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  1. #11
    Double post. Sorry.

 

  • #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
    Why do swords and spells tend to be more popular than spaceships and lasers? Is D&D (and Pathifinder) so popular because it's fantasy? Or is fantasy so popular because D&D did that first? Or some other reason?
    First, I don't think you discount the "fantasy is popular because D&D is popular" thing. If you eliminate D&D/Pathfinder from the historical bestseller lists, you find that those lists tend to be filled with a constant fluctuation of different genres. This suggests that there is no stronger bias towards fantasy than any other escapist genre.

    Second, why do escapist genres -- science fiction, fantasy, etc. -- tend to dominate RPGs? Some of it is just a matter of mutual geek interests. Some of it is that escapism suits RPGs well. Some of it is the fact that they create permissive creative environments in which "anything is possible".

    Third, why does D&D continue to dominate? Well, a large part of that is probably a persistence of market dominance and the power of network externalities in driving RPG brands. But I'll also toss out the hypothesis that classical fantasy is, in fact, advantageous for introducing new players and GMs to roleplaying games.

    I say this for a couple of reasons:

    1. Low-level fantasy limits transportation and communication. This limits the scope of what a new player or GM needs to be "on top of" for a given session. Compare that to a game of Vampire: The Masquerade where the GM has to grapple with an entire internet of information being ubiquitously available to the PCs. Or to Eclipse Phase where players can spontaneously decide to transport their consciousness across the entire solar system if the whim takes them.

    2. Historical settings achieve a similar limitation of scope, but bring a different stricture in the sense of "historical accuracy". Fantasy doesn't have that problem: GMs and players are free to make up pretty much anything they want and it'll fly just fine.

    So classical fantasy -- compared to historical, contemporary, or sci-fi games -- has an inherently limited scope which makes it easier for new players to grasp.

  • #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
    Some idle wondering here. While there are plenty of excellent and successful RPGs in the sci-fi, contemporary, horror, western, cyberpunk, military, superheroes, and other genres, the big daddy of RPG gaming genres tends to be fantasy.

    Why do swords and spells tend to be more popular than spaceships and lasers? Is D&D (and Pathifinder) so popular because it's fantasy? Or is fantasy so popular because D&D did that first? Or some other reason?
    People have already mentioned the early adopter advantage, the versatility of fantasy, and the limited scope at low levels. All part of it, and I'm going to add another strand. The future ain't what it used to be.

    If we look at the technology on Star Trek, their transporters and spaceship propulsion are noticeably better than ours. The communicators and tricorders? Spock would drool over my mobile phone - and it probably has more processing power than the Enterprise. SF dates fairly harshly in a way fantasy doesn't. This also dates "modern day" settings. Go look at a lot of 60s, 70s, and 80s action or heist films and then work out what would happen to them if everyone carried a mobile phone. This means that even if a modern-day-esque setting becomes very popular it's going to rise - then fall as it dates. See the WoD for details - the whole thing reads as very, very 90s to me. I think the only near-real world setting that's remained popular across three decades is Call of Cthulu and that is, in part, because it's set in the 1920s - which is both before most players were born and has fixed tech.

  • #14
    Fantasy has a number of advantages over other genres.

    First, it borrows plenty from well-known, real settings -- Vikings, pirates, knights, etc. -- without a need for accuracy. This is why Robert E. Howard created Conan and put him in mythical Hyboria: it was easier than writing authentic historical fiction, with all its demands for careful research and fitting his story into what really happened. (This also points to why Middle Earth campaigns have so much trouble...)

    Second, fantasy involves magic, which is idiosyncratic, unlike real science and technology. If you want something in your setting, and it feels right, you put it in. It was put there in ages past by the gods, or a mad wizard, or whatever. (This points to a problem with overly systematic magic, as in most games...)

    Third, fantasy leaves room for powerful heroes working outside the constraints of civilization. You need a Wild West "points of light" setting for small bands of adventurers to ply their trade.

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    People have already mentioned the early adopter advantage, the versatility of fantasy, and the limited scope at low levels.
    My young daughter says fantasy is the most popular because there are no guns.

    I laughed, and then I realized, she has the core of the truth there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pogre View Post
    My young daughter says fantasy is the most popular because there are no guns.

    I laughed, and then I realized, she has the core of the truth there.
    At the risk of sounding sexist, I think that may be a big part of it for female gamers, at least. My better half is not a gamer, but she has been cajoled by my gaming group (not by me!) to join us. She has no interest in any other setting but fantasy / sword & sorcery, and most recently said that she'd be willing to play in a game as long as there's no "shoot-'em-up."

    Guys, on the other hand, love guns. Whenever my seven-year-old son shows me something he's built with his legos, he invariable ends with, "and these are the guns..." and I have never bought this kid a toy gun in his life.

    As gaming settings have become more diverse, spreading out from just sword & sorcery to everything else from gothic horror to science fiction, more and more female players have also joined the ranks of gaming, whether due to computer RPGs or the big vampire push of the '90s. As the demographics of the gaming community have shifted, female gamers' dislike for guns may have helped keep sword & sorcery RPGs from being outclassed by the multitudinous neophyte genres.

  • #17
    One might ask the underlying question of why a fantasy novel series is the most popular work of fiction of all time (one on which D&D is based in large part and to which it likely owes most of its success).

    Fantasy has several advantages. Every reader is on an equal playing field. While a real life setting inherently speaks to some people more than others based on their own experiences, no one has any given foreknowledge about a fantasy world. The corollary is that the author (or the DM) is forced to define his setting and communicate it to the audience more clearly than he otherwise might. Fantasy is thus easy to connect with.

    There's also the notion of escapism, which is fundamental to the roleplaying hobby and to genre fiction in general. It's best if you have a world to escape to that's meaningfully different from your current one.

    And of course a lot of it is just that D&D happened to be the breakthrough rpg and that no other rpg has ever established itself in the cultural consciousness in the same way that D&D has. It is not impossible that other rpgs will take hold and genres other than fantasy will spread more widely in the future.
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    Aside from novels . . .

    If you want escapist Sci-fi you can just turn on the TV.

    If you want escapist fantasy, you have to get creative.
    Thinking about what I want out of a game

  • #19
    I think D&D hit the tail-end of the hippie fad that rode on the wave of Lord of the Ring's success. From the early-70s, the anti-industrialist, retro-conservationalist aspects of Tolkien's vision was pretty cool and popular - you can see the same influence in the rock music at the time (Led Zeppelin, etc). Moreover, Tolkien really popularised the notion of 'high fantasy' or in-depth fictional 'world-building' - which D&D is really an extension of.

    Building on from that, the Fantasy genre in literature is hugely popular - much more so than Sci-Fi or horror say. And, as a genre, it hits precisely the same escapist market that RPGs are broadly aimed at.

  • #20
    For me, Sci-Fi is mostly too close to reality. I know too much physics. Lethality is a problem, too. Not necessarily guns, but guns are a part of the problem. Hypervelocity robotic sniper head shots at 10 clicks would be a problem ...

    Thx!

    TomB

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