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

There is no real space for just wandering off chasing after something that catches your interest and goof around to see what happens.
I find this objection to be baffling. Yes, if you're looking to play a game in which you are officers within an organizational structure, you don't just get to goof off whenever you like. That's part of the role you take on when you play such a game. If you don't like that sort of role, you don't play that game, but it doesn't mean the game setting is not conducive to RPGs.
 

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My basic point was that in much of fantasy (both as a genre and an RPG) we tend to gloss over (the term I used was lampshade) the icky parts of what I mistakenly referred to as feudal periods. Again, people got a bit more caught up in chewing up the exact definitions rather than the point I was trying to make.

The point is this - yes, we use a Ren-Faire approach to a fantasy setting that is very loosely based on pre-industrial cultures, typically from Europe, although certainly not exclusively that. But, we then completely romanticize the whole thing. We have "good kings" that do good things and are "good kingdoms".

Meanwhile, players will absolutely lose their minds over things like the Wall of the Faithless in Forgotten Realms. Or the Cataclysm in Dragonlance. But, have no problems with autocratic governments where your character really has no rights or freedoms. But, because we ignore all that (mostly in service to creating an "old west" approach - itself incredibly ahistorical and romanticized) we wind up with these settings that, if you step back and pull off the lampshade, you realize that these settings are hiding a lot of nastiness that we just gloss over.
I mean, D&D campaigns also tend to have lots of "bad kingdoms," -- it's just that when you go bad, you might as well start twirling the mustaches and chewing the scenery.

That's where I'd put D&D's treatment of monarchies and fuedalism and autocratic government and such -- it tends to shoehorn it into the white hat/black hat mentality that pervades the system. Nuance is tough. Tougher still when the books have spent a half century trying to have it both ways as to whether the game is a generic fantasy ruleset or an implied default setting.

It works just fine if the players are Star Trek fans.

You watched Star Trek? The crew are just moving wallpaper, there are only a few characters who matter.

True. But for many players having a clear mission objective is an advantage. They don't want to goof around in the hope that something interesting turns up.

If the assumed operation state of RPGs is murderhobo, than yeah Star Trek is a hard sell. Star Trek tends to be a smaller sandbox the sides are easy to see. For many that instantly means railroad. There is so much opportunity working inside such well defined boxes as Star Trek. YMMV.
That's well and above what was said. Yora's assumption was that RPGs are sandbox, not murderhoboism. As to whether Star Trek isn't a sandbox... well (based on my own personal experience only) I'd say that most games I've played of it certainly are semi- rail-delivery-to-starting-point, and then free-form hike to freeform resolution. Adventures tend to start like show episodes: the starship and crew have arrived at <Place> (either because Starfleet sent it there or as part of their exploration mission) and come across <Problem>. Now, the PCs could theoretically move on and not engage the problem, but much like the crew in episodes almost never say, 'this isn't our business,' and move on (despite that being a foundational principle of their society with regards to a huge swath of what' s out there in space), I don't think I've seen people do so. The rails disappear at that point, though, as solutions to the problem are usually very open (negotiate, go in a-phasers' a-blazing, teleport the hostages to safety, do a high-tech heist montage, re-dafloober the deflector zingzang).

Principally speaking, there isn't a specific difference between Star Trek and, say, Traveller -- both are wide open frontiers with lots of problems to solve and lone ships often far from the rest of their side having to make tough decisions out in the field (ST might even have an advantage over Traveller in some ways, as Trav's fuel rules and ship mortgages mean you really don't do a lot of saying, "say, what's over there?" and just going). Where ST is limited is mostly in tendency of use -- you probably won't be going and setting up a mining consortium on Nigel 7 or exploring the dungeons of the mad god Q looking for treasure, or a multi-adventure arc fighting Emperor Palpitation because the expectation put forth in the media surrounding the fictional universe is one of post-scarcity military non-underdogs dealing with moderate and rarely existential challenges.
 

MGibster

Legend
Star Trek just really doesn't seem to lend itself well to RPGs, in my view.
I do think that's a valid point but for a slightly different reason.

The heroes of Star Trek are all captains and command crews who are in charge of hundreds of people while also acting on orders they get from above. This leads to a combination of too much responsibility and not enough freedom. There is no real space for just wandering off chasing after something that catches your interest and goof around to see what happens.
I disagree with this in part. In the original series and even TNG to an extent, the Enterprise was on its own when carrying out a mission. Sure, they're sent to Omicron Persei VIII to establish diplomatic relations with a new species that just acquired warp, but how they do that is really up to them. There are no other ships in the area to lend their assistance and even contacting Starfleet for advice isn't always possible. The biggest problem I've had with Star Trek RPGs is that players don't want their characters to act like Starfleet officers.

It works just fine if the players are Star Trek fans.
Oh, man, you would think so! But not in my experience. But, to be fair, it's been a long, long time since I tried to run a Star Trek campaign. I think it was with Decipher Games' version. Maybe things have improved.
 

MGibster

Legend
My basic point was that in much of fantasy (both as a genre and an RPG) we tend to gloss over (the term I used was lampshade) the icky parts of what I mistakenly referred to as feudal periods. Again, people got a bit more caught up in chewing up the exact definitions rather than the point I was trying to make.
I think your basic point is valid. It's even more valid because I agree with it.

