series that did fun things with world/universe hopping: Piers Anthony's Phase/Photon books. High tech on one side of the curtain, high fantasy on the other side, and no one can cross the curtain unless their mirror twin on the other side dies. Really good stuff!

akela122301
12-30-2008, 01:19 PM
Another series that did fun things with world/universe hopping: Piers Anthony's Phase/Photon books. High tech on one side of the curtain, high fantasy on the other side, and no one can cross the curtain unless their mirror twin on the other side dies. Really good stuff!
There is one other way someone on one side could cross to the other: if their twin on the other side exchanged places with them, thereby maintaining the balance.

hueloovoo
12-30-2008, 06:26 PM
There is one other way someone on one side could cross to the other: if their twin on the other side exchanged places with them, thereby maintaining the balance.

Oh wow, I can't believe I forgot that... It's been like 14 years since I read them though... Still, excellent books, and fun game ideas!