What Is It About the Fantasy Genre Anyway?

Desdichado

Adventurer
I think part of it is just the natural intersection between people who like roleplaying games and people who like fantasy. I believe that in general a lot of people like those two things for the same reasons, and therefore if D&D hadn't been first, the RPG landscape would still be dominated by fantasy anyway.
 
There's been a lot of great responses in this thread, and suffice it to say that I agree with most of them, such as fantasy being more forgiving and sword-to-sword combat being more epic than an impersonal gun battle. My two coppers are as follows...

-First off, fantasy fires my imagination and my creativity in ways that science fiction simply doesn't. The magic of the fairies, the legends of heroic knights, and forgotten secrets in hidden glens all appeal to me as a distraction from the stresses and frustrations of reality. When I want to deal with the real world, I go out and interact with it by living my life. But at times, when I'm depressed and burned out, focussing on the fantasy and magic of other worlds lets me get away from it, just for a little while, before I can come back ready to deal with it once again.

-Secondly, as many other posters have alluded, you can handwave or otherwise BS a lot of things in fantasy that you couldn't get away with in a science fiction or modern reality setting. Science fiction, especially, requires a lot of detail and precision to make it believable, especially if some of your players are themselves scientists or engineers.

While I might be able to BS some sort of semi-believable explanation in a comic book superhero setting (where being exposed to a massive amount of cosmic rays or gamma radiation will give you superpowers, instead of just killing you), I really don't want to have to do research to make such things more believable. As it is, I've been called out in my fantasy writing by stating that oil can burn to burn trolls, but it can't burn to power an engine. I find such things as chemistry and physics to be dreadfully boring, and I just can't bring myself to enjoy my work if I have to spend a lot of additional time on research that I don't want to do.

Whereas with fantasy, the audience knows going in that things are not going to be "realistic", such as the fact that humanity has existed for anywhere from 2,200 to more than 10,000-plus years without any appreciable technological advancement. No one will blink an eye if the protagonists travel three thousand years into the future and find that in the future, man is still using horses and wooden sailing-ships as his fastest methods of transportation, and arrows are the deadliest form of missiles available to a war leader.

As long as it's internally consistent and believable, such as with the traditional Vancian magic, or the system of magic as described in the Harry Potter series, a fantasy writer can write almost anything they want, and in many ways the audience can accept it. Again, you have to allow for things like personal taste, quality of the writing, internal consistency, and so forth, but for a guy like me fantasy is much easier both to read and to write.

Of course, if you like Doctor Who or Star Trek, then by all means enjoy it on whatever level you like, and more power to you, but sci-fi just doesn't hold the same appeal for a scientific illiterate like me. Strictly from a personal point of view, fantasy is a lot easier to get along with.
 
This is it for me. Once guns hit the scene character death tends to go way up in combat intensive games. Running away is also a lot less viable. I like combat.
That is simply not true. d20 Modern has guns a plenty, but characters don't face any higher of a mortality rate. Indeed, at the higher levels, characters in d20 Modern are far likely to live compared to the higher levels of 3.5 D&D.

Another example - all of the Star Wars editions. Lots of guns. Very little death.

Running away, I have found, is much easier in a gun-game. Because the characters are fighting at range, it's far easier to slip out the back door or run down an alley. Running away while in the midst of a hand-to-hand melee, however, is harder.
 
Another example - all of the Star Wars editions. Lots of guns. Very little death.
Star Trek as well, which is odd since a single hit can make a character disappear.:-S Yeah, there's a big difference between, "you ten 10 hits points" and "you get a glowing green outline and now you ain't there no more." And yet, very few characters seem to die of anything short of their ship exploding and that too is very, very rare.

AD
 
Let's start with re-examining the OP's most basic premise: fantasy isn't the dominant genre. D&D is the dominant game. There's a big distinction there. When you look at the runner-up games, those with sword-and-sorcery fantasy settings don't outnumber the rest. That's because most folks choose D&D when they want to play fantasy.
D&D being the dominant game certainly has something to do with it. However, that's not the one and only factor.

