[generic] RPG a day lockdown #64 - what makes fantasy special?

#2
I think we can remove the redundant "the" between "makes" and "<genre>" from questions. I didn't correct my original typo because I thought it was funny, but I don't think I need to be reminded of it every day this week Or do I?

Editor: done

On the question, I'm not that big a fantasy buff, but I think what it does very well and sets it apart from most othe genre is the way it invites suspension of disbelief. It draws from folklore and mythology, with games are set in a distant age of legend, that somehow predates science and rationality. I think that smooths over a lot of rough edges and logical complications, facilitating among other things duneon crawl style play.

Superheroes also invite suspension of especially when it comes to the powers and whole kitchen sink universes, but there is still a point of friction where this touches the real world.
 
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Pual

Lay member
#3
I think the best thing about fantasy genre is that,ironically, everyone pretty much knows what to expect - magic, heroes, pseudo-medieval setting etc. - so you don’t have too much time explaining the world to new players just highlight what’s different
 
#4
For me, the great thing about fantasy is that everything is on the table and you have the freedom to shape it how you like. You can borrow from diverse real world histories and cultures without being beholden to them. You can have swords and ray guns in the same setting. You can have monsters or no monsters. You don’t even need to have magic. If RPGs were swimming, this would be the Freestyle category.
 
#5
I think we can remove the redundant "the" between "makes" and "<genre>" from questions. I didn't correct my original typo because I thought it was funny, but I don't think I need to be reminded of it every day this week Or do I?

On the question, I'm not that big a fantasy buff, but I think what it does very well and sets it apart from most othe genre is the way it invites suspension of disbelief. It draws from folklore and mythology, with games are set in a distant age of legend, that somehow predates science and rationality. I think that smooths over a lot of rough edges and logical complications, facilitating among other things duneon crawl style play.

Superheroes also invite suspension of especially when it comes to the powers and whole kitchen sink universes, but there is still a point of friction where this touches the real world.
Great points, though I think your view of fantasy aligns with a common one that links to traditional fantasy of fairy tales, folklore and mythology. Or in the RPG space, basically either fantasy Medievalism (common with the hero's journey genre) or fantasy Renaissance (common with the romance genre).

Fantasy on its own is too broad a genre, as I realiszed when I have been collecting various role playing books, and stumbled upon something not currently on my fantasy bookshelf. One of these non-traditional fantasy games I purchased but abandoned is the "Urbana Arcana" campaign for d20 Modern. Basically, mixing magic and modernity, so elves and goblins in casting spells in a 1990s New York simulacrum. That sort of mix is never something I felt was plausible, since, one expects scientists in those genres to study the mysterious magical occurrences until they stop being magical.

But then again, if you look at the diverse cast of superheroes, from the more down-to-earth DC universe Batman and other plausible caped crusaders, to the magic wielding Marvel universe Doctor Strange, suddenly, even the superhero genre is dabbling with magical fantasy. Traditionally, super powers were supposed to come from unexplained science, but the demand for more and more heroes broke that mold.

So I guess the debate of what makes a game a fantasy RPG is pretty long and controversial.

My personal preferences are for low magic fantasy, that sub-genre usually called "swords and sorcery" with Robert E. Howard's Conan being my favorite. Thanks to Modiphius Entertainment, this current Conan RPG has just the right mix of primitive technology (or lack thereof more accurately) a trope still associated with traditional fantasy worlds, and also magic powers, but low level and mostly through dark bargains with other worldly beings. And because Conan fiction is what I enjoyed in childhood, this sword and sorcery RPG is the one I run most often. Pinnacle's Savage Worlds did Lankhmar, an adaptation of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, but not as extensively researched as Modiphius did with Conan.

Still on the topic of fantasy, you can even have epic fantasy but low magic, like J. R. R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings universe, where you never see Gandalf casting magic spells just for kicks. Which is completely opposite to Keith Baker's Eberron RPG universe that turned the prevalence of magic on its head, and made the whole world powered by magic like ours is by technology (I think Eberron is called arcane punk or mage punk now).

Fria Ligan's Forbidden Lands is another good low-magic fantasy setting, in that it borrows heavily from Nordic folklore and uses subtle magic (like in common folklore) so your heroes do not get to cast fireball on a whim like in popular D&D-derived RPGs.

Finally, fantasy is not even limited to the requirement for low technology to be mandatory in it game universe. You can have advanced science fiction levels of technology still mixed with godlike magic: powers as seen in the space fantasy of Warhammer 40,000

Maybe we need some checklists on what is and what is not fantasy, or it gets muddled so very quickly.
 

Guvnor

The Guvnor
Staff member
#6
I think the best thing about fantasy genre is that,ironically, everyone pretty much knows what to expect - magic, heroes, pseudo-medieval setting etc. - so you don’t have too much time explaining the world to new players just highlight what’s different
But that's not fantasy...
It's Pooh Bear adventuring.
Collapsing realities where teapots are the ruling class and wardrobes toil in plantations picking candy floss, awaiting the return of sapience so they will rise up, whilst overhead space whales sing songs to reverse the time flow... Now that's FANTASY!
 
