Fantasy; other ways of doing it?

edited July 2011 in Story Games
I've recently re-visited Circus, an old part of my frpg Fabula. It is all about being a budding circus-performer in a fantasy world, doing circus tricks of magical nature, touring the country-side and trying your best to better your special-act for the all important test to be admitted to the Circus-university in the capital. The land is ruled by circus-performers, so there is a great future waiting for the one who succeed. Playing Circus Fabula is fun and challenging, and there is not a dull moment to it.

And it is a totally different way of doing a fantasy-world.

Do you know of other ways of doing fantasy? Something magic outside of being a powerful spell-caster? Care to share with us?

Comments

  • In ran GURPS Goblins in a Royal School of Magic setting (pre-potter). This is Georgian London expect everyone is a Goblin. They were terrible magicians but they did get to fight the evil foreign wizard Mustapha Poo. He had animated the Long Man of Wilmington to attack the capital. Most of the journey to Wilmington was taken up with crashing then selling their coach, then trying to get back to London. Fortunately they found an old myth and animated the two headed Gog-Magog statue as a wooden mech and fought Poo to the death on St Paul's Cathedral (burning it down in the process). Does this count as fantasy?

    Otherwise, we played Mortal Coil in which we were the last Neanderthals, incapable of lying but in tune with the world and able to do magic. The first lie was brought about by a barren character's passion to get a baby.
  • edited July 2011
    If you really follow the logic of most fantasy worlds, they would actually be vastly more "technologically advanced" than our own modern ages. This is because nearly all fantasy worlds have something that our world does not have: effectively infinite energy sources.

    Consider your local power plant, for example. It probably burns through a train-load of coal (or tanks of natural gas, or whatever) on a regular basis. This is all done to boil water, with the steam turning a large turbine to generate electrical power. Now picture this plant in a fantasy world:
    • One captured fire elemental in the furnace eliminates the need for fuel entirely. And with it, the train tracks leading to the plant, a large number of jobs at the plant (like guys to shovel coal, or run machines that shovel it).
    • One captured steam elemental eliminates the need for the boiler entirely, animating the steam within the pipes in perpetuity.
    • One magical construct (e.g. golem, etc.) eliminates the need for the steam entirely, just manually cranking the generator.
    Basically, in most fantasy worlds, the second law of thermodynamics and the conservation of energy don't exist.

    Now imagine that, say, ancient Sumeria and Egypt took advantage of this. Then thousands of years pass. What would emerge from this would be fantastic and awesome.

    But it wouldn't be "medieval Europe plus wizards".
  • Posted By: GB SteveThis is Georgian London expect everyone is a Goblin. They were terrible magicians but they did get to fight the evil foreign wizard Mustapha Poo. He had animated the Long Man of Wilmington to attack the capital. Most of the journey to Wilmington was taken up with crashing then selling their coach, then trying to get back to London. Fortunately they found an old myth and animated the two headed Gog-Magog statue as a wooden mech and fought Poo to the death on St Paul's Cathedral (burning it down in the process). Does this count as fantasy?
    To me, that's Fantasy of some of the best kind!

    I've liked Ben Lehman's High Quality Role Playing, where you essentially are playing peasants, craftsmen, layabouts, and other non-heroic types, suffering through adventures that are normally the realm of 1st-6th level adventurers. Focuses more on players being creative both with their characters and what the environment provides them. I ran one full adventure, and am one session in with a sandbox-style campain using HQRPG, and its been a blast so far. It's fun to see the way the players view their characters not particularly through what they've accomplished, but what they've managed to survive or circumvent, while still being able to brag about it to other villagers.
  • A couple of other things:

    Cities only have walls when defensive warfare is more effective than offensive. That is, once, cannon (for example) become able to knock holes in your stone walls, building stone walls becomes stupid. Instead, you spend your money and effort building cannon of your own.