If it were just a matter of D&D being the dominant game, then we would have a very large, very popular Sci-Fi game out there as well. It wouldn't be dominant as D&D, but that Sci-Fi game would be as big as say...White Wolf's line?

But we don't have even that.

There's D&D on top. Then, coming in at a distant second is: White Wolf and Mutants and Masterminds.

The Sci-Fi crowd is divided up between Battletech, Star Wars, ShadowRun, etc.

However, I will say that there are strong indications that Dark Heresy might be the 2nd or 3rd best selling game out there right now. So, perhaps we'll see a sudden ascendency of Sci-Fi game out there. Who knows? :)
 
Another example - all of the Star Wars editions. Lots of guns. Very little death.
Didja play d20 Star Wars before Saga? We averaged 1 character every 4 sessions, before the DM started pulling punches and house-ruling things left-and-right. Vitality/Wound meant that any given attack (and especially as you gained levels) was a 5%-15% chance of instant death.

Granted, lightsabers were the cause of many of those deaths (occupational hazard of fighting sith) but we racked up a good number of "blaster-crit" death.

As to the OP, I tend to find that unless you're playing a very hard Sci-Fi or actual earth setting, Arthur Clarke's rules apply. Call it the Force, nanobot healing technology, Stimpacks, or Cure Light Wounds, they are all "magical" healing. Its easier to define the concept of "magic" (because by nature, magic cannot exist) than create a believable science-based equivalent (even if the science is impossible, see saber, light).

The Doctor: Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink.
Mickey Smith: What's that?
The Doctor: No idea, I just made it up. Didn't want to say "Magic Door".
 

Felon

Visitor
D&D being the dominant game certainly has something to do with it. However, that's not the one and only factor.

If it were just a matter of D&D being the dominant game, then we would have a very large, very popular Sci-Fi game out there as well. It wouldn't be dominant as D&D, but that Sci-Fi game would be as big as say...White Wolf's line?

But we don't have even that.
The rest of my long screed went on to explain why there's no wildly popular sci-fi, or wildly popular anything besides D&D. There's no sci-fi game with a reward system that approaches D&D's. When you kill a bunch of stromtroopers in Star Wars, what do you get? Are you going to use their weapons and armor? Sell empire gear at the local weapon shop? Loot their corpses for credits? Probably none of the above.

Who else is out there making a whole-hearted effort to build that element into their games? Not many. The closest I can think of would be games like Shadowrun, where you get paid to do jobs and then, if you're lucky, you get to go shopping afterwards. A lot of games fixate on more lofty, intangible qualities, which leaves many players wondering where the goodies are. Even a devout role-player can enjoy the niftyness of swag.
 
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GSHamster

Visitor
That is simply not true. d20 Modern has guns a plenty, but characters don't face any higher of a mortality rate. Indeed, at the higher levels, characters in d20 Modern are far likely to live compared to the higher levels of 3.5 D&D.
The point is that modern games like that tend to stretch belief beyond the breaking point, and that's why people don't play them. The uber-high survival rate feels wrong. It's like the character is surviving because of the power of plot, rather than because he's a badass.
 
The point is that modern games like that tend to stretch belief beyond the breaking point, and that's why people don't play them. The uber-high survival rate feels wrong. It's like the character is surviving because of the power of plot, rather than because he's a badass.
I don't really buy that argument. If modern games stretch belief that far, then so too do cop shows, 24, action movies, etc. There's a whole popular genre out there that involves gun play and is on week after week, yet people don't seem to complain that belief has been stretched too far.

Aside from that, swords and axes are deadlier than bullets. A bullet will punch a hole through a person while an axe or sword cuts into a person, often cutting entire parts of the body off. The D&D explanation that a character goes up in HP as they do in level because they learn how to move so as to avoid taking the brunt of a hit works just as well when they're trying to dodge bullets.
 
