Episode 135: The Fantasy Genre

Hosts: Megan, Scott, Todd, Timo

What did we play (12:46)
The Shadow of Yesterday: Megan, Scott, Todd
Magic: The Gathering: Megan, Scott
D&D Encounters: Megan
Defenders of the Realm, Apocalypse World, Kingdom of Amalur: Todd
Battletech, Malifaux: Scott
Diablo 3: Timo

Main Topic: The Fantasy Genre (23:16)
In the first of a new series exploring different genre’s, we try to take a critical look at what makes fantasy fantasy. Beyond the base of D&D, what makes something a fantasy setting, what are the themes and concept that make it up, what games exist (surprise, a lot!) and what do we want out of those games?

Rants (1:05:45)
Todd: Boo canker sore, I say unto thee boo!
Megan: Phone alarm clock
Scott: Look after myself
Timo: These mugs, they disturb me yo.

Other Links:
The Leather Museum
Museum of Holography
Ripley’s Believe it or

not
House on the Rock
Precious Moments Museum
Magic Mike
Spirit of the Century
Step Up 2 The Streets
200 Cigarettes
American Heritage
Mares of Thrace
Star Wars
Joseph Campbell
Book of Jhereg
Theft of Swords
On Mighty Thews
Lamentations of the Flame Prince
Legend of the Five Rings
Dungeon World
Heroquest
Hero’s Banner
Burning Wheel
Fireborn
Runequest
Book of Erotic Fantasy
Game of Thrones
Lords of Waterdeep

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10 thoughts on “Episode 135: The Fantasy Genre

  1. House on the Rock is amazing. Make sure that you stay at the Inn and not the Resort if you go. I made that mistake once and was horribly disappointed.

    I also didn’t just vent about my wedding. We spent a fair amount of time talking about burlesque, both shows and gossip. Oh the gossip.

    Fantasy to me is anything that involves a sword of some sort. Or really any sort of primary weaponry that is close range which totally defies the logical idea that you should want to be killing stuff from as far away as possible. The willful disregard for wanting to keep as far away from a threat as possible is a fantastic element to me. Magic doesn’t always have to be present, but close up bashing stuff? Definitely.

  2. I believe the book Scott referred to is the Lion of Senet, by Jennifer Fallon. It’s part of a trilogy that a friend of ours recommended. And not only did i suffer through the whole book, I finished the whole Gawd-damned trilogy. I kept telling myself “it has to get better”. There was a big buildup to a final battle, which immediately skips to the aftermath. In the end, the story was about religion suppressing the ancient knowledge of …
    …math.
    It is the Battlefield Earth of fantasy series.

  3. Good show with plenty of good ideas and LOTS of stuff to think about.

    For me the centre of fantasy genre is that technology has been “replaced” by something else (lets call it magic for the sake of simplicity) . So that instead of taking out your gun and defending yourself you grab your local wizard and use him (in painting in the broadest strokes)

    What follows therefore in many fantasy novels and (and to a certain extent RPGs) is exploring who controls that power source, or how does this impact on people’s lives.

    As for the limits that fantasy role playing games place upon what or how the tell stories. I think that this is in large part centred upon what designers expectations were on how the games were played rather than any limitations of the game itself.

  4. Sorry somehow I hit send before I was finished with comments. (ooops)

    To me those expectations were (during the 80s and some of the 90s) were as follows

    I group of people (usually 6 was the magic number) would adventure together for 2+ years in the same world with the same characters. Those expectations I think limit what you can do with a RPG FAR more than as fantasy tropes. You could do a fantasy politics campaign but with 5 or 6 people? Someone going to get bored and kill the king just so they could get some action.

    That some of those expectations were already entrenched in fantasy I believe was more of a happy coincidence that caused RPGs to become explode in the early 80s.

    Those expectations really only got challenged in the 90s when White Wolf took off with games that were really meant for a)much smaller groups and b)meant to be play over a much shorter period of time.

    One last thing before I get off the soap box.

    I firmly call Bullshit on the idea personal world building is a new idea within gaming. During the heyday of 1st ed AD&D the it was always about building your own world. Sure TSR put out Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms but no one that I ever knew actually used these worlds. Instead they created there own.

