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D&D 5E The D&D Multiverse Part 2- The Remix Culture of the Gygaxian Multiverse

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Four months ago I started this series, and then ... eh, stuff happens. But if you didn't read the first post, this post won't make a whole lot of sense. So, I highly recommend reading the prior history of D&D Multiverse here:

Now I'm returning to the subject to get back and address the issue I left unresolved:
In the next post I write, I will discuss, a little more, about the foundational weirdness of D&D and why we should want to continue that with 5e.

In order to really dig into this, I'm going to be making generalizations; please note that all people are different, and all tables are different, but it's very difficult to discuss things without being able to refer to a general "gestalt."
That said, I am already acknowledging that whatever I write, yes, of course you and your table do things differently.

Now ....


1. OD&D and Gygaxian 1e Were Too Weird to Live, and Too Rare to Die
One thing that I think often gets lost when discussing early D&D is how truly bizarre it could be. And the reason for this is that it wasn't "pure." It wasn't just Tolkien-esque high fantasy. Nor was it simply appropriated Howard/Leiber swords & sorcery. It wasn't extrapolated wargaming. And it wasn't the myths of a particular country.

It was all of it, and more. Because there were no particular preconceptions as to what had to be in D&D, or what had to be excluded. Where did your monsters come from? Well, anywhere! Little bit of Arabian mythology? Put in a djinn. Want to put in a little John Carter homage? How about some carnivorous apes, or giant white ones? Did you see some cool toys? Why not a ankheg, or an owl bear? Do you like 50s monster movies? How about some giant ants? Rakshasas, dinosaurs, critters from Japanese or Irish or Egyptian mythology? They were all fair game.

Everything was put into a blender, and became "D&D."

And it was the same with the remainder of the core rules; holy knights on steeds bound by oaths (Paladins) and wandering martial artists (Monks) and vaguely-Celtic spellcasters (Druids) and organized groups of killers-for-pay (Assassins) all hobnobbed in the same general vicinity. Any type of thematic weirdness was quickly covered up in the general concept of D&D.

These ideas were further explored in the overall weirdness that we saw in early D&D; early modules referenced dinosaurs, space travel, and parallel or pocket universes.

As recounted numerous times, the earliest adventures run by Gygax himself had PCs crossing over to Boot Hill or Isle of the Ape (King Kong, dinosaurs). Entire sessions could revolve around the party ending up on the spaceship Warden from Metamorphosis Alpha. I don't want to continue belaboring this point (since that was largely what the first post was about), but weirdness was baked into D&D's core from the beginning.


2. Experimentation and the Prime Material Plane
Part of the reasons that experimentation and "remix culture" was so built-in to D&D from the beginning was because of the general acceptance of the Gygaxian multiverse. As the 1e DMG put it- all worlds, and all possible worlds, were contained within the prime material plane. This had some profound ramifications-
It meant that your home campaign and mine, both set in Greyhawk, contemporaneously existed side-by-side (and that would allow players to bring PCs from one home campaign to another).
It also meant that, for example, all the Gamma World campaigns also existed in the prime material plane.
And our "Earth" (aka, what we would now call D&D Modern) existed.
And Alice in Wonderland's universe.

In short, the PCs could travel to any possible reality. This sort of free-for-all also extended into the printed material- such as spaceships (Barrier Peaks) and Alice in Wonderland (EX1 and 2) and even the various planes referenced in Q1. It was even relatively common for home groups to use a "cafeteria" approach to employing Deities and Demigods or its antecedent OD&D supplement.

These same feelings- what we would call "the streams being crossed" was also just a general part of the gestalt of that era. It was common to see fantasy works which had "modern people" placed in Fantasy settings (e.g., Stephen Donaldson) or technology that was indistinguishable from magic (Julian May) or parallel universes (Zelazny). Over time, however, and especially with the increased settings in 2e, that feeling calcified.