Didja play d20 Star Wars before Saga?
Dude, played SW way before d20. The WEG system allowed you to take on hordes of Stormtroopers and still live. The d20 system did have the Wounds system which made it more deadly...but we had no problem surviving.


The rest of my long screed went on to explain why there's no wildly popular sci-fi, or wildly popular anything besides D&D. There's no sci-fi game with a reward system that approaches D&D's. When you kill a bunch of stromtroopers in Star Wars, what do you get? Are you going to use their weapons and armor?
Actually...yes! In our current SW game, that's exactly what we do! lol. :D And...we've played in numerous other Sci-Fi games where you could accumulate "stuff". No biggie.

But to the larger point...I still disagree. Numerous D&D groups I have known, seen, and interacted with did not play D&D for the accumulation of stuff. You can't boil down the "why" of why people play D&D to a single reason. There are about 100 different reasons.

The point is that modern games like that tend to stretch belief beyond the breaking point, and that's why people don't play them. The uber-high survival rate feels wrong. It's like the character is surviving because of the power of plot, rather than because he's a badass.
What? With all due respect, no. They don't.

No more than D&D stretches belief. You think it's realistic for a single man with a sword to dive into the midst of a dozen warriors and come out with just a few scratches? Or for a person to get hit with an actual bolt of lightning, but still keep fighting with no penalty?

Furthermore, modern action movies, which often have their heroes doing over the top feats, have allowed for those same tropes to be envisioned for Sci-Fi table-topping. If you watch any good Sci-Fi shoot 'em up, the protagonists are often taking on hordes of bad guys with guns, surviving massive gun fights, never reloading, but few viewers complain.

And the big trump card I can play in this argument is this - look at all of the Sci-Fi games with high survivability rates: Star Wars, Serenity, and d20 Future. Now go scan some of the message boards about these games. Is the main complaint of people who play the Serenity, Star Wars, or d20 Future systems the fact that combat is too survivable? Nope.
 
Dude, played SW way before d20. The WEG system allowed you to take on hordes of Stormtroopers and still live. The d20 system did have the Wounds system which made it more deadly...but we had no problem surviving.
Oh, WEG is a different kettle of fish. WEG, beyond a few "levels" (or with a succificent dodge/parry skills) was near invincible.

In my own experience, d20 Revised Star Wars was polar opposite; without DM fiat, we often suffered huge casualties. (A 1-13th level revised game suffered eight permanent deaths; a record for a d20 campaign in our group. It also nearly ended in a TPK twice and many of the PCs spent more time in negative hp than up and moving once weapons got drawn. Yay Saga for fixing that!)
 
Oh, WEG is a different kettle of fish. WEG, beyond a few "levels" (or with a succificent dodge/parry skills) was near invincible.

In my own experience, d20 Revised Star Wars was polar opposite; without DM fiat, we often suffered huge casualties. (A 1-13th level revised game suffered eight permanent deaths; a record for a d20 campaign in our group. It also nearly ended in a TPK twice and many of the PCs spent more time in negative hp than up and moving once weapons got drawn. Yay Saga for fixing that!)
Huh. in d20 Star Wars, we did experience a number of people getting one-shotted, but few character deaths (only one that I can remember) and no TPKs.

I'll give a big thumbs up to Saga, though.
 

GSHamster

Visitor
No more than D&D stretches belief. You think it's realistic for a single man with a sword to dive into the midst of a dozen warriors and come out with just a few scratches? Or for a person to get hit with an actual bolt of lightning, but still keep fighting with no penalty?
In a world with gods and magic sure. It doesn't make sense (to a degree) in "low-magic" settings, and one primary change you see in low-magic games is to reduce the disparity between levels.

For example, take a look at E6. The single greatest change in E6 is to drop the variance in survivability from 20 levels to 6 levels.

