Tuesday, June 7, 2011

High Fantasy, All the time.

Jgants over on the RPGSite asks,
Am I the only one that ever gets sick to death of playing nothing but high fantasy games filled with elves and wizards???
My answer is no. It no more boring than the fact that the planet Earth only filled with a single sentient species known as humans.

The trick is to figure out what cultures and sub cultures exist within your setting. That the stereotypes are just a baseline and that true situation is one of incredible diversity.

One way I generate diversity is think of the implications of the supernatural aspect of the game rules and do a what if. Extrapolating the possible effects on the different races and picking the ones that are the most gamable, interesting, fun, and fit with what I want out of my campaign.

If you have trouble doing this then have your players help by running a campaign to flesh out one or more aspect of the setting. Have everybody be a member of the thieves guild, a beggar, everybody from the same neighborhood in City-State, a city guard, etc, etc. The results are surprising and often useful as background for the next campaign. If something is precluded by the situation in the current time period then pick a time in the past and run a campaign then. Use that as background for your "present day".

Now I do run other genres and enjoy refereeing or playing them. But I stuck with the Majestic Wilderlands for fantasy games, because long ago I figured out that with a whole world at my fingertips what I can do is unlimited.


Dangerous Brian said...

You have my whole-hearted agreement. One reason I've been gaming in Zama for twenty years is because it's so damn easy to keep things fresh.
Like the real world, Zama is huge. I can always find space to add something new, even if the area I place it in has already been explored.
After all, I've lived in my current home city for twenty odd years on and off. That's a comparitively tiny area -yet I still find myself uncovering new things and visiting parts of it I've never seen before.

Anonymous said...

Only humans?

Anonymous said...

This is my approach too. I like to establish some seminal element of the campaign world (deities, dominant magic, planar weirdness) and put together a few dominant cultures, then let things evolve out of that.

If you draw from multiple real-world cultural influences to create your world, it helps keep things fresh. If you aren't tied to the idea that humans/dwarves/elves are dominant and get along, suddenly the game can look very different.

The most impressive work I've seen in this area, though, is in the Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks. Even knowing that his semi-Persian, semi-Thugee culture look like Scotts never fully penetrated my brain, and I found myself thinking of them as swarthy silk-wrapped characters any time I wasn't on top of my visualization.