    In most fantasy campaigns, magic would have crossed the "my offense is better than your defense" a long time ago. No fantasy game world city should have walls, at least not stone walls created by human labor. You are better off funding your local magic school than building stone fortifications.


    Another ramification of magic is also the "problem" of infinite iron, or whatever other material you can think of. Since thermodynamics and the conservation of energy don't exist, economics as we know it probably wouldn't either. The result would be more a lot more FreeMarket, and a lot less Forgotten Realms.
  • edited July 2011
    You know how there are all of those really detailed lists of items, services, and their prices in 3e, that stuff is gold(pardon the pun)?

    Well, when I first started running I purposefully gave them very little money to curb the inevitable power creep. They had a fight on a boat, and the boat was mostly untouched with the way they fought, so they took it. Instead of using it to get to and from adventures they started to use it for trade in order to bring in more money. We also all played Everquest and had a business going on there were we sold "Fizzy Pop" , a restorative potion that we got from the Gnomes in that game. So it got ported straight into our table top game. From that point on we barely paid any attention to the game and paid a great deal of attention to running our business and making deals.By the end of the game they expanded their one ship trade business into a global Corporation with that owned several Inns, Bardic Bands (mostly parodies of stupid boy bands), Mercenary guilds, an Academy, a Fizzy Pop manufacture and distributor. They would occasionally make up "Employees" and we would play with them for a while. A traveling Rock Band that were actually under cover spies. Noble court politics with the main characters. Mercenary troupes trying to clear a path for new business expansion. Very interesting stuff. The biggest thing that actually made all of this work was that I let them know just how powerful their skills were by making something actually happen if they made their roll.
  • The Royal School of Magic sounds fun to me, even though it's about spellcasters.

    Your thoughts on magic and energy, Lester, really get my cogs rollin ...

    And having ordinary people of the fantasy-world as characters; that's another way of playing Fabula I want to try.

    These are great things, guys!
  • It's not fantasy, but may be helpful still.

    I ran Heroquest setting it in post-Alexandrian Eurasia. The characters were a hoplite, and a storyteller.

    The core conflict for the game involved the storyteller trying to impress an audience while a hired heckler sought to embarass him. It's a small part of a much larger game, but it was dramatic and interesting and there was nothing which would have prevented it being the main focus. The mechanics meant that the battle for control of the story (within the fiction) between the orator and the heckler was as exciting as a combat would have been. It was most cool.

    The Dying Earth rpg springs to mind here too. At Cugel level that's basically about being a wandering band of vain confidence tricksters. I ran two adventures using it.

    In the first the PCs wanted to attend a society ball, but they had been robbed and left destitute outside a small town with only one coach per day back to the city where the ball was to be held. Without money, how could they get tickets on that coach? Worse yet, there were five PCs, six places on the coach but four tickets had already been sold.

    There was one fight, but only one and the PC lost it. The rest was unlikely schemes and desperate pleadings for the fantasy equivalent of a bus ticket.

    The follow up adventure was about the ball. They had to get tickets, get a suitably impressive costume and then be the centre of attention while there while avoiding faux pas. A fight would have been, well, a non-sequitur. One PC got so many tickets they made a dress from them so showing to all how easily they had acquired the right to attend.

    I lie actually. There was one fight. It involved a trifle and a crystal decanter. I believe some hats were quite ruined.
  • Judd and I totally did "The Wire" meets fantasy in our Spirit of Sharn game.

    In my long, long running Forgotten Realms campaign, the theme behind the fantasy was really jump started by me watching westerns as an adult for the first time... and that led to explorations of nation-state creation and colonization carving out of the frontier.
  • Posted By: D-503In the first the PCs wanted to attend a society ball, but they had been robbed and left destitute outside a small town with only one coach per day back to the city where the ball was to be held. Without money, how could they get tickets on that coach? Worse yet, there were five PCs, six places on the coach but four tickets had already been sold.

    There was one fight, but only one and the PC lost it. The rest was unlikely schemes and desperate pleadings for the fantasy equivalent of a bus ticket.