Furthermore, modern action movies, which often have their heroes doing over the top feats, have allowed for those same tropes to be envisioned for Sci-Fi table-topping. If you watch any good Sci-Fi shoot 'em up, the protagonists are often taking on hordes of bad guys with guns, surviving massive gun fights, never reloading, but few viewers complain.
That's the difference between game and plot. If the protagonists die, the story is pointless. But I contend that an RPG needs some sort of internal versimilitude, and scifi is far more restrictive than fantasy.

As, many of the most crazy sci-fi fights are essentially magic. For all intents and purposes, the main characters in movies with crazy gun fights like The Matrix or Star Wars have magic.

And the big trump card I can play in this argument is this - look at all of the Sci-Fi games with high survivability rates: Star Wars, Serenity, and d20 Future. Now go scan some of the message boards about these games. Is the main complaint of people who play the Serenity, Star Wars, or d20 Future systems the fact that combat is too survivable? Nope.
The big flaw in this argument is that we are not concerned with the people who do play scifi games. We're concerned with the people who don't play them.

To be honest, I come at this from an MMO angle. There is one successful science fiction MMO, Eve Online. Pretty much all the rest are fantasy. But Eve Online manages to adhere to the "as I do stuff, I get stronger" mantra. It does this by substituting your ship for your main character. And it makes sense to us that a more expensive, more powerful or technologically advanced ship is harder to defeat in a way that simply doesn't apply to a individual.
 

Spatula

Explorer
I don't really buy that argument. If modern games stretch belief that far, then so too do cop shows, 24, action movies, etc. There's a whole popular genre out there that involves gun play and is on week after week, yet people don't seem to complain that belief has been stretched too far.
The difference is that plot characters simply don't get shot that often in tv/movie gun-play; when they do they are either dead (rare), seriously hurt, or some hidden object stopped the bullet (usually a vest). On the other hand, those same characters can get punched, hit, beaten with objects, etc. over and over and keep on going.

Sure, you can say that when a combatant in a modern RPG hits someone with a gunshot and deals damage, the gunshot didn't actually hit and didn't actually deal damage (unless it drops the target), but that's a bit jarring. A system where the object is to not get hit by a bullet in the first place is emulating the action movie genre much better.
 
The difference is that plot characters simply don't get shot that often in tv/movie gun-play; when they do they are either dead (rare), seriously hurt, or some hidden object stopped the bullet (usually a vest). On the other hand, those same characters can get punched, hit, beaten with objects, etc. over and over and keep on going.

Sure, you can say that when a combatant in a modern RPG hits someone with a gunshot and deals damage, the gunshot didn't actually hit and didn't actually deal damage (unless it drops the target), but that's a bit jarring. A system where the object is to not get hit by a bullet in the first place is emulating the action movie genre much better.
But this still doesn't address the fact that hand-to-hand weapons actually deal more damage than firearms do. As someone in this thread has stated, an axe hacks all the way through a human body, while a 9mm just makes a hole.

A man taking more than two hits from an axe is even more unrealistic than a man taking more than two hits from a 9mm.

As far as how we describe these things in our own games - we just use the Die Hard model.

All of our Sci-Fi or modern games adopt the Die Hard damage model, where someone can take a hit and keep going. Look, too, at video games where characters can take hit after hit. Yet I see no complaints about video games being "too unrealistic".

Plus, not all of the game systems we've talked about are based off of the hit point model. The old WEG system didn't have hit points at all. You were wounded, in critical condition, or dead. But that system worked and worked well.
 
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In a world with gods and magic sure. It doesn't make sense (to a degree) in "low-magic" settings, and one primary change you see in low-magic games is to reduce the disparity between levels.
Gods and magic have nothing to do with it. A 10th level fighter with no magic can still kill over a dozen warriors with minimum fuss. That's pretty unrealistic.

As, many of the most crazy sci-fi fights are essentially magic. For all intents and purposes, the main characters in movies with crazy gun fights like The Matrix or Star Wars have magic.
What about the crazy gun fights in Sci-Fi movies and shows without magic? Serenity? Firefly? Aliens? Starship Troopers?

