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 Post subject: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:05 pm 
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Hey guys,

As I continue to get a little older (or mature rather), I find my tastes in Fiction and Fantasy Changing, and this is really affecting my enjoyment of Role Playing.

Where once I was entralled by High Fantasy, and wasn't fazed by internal inconsistencies (as long as they weren't glaring), where powerful Magic Users could descimate hordes of Orcs, and a single powerful Warrior dripping with magical weapons and armour could cleave through his foes like a hot knife through butter, and slay unimaginable beasts. I no longer draw entertainment from such things.

My Tastes have been drifting ever more closer to Historical Fantasy, and even Historical Fiction.

This is threatening to cause great problems with me and my gaming group, as they seem ever intent to play High Fantasy. Always opting to play the Lizardman, or the Half-Dragon Troll (which is fine, if that is what they like then so be it). I used be able to to just play the Human Fighter who could adventure with these other Characters, but now their very existance strains my suspension of disbelief (unless they exist through plausible, consistant low-fantasy reasons).

I don't really know why I'm posting this thread, perhaps it is to vent, or perhaps it is to see if there are other TRoS players who share my tastes or perhaps my dilema.

For those trying to understand where my tastes are lying at the moment, then look somewhere between Kingdom of Heaven and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (the sequels don't sit aswell with me).

In the first example, KoH, this is simple Historical Fiction, take a Historical Place, and Time, and Historical Characters and then play with them, change things up a bit.

The Second (PotC:CotBP) has more elements of Historical Fantasy, it is a Historical Setting (more or less) within an Historical timeframe (more or less) with Historical Characters (more or less), but then there are elements of fantasy sprinkled through out. The Heathen gods, the Curse, the Undead, the Black Pearl. Subtle magics like the changing of the winds when the Cursed Aztec Gold touches the sea.

Now it seems to me that no Gaming System out there is better suited to such Genres than TRoS, probably one of the reasons I am so drawn to it. And so I guess I'm hoping that others who are drawn to TRoS are also drawn to the Historical Fiction/Fantasy.

Let me know what your thoughts are, and I guess in the long run I'm hoping we can get some projects moving in these Directions (we certainly have the right blend of Fantasy Authors and Historians floating around ;) ).

Cheers and God Bless,

The somewhat perplexed Crow Caller.

PS: Some Historical Fiction may also deviate into Alternate History which I'm not as fond of, but it still sits better than High Fantasy.

-EDIT-

PPS: Just another quick Example of the Historical Fantasy I'm liking more and more, would be The Mummy. Set on Earth, consistent and reletively low key.

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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 1:09 pm 
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I can totally understand you. Personally, me and my group are playing predominantly low/hidden magic historical settings for almost a decade now.

I have found the multitude of non-human races plainly distracting in addressing what interests me about stories. The elf and the dwarf are merely humans in suits, a certain human behavioral archetype made into a fantasy race. But if I want to explore human behaviour -- and that's a big part of what interests me in stories, apart from the thrills -- occluding the issue by using nonhumans just takes away some of the impact and immediacy. If I want a short-tempered, immensely strong and brutal warrior, I don't need a lizardman, and if I need a maerialistic technocrat I don't need a dwarf -- humans can be both, and many things besides, and I am totally happy to use them.

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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:23 pm 
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I just can't express how much I agree with both of you guys... This has been my gaming motto for years:

best race: human
best monster: human


And frankly, it's not just the high fantasy elements that break my suspension of disbelief... It's the swords going *shinng!* It's the meeting up in a tavern (thank heavens I can't recall the last time that happened). I can't really be sure, but probably mishandling polytheism would probably break it too now that Michael has explained it to me. So, my experience says the latter:

It is very easy to be "ruined" as a gamer by participating in good games.

My own gaming group has become notorious (well, in our own opinion anyway :mrgreen:) for "ruining" players. I can't tell how often have I heard about bad experiences from my players who have strived off and have nothing but utter disappiontment when gaming in other groups. "Nothing but combat." "No role-play." "Stupid OOC comments." They all say that. It's like a trend. I just spoke to an ex-player of mine who left my game for personal reasons (prioritising school, etc) and he came complaining about the other groups he tried lately... then he strived off of talking at where his character was left off in my game and before I knew it, he initiated in-game dialogue! Caught me totally unaware! :lol:

At this point... he totally qualifies a "ruined" player. :mrgreen:

And well... I think it's perfectly natural that someone could be "ruined" for developing a "fragile" suspension of disbelief in general. And the more fragile it is, the better it is in my opinion, as it means that you're more knowledgeable and perceptive. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 6:48 pm 
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higgins wrote:
best race: human
best monster: human


Sounds like we're all on the same page! Maybe that's why we all like TROS. While I probably won't ever use the Weryth setting, I was really happy to see some pre-Tolkien fantasy. The Grim Fairy Tales, if you've ever read the originals, are pretty grim!