    The follow up adventure was about the ball. They had to get tickets, get a suitably impressive costume and then be the centre of attention while there while avoiding faux pas. A fight would have been, well, a non-sequitur. One PC got so many tickets they made a dress from them so showing to all how easily they had acquired the right to attend.
    Sounds like great fun, Max!

    It all sounds very much like Fabula Romance. That's all about being princes/ses and courtiers in an europeish/low-magic fantasy part of the Fabula world, doing their debut in "high society" (going to balls, having dances, romances and intrigues ...). It's one of my favorites, right up there beside Circus Fabula.

    Sorry if I keep coming back to my game Fabula all the time. It's my very own fantasy-child; a game that has grown into a life-long commitment. I've worked on it professionally for 16 years now, and have developed a lot of different settings for it during that time. Been forced to do that, to keep my enthusiasm while GMing 3-9 times a week.
    Posted By: StornJudd and I totally did "The Wire" meets fantasy in our Spirit of Sharn game.
    This one intrigues me. How did you do it? Please tell us more!
  • edited July 2011
    Posted By: thadrineWe also all played Everquest and had a business going on there were we sold "Fizzy Pop" , a restorative potion that we got from the Gnomes in that game. So it got ported straight into our table top game. From that point on we barely paid any attention to the game and paid a great deal of attention to running our business and making deals.By the end of the game they expanded their one ship trade business into a global Corporation with that owned several Inns, Bardic Bands (mostly parodies of stupid boy bands), Mercenary guilds, an Academy, a Fizzy Pop manufacture and distributor.
    LOL

    One of my first games ever, as a player, was in a world where a dwarf-nation had some difficulties feeding its population. We came in contact with them, and had connections to some fishermen along the coast. And one of our mages had a teleportation spell. So we tilted the magic a bit, and made our spell into a specific fish-teleportation-spell. That made it possible for us to transport fresh fish into the mountains, and sell it to the dwarves ...
    - and one of us being a hero, and a master-cook, made it possible for us to get the dwarves to take to the fish and secure a commercial success!

    We actually had more joy doing fish-teleportation, than to meet and fight the big dragon ...
  • There was a thing I did as a Risus one-shot called simply Magic Shop, which I described as a cross between Slayers (the fantasy comedy anime) and Are You Being Served? (the old British sitcom), where the PCs were the wacky employees of a shop that sells magic items to adventurers. My favorite bit was when they were interviewing possible new employees and one of them asked the necromancer Calabraxas the Mad what his future goals were.

    Now there's a cult hit PC game (Recettear) with the same general concept, and a very obscure Japanese tabletop RPG (Magical Avenue, from the guys who publish Witch Quest). I might have to do something with the concept again.
  • Our current Burning Wheel game is st in MoBu City, about two dwarves, a gambler and a drunk, running the O'Declan Brewing Company in a city where all of the stocks from Burning Wheel are trying to learn how to co-exist (giant spiders, giant wolves, trolls, orc, roden, dwarves, elves, humans) now that the medieval age is ending and the aristocracy is fading.

    MoBu City is about taking the stocks in Burning Wheel, made up of fantasy tropes that are fairly common to fantasy RPG's and taking them at face value and squirming them out of the medieval era in a newly evolved urban environment.

    That is a haughty-taughty way of saying, I stick fantasy tropes in a big pot, put in a pinch of China Mieville's New Crobuzon, a pinch of Mary Gentle's renaissance Europe, stir it up and see where it goes.

    And in our experience, where it goes is really delightful and odd. It detaches us from King Arthur and Middle Earth, so we cling to other tropes, like Dashielle Hammett or The Wire or Breaking Bad but with fantasy bits in the mix/myth.

    I'm really loving it.
  • ndpndp
    edited July 2011
    I once played a fun game at a convention with Ben and Rob and Andrew where we had a prompt of "Swordmasters" or something. We came up with a world described like this: "You know how western media imagines the east and always gets it wrong? What if this world is like some high-budget anime studio decided to make a show based in medieval europe, but they've only ever seen other anime set in medieval europe."