First, as the Prime Material plane became ... less interesting. Focus shifted to the outer planes, or to a specific campaign setting (such as Planescape).
Second, as specific campaign settings became the locus of creativity; in other words, instead of having more generic "D&D" settings with expansive weirdness, you began to get more focused settings with specific rules. Dark Sun is amazing, but it also relies on specific rules to make it amazing.


3. Weirdness and 5e
This is where I get to the more interesting, and likely controversial, part of my general thoughts; what does any of this have to do with 5e?

Here's the thing- there are times when I feel that for some people, OSR (and OD&D / 1e specifically) is viewed as a reaction to 5e.

I’m old! And I’m not happy! And I don’t like things now compared to the way they used to be. All this progress — phooey! In my day, we didn’t have these cash machines that would give you money when you needed it. There was only one bank in each state — it was open only one hour a year. And you’d get in line, seventeen miles long, and the line became an angry mob of people– fornicators and bards, mutant children and soulless, dead-eyed elves— and you waited for years and by the time you got to the teller, you were senile and arthritic and you couldn’t remember your own name. You were born, got in line, and ya died! And that’s the way it was and we liked it!

D&D was simpler then. There wasn’t all this concern about fun! It my days, we didn’t need to have fun. When you started playing D&D, you were given a few scrap pieces of paper and some pencils and told to start mapping. You wouldn't be told piddly little details like distances and directions by the DM. If you tried to ask how big a room was just so you could map it and find your way out, well, you'd be attacked by an ethereal mummy just for showin' that DM up! And that’s the way it was and we liked it!

D&D was a carnival! We entertained ourselves! We didn’t need youtube to learn how to play D&D or fancy figur-eeeeeens to visualize the battle. In my day, there was only one way to see how the battle was going — it was called ”Stare at the sun!” That’s right! Our theater of the mind was really theater of the sun. You'd just stare at it until you eyeballs burst into flames! And you thought, “Oh, no! Maybe I shouldn’t have stared directly into the burning sun with my eyes wide open.” But it was too late! Your head was on fire and the rest of your party was roastin' marshmallows over it. And that’s the way we played D&D and we liked it!


Ahem. Different rule-sets do play different, but while the older rulesets can be used for "dungeon crawls," it truly does them a disservice given that they were used for so much more than that, even at the time. More importantly, it ignores the many things that 5e is doing right!

One thing that is certainly true today is that we have a lot more influences on culture and on the game. For example, it is much easier and more common for players to want to base characters off of anime, or any one of a number of diverse sources that weren't commonly available in the 70s and 80s (with a few notable exceptions like Battleship Yamato, Robotech, and G-Force). But while the overall diversity in that sense has increased, I would say that the specific tolerance for those things that break the verisimilitude of a campaign setting has greatly decreased.

For example, I would say that it very common to see people on forums today make comments like, "I don't like science fiction in my fantasy." Or, "I don't let people bring their own characters into my campaign."

To put this in a more specific context:
In OD&D/1e terms, you might have a campaign setting that was generally medieval tech, but an individual might have a firearm or even a laser rifle.
In 5e, it is generally seen that the campaign setting itself would have to allow the specific tech for most DMs to approve it.

In short, while I think that overall 5e has done an amazing job of incorporating numerous diverse cultural cues and viewpoints, the one thing it is not so great at is allowing the "weird" exception. Something which has long been baked into D&D's DNA.


Anyway, I realized the other day that I never finished the prior post, so I'm throwing this out there for discussion in a little more half-baked fashion than I normally do. Have at it!
 

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The section of the 1e DMG that contained rules for porting characters back and forth between Gamma World, AD&D, and Boot Hill further encouraged DMs and players to keep that tradition up, to hit "pulse" on the blender yet again and see what came out. But...

These ideas were further explored in the overall weirdness that we saw in early D&D; early modules referenced dinosaurs, space travel, and parallel or pocket universes.

As recounted numerous times, the earliest adventures run by Gygax himself had PCs crossing over to Boot Hill or Isle of the Ape (King Kong, dinosaurs). Entire sessions could revolve around the party ending up on the spaceship Warden from Metamorphosis Alpha. I don't want to continue belaboring this point (since that was largely what the first post was about), but weirdness was baked into D&D's core from the beginning.

