log in or register to remove this ad

 

Your opinion on basing fantasy countries on real world ones

MGibster

Legend
Just to offer a counter opinion here, the problem with incorporating entire cultures into a fantasy setting is that most of the time, when you do this, it makes zero sense. The boards here are rife with examples, recently one talking about how wheat farming would be problematic in a D&D setting. On and on.
I don't think anybody really incorporates entire cultures into a fantasy setting. They take a lot of the surface trappings and place them in a fantasy setting taking or leaving what they need. And while people like us might be interested in wheat farming in a D&D setting, I seriously doubt most people playing D&D care that much.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Just to offer a counter opinion here, the problem with incorporating entire cultures into a fantasy setting is that most of the time, when you do this, it makes zero sense. The boards here are rife with examples, recently one talking about how wheat farming would be problematic in a D&D setting. On and on.

Cultures are a product of their history. When you radically change the context of those cultures - such as adding magic and monsters - then what should be produced won't actually look very much like real world cultures.

Naomi Novik's Tremeraire series is an excellent example of this. It starts out with late Napoleonic history with dragons and then veers totally away from history. Africa is a major power because they've spent centuries nurturing their dragons and have a freaking huge army of dragons that dwarfs anything in Europe. Eastern countries like China likewise are not even remotely colonizable by Europeans. It's a pretty decent shot at it.

But, IMO, if you're going to make a D&D world, it needs to start with at least one eye on the magic system and how that impacts culture and one eye on the Monster Manual as well. The whole "fantasy Ren-Faire Europe" trope that you generally get in D&D doesn't survive even a cursory examination. Every single aspect of culture would be affected by the twin pillars of the magic system and the Monster Manual.
Another one is Kurt R.A. Giambastiani’s Cloudfall novels. Imagine a world in which a young, expansionist America encounters plains Indians with velociraptor steeds…
 

Hussar

Legend
I don't think anybody really incorporates entire cultures into a fantasy setting. They take a lot of the surface trappings and place them in a fantasy setting taking or leaving what they need. And while people like us might be interested in wheat farming in a D&D setting, I seriously doubt most people playing D&D care that much.
See, but here's the thing. It infects virtually every aspect of the game. And, because fantasy is an extremely conservative fandom, tropes are very, very difficult to criticize or examine. Elves are isolationist and snooty. Why? Because that's how Tolkien wrote them, that that's how they are. Halflings as stand ins for idealized English farmers. So on and so forth. And because so much of this is never analyzed, it gets passed on again and again. And, once you start overlaying those surface trappings of a cultures, without actually taking the time to examine the roots of those trappings, we wind up where we are now - with a miss mash of stuff that's part fantastic ideas and part racist garbage.
 

MGibster

Legend
See, but here's the thing. It infects virtually every aspect of the game. And, because fantasy is an extremely conservative fandom, tropes are very, very difficult to criticize or examine. Elves are isolationist and snooty. Why? Because that's how Tolkien wrote them, that that's how they are. Halflings as stand ins for idealized English farmers. So on and so forth. And because so much of this is never analyzed, it gets passed on again and again. And, once you start overlaying those surface trappings of a cultures, without actually taking the time to examine the roots of those trappings, we wind up where we are now - with a miss mash of stuff that's part fantastic ideas and part racist garbage.
Infects is a somewhat inflammatory word. Which makes sense since infections often cause inflammation. I agree that fantasy gaming is somewhat conservative but I'll go one further. It's highly derivative. We've been using Tolkien style races for so long because it's familiar and it allows people to jump into the game quickly. So the best solution is to simply stop using them. Because if you use them, even if you play against type, you're still relying on those tired old tropes.
 


Jmarso

Adventurer
Done properly, and with the right sort of campaign and BBEG, it could be awesome.

Done improperly, it'll probably fall very flat.
 

Hussar

Legend
Infects is a somewhat inflammatory word. Which makes sense since infections often cause inflammation. I agree that fantasy gaming is somewhat conservative but I'll go one further. It's highly derivative. We've been using Tolkien style races for so long because it's familiar and it allows people to jump into the game quickly. So the best solution is to simply stop using them. Because if you use them, even if you play against type, you're still relying on those tired old tropes.

I’d agree with all this.

It’s certainly not something that’s easily fixed. And the game books themselves do us no favours since they are all starting from that derivative starting point. Which is certainly familiar. But also carries the baggage as well.

So what is the solution? I really don’t know. I do with that DnD had something like the old Traveller world building system. Maybe a game for the whole group to play together to build a new campaign world.
 


Hussar

Legend
I doubt the chilling effect will take even that long.
How could we possibly have more European derived settings than we do now? Chilling effect on what? On the fact that virtually every single D&D setting out there is Euro-centric?

Let's play a game. You name a non-Euro-centric D&D setting, and I'll name three that are Euro-centric. We'll see who runs out first.
 

How could we possibly have more European derived settings than we do now? Chilling effect on what? On the fact that virtually every single D&D setting out there is Euro-centric?

Let's play a game. You name a non-Euro-centric D&D setting, and I'll name three that are Euro-centric. We'll see who runs out first.
A suitable and accurate response for my beliefs would violate the politics rule. And I suspect you know that, and are trolling me.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Politics aside, I do think an unintended side effect is going to be an increase in European-derived settings as people try to avoid culturally appropriating from areas they don't have any connection to.

