D&D General Why Fantasy? Goin' Medieval in D&D


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ART!

Legend
Maybe? In early fantasy power was often intangible to the protagonists. They survived by being smart or sheer will against ghostly beings and cosmic horrors they could never fully comprehend. Modern fantasy is much more tangible. Protagonists wield the power of Gods as easy as picking up a sword. I think the power fantasy is a more modern experience/expectation. Fantasy is a great vehicle for this, but its not always been the expectation. So then, why was it so popular before it was about power fantasy?
Fantasy also has the attraction of escapism, which is arguably also about power - the power to do what you will. Fantasy also can connect us to older or ancient modes of thinking, and to the natural world. I know for me one of the appeals of fantasy games is playing a character who spends an awful lot of their time outdoors, and I often play rangers, barbarians, druids, and the like.
Given the overwhelming presence of superheroes for the past decade (or two decades), I find claims that the continued success of fantasy RPGs to be solely due to power-tripping to be somewhat suspect, at best. Or, at a minimum, lacking in foundation.

But that's just my opinion!
It's intriguing that this popularity and ubiquity has not created a parallel in supers rpgs - although arguably M&M rode the early wave of supers movie popularity.
Except D&D largely ignores this aspect of the medieval world. The PCs are never located in the strictly ordered social order of the medieval world nor are they restricted by it. Kings or Barons never have life and death power over them nor are they made answerable to them in the base assumption of the game, your particular game world may vary.
Instead you get characters that would be equally at home in Ank-Morpork, Deadwood or Barsoom

I think we can take the section on Boot Hill in the 1st edition DMG as evidence of that!

And there is a strong "Old West" influence on Howard and Burroughs, who both get mentioned in Appendix N.

Speaking as someone who isn't American, that sense of "Americana" is something that feels distinctively D&Dish to me.
The style of D&D is often very European, but the vast "untamed" or "wild" [sic] spaces are very American Westward Expansion.

Cacao is not very pleasant to eat.
Chocolate, on the other hand, is widely accepted as adorable.
And this is the time when Beowulf and the early Arthurian myths are being created, and which inspired Tolkien to create Rohan. But of course it is called the Dark Ages because no one knows about it (see also: Dark Matter, Dark Energy).
Dark Chocolate.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
I don't like arguments like this because they read as, "you and most everyone who posts here are irrelevant to modern D&D, so stop cluttering up the internet with your outdated opinions".
I think that, that is an uncharitable reading of my post. What I am saying is that all chatter here is immaterial to the future of the game. We are not big enough nor many enough to carry weight with the design team. Irrespective of our opinions. Post all you like.
 

I think that, that is an uncharitable reading of my post. What I am saying is that all chatter here is immaterial to the future of the game. We are not big enough nor many enough to carry weight with the design team. Irrespective of our opinions. Post all you like.
I don't think the point of this thread was anything to do with WotC, I think it was to ask us to think about what we do in our own games.


For me, I make my D&D distinctly modern in tone and values. This is because I'm quite knowledgeable about European history, and if I made the game remotely historical I would be constantly worrying about getting it wrong, rather than making the game fun. It's a straightjacket I prefer to avoid.
 

I don't think the point of this thread was anything to do with WotC, I think it was to ask us to think about what we do in our own games.


For me, I make my D&D distinctly modern in tone and values. This is because I'm quite knowledgeable about European history, and if I made the game remotely historical I would be constantly worrying about getting it wrong, rather than making the game fun. It's a straightjacket I prefer to avoid.
as soon as you add objectively fact gods in the rule of the setting change as let us say some similar to modern western values is objective good then the gods start empowering mortals to do their will and hey all of a sudden you get many of the more familiar value of dnd making sense, aside from the murder hoboing and the areas with just no civilisation on it.
 

as soon as you add objectively fact gods
That is not a requirement. Eberron does not have that.

And even if you do, you can have objectively fallible gods. The gods might be real, but they are not necessarily right.

And of course polytheism as standard is a way D&D has always differed drastically from medievalism, with huge cultural implications if you want to follow through with it. "Western values" are historically based on the assumption of a single infallible god. Remove that an you are not going to get the same values.

If I did do a medieval setting, the first thing I would do would be to make it monotheistic.
 
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That is not a requirement. Eberron does not have that.

And even if you do, you can have objectively fallible gods. The gods might be real, but they are not necessarily right.