Again, of course we do. Heck, how many people play Grand Theft Auto and love it? Are they horrible people for liking the game? Of course not.
True story: I rented GTA:III from a video store (remember those?) and the first time I shot someone in the head with the sniper rifle and a geyser of blood gushed into the air I laughed out loud. When I had to return the game I went out and bought it immediately. Good times.
 

Oh, man, you would think so! But not in my experience. But, to be fair, it's been a long, long time since I tried to run a Star Trek campaign. I think it was with Decipher Games' version. Maybe things have improved.
I think the FASA game was even longer ago! But there where four of us, and we where all happy to spend a session agonising about the Prime Directive. Although I also got to shoot the sh*t out of a fleet of Orion Pirate ships.
 


Well yes, beyond being fans they do also have to buy into the idea of playing such a role in the game. That's not all ST fans.
There's a lot of things people want to see others do but not do themselves (even in RPG form). The relative lack of sports RPGs an example, but also this thread reminds me that there are things people are fine with in a show that are rougher in a game (mind-control in Jessica Jones or a monster-of-the-week-type show vs. in-game).
 

MGibster

Legend
There's a lot of things people want to see others do but not do themselves (even in RPG form). The relative lack of sports RPGs an example, but also this thread reminds me that there are things people are fine with in a show that are rougher in a game (mind-control in Jessica Jones or a monster-of-the-week-type show vs. in-game).
This is true. I think it would do a lot of people good to be reminded that what works in fiction doesn't necessarily work for a game.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
The relative lack of sports RPGs an example,
Relative lack? - are there any sports RPGs out there?

The only ones I can think of are Pro Wrestling RPGs - which really pushes the boundaries of what I'd call a "sport" but as a "soap opera stunt show" can make a pretty good environment for an RPG.

I'm really curious to go off to Drive Thru or itch and see if I can find a football RPG now...
 

Relative lack? - are there any sports RPGs out there?

The only ones I can think of are Pro Wrestling RPGs - which really pushes the boundaries of what I'd call a "sport" but as a "soap opera stunt show" can make a pretty good environment for an RPG.

I'm really curious to go off to Drive Thru or itch and see if I can find a football RPG now...
I don't know. Does En Garde! count?
 

Hussar

Legend
Sure, pretty much addressed in my comment.

Edit: Though, yes I did think about the 5 year mission and you are totally right. Thats how you get away from Fleet command and allow the players to do as they like. Well, assuming they are following the prime directives... ;)

I believe that’s how the recent Star Trek game is framed. It’s set in an area that isn’t detailed in the shows and it’s very much a 5 year mission set up.
 

I believe that’s how the recent Star Trek game is framed. It’s set in an area that isn’t detailed in the shows and it’s very much a 5 year mission set up.
The Living Campaign that they recently turned into a setting book is this, yes. The core books themselves are pretty open.
 



Random Task

Explorer
The point is this - yes, we use a Ren-Faire approach to a fantasy setting that is very loosely based on pre-industrial cultures, typically from Europe, although certainly not exclusively that. But, we then completely romanticize the whole thing. We have "good kings" that do good things and are "good kingdoms".

And because morality is often so starkly delineated in these games, there are truly bad/evil people for the good kingdoms to guard and fight against, there's hardly ever any morally gray cost of doing good.
 

Gravenhurst48

Explorer
Any way I could get a non-Derrida summary of what is actually meant, here? Because I've tried to understand the man's work before, more than once, and found it either totally impenetrable, trivial to the point of hilarity, or the philosophical equivalent of vaporware.
"...reference to paradoxes found in...culture's persistent recycling of 'retro' aesthetics and incapacity to escape 'old' social forms...term to describe a musical aesthetic preoccupied with this temporal disjunction and the nostalgia for 'lost futures'...and the persistence of the past."
 


Gravenhurst48

Explorer
Most superheroes don't get markedly more powerful over time, so IMO it's a bit different. Some superhero video games do
I think sort-of-medieval works because it doesn't hit the uncanny valley issue. Have you ever seen The Polar Express? It was a okay movie that would have been better with either better fidelity or worse. As it was it was just strange to watch this animated movie that kind of looked real but not really. Kind of like how some people are fascinated with the Kardashians*. We know they aren't real, but they're so close it's spooky.

In any case, fantasy is close enough to myth and legends that have been around for a long time that it works for people without getting too caught up in the whole "it doesn't work that way" trap. Set something in the modern era and you'd have to continuously update it to keep current along with our knowledge of how things really work. That, and if set in the modern day some guy with a software development background is going to start going on about how you can't hack into a computer system by randomly mashing on a keyboard.

D&D doesn't do a very good job at simulation. Then again, our ideas of what it's trying to simulate are so vague and mushy that it doesn't need to. If it were trying to simulate the real world we'd be hitting all sorts of "but it doesn't work that way". As it is? We can have longbows that use dex alone and survive being eaten by a purple worm and it's okay because it's just fantasy and nobody expects it to be too realistic.

*I'm not one of them, I only have a vague idea of who they are because it's impossible to not have a vague idea of who they are.
Most superheroes don't get markedly more powerful over time, so IMO it's a bit different. Some superhero video games do have PCs "level up".
Lego video games are the best RPG styled games with your PC, essentially, staying at level zero throughout the game, unless you unlock other NPC's to help achieve goals and secrets with an ability to unlock the barrier or object, needed to raise your health or unlock a new ability to progress further into the game.
I mention Lego video games because they are very similar as a PC party in D&D, where you need other team mates to help achieve the adventure goal.
 


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