...I was very much a "keep sci-fi out of my fantasy" type of person back then. So though we played Gamma World, we never actually crossed those streams. In hindsight, I wish I had. Now I'm much more easy-going when it comes to genre-smooshing. I love stuff like Burroughs' Barsoom tales, getting weird with fantasy.

For example, I would say that it very common to see people on forums today make comments like, "I don't like science fiction in my fantasy." Or, "I don't let people bring their own characters into my campaign."
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I love stuff like Burroughs' Barsoom tales, getting weird with fantasy.

I've gotten to the point in life when I tell people that the upcoming campaign will have a lot of Burroughs in it.

They go in thinking, "Cool! John Carter!"

....but what I don't say is it isn't Edgar Rice .... It's William S.

KIRn.gif
 
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I would absolutely love a D&D-WSB mashup! Be very careful when you go to see the clerics of Interzone for healing...

Which, honestly, using the cutups method to plot an adventure is a great idea for breaking out of a rut.

I've gotten to the point in life when I tell people that the upcoming campaign will have a lot of Burroughs in it.

They go in thinking, "Cool! Conan John Carter!"

....but what I don't say is it isn't Edgar Rice .... It's William S.

KIRn.gif
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I would absolutely love a D&D-WSB mashup! Be very careful when you go to see the clerics of Interzone for healing...

Which, honestly, using the cutups method to plot an adventure is a great idea for breaking out of a rut.

I was going to make a comment about Dr. Benway, but then I saw that I had inexplicably confused REH and ERB.

This is what happens in your dotage!
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Ahem. Different rule-sets do play different, but while the older rulesets can be used for "dungeon crawls," it truly does them a disservice given that they were used for so much more than that, even at the time. More importantly, it ignores the many things that 5e is doing right!

One thing that is certainly true today is that we have a lot more influences on culture and on the game. For example, it is much easier and more common for players to want to base characters off of anime, or any one of a number of diverse sources that weren't commonly available in the 70s and 80s (with a few notable exceptions like Battleship Yamato, Robotech, and G-Force). But while the overall diversity in that sense has increased, I would say that the specific tolerance for those things that break the verisimilitude of a campaign setting has greatly decreased.

For example, I would say that it very common to see people on forums today make comments like, "I don't like science fiction in my fantasy." Or, "I don't let people bring their own characters into my campaign."

To put this in a more specific context:
In OD&D/1e terms, you might have a campaign setting that was generally medieval tech, but an individual might have a firearm or even a laser rifle.
In 5e, it is generally seen that the campaign setting itself would have to allow the specific tech for most DMs to approve it.

In short, while I think that overall 5e has done an amazing job of incorporating numerous diverse cultural cues and viewpoints, the one thing it is not so great at is allowing the "weird" exception. Something which has long been baked into D&D's DNA.


Anyway, I realized the other day that I never finished the prior post, so I'm throwing this out there for discussion in a little more half-baked fashion than I normally do. Have at it!

So I am curious here, especially to the lines I've bolded... is there any proof that this is true? Or is this just a gut feeling some of us have?

I say that, because when looking at 5E products, I don't know how much influence of various cultures we have on the game. I think the last book that really felt non-European inspired was Tomb of Annihilation, which was a while ago, and got a fair amount of the "exoticism" criticism. More recent books and adventure seem to tack a lot closer to European style fantasy. The new settings, Ravenloft (largely European-Gothic), Theros (Greek mythology) and the adventures Rime of the Frostmaiden (frozen colonialism, Scandinavian), and Descent into Avernus (Christian hell) seem to be pulling a lot from European cultures than other ones. There's exceptions within all those texts I mentioned, but it still tacks very close to Europe.

But 5E does seem very "weird" friendly, at least compared to 4E. We are getting a very weird Feywild book soon, and Rime of the Frostmaiden had a bunch of weird things including a crash Spelljammer and time travel. Other adventures like Avernus and Chult have weird things sprinkled throughout, and they're definitely not technologically consistent. In Dragon Heist, the drow villains have gunpowder and flintlocks, which feels extremely out of place and game-changing to a setting.