And of course polytheism as standard is a way D&D has always differed drastically from medievalism, with huge cultural implications if you want to follow through with it. "Western values" are historically based on the assumption of a single infallible god. Remove that an you are not going to get the same values.
you are right but the ability to farm it off to the gods as to why it is everything is not just copy-pasted Europe is a fairly practical idea, also the fallible gods and polytheism just make it easier for quirks to appear.
get a sufficient number of gods to believe it is supposed to be that way and it tends to end up that way it is like giving politicians reality-warping power with no real drawbacks.
 

you are right but the ability to farm it off to the gods as to why it is everything is not just copy-pasted Europe is a fairly practical idea, also the fallible gods and polytheism just make it easier for quirks to appear.
get a sufficient number of gods to believe it is supposed to be that way and it tends to end up that way it is like giving politicians reality-warping power with no real drawbacks.
So I leave it up to my players to make their own moral judgments (in accordance with their own 21st Century values). Problem solved.
 
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UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
I don't think the point of this thread was anything to do with WotC, I think it was to ask us to think about what we do in our own games.


For me, I make my D&D distinctly modern in tone and values. This is because I'm quite knowledgeable about European history, and if I made the game remotely historical I would be constantly worrying about getting it wrong, rather than making the game fun. It's a straightjacket I prefer to avoid.
The post you choose to quote was not a comment on the thesis of the thread but a response to another poster.
 

Yora

Legend
Something that doesn't get explored enough, imho, is PRE-feudal times. The period between the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and the Norman conquest seems to me ideal:

You have medieval weapons and armor (well, not plate, but leaving that out you can just adapt the ACs for other types up/down) you have both isolated villages and larger towns, you have crumbling ruins from a collapsed empire, you have people moving and settling, you have invaders and/or traders from faraway, you have religious strife ....

So if you want "medieval" D&D without all the hassle of a King»Duke»Count/Earl»Baron»Knight hierarchy, look for the Migration period, it has all you need.
I took that as the baseline for the new setting I've been working on for the past weeks. The Empire fell apart in an Alexander's Successors type situation, and now it's a 6th century central Europe type of environment.
It really does work great as a background to have numerous small principalities that have only the loosest interactions with their distant neighbors, and lots of old ruins that still hold treasures hidden away during the chaos and never recovered after their owners were killed by fighting each other.
 



Ixal

Adventurer
Why medieval fantasy? Because most people don't know much about medieval history apart from some, often wrong as they often think of much later time periods than whats generally defined as medieval, tropes so it is very easy to project stuff into the game. Especially when you also add fantasy.
It is especially true as a escapist power fantasy. The medieval world was, at least according to the tropes, lawless and allows the PCs do whatever they want while the fantasy part allows the hero to fight through hordes of enemies and make Robocop look like a nonviolent philosophical movie in comparison.

In Science Fiction you often have to deal with with pesky modern problems and concepts which limit what the PCs can believable do (why doesn't the police show up) or otherwise makes it harder to write adventures as there are so many more things the GM has to think off ("lets just SciFi google it" or "sue them"). Also when you want to escape reality, SciFi is often still too close. Which is also why many people react negatively when people try to make medieval fantasy more historic/realistic which often includes adding mundane real world problems to it the players want to escape from.

As for why monarchies, they are one of the tropes entertainment has told us are part of the medieval times. According to tropes, medieval = knights in armor, king in a castle and pesant on fields. And its not that they are wrong with that. Most places, no matter where in the world had a monarchy at that time. Heck even today we have a lot of autokraties just without all this nobility and divine rule stuff.
But its not as if medieval fantasy players (maybe also the authors) have any clue how feudal or monarchic systems work nor have they spend much thought about all the different variants of monarchies that existed in history. The understanding of monarchies in most RPGs does not go beyond what you see in Disney movies. Not that this is limited to monarchies in RPGs you are more likely to see US style democracies than historic republics like Venice or Milan.
 
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The medieval world was, at least according to the tropes, lawless and allows the PCs do whatever they want
I don't think people actually believe that.
In Science Fiction you often have to deal with with pesky modern problems and concepts which limit what the PCs can believable do (why doesn't the police show up)
You find more lawless frontiers in science fiction than pretty much anywhere else. The galaxy is big.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
You find more lawless frontiers in science fiction than pretty much anywhere else. The galaxy is big.
Which is also why in SciFi rpgs you nearly always adventure on the frontier and not on developed worlds apart from lawless undercities.
So much so that sometimes the only thing telling you that you play SciFi and not medieval fantasy is that your swords glow and the "bows" go pew pew.
 


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