One of the things that made me pause when thinking of using D&D 4e for my upcoming campaign is the fact that game balance dictates that all types of character concepts somehow balance out. If a wizard can zoom across the battlemat, then everyone else has to be able to teleport!

After a while it's starts to feel like a DC Comic. For me, there's no magic or mystery to the fantastical elements in these sort of story-worlds. So yeah, TROS has it right with the "no comic book magic fireballs" thing.

Crow Caller, have you ever read Tad William's Memory Sorrow Thorn series? I think it's a pretty good example of a historical fantasy, with plenty of real world cultural flavor. One of the things you might find interesting is the religious background of the story. There are competing religions, but the narrative never really shows you whether any of mythology is "true". The fantasy world of Osten Ard is bigger than her denizens' mythologies. You should check it out.

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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:14 pm 
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I personally don't have an issue with high magic, nonhuman races, surreal landscapes, etc. as long as their effects on people's minds are realistic. What I like the most about TROS is how characters and villains have to have realistic motivations, no matter what they are made of. Whether it's talking to a certain NPC, getting in a swordfight, casting a great spell that takes a whole day, etc., these all involve decisions rather than just moving around bonuses & penalties. Whether you are a man or woman, dwarf or elf, lizardman or draconian, etc. is only important so far as this impacts the decision-making process.

I would argue that TROS could easily apply to "high fantasy."

e.g. Narnia: If a pale white woman offers you some sweets, should you eat them or not? What is your triage procedure for administering a magical potion of healing?

e.g. LOTR: Do you have the willpower to toss the ring into the volcano? Do you participate in a hopeless war, or run away and hide your identity?

e.g. Dying Earth: Do you slay the wizard who has tormented you, or do you keep him bottled up for your own amusement? Do you cast a spell that disintegrates someone instantly, or do you cast a spell that forces him to dance and spin around?


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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:30 pm 
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ssfsx17 wrote:
I personally don't have an issue with high magic, nonhuman races, surreal landscapes, etc. as long as their effects on people's minds are realistic.


And by realistic, you obviously mean 'human'. True, true. It's the most important part.

I really liked this quote.

Jake Norwood wrote:
If a game is about decision and consequence (as TROS and its kin are), then the punch doesn't come from what decisions are available to your character, but rather what decision they take. Destroy the world for a woman? What a story! Throw a fireball for some treasure...lame!


Would it be fair to say, however, that the higher the pew-pew factor goes the more tempted your players are to fixate on that? I find myself getting more excited about the cool pew-pew factors of 4e than the story aspect. That's one of the reasons our GM has to find a new system. When he tried to "nerf" us for better climatic stories, all the other players got real irate.

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"Remember it well, then... this night, this great victory. So that in the years ahead, you can say, 'I was there that night, with Arthur, the King!' . . . For it is the doom of men that they forget."


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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 9:00 pm 
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The pew-pew factors tend to be secondary to the means by which characters are improved, from what I've noticed in games.

In D&D 4e, the main method by which characters improve is to kill monsters. Therefore, the players will desire better means with which to kill monsters without getting killed. They will desire "balance" with respect to the contributions of characters and powers towards the end of killing monsters.

On the other hand, there is TROS' magic system. Following the rules as written, a sorceror can do something like, for example, cause a whole city to sink into the ocean. But, what is the point of such an exercise? Unless the sorceror has a Drive to cause chaos and fear for all living things, or a similar SA, he has no reason to be distracted by the formulation of such a spell.

A player who goes from D&D 4e to TROS would quickly make a determination about whether the power level of the game or the point of the game is more important. And, of course, there are games in which the player-characters are demigods in themselves, such as Exalted, Nobilis, GURPS with a large number of points, etc. Their methods of improving characters are usually "whatever the Game Master says." I have not noticed nearly as much interest in these games - despite having far higher power levels than D&D 4e.

I have tested this theory on a non-scientific small scale. I ran a D&D game in which experience was gained by killing monsters. The players consequently sought to purposely get in fights, acquire more pew-pew powers, choose their spells according to what was the most effective in combat, etc. They got into pointless and risky conflicts, procrastinating on their apparent "quest" objectives and not bothering to interact with NPCs in any way. Then, I switched to giving out experience according to gold value acquired, with monsters giving out a paltry amount of experience in comparison. The players' behavior adjusted accordingly. I suspect that if I gave out experience according to political power gained, the players would start talking to the NPCs a bit more, and perhaps try to have more in-depth interactions with the game world.

