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Discussing Sword & Sorcery and RPGs

MGibster

Legend
I also don't think it's exactly a coincidence that OSR points to Dragonlance as "the beginning of the end" for Old School play in their revisionist historiographical narrative.
I just wanted to acknowledge you for bringing up historiography in any context outside of the classroom. Kudos to you. I've never particularly thought about it, but it'd be interesting to see how our thoughts on the history of the history of gaming has changed over the years.
 

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Dioltach

Legend
By the way, am I the only one here who started out preferring heroic/epic fantasy in their teens, but now 30+ years later finds themself more drawn to S&S? Is it a shift from idealism to cynicism as we grow older?
 

pemerton

Legend
By the way, am I the only one here who started out preferring heroic/epic fantasy in their teens, but now 30+ years later finds themself more drawn to S&S? Is it a shift from idealism to cynicism as we grow older?
I read, and enjoyed, Conan comics before I read LotR. I read REH Howard after I'd (first) read LotR.

I find LotR more profound, and more moving, and go back to it very often. (Also the Silmarillion. Much less The Hobbit. Occasionally Unfinished Tales.)

I like the brisk place and the clearly-drawn conceptions of REH's Conan. It entertains me. It doesn't really move me.
 

Aldarc

Legend
By the way, am I the only one here who started out preferring heroic/epic fantasy in their teens, but now 30+ years later finds themself more drawn to S&S? Is it a shift from idealism to cynicism as we grow older?
I started out with the Hobbit and Redwall. Then when my father knew that I was beginning to read fantasy, he drove me over to his parents' house - which still had many of his old books - and he introduced me to a whole bunch of pulp fantasy, including Moorcock's Multiverse, the Barsoom Chronicles, etc. I went from that to Chronicles of Prydain and Lord of the Rings. Then I got caught in the whole wave of '90s Epic Megasaga Fantasy that now leaves me cold as I felt that the novel had become a lost art among fantasy writers who favored epic fantasy series that went nowhere. I think that there has been a more gradual move back to the fantasy novel, though it's still overshadowed by megasaga series.

Nowadays, I find LotR a bit of a protracted slog to get through, but I have a much easier time re-reading The Silmarillion and The Hobbit. I would agree with @pemerton that I think that Tolkien's romanticism is better at stoking the quiet embers of my heart, but that Moorcock was better at stoking the wild fires of my imagination.

Right now I am going back to Moorcock, but starting with Corum. It has been a long while since I have reread Elric, and that will likely be next.
 


MGibster

Legend
By the way, am I the only one here who started out preferring heroic/epic fantasy in their teens, but now 30+ years later finds themself more drawn to S&S? Is it a shift from idealism to cynicism as we grow older?
I think any story about a man living life according to his own values and has the strength, cunning, and will to fight and win against those who oppose him is somewhat idealistic. But over the years I have also come to prefer a little more "realism" over the fantastic and I don't associate that with cynicism. As much fun as D&D is, the violence, at least the magical violence, is too akin to a cartoon for me to take it overly seriously.
 

Yora

Legend
Eherm...

I know you guys are having a great discussion about genre and its cultural context. But that is a discussion for another topic. The topic here is gamemastering advice on the practical issues of preparing adventures with a Sword & Sorcery feel.
As you all can clearly see, every Sword & Sorcery discussion has an overwhelming tendency to go off topic and turn into arguing about genre. So I have to be somewhat pedantic here to really keep this strictly on topic. Some attempts have been made, but they keep getting immediately burried by more discussions about the genre.

Though at this point it might be easier to rename this one and start a new topic for actual adventures.
 

Dioltach

Legend
I think you need to decide what elements give a story that S&S feel, then you can think about implementing in an adventure.

Of all the possibilities raised above (disregarding the "but epic/heroic fantasy does this instead"), what do you think makes up S&S?
 
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Yora

Legend
Alright, so renaming the thread and starting a separate discussion for adventures it is. Everyone disregard what I said earlier and discuss the definition of Sword & Sorcery to your hearts content.

To me, Sword & Sorcery is a style of heroic fantasy that centers on protagonists who exist outside the social rules that bind most people, either by circumstances or choice; who deal with issues that affect them personally rather than people they don't know in far away places; and who face the dangers they encounter head on and don't leave it to others to get dirty.
It's a style rooted in Romanticism, in being unconverned with reason, logic, or morals, but rather with how things make the protagonist feel. You tend to have societies that are uncaring or outright cruel, which make the protagonists reject their customs and rules to assert their own individual agency. Magic and monsters are treated as something truly supernatural or outright unnatural, which is incompatible with the everyday life of normal people. And even just facing magic and fighting or resisting it is a major factor in what removes the characters from normal society.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
That's why paladins fit right into heroic fantasy - the hand of providence is ever-present! - whereas S&S only has magicians and evil high priests. (REH's Conan has the occasional hint of a beneficent priest of Isis or Mitra. I think if those hints were taken any further, it would undermine the basic ethos of the stories.)
I think the lack of Paladins in S&S is more a failure to imagine faith in a world where there is no cosmic reward for it. The world of Conan wouldn’t have Paladins of Crom, because Crom sucks. But Ancients Paladins dedicated to the Wild and to opposing the corruption of evil sorcerers? Yeah that’s exactly the sort of character I’d want to play.

A S&S Paladin can be a person who walks into the darkness sword in hand because they have the MIGHT to bring people back out of it, or at least stop it spreading, and who else is gonna do it? The Paladin’s faith can be in people and purpose, it needn’t be in gods.
 

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