log in or register to remove this ad

 

The Building Blocks of Oz-Inspired American Fantasy RPGs

Although Oz-inspired American Fantasy isn't nearly as popular with tabletop role-playing games as traditional fantasy, there are elements that we can identify that can provide the foundation for a tabletop game that draws primarily from those roots.

azurth.jpg

The Setting

We know the basic tenets of American Fantasy established by L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz. American Fantasy tends to be pastoral, with plenty of farm land and large territory. The adventurers are wild and variegated, with beings from all walks of life. Technology is on the cusp and its potential is accepted but not feared, if not entirely understood. In light of this encroaching technology, those who are more magically oriented are vulnerable to the tricksters of the modern era, where sleight of hand can be confused with magic.

The Players

There are also archetypes we can draw upon that might serve as classes or tropes for players. Christopher Brown at Tor identifies the following:
  • Pioneer: A woman who can hold her own in a fight (e.g., Glinda or Annie Oakley).
  • Peddler: The trickster who uses technology to fool others. In Oz this archetype is known as a humbug (e.g. the Wizard).
  • Wild Man: The master of the backwoods who embodies the wilderness (e.g. the Shaggy Man or Davy Crockett).
  • Puritan: A principled character who brooks no compromise (e.g., Solomon Kane or the Tin Man)
  • Time Traveler: A character out of time or place (e.g., Dorothy or Rip Van Winkle).
  • Trickster: Separate but related to the peddler, the trickster is more elemental and less sophisticated (e.g., Huck Finn).
  • Strongman: Embodying overcoming any obstacle (e.g., the Cowardly Lion or Paul Bunyan).
It's worth noting that many of these archetypes are inspired by real people who went on to have a legendary career that was larger than life. Some of these archetypes only make sense in an American Fantasy setting. While puritans have modern equivalents in Batman, pioneers, time travelers, and peddlers are all part of the American fabric of adventure. Speaking of adventure, there are foes for them to overcome...

The Creatures

American mythology is rife with creatures that have since been forgotten. Collectively, they are known as Fearsome Critters. In what is typical of American Fantasy, the ridiculousness of the creatures is played straight with a veneer of scientific authenticity, which is why each creature is exhaustively cataloged and given binomial nomenclature. This habit of giving fictional monsters binomial names may have influenced co-creator of D&D Gary Gygax to give dragons Latin-sounding names in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (no other monsters get this treatment). They are all of the Draco family:
  • Black Dragon (Draco Causticus Sputem)
  • Blue Dragon (Draco Electricus)
  • Brass Dragon (Draco Impudentus Gallus)
  • Bronze Dragon (Draco Gerus Bronzo)
  • Copper Dragon (Draco Comes Stabuli)
  • Gold Dragon (Draco Orientalus Sino Dux)
  • Green Dragon (Draco Chlorinous Nauseous Respiratorus)
  • Red Dragon (Draco Conflagratio Horriblis)
  • Silver Dragon (Draco Nobilis Argentum)
  • White Dragon (Draco Rigidus Frigidus)
Gygax uses much of the same naming techniques applied to fearsome critters, from the curiously specific Green Dragon to the rhyming White Dragon binomials.

American Fantasy RPGs

We discussed previously games that take elements of Oz and translate them into tabletop play, but there are considerably fewer games that use American Fantasy as a base. One example is Azurth, a 5E setting by Trey Causey, who authors the From the Sorcerer's Skull blog. In an interview, he explained what makes Azurth American Fantasy:

Having different regions inspired by somewhat disparate sources and probably the sources themselves. There is a degree of “whimsy” in our current campaign, and probably intrinsic to a lot of the setting, that might be somewhat nonstandard. I don’t hesitate to employ some atrocious pun names (the sort Baum or Masters of the Universe, maybe, are fond of) that I would never do in a more serious setting. There is no “METAL!” here–or at least very little, and it’s hidden.

We asserted previously that earlier versions of Gamma World had the most in common with Ozian American Fantasy, but there's another, more mainstream D&D setting that features sentient robots, humanoid animals, and a dash of modern technology: Eberron.
 
Last edited:
Michael Tresca

Comments

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I like the clas... ahem, archetypes. As I think of any character from American fantasy, I can in most cases place them in one or another of these archetypes. Although some do straddle, like Johnny Appleseed, who is probably mostly Wild Man, but maybe a bit of Trickster. BTW, are Pioneers always women?
 




talien

Community Supporter
BTW, are Pioneers always women?
In this context, yes -- specifically because the archetype is noteworthy as she stands out as being different from male pioneers. I simplified the text down to one word archetypes but if you look at the original link you'll see it was "pioneer woman." Here's the full quote:

The pioneer woman is a singularly American type, often the strongest character in a body of stories full of masculine boasting. Sally Ann Thunder blazed the trail for Molly Pitcher, Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, Bonnie Parker, Sarah Connor of the Terminator films and TV series, Katniss Everdeen, and Rey from The Force Awakens.
 



It was funded by a kickstarter some time ago, and only came to fruition recently.

I think this is intended as a stand-alone setting/game, not tied to The Strange explicitly.
But they almost always put out a crossover guide for these books. If it isn't stats on the setting's recursions, it's figuring out how it slots into Numenara.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
But they almost always put out a crossover guide for these books. If it isn't stats on the setting's recursions, it's figuring out how it slots into Numenara.
This was the kickstarter surrounding Your Best Game Ever, not surrounding The Strange or Numenera specifically. Which is not to say what you're looking for isn't in the book - I haven't read it yet. But it is also very possible that the point is to grow the Cypher System out, rather than hook everything to the already existing games.
 

Tonguez

Legend
So where would the Scarecrow fit on the Archetypes? and Im not entirely sure that Dorothy has much in common with Rip Van Winkle, so putting them in Time Traveller archetype seems odd.
 
Last edited:


So where would the Scarecrow fit on the Archetypes? and Im not entirely sure that Dorothy has much in common with Rip Van Winkle, so putting them in Time Traveller archetype seems odd.
The Scarecrow would also serve as The Puritan, just based off of different values than the Tin Man. This is especially shown in the second book, where he is king of OZ before they discover Kip and return him to his proper persona of Princess Ozma.
 

Ravenbrook

Explorer
How does American Fantasy differ from a Pulp Hero fantasy setting? The only difference that comes to mind with regard to archetypes would be the Scientist/Professor, although the Wizard of Oz might actually be a representative of that.
 


Tonguez

Legend
How does American Fantasy differ from a Pulp Hero fantasy setting? The only difference that comes to mind with regard to archetypes would be the Scientist/Professor, although the Wizard of Oz might actually be a representative of that.
With regards to the Oz The Fairytale Whimsy of talking animals and magical nature of animated objects is what differentiates it from Pulp Hero - other than that Pulp Heroes can probably be viewed as another form of American fantasy.
 
Last edited:



COMING SOON: 5 Plug-In Settlements for your 5E Game

Advertisement1

Latest threads

COMING SOON: 5 Plug-In Settlements for your 5E Game

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top