The other possible explanation for D&D 4e's attraction is that it has a lot of numbers which can be moved around, and the players desire an experience akin to a computer game. They have no desire to think outside of the box. This is highly illogical, and some people might link this to culture, education, etc. Nevertheless, this is the rationale that some people have given for their preference for either D&D 3.5 or D&D 4e above other RPGs.

Sorry for rambling, my brain is leaking words today.


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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 10:14 pm 
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higgins wrote:
I just can't express how much I agree with both of you guys... This has been my gaming motto for years:

best race: human
best monster: human


Yep, this is where gaming is at for me.

One side-stepping point I will mention is that I like the gaming environment to have some aspect to it that is "alien." The most convincing way, for me, to get this strangeness is to have a small but sizeable percentage of the population belong to a different culture. This culture needs to be well detailed and significantly different for it to give that sense of strangeness to the players.

In an historical, medieval, western European setting I use Moors and Jews for this purpose. My players are neither Jewish nor Muslim, and so these cultures are unfamiliar to them. Their characters are western European and so have no understanding but some misinformation about these cultures. If we're looking for a "stranger in a strange land" experience then the game will be set in the appropriate Quarter for a time.

To some extent, in a fantasy setting, I'd say the fantasy races were thought to provide something akin to this different culture experience for the players. The problem with the elves, dwarves, hobbits, and orcs is that their over-exposure has led to over-familiarity and cliche. The elves of D&D are not the elves of LotR, with their intrinsic issues devolving from the kin-slaying and the thousands of years of events that have followed. When you live for thousands of years you have baggage -- but who plays that out in D&D? And if D&D is your first game, how do you get beyond its portrayal of the races?

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 10:50 pm 
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ssfsx17 wrote:
Sorry for rambling, my brain is leaking words today.


Haha, no problem. You're absolutely right, of course. Players' main motivation is often character sheet progression. Systems like TROS (SAs) or BW (Artha wheel) that mechanically link character progression with character story progression really offer something new to a Diablo-But-At-The-Table gaming generation.

Or you could play Feng Shui, where it's really just about who can come up with the most ridiculous stunts. I don't think my friends ever actually look at their character sheets except to jot down how much damage they take from crash landing a 747 while being shot by North Korean terrorists.

Fun times.

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"Remember it well, then... this night, this great victory. So that in the years ahead, you can say, 'I was there that night, with Arthur, the King!' . . . For it is the doom of men that they forget."


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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 3:05 am 
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I'm with you for the most part, except that I've never really liked historical fiction all that much. I need at least a little magic. There has to be a sense of wonder, of strangeness, kind of like Ian said, but I would take it a little further.

There are some really well-developed, mature, character-focused, realistic-leaning fantasy books coming out these days. I highly recommend Robin Hobb, Patrick Rothfuss, and George RR Martin. All three have created worlds that would fit TROS very well (except perhaps the magic system). In fact, Robin Hobb's latest series is such a low-fantasy setting that all the magic could easily be explained away using physical or psychological means. You should definitely check out those authors if you're looking for more realistic fantasy stories.

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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 4:05 am 
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Daeruin wrote:
I'm with you for the most part, except that I've never really liked historical fiction all that much. I need at least a little magic. There has to be a sense of wonder, of strangeness, kind of like Ian said, but I would take it a little further.


Daeruin, I never used to like Historical Fiction.... at all. And I still wouldn't like to play in a strictly Historical Fiction setting. However, in an Historical Fantasy Setting there would be times and places where it would be no different from an Historical Fiction Setting, to use Pirates... again... for the 8 years after Will Turner is pulled from the sea, nothing Magical or Fantastic happens... tey are in an Historical Fantasy setting, but for the last eight years it might as well have been Historical Fiction. Savvy? ;)

Quote:
There are some really well-developed, mature, character-focused, realistic-leaning fantasy books coming out these days. I highly recommend Robin Hobb, Patrick Rothfuss, and George RR Martin. All three have created worlds that would fit TROS very well (except perhaps the magic system). In fact, Robin Hobb's latest series is such a low-fantasy setting that all the magic could easily be explained away using physical or psychological means. You should definitely check out those authors if you're looking for more realistic fantasy stories.


I'll check them out, but just to clarify, according to Wikipedia, Low Fantasy is Fantasy that takes place on Earth. Traditionally I never used such a meaning and simply used Low Fantasy to mean Low Magic, or Little Magic. I assume you mean the latter.

I'm not adverse to Fantasy that takes place on fictional worlds, however, the lack of consistency in such worlds has been a large part of what has moved me to Fantasy Set on Earth.