Anyway, I'm not really disagreeing with your opinions, but I am hoping you'll clarify a bit more as I think I've misunderstood your conclusion here.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Anyway, I'm not really disagreeing with your opinions, but I am hoping you'll clarify a bit more as I think I've misunderstood your conclusion here.

God points. To further elaborate-

This essay is more muddled than most because it is reflecting a few conflicting thoughts; to illustrate where I was going-
1. OD&D and AD&D were fundamentally weird in a way that many people today do not fully understand.
2. As a subset of (1), the multiverse within the prime material plane (the Gygaxian multiverse) was part of this allowed weirdness.
3. Over time, we have moved away from the multiverse / PMP theory when it comes to D&D for a multitude of reasons- emphasis on specific campaign settings, interest in the outer planes instead of alternate material planes, etc.
4. I think that the explicit inclusion of the alternate Gygaxian multiverse allows for more weirdness and fun play, which I think is a good thing. More importantly, it's very much optional, given that you can have as much, or as little, as you want.

However, I also wanted to make sure that the following was acknowledged-
A. This isn't meant as a slam on 5e at all. I think that 5e already incorporates a lot of base-level weirdness; you list some great examples. I will return to this issue.
B. In addition, there are some people who use OSR (or OD&D/1e) as a kind of reaction to modern gaming. The whole, "In the old days, we just went into dungeons, killed orcs, and were happy." I think that's an inaccurate representation of what OD&D/1e represented at their best (and weirdest), and I didn't want this to be a any kind of edition takedown.

Looking back at (A)- I think that the difference is consistency; there is a premium placed on "world building" that ... well, maybe didn't exist in the earlier editions. 5e's worlds already start off plenty weird, but there is (in general) less tolerance for deviation from established D&D norms.

Finally, w/r/t to the some of the specific bolded parts, I will end with an anecdote and an observation.

Anecdote- as I have often remarked, I don't think many people realize how different things are today than they were in the 70s and 80s. To use an easy example- if you lived outside of major (and I mean major, as in NYC or LA) cities or certain ethnic enclaves, your options for food were American, Italian (American), and maybe Chinese (made for Americans). Maybe .... maybe texmex. In 1983, sushi was used as a punchline in a movie (Valley Girl) about foreign food- at the time, the idea of eating raw fish was bizarre. In 1988, I remember that you couldn't get bagels (BAGELS!) in large parts of the U.S. outside of, MAYBE, the frozen section with Lender's. And hummus? Forget it. America, in so many ways, was much less worldly than it is now.

Anyway, the point being that while in the 70s and into the 80s, you might see kids playing "Cowboys & Indians," today you'd be much more likely to be able to learn real, relevant, and factual information about Native Americans. There is just a massive difference in actual exposure and knowledge. I didn't want to go too deeply into that since it is largely orthogonal to the main point I was making, but I also thought it was necessary to acknowledge it.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
1. OD&D and Gygaxian 1e Were Too Weird to Live, and Too Rare to Die
...

It was all of it, and more. Because there were no particular preconceptions as to what had to be in D&D, or what had to be excluded.

So, you say, "Because..." which is suggesting that this is the root cause, and I think you've not quite hit it.

You seem to be treating D&D as if it was its own, independent thing, but, like all other bits of culture, it happened (an continues to happen) in a cultural context. And that context includes the science fiction and fantasy of the time. And while there were the Leibers and Tolkiens, the sci-fi/fantasy world was... really freaking weird in the 60s and 70s.

We tend to lose this when we think of the literature of the day, because what we know today are mostly the novels of the age, which tend to be a little more self-consistent. But in Gygax's day, it would not be terribly far off to say that the day-to-day genre was dominated by short stories, which we almost never reprint today. As TV grew, we slowly replaced printed short stories with TV shows of similar structure.

