Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A fantasy distilation

So the last few days I've been away from thinking about specific systems to do the game in and just mostly mulling over fantasy and what I like about it. This has been helped by my reading of the Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen #1) by Steven Erikson. Its a fun  read but it doesn't paint a picture for me of that the world is like however I'm sure it will come given the number of books in the series.   Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1)

So what do I like in fantasy. Well I tend to like the Medieval fantasy - this means more strictly medieval then most high fantasy. I do like Sword and Sorcery. I do like Planetary Romance. I like Pulp Adventure and Historical Novels [particularly colonial period America and Age of Discovery but also Napoleonic and Age or Reason].

Accordingly I tend to like low magic or magic which is more or less ubiquitous but not earth shattering. I'm not much of a fan of faux-Vanceian-magic-systems or super powers masking as magic. Occult, hermetic and mysterious is the best magic in my mind. Dealing with demons and the other world and the secrets behind our normal world makes a setting and its magic compelling. 

Strangely I also really like fairy-tales and fairy tale fantasies of the Brothers Grimm, HC Andersen, Dunsany's  The King of Elfland's Daughter and "stories about the adventures of men in Faërie, the land of fairies, fairytale princes and princesses, dwarves, elves, and not only other magical species but many other marvels" (JRR Tolkien in his essay on Fairy Tales). A better name I think is the German Märchen or "wonder tale" as it keys in on what is great about these stories i.e. the wonderful be it a place, person or thing. Its unique in that it defies the "normal" boundaries of our world. So people can be made from say, cheese if you have a reason or maybe even no reason or a castle can be literally constructed from giant playing cards. This sense of the bizarre and surreal captures something and transports us to a new place. Done well this can be allegorical and metaphorical conjuring a type of poetry and zaniness that is ultimately a wonderfully creative experience. This game "Grimm" by fantasy flight games really captures the right feel although I would like to see a supplement focusing on adults in the same world (a quick read of the game didnt show me support for this - in fact all I found was a statement of "go on play kids its better" sadly while I can see the appeal and how it could well be fun I would not seriously entertain GM'ing a campaign in such a game [kids as the protagonists] and we really don't like one shots (i'd be open to the idea but my table mates prefer campaigns).
Now this is a Fairy Tale! From a Russian tale

So in reflection of the last week my fantasy game thinking is now more like this;

Hollow Earth - Ubiquity system game is a more accurate statement - HEX, Desolation, All For One (see below for Swashbuckling game )  
Savage Worlds - Hellfrost or Sword and Sorcery/ Planetary adventure game.
Colonial/Swashbuckling game.    
B/XD&D or RQ Sword and Sorcery - Used for a Sword and Sorcery/ Planetary adventure game  
Qin - Saw IP Man the movie this week and i fired my Wu Xia passions
ASOIAF - Just in love with the idea of this game too.

On the fantasy game front I wanted to give a shout out to these two games which I wish every success.
Shattered Empires the RPGThe first is Shattered Empires the RPG - this is a new game engine and game for the Arcanis world. It uses 2d10 and the system sounds like it could be a lot of fun. you can find a review of it which is favorable. I haven't had a chance to play it but my reading of it leaves me in agreement with the reviewer. I'm even toying with this for our fantasy gaming. more power to Paradigm concepts for doing this. 

Paradigm concepts are also giving away the Arcanis Codex gazetteer FOR FREE get it for a reed if your so inclined. I recommend it its a good read - I'm going through it now - You can make it your typical High Fantasy game or play up the mythic aspects of the setting for something a bit closer to a RQ type experience.

The other game has me really intrigued - I long time ago Ken Hite said he was looking around the game industry wondering why more people were not taking the d20 SRD in new directions and commented that Mutants and masterminds and True20 were some of the only examples of games which had forged new territory of the back of the SRD. I remember agreeing with his assessment. (The new 3rd edition of MnM is even more of an improvement in many ways - unfortunately the powers system in the game has become d20's answer to Champions which I think is a shame).

Maybe this game should be called 

 The Worm Ouroboros rpg

Then along comes Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game (OGL). Its a new take on an old game. Or maybe more a type of game. As it says in the Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics Modules - "Remember  the  golden  days  of  role  playing,  when adventures were underground, NPCs were there to be killed, and the finale of every dungeon was the dragon on the 20th level? Well, those days are back. Dungeon Crawl  Classics  feature  bloody  combat,  intriguing  dungeons,  and  no  NPCs  who  aren’t  meant  to  be  killed. Each  adventure  is  100%  good,  solid  dungeon  crawl, with the monsters you know, the traps you fear, and the secret doors you know must be there somewhere".
Essentially dungeon crawls and puzzles in which the PC's must adventure through, the game - which is actually as deep as your group cares to make it. The game then becomes something of an emergent property of the player characters, the party, the dungeon, the near by wilderness, the town the local NPC's in the town and otherwise and any other bits that come up including GM imagination and weird spots - like say the outer planes or the nearby war or the giant spire or ...whatever you can cook up. This is actually quite a credible way to game and Hasbro's grads in the marketing department and their stuck-in-the-box Bosses in their wisdom, didn't want to capitalize on. So other people did. I really want this game to be the next big thing! Why ... just because I think it would be cool if that happened. Do I think it really will be? Sadly no but I do wish them every success and  I'll get a copy when its out. 

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