The big flaw in this argument is that we are not concerned with the people who do play scifi games. We're concerned with the people who don't play them.
No problem. Look at all of the rants that people have about why they hate this system or that system. What are the major rants of Sci-Fi systems? That combat is not deadly enough? Nah. Don't see it.
 
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Set

Visitor
Fantasy, Supers, Sci-Fantasy (star-wars), Sci-fi (star-trek), Modern... in that order. Generally, I'd rather play solitaire than roll up a modern character.
What he said, right down to the solitaire part.

I don't role-play to be me, stuck in my world. I already am me, and no interest in playing Tabletop Sims: the RPG.
 
A wee bit ranty...lol

Before ready, place tongue firmly in cheek. Begin...

After reading the last few entries, it seems another thing D&D and Fantasy games have going for them is something I'll call 'Accepted Ridiculousness'.

In these games, which apparently start off from the get go existing under the assumption that the universe they take place in is governed by few if any laws save the one that says magic can defy any laws that do exist, anything even remotely hard to accept is ok because magic exists.

In a universe that tries to relate to the real world or extrapolated speculative or theoretic science, these same things are impossible. :confused:

Its ridiculous that 50 blaster toting Space Patrolmen can't zap your Smuggler because lasers (as everyone knows scientifically) move at light speed and you can't dodge light.

However, its not ridiculous that 50 Archers and a Wizard or two can't hit your Rogue with arrows and spells because *poof* there's magic in the world. :erm:

Yes, this makes gaming in said universe a lot easier as no one has to worry about whether or not anything makes any sense. And yet...how many fantasy game GMs and players throw around the words 'realistic' and 'more like actual medieval society' and the like. Its one of the things about FRPGs I could never really wrap my head around. There is no way in heck a medieval society would stay medieval if you had numerous people running around healing everyone, creating food and water, generating light without heat and a dozen other minor magicial effects. While your campaign might not be like that, D&D has been that way for ages. Again, its likely part of the popularity. I mean, would most people want to pretend to live in a world as dank, disgusting and painful as medieval Europe really was?

Not me. In fact, its a bit off the subject but does anyone recall the recent thread about the adventuring party that wants to go off and open a bakery. It was mentioned, at least in part, how some adventurers don't always want to adventure. In SciFi games, my players and I love our downtime. When we're not fighting space pirates or evil alien empires or rescuing asteroid miners we go see a holo-movie, hang out in a spaceport bar or travel to one of the PCs homeworlds to check it out. It's one of my favorite elements of SF gaming. Now you can't tell me you can't comprehend that? Seeing a movie is seeing a movie, the bar is a bar and what if one of the PCs comes from a beautiful coastal town with awesome surfing?

IMO its just more fun then saying, 'you travel down the poorly made road another thirty miles before you have to stop and rest' for the 100th time. Why is everything cool three days travel from where ever I am in fantasy games?

Not me man, I'm hailing a hover-taxi. Driver, to the starport please, its my day off and I'm going to the fifth moon of Zaran. ;)

AD
"Never Give Up, Never Surrender!"
 
What he said, right down to the solitaire part.

I don't role-play to be me, stuck in my world. I already am me, and no interest in playing Tabletop Sims: the RPG.
As if it wasn't obvious, for me it goes...

SciFi/Space Opera (Star Trek, Traveller, StarBlazer Adventures, etc.)
Superheroes (Mutants & Masterminds, Champions)
Science Fantasy or Steampunk (Star Wars, Shadowrun, Space: 1889)
Modern Twist (Top Secret, Men in Black, Ghostbusters, Modern w/ Fantastic Elements)
Folklore Fantasy (Faery's Tale, Ars Magica)
Traditional Fantasy (D&D)

I should also state that I'm a big fan of humorous games and mecha games, regardless of the genre they are set in.

AD
 

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