Star Trek went western at the OK Corral back in 1968 (ST:TOS Season 3 Episode 6, "Spectre of the Gun"). They went Alice In wonderland two years earlier in "Shore Leave". They went time traveling in "Tomorrow is Yesterday", "City on the Edge of Forever", and "Assignment: Earth". Played with Greek myth in "Who Mourns for Adonis". They mucked in with 1920s gangsters in "A Piece of the Action", fought in Roman gladiatorial games in "Bread and Circuses", and jumped into an alternate universe in "Mirror, Mirror". And this was all just one show!

Those years of sci-fi and fantasy understandably included a lot of experimentation in what was possible, without quite so much consideration as to why one should do it. The result was, I say, embracing the irony, rather Frankenstinian, and not terribly cohesive.

D&D was a microcosm of this - a lot of, "Hey, look, we can do this!!!" But, like the rest of teh sci-fi/fantasy world, D&D shifted from just playign with pieces, to trying to build cohesive structures, and the mish-mash of weird shifted into targeted use of weird. Weird stuff in modern genre works is generally there for specific effect, not just for the sake of weird itself.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
So, you say, "Because..." which is suggesting that this is the root cause, and I think you've not quite hit it.

You seem to be treating D&D as if it was its own, independent thing, but, like all other bits of culture, it happened (an continues to happen) in a cultural context. And that context includes the science fiction and fantasy of the time. And while there were the Leibers and Tolkiens, the sci-fi/fantasy world was... really freaking weird in the 60s and 70s.

We tend to lose this when we think of the literature of the day, because what we know today are mostly the novels of the age, which tend to be a little more self-consistent. But in Gygax's day, it would not be terribly far off to say that the day-to-day genre was dominated by short stories, which we almost never reprint today. As TV grew, we slowly replaced printed short stories with TV shows of similar structure.

I agree with this, and I originally wrote a longer section that I couldn't really do justice to, and condensed it to the following:

These same feelings- what we would call "the streams being crossed" was also just a general part of the gestalt of that era. It was common to see fantasy works which had "modern people" placed in Fantasy settings (e.g., Stephen Donaldson) or technology that was indistinguishable from magic (Julian May) or parallel universes (Zelazny).

But yeah- the 1961 Hugo Award nominee, Scylla's Daughter (Leiber) was a sword & sorcery adventure that had a modern German time traveler with a Lankhmar/German dictionary interacting with Fafhrd and the Mouser. Different times!
 

One thing I'd also add is that with the emphasis on short stories, they were presented in the pulps at first, then later in anthologies like those Lin Carter edited and curated in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, or Flashing Swords. In the pulps especially, you were being presented with an already remixed menu of stories, a wild array of weird fantasy, horror, and sci-fi ideas being hurled at the reader.

We tend to lose this when we think of the literature of the day, because what we know today are mostly the novels of the age, which tend to be a little more self-consistent. But in Gygax's day, it would not be terribly far off to say that the day-to-day genre was dominated by short stories, which we almost never reprint today. As TV grew, we slowly replaced printed short stories with TV shows of similar structure.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
One thing I'd also add is that with the emphasis on short stories, they were presented in the pulps at first, then later in anthologies like those Lin Carter edited and curated in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, or Flashing Swords. In the pulps especially, you were being presented with an already remixed menu of stories, a wild array of weird fantasy, horror, and sci-fi ideas being hurled at the reader.

Goodness, I miss my subscriptions to Asimov's, F&SF, and Amazing Stories.
 


It was all of it, and more. Because there were no particular preconceptions as to what had to be in D&D, or what had to be excluded. Where did your monsters come from? Well, anywhere! Little bit of Arabian mythology? Put in a djinn. Want to put in a little John Carter homage? How about some carnivorous apes, or giant white ones? Did you see some cool toys? Why not a ankheg, or an owl bear? Do you like 50s monster movies? How about some giant ants? Rakshasas, dinosaurs, critters from Japanese or Irish or Egyptian mythology? They were all fair game.

