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Grounded or Gonzo?

Grounded or Gonzo?

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Maybe it's the oldness, or maybe just a lack of imagination, but I no longer find the fantastical all that fantastic.

I tire of the endless additions of strange PCs and worlds where magic is commonplace.

Give me humans struggling with the problems mere mortals face.

Give me PCs that are differentiated by their actions, not by appearance or mechanical bonuses.

I want characters and worlds grounded in reality. Maybe a little of the fantastic, though the more subtle the presentation the better.

A great example of the kind of setting I really dig is Mythic Britain for Mythras. A good example of the kind of setting that I have no interest in is Ebberon for the DnD.

What do you like?

Settings grounded in reality with only a hint of the fantastical? Or settings as far from reality as possible?

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Varies. I don't equate gonzo with just fantasy but with a kind of fantasy that embraces all kinds of crazy concepts and isn't overly precious about it. I do like having some gonzo. I do like grounded stuff, but at the same time, I want stark and interesting characters, not characters who necessarily behave like regular everyday people. Even when I have something more grounded in reality, I want it to be heightened reality.


No matter how tempting I find it to go grounded and gritty, I always seem to have more fun when I allow my campaigns to go gonzo with magic and fantasy. I guess I feel like I already have the rules of a grounded, gritty rules down, and for me it's more fun to figure out the rules of a crazy magical world.


Maybe it's the oldness, or maybe just a lack of imagination, but I no longer find the fantastical all that fantastic.
I'm getting to be like that as well. And before I go on, my preferences are just my preferences. For those of you who prefer gonzo, however we're defining it here, that's totally cool. My take on this is that whatever you're doing that results in everyone at the table having a good time you're doing it right.

I'm more than happy to play in a game with more fantastical elements, but I'd rather run games in settings that are more grounded. For a certain value of grounded. I've grown weary of running D&D games with it's myriad of races and classes available to the PCs. (Though part of that problem stems from me not laying down parameters for what is and isn't acceptable in the campaign before sitting down to play.) Oddly enough I still enjoy D&D, I'm just getting a little tired of it. I'd like to branch out and play some other games, and I've got a group of people receptive to other games, but face-to-face gaming is out for now and I'd rather not try new games via Discord.

Grounded. Over the decades I've grown weary of the endless fantasy tropes which were utterly enchanting in 1979, but which have worn threadbare by 2020.

To me, gonzo is not the addition of the fantastic, but the addition of something incompatible with the setting. Including mechs into Dragonlance (which I've experienced) drastically takes away from the game, since the DM usually doesn't consider the ramifications of doing so. The focus of the game becomes less about the setting than it does the unusual feature added.

As for the original discussion, I prefer to have the fantastic and amazing be reserved. Characters may have some unusual powers (such as spellcasters) which are both rare and distrusted by normal people. Fantastic items are rare and precious, usually having a downside as a cost for their use. Creatures might be somewhat common, such as humanoid creatures like orcs, if the setting allows for them, but magical or mythical creatures are rare enough to be unknown to most except in stories.


I would rather grounded myself. I do not mind sky castles or teleporting houses, streets lit with continual flames or mechanical servants. I run into problems with things like races and classes more than the other stuff. Races of frog or crystals or something becomes blah to me, or even having players want to play monsters as PCs.

I think that each has its purpose and its advantages. I’m pretty open to playing any kind of game that people are excited for.

Plus, I don’t even know if the two ideas are all that oppositional. The setting of Doskvol for Blades in the Dark is pretty bonkers...the PCs are trapped in a Victorian-like city that’s surrounded by a lightning barrier that runs on demon blood, and which keeps the ghosts and horrors of the Deathlands at bay. And yet the PCs in my Blades games tend to be far more grounded, vivid, and relatable than PCs of the same players in our D&D games.


I am fine with either.

But given the choice I want Grounded with people I really know can do it and Gonzo with everyone else.

Ground RPGs have all kinds of interconnected stuff I would quickly expect to see and if I don't, it throws me off. I can easier toss away inconsistencies with Gonzo.


Gonzo has seemed to be part and parcel for many D&D players ever since Savage Species came out. It had a precursor in 2e, but most didn't use that supplement. In 3e you started seeing the Half Dragon/Half Troll/Half Ghoul/Half Vampire (yes, you have 2 living races, two undead for each portion) type characters with 3 or 4 other classes as the norm in some campaigns...and that wasn't all that unusual in areas I saw.

The more extremes went to play Apes mixed with Blink Dogs and other oddities.

If they were having fun...good for them. That's what gaming is for...BUT...it was a LITTLE too gonzo for me when they have these types of characters and simply waltz into any city in the campaign and no one even blinks or thinks anything odd is going on when this cast of a party walks into a human town or elven village or Dwarven city...etc.

I still see those asking and begging for playing these types of games today in D&D...so it's still a thing, but that's a tad too gonzo for me there.

That said, AD&D in generaly (Greyhawk for example) may be considered to gonzo to some, even as it was in older versions (lots of magic in there)...but I'd consider that grounded...

I guess it depends on what type of perspective you have.

Eberron is a little TOO gonzo for me, but I like somewhere in between.

I like the average, everyday people to have average, everyday, grounded lives. For a typical fantasy village to be fairly similar to any village you might have found from 3rd to 16th centuries, except for a modest, small amount of magic in the form of a few low-powered clerics at local temples, and maybe fairly weak wizard functioning as a local alchemist.

. . .but the gonzo stuff is out there somewhere. Maybe only 1% of the population will ever really encounter it, but it exists. It's out there. Adventurers will see it. . .and then between adventures they'll be back living in the everyday, lower-magic, more mundane world.