#7
But then again, if you look at the diverse cast of superheroes, from the more down-to-earth DC universe Batman and other plausible caped crusaders, to the magic wielding Marvel universe Doctor Strange, suddenly, even the superhero genre is dabbling with magical fantasy. Traditionally, super powers were supposed to come from unexplained science, but the demand for more and more heroes broke that mold.
No, superheroes have always been about everything. At least as far back as the early '60s, which is when the Marvel and DC universes were kicking off. Not sure about the '40s. If you go back to the pulp era - the wellspring of geek culture - I suppose you could argue that they were framing things as psychic abilities, pharmaceutical effects of lotus flowers, etc but I'm still not convinced.

And although all of that is some sort of fantasy - and so is Star Wars - I wouldn't confuse any of it with 'fantasy'.
 
#8
One of the appeals of fantasy is that it makes the world simple, clearing away the everyday dreck that we have to contend with in real life. (Mind you, for some people that translates to 'we can kill whoever we want without pesky law enforcement, using our characters for a rather dubious sense of agency'.) That's not one of the main appeals for me, but for people dealing with a lot of Stuff in their life it's a big one. (OK, I do also like chopping monsters up.)

I guess for me it's mainly about the mythology/symbol/resonance stuff; and the sense of 'what's over here' and 'what's going on behind the scenes'. But those are what get me for any genre...
 
#10
Probably best if, for the purposes of this thread, fantasy is whatever the person posting things it is. I suspect if we get caught up over definitions we'll just end up chasing our tails.
Or perhaps the people who want our opinions on a particular sub-genre or specific definition of fantasy could add a question of their own to the lockdown question list? :devilish:
 
#12
We all were told fairy stories growing up so we know the ball park. But Fantasy is far removed from the real world and, therefore, easy to role play due to that distance.
 

Guvnor

The Guvnor
Staff member
#14
We all were told fairy stories growing up so we know the ball park. But Fantasy is far removed from the real world and, therefore, easy to role play due to that distance.
Fairy stories are fantasy? Surely they are myths debased to legends debased to fairies?
I tell you, psychedelic tree ferns racing thru the reverse time jelly of pure ecstacy, that's fantasy
This high medieval stuff with point ears is a walk thru' Rubery woods..
 

First Age

D&D h@ck3r and Hopepunk
Staff member
#15
We've all read Moorcock, or Lieber, or Tolkien, or Vance, or Abercrombie, or Eddings, or almost lost it when reading Donaldson. That's the Fantasy we are talking about. Until I smoke what Guvnor has. Then then it is that one. With pursuing rave squirrels.
 
#16
Ursula Le Guin distinguished SF from fantasy by saying that SF dealt with things that didn’t exist, but could in the future, whereas fantasy dealt with things that couldn’t possibly be true. “With fantasy, we simply agree to lift the ban on the imagination and follow the story, now matter how implausible it may be.”

I subscribe to this view. Fantasy will transcend all your efforts to define it by authors or genre tropes, I think.
 
#17
We've all read Moorcock, or Lieber, or Tolkien, or Vance, or Abercrombie, or Eddings, or almost lost it when reading Donaldson. That's the Fantasy we are talking about. Until I smoke what Guvnor has. Then then it is that one. With pursuing rave squirrels.
Thanks for reminding me of Stephen R. Donaldson. "A Man Rides Through" is a such a wonderful tale from my childhood.
 
#18
Fantasy is basically the default RPG genre. I've played more of it than anything else. And it can be tweaked to fit in most campaign and adventure concepts - it's extremely flexible. In some ways it's to broad, but it can be adjusted to suit lots of different needs.

I'm extremely fond of historical fantasy, but even if we discount that (why?) fantasy has held some of my favourite games I've played and run - most recently The One Ring. And I think these days that's key to me enjoying fantasy - fantasy in a particular mode rather than being kitchen sink. Curse of Strahd is doing it for me as a player at the moment.

Glorantha is also starting to obsess me.
 
#19
Fairy stories are fantasy? Surely they are myths debased to legends debased to fairies?
I tell you, psychedelic tree ferns racing thru the reverse time jelly of pure ecstacy, that's fantasy
This high medieval stuff with point ears is a walk thru' Rubery woods..
Have you been reading Troika or something? ;)
 
#20
We've all read Moorcock, or Lieber, or Tolkien, or Vance, or Abercrombie, or Eddings, or almost lost it when reading Donaldson. That's the Fantasy we are talking about. Until I smoke what Guvnor has. Then then it is that one. With pursuing rave squirrels.
This reminds me that if fantasy rpgs had been based on the work of Patricia McKillip, things would have been different.
 
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