Everything was put into a blender, and became "D&D."
I agree that this was relatively representative of the fiction of the 30s-60s which inspired early D&D. Time travelers, men from our world going to a fantasy realm (Three Hearts and Three Lions for a prominent example), or vice-versa (Fafhrd and the Mouser went to Alexandria in one story, IIRC), Star Trek raiding the studio wardrobe department to go genre-hopping all over the place, Dave getting inspired by vampire movies to make the Cleric class, and Gary mashing that up with holy crusaders and Bishop Odo, monsters taken from the Creature Double Features, Monks existing as a class because of 70s kung fu movies, etc.

3. Weirdness and 5e
This is where I get to the more interesting, and likely controversial, part of my general thoughts; what does any of this have to do with 5e?

Here's the thing- there are times when I feel that for some people, OSR (and OD&D / 1e specifically) is viewed as a reaction to 5e.
I think there are a few curmudgeons like this who are reflexively anti-WotC era D&D in general, but the OSR started in the 2000s, in reaction more to 3E and 4E. 3E brought a ton of old gamers back (like 5E has again), but many were disenchanted with its rules and how unwieldy it gets after the mid levels. Especially trying to DM it and make those crazy rationalized monster stat blocks. Goodman Games started their Dungeon Crawl Classics line of modules for 3E many years before they made their own game. 4E marketing then alienated a bunch more folks. In practice most of the OSR folks I'm acquainted with like 5E much better than 3E or 4E, and for many of them it's their second favorite edition.



Snarf Zagyg said:
For example, I would say that it very common to see people on forums today make comments like, "I don't like science fiction in my fantasy." Or, "I don't let people bring their own characters into my campaign.

The first was already a common attitude in the 1980s when I started. The latter... increasingly so, I think, yeah. But the genre purists were with us I think at least since the late 70s, as fantasy epics became increasingly focused on the plausibility and consistency of their secondary worlds. I think as different RPGs proliferated supporting an increasingly wide range of genres and worlds that also reinforced the tendency to not just put everything in the bucket of one game.
 
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SkidAce

Legend
The first was already a common attitude in the 1980s when I started. The latter... increasingly so, I think, yeah. But the genre purists were with us I think at least since the late 70s, as fantasy epics became increasingly focused on the plausibility and consistency of their secondary worlds. I think as different RPGs proliferated supporting an increasingly wide range of genres and worlds that also reinforced the tendency to not just put everything in the bucket of one game.
I mostly agree, but would change the shift like a decade later. We were still mixing genres in the 80's, and I never heard (personally) "keep sci fi out" until at least the 90s.

IME...
 

The first edition drinks from the speculative fiction of the XX century as main source of inspiration, but today in 2021 the speculative fiction is radically different, and not only because the arrival of the videogames and the manga but also new authors, for example G.R.R.Martin and the franchises created by other TTRPG publishers.

I guess Hasbro wants to create a "metaverse" with all their franchises/IPs within it, including the D&D multiverse but here there is a serious challenge for the game designers. D&D 5th Ed is not ready for a crossover with no-fantasy franchises. Rambo, Robocop and Terminator can be added to Mortal Kombat, Fortnite wellcomes Marvel and DC superheroes and action-heroes from movies, but in the tabletop the firearms can break too easily the power balance of the D&D game. Yes, in D&D an alien ship crasched is possible, and even there is a module about that, but we haven't learn how to redesign the power balance when at least one of the sides can use firearms. And there is a serious risk of classic classes (paladin, ranger, monk..) becoming lesser interesting for players if the machine guns are added to the game. What is the challenge ratin of a gobling with a machine-gun firing from the top of a watch-tower? And the same weapon, but not in the hands by a nPC but an automatic trap? Lots of gamers know the key of the victory is to have got a better weapon in the Battle Royal.

Maybe Hasbro will be future videogames to test experimental new rules and changes for a future edition.
 