    So, the ruler of the land was the Mayor, and there were dragons made of swords and dudes running around with giant axes and stuff like that. It hung together, but was pretty wild. Fun game.

    [nerd out] For a look at a fantasy world that actually seems to have some thought put into it's economics, check out Steven Brust's Drageara stuff. It's not like he comes out and explains everything at once (though there's a lot of details about how banking works in Orca), but if you read a bunch of the Vlad Taltos novels, he tosses off enough little details that you get the sense that how the society works is actually pretty reasonable, given that everyone lives for 2000+ years and can do magic. For example, he tosses out that how war has been conducted has cycled with how powerful magic is at any given time - at first, nobody knew what they were doing, so magic didn't really matter. Then enough people knew enough magic to make it necessary to always have counter-sorcerers, and whoever had the best sorcerers would win. Then there was a time when magic didn't work, so it came down to regular troops again. Then magic came back, and now it's so powerful that everyone can do significant magic even on the individual troop level, so it kinda cancels out in the big picture, though having a dedicated sorcerer corps is necessary. And so on. [/nerding out]
  • Posted By: Neko EwenMy favorite bit was when they were interviewing possible new employees and one of them asked the necromancer Calabraxas the Mad what his future goals were.
    LOL

    Must try that one! Sounds like the perfect set-up for my friends and me.
    Posted By: Juddrunning theO'Declan Brewing Companyin a city where all of the stocks from Burning Wheel are trying to learn how to co-exist (giant spiders, giant wolves, trolls, orc, roden, dwarves, elves, humans) now that the medieval age is ending and the aristocracy is fading.
    Wow! This thread is beginning to look like a cauldron of ideas now ... Tnx!

    Would love to hear more about your game, Judd. Maybe a small actual-play thingy?
  • Posted By: TomasHVM

    Would love to hear more about your game, Judd. Maybe a small actual-play thingy?
    Sure, what are you looking for in this actual-play thingy?
  • Posted By: StornJudd and I totally did "The Wire" meets fantasy in our Spirit of Sharn game.

    In my long, long running Forgotten Realms campaign, the theme behind the fantasy was really jump started by me watching westerns as an adult for the first time... and that led to explorations of nation-state creation and colonization carving out of the frontier.
    I totally missed this. This was a fun game, fantasy cop unit in Sharn. Good times.
  • edited July 2011

    Cross-pollination with detective genres is sometimes fruitful.

    In the film noir vein, the Garret, P.I. series is set in a fantasy world with a long-running war, in a city inhabited by every sort of fantasy trope. There's a real focus on the detective side of things. And then there's the West End Games setting Bloodshadows which really stuck in my head when I first read it back in the day, but have never played.

    And a third, more Dorothy Sayers than Raymond Chandler:

    Along the detective line in a non-standard fantasy world, there's the forensic sorcerer Lord Darcy who inhabits an alternate 20th-century Earth where the presence of magic has really changed the course of history and development.

  • Posted By: StornJudd and I totally did "The Wire" meets fantasy in our Spirit of Sharn game
    Posted By: WPTunesCross-pollination with detective genres is sometimes fruitful.
    Hell yes; pretty much the only fantasy games we've played where I really connected with the setting (rather than merely tolerating it/playing it for laughs) were hybrids like these. We've spliced fantasy with noir movies, with cop shows, with spy novels, with 4-color superhero comics, and with Wodehouse (think upper-class twits and their savvy valets spending a weekend at the local castle, only in a fantasy setting).

    I think it works for me because I can scale back my involvement with the fantasy side of things (I just don't care all that much about wizards and whatever) and just treat it as a surface veneer over the good part of what we're playing.
  • Posted By: JuddSure, what are you looking for in this actual-play thingy?
    Well, I followed your link now, and read The O'Declan Debate. Seems like fun.
Sign In or Register to comment.