Also, I think my Faith (Christianity), has played a role in it too. I never used to be adverse to Worlds with fictional gods, however after a few long campaigns in D&D where the players engaged alot with the gods, and then eventually tried to usurp them, and after campaigns with lots of interactions with demons and devils, it has left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

However without taking a long look at the gods in a fantasy world then the internal consistency seems to break down. Why are there all these races? Where did they come from? What are they doing?

By gaming in the "Real World" I avoid such problems as the possibility of God being the real God extends from this reality into the Game World.

One of the things I really can't stand however, is when the Half Dragon Half Troll PC wearing Magical Fullplate and wielding a ridiculously huge sword rocks up to the gates of a city, nd is just let in... he goes to the market and is served like anyone else, no one gives him odd looks or shies away. I mean what is the point in playing said beastie if for all intents and purposes you're a human. It obviously isn't for the Role Playing, as you aren't playing the role, so it must be for the powers, fire breath, Regenration and flight. Or whatever.

Am I rambling again? I think I'm rambling...

Oh well, my eldest daughter turned 3 on Thursday and we're about to have a party for her, so I better go get ready.

By the way Higgins, great quote:

Quote:
Best Race: Human
Best Monster: Human


So true... my fiance is one to get scared when watching ghost or vampire or monster movies, but I never do, then she wonders why I get scared when a crazy old lady with a knife appears at someone's window in a thriller movie. I tell her, "Because that can actually happen!"

Cheers & God Bless!

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"It was hard-fought, a desperate affair that could have gone badly; if God had not helped me, the outcome would have been quick and fatal" (115) ~ Beowulf after defeating Grendle's Mother.


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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 6:22 am 
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ssfsx17 wrote:
What I like the most about TROS is how characters and villains have to have realistic motivations, no matter what they are made of. Whether it's talking to a certain NPC, getting in a swordfight, casting a great spell that takes a whole day, etc., these all involve decisions rather than just moving around bonuses & penalties. Whether you are a man or woman, dwarf or elf, lizardman or draconian, etc. is only important so far as this impacts the decision-making process.

Totally agreed. The presence of understandable motivations one can maybe even sympathize with on some level, even if they fuel questionable actions, is so incredibly far above clear-cut lawful/good and evil/chaotic stereotypes that one needn’t even talk about their advantages. It makes our scenarios infintely more “human”.

But concerning the colour introduced by non-human races I’d like to refer back to what I said above and to cross-reference it with what Ian has said:
Ian.Plumb wrote:
One side-stepping point I will mention is that I like the gaming environment to have some aspect to it that is "alien." The most convincing way, for me, to get this strangeness is to have a small but sizeable percentage of the population belong to a different culture.

I agree with this, and I’d like to add from my own experience that one of the favourite gaming environments I am using and coming back to is Sicily in around 1100 AD, with native Italians, Muslim Berbs and Arabs, Germans, Greeks, Jews and Normans all mingling in a comparatively small place. Incredible diversity of culture, faith and general outlook on life, all without having to use non-humans. In picking times and locales for my quasi-historical games I am usually drawn to such spots where very different people mingle.

Like I said before, humans provide for me all the variety I ever need, without non-humans obscuring the invariably human issues addressed. If I use non-humans in a world design, it is only ever for a very specific, thematic reason.

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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 6:51 am 
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Grettir wrote:
I agree with this, and I’d like to add from my own experience that one of the favourite gaming environments I am using and coming back to is Sicily in around 1100 AD, with native Italians, Muslim Berbs and Arabs, Germans, Greeks, Jews and Normans all mingling in a comparatively small place. Incredible diversity of culture, faith and general outlook on life, all without having to use non-humans. In picking times and locales for my quasi-historical games I am usually drawn to such spots where very different people mingle.


This is exactly what I was looking for in my Holy Land game that I suggested a while back (Maybe in a PM).

Cheers.

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"It was hard-fought, a desperate affair that could have gone badly; if God had not helped me, the outcome would have been quick and fatal" (115) ~ Beowulf after defeating Grendle's Mother.


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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 5:47 pm 
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Yes, Crow Caller, I was using "low fantasy" in the sense of "low magic." Some of those books have more magic than others, but it's definitely not high fantasy. All of the books I mentioned have very consistent and believable worlds. None of them deal directly with gods. Only one of them has non-human races.

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 Post subject: Re: Historical Fiction and Historical Fantasy.
PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2009 6:43 pm 
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Hey, it's been a while...

In regards to high/low fantasy, I've found that as I get older, I want to play Historical Fiction type games. I've also found that I want to play 'genetically similar' characters. I'm genetically Italian/Spanish...when playing TROS I like a Xanarian character. Don't know why...I also tend to go for more 'academic' characters (I have a PhD) with some maritime background (I'm a marine ecologist)...I have trouble identifying with other types...a bit wierd...but there you have it...


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