    By the time I was going to university in the late 80s, If you wanted to join a campaign of D&D you asked two questions of the DM. 1)What are your house rules? 2)What’s the world like. Most of the non D&D games were far closely linked to a world but even then they were far looser defaults and suggestions then what was going on during the 90s.

    You talked about Apocalypse World allows players to create their own worlds well Aftermath (a post apocalyptic game from the early 80s) did the same thing. For example.

    The change occurred largely because developers found that they could sell more by designing worlds and letting the players come up with the adventures then they could the other way around.

    You’re comments about hobby designed and the impact that the internet has to me sound like it just shifted things back to the environment of the 80s.

    Once again great show and I’m looking forward to your other genre topics

  5. I think your point about world building is fair. I’d have to relisten to hear exactly what we said, but I don’t think anyone meant to imply that people DIDN’T world build back then, just that it wasn’t as intentionally supported by lots of games. I think it’s probably fair to say that most groups very actively world-built, but also that most groups had a lot of source books to choose from to assist in that.

    Perhaps I’m just speaking for me (I got into the hobby in the late 80s/early 90s) but I feel like, back then, it was VERY unlikely that I bought a book that either

    a) contained little or no pre-built world, or
    b) didn’t have supplemental books that contained more world building,

    whereas now, most books I buy have no world.

    But the matter of what players themselves DID with those games is, as you point out, an entirely different matter.

  6. Todd

    Off the top of my head here were the RPGs that were published in late 70s or early 80s that also had your criteria (in no particular order).

    Boothill, 1st Edition Gamma World, Champions, Top Secret, Aftermath, Bushidō, Villains and Vigilantes, Bunny and Burrows, The Fantasy Trip, Worlds of Wonder, Gangbusters, Behind Enemy Lines, AD&D* (Greyhawk didn’t come out until two years after the DMG which in and of itself didn’t come out until two years after Monster Manual now that was fun let me tell you so really 4 years without a world to work with), Privateer and Gentleman, Freedom fighters ; hell just about the entire game line offered by Fantasy Games Unlimited (sorta the Mongoose of the its time) with the exception Space Opera, DragonQuest,

    Not an exhaustive list but you get the idea.

    I think the confusion comes from the fact that by 1985 almost all of the above games had been discontinued and/or their origin companies had shut down. Mostly because people didn’t know how to fit them into the paradigm that most people had as to how to games at the time, or they were just really badly written.

    By the time you came long we were well into third and just on the cusp of forth age RPGs. Which, had as part of their design philosophy, a campaign world with which better allow GMs and players to create linked stories and plots. And a means by which they could also stay in business by providing supplements to purchase.

  7. Yeah, that sounds reasonable. That’s my IMPRESSION of late 70s/early 80s gaming, but I was literally 5 in 1985 and, to be honest, have only heard of a couple of games on that list and have only played AD&D (Gamma World and Champions I’m somewhat familiar with, but have actually never played either of them).

    We actually had a little discussion once about seeing if we could do a series of episodes on generations of gamers because that does make a big difference for how you perceive things. You are correct in that by the time I got into the hobby (about 1989, and not seriously until probably about 92 or so) things were different. I have literally no memories of what I’ve heard Clyde Rhoer call “gaming from before.” When I started buying books, it was TSR, Palladium, WhiteWolf, etc., and they were big, numerous, and expensive (I did a LOT of blowing my month’s lawn-mowing money on Rifts supplements I never used). To me, my whole gaming career since I got back into the hobby about 6 years or so ago has been trying to recreate what I liked about those games while excising what I didn’t, but when I meet people who actually had experiences pre-that, they often say the same thing but from a totally different perspective (i.e. they like a game because it captures something they haven’t had since the early 80s).

    Now you’re rekindling my interest in a “gaming generations” series…

  8. Todd

    I think the idea of gaming generations is a really good idea for a podcast. At times the past few years I’ve sorta felt like the old guy who shouts at the young kids and takes about “back in my day” 🙂

    At times at least.

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