Day 3 Redux

Day 3 Redux

Paul Mitchener​ has rewritten his weaksauce Day 3 #12RPG question! This one is way better. I swear, getting a straight answer out of a Brit is like pulling teeth sometimes.

What does the fantasy game you want to run do differently to D&D? What do you think of the dominance of D&D fantasy elements in what sometimes feels like every bloody fantasy RPG setting under the sun?

Yessss.

What I want my fantasy game to do different than D&D is a long fucking list. And it has everything to do with a deeper question I’ve been poking at about the purpose of fantasy, once you strip away the nostalgia. Like, what is fantasy for that’s different than other kinds of speculative fiction?

I want the characters to have their own agency and needs. I want them to have interesting lives without having to suspend every ounce of disbelief just to stuff them into a “party.”

I want the world to be politically interesting and fraught and difficult. And I want it to recognize the intersections of many kinds of power. Temporary alliances, unbreakable oaths, lies of convenience. Faith that people actually believe in. Values like loyalty and honor that are actually valued, which is just impossible to replicate in modern players without mechanical intervention or all-in buy-in by everyone.

I want cultures to clash but also I want them to enrich one another. The dynamism of intermingling peoples is, I think, a massively overlooked aspect of world history.

I want the problems of the characters to be relatable. Human needs are a million times more interesting than saving the world, again and again.

I want super scary, unpredictable magic in the world that invokes wonder and terror. That’s a toughie. Still want it.

Second half of the question is, “what do I think of the dominance of D&D fantasy” etc etc. What I think is, it’s infantile and gross. It’s also what sells. Which occasionally makes me cringe at the capacity of this thing we do to facilitate infantile, gross play. But I’m also good at pretending that everyone’s fun is fine, it’s all harmless, haha let’s just have a laugh and not take any of this so seriously.

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0 thoughts on “Day 3 Redux”

  1. I’m not now, and never have been, inured in the fiction of (most) D&D. I cut my teeth on WFRP. I like Greyhawk, but don’t find it to be derivative. I love Darksun, the abandoned stepchild treated like a weird family secret.

    Now, what I want my fantasy game to do… that’s a long ass post that I’ll try to make again at some point.

  2. It sounds like you just hate D&D players and all their stupid bullshit, Paul. I hate them too, but I still love D&D. Whenever I see a new fantasy game, I just think “why?”

  3. without writing a checklist of things about D&D I don’t like (including people who work on it):

    Because D&D is not the game I want to play. It doesn’t do things that I want to do in a fantasy game, and there are other games out there that do.

    That’s seriously like me looking at Euchre players and saying “Well, poker exists, so why do you even…”

  4. At first I thought I liked this rephrasing, so I was going to post my own answer to it (at least the second part). But in trying to think about what I was going to say I read more closely “What do you think of the dominance of D&D fantasy elements in what sometimes feels like every bloody fantasy RPG setting under the sun?”. I’m not sure that the fantasy elements of D&D are what I have problems with, D&D is mostly just a grab-bag mishmash of fantasy stuff. It’s the D&D-ism of D&D where I find the dominance to be a problem, and the way it warps perception of the fantasy genre (e.g. people seem to think that “zero to hero” is a thing in Epic Fantasy because it’s a thing in D&D, even though I’d have a really hard time mapping Frodo’s arc in LOTR to zero-to-hero).

  5. Dan Maruschak​ think of it as (D&D fantasy) elements rather than D&D (fantasy elements) for what I’m getting at. Though D&D elements would be better yet.

    But this question is still intended to be about worlds and settings and assumptions that come up due to systems, rather than about systems, even if one cannot and should not completely divorce the two.

  6. Characters with their own agency – check.

    Politically interesting world, recognizing the intersections of many kinds of powers – check.

    Clash of cultures but also enrichment between them – check.

    Magic that could turn you into a monstrous abomination – check.

    Paul Beakley​ you need to play Symbaroum 🙂

  7. Krister Persson haha! I’ve owned and sold it already. I couldn’t point to any part of it that meets my criteria for checking it off other than maybe the magic thing.

  8. Derrick Sanders I am not, but some people do. I was offering one example of what I consider a weird belief that I’ve seen people express, and I think the dominance of D&D is the likely cause of that weird belief.

  9. I feel like the shorthand for what you’re saying here is: “I want a fantasy game that actually resembles good fantasy fiction.” Which I think is a desire that has launched many games.

    (Also, I am excluding fiction that specifically emulates D&D.)

  10. As I wrote in the other thread, new d&d is a different beast from old d&d. As for social interaction, Greyhawk is strongly affected by and builds upon volkenwanderung and how different ethnic groups deal with each other. Including magic genocide MAD, and the setting is also explicitly postapocalyptic. Because the seventies.

    I want less new d&d and more old. More Dunsany, less Tolkien. Also I want more gangs and flexible law and the less boring part of feudalism and other interesting societal elements. I want players mingling with those in power for their own reasons.

    I go for historical societal structures because they are complicated as hell (without mysoginy because it’s just depressing, but with a lot of disdain for foreigners, because before radio even people from 50 miles over spoke funny and had bizarre customs, and i find it funny even if I’m target of that myself). And when my players slay a dragon (not happened since 2013) it’s more Fafnir than Smaug.

    Vanilla is boring.

  11. Old D&D was just as dreadfully unreflective as new D&D. Appendix N is just a fucking list. Clearly nobody involved in the game thought about anything in Appendix N, or – heaven forfend – actually exposed themselves to even semi-professional literary analysis of it in any form.

    And that leads to what I want to do with fantasy (and it is what I do with D&D, which is why D&D players don’t like playing D&D with me), which is to make it reflective. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be fun – my Forgotten Realms is essentially all about the trashiest celebrity culture stuff I can find.

  12. Jason Corley yep old D&D out of the LBBs is a hash of stuff. For being so unreflective, it’s fun for many. Because hash can be delicious. I’m actually more of the opinion that thale game presented in seventies d&d base game was mostly about a hash of magic, monsters, dungeons.

    As for Greyhawk and Blackmoor and Tekumel, if one can get past the fact that they are literally the first examples of their type (literally as in pertaining to written matter) so badly developed by current standards, they do shine in specific areas.

    And by badly developed, I mean that the handbooks are organized like shit.

  13. Jason Corley​ yep old D&D out of the LBBs is a hash of stuff. For being so unreflective, it’s fun for many. Because hash can be delicious. I’m actually more of the opinion that thale game presented in seventies d&d base game was mostly about a hash of those magic, monsters, dungeons, than about rules. Change the hash, the game is different, the hash is different, the chemistry is different.

    As for Greyhawk and Blackmoor and Tekumel, if one can get past the fact that they are literally the first examples of their type (literally as in pertaining to written matter) so badly developed by current standards, they do shine in specific areas.

    And by badly developed, I mean that the handbooks are organized like shit.

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