We'll see in 10 years...
On the contrary, what we're actually seeing is an awesome increase in the number of non-European settings from writers and artists with non-European backgrounds. Just in the past year we've seen massive Kickstarters from an African-inspired sci-fi game, one by Native Americans, a big African-inspired setting book from Paizo, and a ton more. We're planning an awesome culture setting book for Level Up, which will be written by people with connections to that culture. On our podcast just last week we talked at length about the amazing stuff being made by creators from the Global South.

It's pretty awesome.
 

MGibster

Legend
So what is the solution? I really don’t know. I do with that DnD had something like the old Traveller world building system. Maybe a game for the whole group to play together to build a new campaign world.
I honestly don't know if there's a problem. People like what they like. D&D has changed over the years albeit ever so slowly. I expect tastes will change and in twenty or so years maybe we'll see fewer Tolkien style races in fantasy games and maybe something different instead.
 

Hussar

Legend
A suitable and accurate response for my beliefs would violate the politics rule. And I suspect you know that, and are trolling me.
Dude, or dudette, sorry, don't know, I'm barely on the boards any more and have zero idea of your political leanings.

You agreed with the claim that the current political atmosphere will have a chilling effect on the creation of non-Eurocentric settings. As @Morrus has rightly pointed out, we have more non-Eurocentric settings coming out now than at any point in the history of the game. And it shows zero signs of slowing.

For something to have a chilling effect means that there is some trend that is being stifled. The trend, prior to about 2010 (or so) was 99% Eurocentric settings. Other than a couple of notable exceptions, the world outside of Europe didn't exist in D&D. So, again, I'm questioning the idea that current politics is having any sort of stifling effect on the creation of non-Eurocentric settings.
 

Dude, or dudette, sorry, don't know, I'm barely on the boards any more and have zero idea of your political leanings.

You agreed with the claim that the current political atmosphere will have a chilling effect on the creation of non-Eurocentric settings. As @Morrus has rightly pointed out, we have more non-Eurocentric settings coming out now than at any point in the history of the game. And it shows zero signs of slowing.

For something to have a chilling effect means that there is some trend that is being stifled. The trend, prior to about 2010 (or so) was 99% Eurocentric settings. Other than a couple of notable exceptions, the world outside of Europe didn't exist in D&D. So, again, I'm questioning the idea that current politics is having any sort of stifling effect on the creation of non-Eurocentric settings.
Considering I got red-texted the page before...
 


PhiloPharynx

Explorer
The trick for me is that it's a balance between originality and mental shorthand. On one hand, there's "This is vikingland." It gets across an unoriginal idea in two seconds. On the other extreme you have, "If you hail from Schyzyx, here's a 300-page dissertation on the history and culture of that nation. If you merely come from the region, you only have to read this 30-page book on how outsiders see the Schyzyxians. There will be tests."

This is why D&D style games traditionally default to tolkien-lite. It's easy to do this.

The hard part is coming up with something that you can dial up or down. I've found Eberron to be really good with this. Most of the cultures you can explain quickly, but there is enough detail for the people that want to dig deep.
 

Like others here, I find that the ability to make a quick comparison helps players immerse in the game. For example, I'm using a modified Harn setting for my Zweihander game. Being able to describe nations as 'Feudal England, Feudal France', etc, conveys a great deal of information quickly and smoothly.

I would like to have players who are sufficiently invested in a setting so as to ponder the different subtleties of various cultures, but those are hard to come by. Usually there's one or two in a group who will dig deep into the source material, but most are content with a mental snapshot in simple terms.
 


Bluenose

Adventurer
How could we possibly have more European derived settings than we do now? Chilling effect on what? On the fact that virtually every single D&D setting out there is Euro-centric?

Let's play a game. You name a non-Euro-centric D&D setting, and I'll name three that are Euro-centric. We'll see who runs out first.
10 years ago I'd have agreed completely, and I would also add that non-D&D settings are even more likely to be derived from ideas of Europe (although that isn't as true of the games written outside Europe and north America). Now- well, you've got WotC publishing their MtG derived settings, many/most of those take imagery and ideas from something well away from medieval Europe, and an increasing number of games and settings which start from a different cultural perspective (sadly not always particularly well done or well received). It probably isn't equal yet within D&D and more so in other games but the ratio is changing.
 

gamerprinter

Adventurer
Strangely, back when I was doing more fantasy gaming, I did glom onto various cultures and nations of historic Earth, at least for inspiration. The one time I heavily delved into actual history and culture in deep way was my rendition of feudal Japan with my published Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror (PFRPG), and because part of that development was to fix mistakes, misspellings and content taken out of context in the creation of Oriental Adventures. I got into cultural aspects that few westerners even know about to add a greater sense of verisimilitude. And why I say "strangely" is that now I'm mostly developing societies and nations for sci-fi settings, and I can honestly say that nothing I've created so far, can be compared to a real world society or nation today. I try to create modern societies based on juxtapositioning two seemingly unrelated aspects and jam them together to create something new. Not that there isn't some influences in the real world, but never done so deliberately.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top