But 5E does seem very "weird" friendly, at least compared to 4E.
Tell me when the Shardminds start turning up. Or the Wilden and other plant people. And I can't yet approach my old Iron Maiden PC - a warforged vampire brawler fighter, completely legal by the RAW. We're over seven years into D&D 5e (4e lasted six) and we only get a Feywild sourcebook later this month - and the Feywild and Shadowfell were created for 4e. And of course 4e Gamma World can be used with 4e; there is no 5e Gamma World that I'm aware of.

To me the purity editions are 2e, and especially 3.0, and 3.5, with literally dozens of sourcebooks round the Forgotten Realms. And when you start filling in the spaces to that level of detail they start to become boundaries. 4e and 5e, with their extremely relaxed publishing schedules and low number of sourcebooks for any given setting have both allowed the space for the weirdness to come back
 

Desdichado

Adventurer
1) OD&D and AD&D were exactly as weird as the players at the table made it. There seemed to be a strong pull towards "more verisimilitude" over time in printed products, which suggests to me that that's what the players were wanting to do.

2) All pop culture is an artifact of the time in which its created, no matter how much it may try not to be. Tolkien may have deliberately been writing a story that was based on the long-ago Anglo-Saxon epics that he studied professionally, but what he wrote was a novel with a very modern approach to structure, plot and characters, and for decades now critics have been analyzing how much his own personal experience in the trenches of the Great War impacted the work. The same is true for Gary Gygax, and D&D was written in a time where fantasy and science fiction were going through the "psychedelic van art" phase. That clearly had an impact on the early design of the game. But as more and more "mainstream" fans who had no appreciation for that type of fantasy joined the ranks, they "pulled" D&D into something that more closely resembled what they expected D&D to be like. Which was probably much more similar to Tolkien or Lloyd Alexander or whatever they were familiar with.
 

the Jester

Legend
Interesting discussion.

How many people still use alternate material worlds for adventures? Do the rest of you guys ever dangle plot threads that lead to different planets or planes-that-are-other-worlds-but-mostly-earthlike?

I haven't had a lot of plane travel in my 5e game yet, but I did drop a hook leading to a quest for the Regalia of Good, which were spread throughout three different alternate material worlds: a Gamma World one, a Star Trek-based one, and a low-magic low-fantasy setting I used for a side quest in 3e. The pcs haven't followed up yet but are apparently planning to.
 

Voadam

Legend
How many people still use alternate material worlds for adventures? Do the rest of you guys ever dangle plot threads that lead to different planets or planes-that-are-other-worlds-but-mostly-earthlike?

When I was running the Reign of Winter adventure path the plot eventually has the party
use Baba Yaga's dancing TARDIS to pop over to two other earth-like worlds including Rasputin-era Russia on Earth/Alt-Earth.
I was really disappointed the campaign ended in a TPK before that.
 

Orius

Adventurer
You seem to be treating D&D as if it was its own, independent thing, but, like all other bits of culture, it happened (an continues to happen) in a cultural context. And that context includes the science fiction and fantasy of the time. And while there were the Leibers and Tolkiens, the sci-fi/fantasy world was... really freaking weird in the 60s and 70s.

Yeah, Dune weird.

Star Trek went western at the OK Corral back in 1968 (ST:TOS Season 3 Episode 6, "Spectre of the Gun"). They went Alice In wonderland two years earlier in "Shore Leave". They went time traveling in "Tomorrow is Yesterday", "City on the Edge of Forever", and "Assignment: Earth". Played with Greek myth in "Who Mourns for Adonis". They mucked in with 1920s gangsters in "A Piece of the Action", fought in Roman gladiatorial games in "Bread and Circuses", and jumped into an alternate universe in "Mirror, Mirror". And this was all just one show!

Trek had practical reasons for doing that. By recycling sets, props, and costumes from period pieces they were able to keep the costs down on what was already an expensive show for the day. That's how Roddenberry was able to sell his initial pitch for the show, and even then it was a hard sell.

I think one reason D&D stepped back from the gonzo is that it's hell on game balance. And post-Gary TSR had a thing for "realism" in world building which often resulted in some fairly dry and dull settings.
 

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