How to make ?epic? fantasy campagins?

edited June 2018 in Play Advice
Could you help me figure out something?

I'm trying to identify and describe a particular playstyle which I'm (sort of) not familiar with.

1. If you look at Star Wars: New Hope as an RPG mini campaign, you see that the farmboy protagonist realizes that he is destined to something great, finds some dark parts in his past/family, and meets the villain of the setting!

2. In the Swords Trilogy Corum fights against not 'some orks' but the Chaos Gods themselves!

I think this is what people call 'epic' or 'heroic' fantasy. Or what? (I'm trying to not use LotR as an example because I fear that would derail the conversation)

The playstyle I'm trying to grasp is not alien to trad D&D, but maybe not the norm. I think we all experienced a lot of rat/ork killing and small scale adventures to realize this. D&D at it's gene (even with the Tolkienesque races) is still close to S&S IMHO. This is not even the gradual farmboy -> fighter -> ... -> hero -> king storyline, because the protagonists are (nearly) immediately pushed into some high stake situations.

Two game examples come to my mind.

3. In the original campaign of the most famous Hungarian RPG called MAGUS, the PCs met some 13 wizards and killed one. These later became the Thirteen of Krán, the top indestructable villains of the world. But nobody plays MAGUS in this way nowadays, the PCs are usually just adventurers and not the Chosen Ones. They play the agents and puppets of the Thirteen, but nothing more.

4. When I was a teenager I idolized a Hungarian Actual Play called the Chronicles of Marauders. A high stake campagin from the get go. One of the first enemy was a giant who controlled trolls and the four elements! Every encounter was somehow epic!

These stories are characterized by PCs in subordinate but strong relationships, noble feelings, pure intentions, enthusiasm, weariness, universal disorder and/or decadent ignorance, deus ex machinas, personal conflicts, surprising alliances, secrets in the protagonists past, and great vistas as the party travel thought the setting. No filler fights, every battle is important and devastating. The world seem to be only a backdrop, some kind of facade, there are no dungeon economies or anything like that.

I hope it's clearer now.

My problem is that I find it very easy to create a story like that with one-shot narrative collaborative RPGs. But I have no idea how to make it great and not railroady / boring / too long in a classic campaign. I feel like I dont have tools and dont know how to fight against our RPG habits. (I'm more interested in defining methods, principles and 'moves' (a la DW / PbtA games) than edition nitpicking.)

What do you think?

Comments

  • To put it simply, I think system matters and the players have to be on the same page about what the game is about - or at least receptive to non-railroady nudges/suggestion during play about tone and where the game can go.

    In order to go deeper in a way that's relevant to you, I'd need to know what you mean by "classic campaign" and what your "RPG habits" are.
  • edited June 2018
    Epic it is. If it lasts, it's a saga. To make such a saga work you've got to cheat sometimes. That is, ensure death and failure is not a possible without certain conditions met.
  • Epic it is. If it lasts, it's a saga. To make such a saga work you've got to cheat sometimes. That is, ensure death and failure is not a possible without certain conditions met.
    Without cheating, a system like Anima Prime does the job out of the box :P
  • My problem is that I find it very easy to create a story like that with one-shot narrative collaborative RPGs. But I have no idea how to make it great and not railroady / boring / too long in a classic campaign. I feel like I dont have tools and dont know how to fight against our RPG habits. (I'm more interested in defining methods, principles and 'moves' (a la DW / PbtA games) than edition nitpicking.)
    This is a rather familiar problem. Many gamers have wrestled with it over the years. A few observations:

    The epic fantasy feel is, in part, a subjective illusion. We often focus on the subject matter of the game when determining whether it's epic, but it's actually more of an attitude issue: if the GM, particularly, treats the content of play as humdrum and constantly signals about more important things going on in the setting, then you're more likely to get a picaresque story than an epic story. This also works vice versa: the story does not need to have massive fictional stakes to be epic if the group treats it as one. So one part of my advice is to not get too entangled into "level issues": starting a high-level game of D&D is not a functional recipe by itself.

    You can do epic stories with different creative interests. Particularly, it is very important to figure out whether you want the players to experience an epic or create an epic. Both activities can be constructed into a long campaign, but they benefit from rather different game design. It is also often the case in a play culture that tries to play something like this that the GM and the other players have highly divergent creative expectations: the classic situation is one where the players definitely want the GM to bring the epic, while the GM is hoping for a more egalitarian game where the players contribute more and take more creative responsibility. You need to figure out what sort of arrangement is actually going to be realistic for you.

    I'll suggest some game texts next that might be relevant for old D&D hands desiring to try an epic fantasy campaign. The following have all passed through my own desk in this same context:

    Dragonlance is an ambitious set of old AD&D adventure modules that outline an epic D&D campaign in great detail. It is still among the best of its kind, I at least am not really aware of anything comparably ambitious. If one were to be at peace with D&D as an epic storytelling system, it'd be possible to just pick this up and play. Unfortunately, D&D is emphatically not a story game in any useful sense for many people. It's also a massive piece of railroading, so more of an "interesting challenge" than a helpful product for most of us nowadays.

    The Shadow of Yesterday is the seminal treatment on how to play a vaguely D&D-like fantasy adventure game as a scenario-structure, player-centric story game. It's got great campaign support, solid story arcs and all that. People tend to play it a bit more towards character drama than epic drama, but that's just a choice and a taste, not anything inherent to the game itself. I personally know for a fact that several dozen people have found in TSoY precisely what they need to turn a D&D game into a campaign-format story game [grin].

    Dungeon World and Dragon Union are two different takes on how to construe a GM-conducted epic D&D campaign. They're all about having the players experience the epic and participate in shaping it in flexible ways; the games do not make hard creative demands on the players, meaning that the GM needs to provide a firm campaign backbone, which makes them some of the more realistic choices for this style of game.

    D&D 4th edition is probably the most epic-friendly edition of the official game for many reasons - you just have to accept that much of your epic will be told via setpiece combat scenes, and that you have to hack it pretty extensively if you want to get rid of the annoying Americheese video game fantasy setting [grin]. It's sort of similar to the above two titles, except there's more character building and monster fighting rules to keep the players entertained in between the epic story bits - definitely more towards the "GM tells the story to entertain y'all" end of the pool.

    I feel that if you were to read the above texts for ideas, concepts and techniques, you would at least have a better handle on what it is precisely that you wish to accomplish at the game table. They're rather different games, but all of those strive towards the same thing you do in their own ways.
  • edited June 2018
    In order to go deeper in a way that's relevant to you, I'd need to know what you mean by "classic campaign" and what your "RPG habits" are.
    I was very vague! By classic campaign I meant something like a 10ish session long story arc where the players play their PCs (as a team?) and the GM runs the world. Something close to the trad standards but maybe less episodic.

    I tend to go toward picaresque and low scale, low fantasy solutions. I think that most of my players are also like this. We were slowly conditioned to think this way :) But now we want to do epic fantasy so I think we need to awake ourselves to the consciousness of what kind of established principles we need to avoid and what kind of new principles we should try to follow. What do you think?
    To make such a saga work you've got to cheat sometimes. That is, ensure death and failure is not a possible without certain conditions met.
    Yes, I'll need rules to avoid distraction. But I think that PC death and failure is not always a problem. In the exemplary Chronicles of the Marauders campaing PCs sometimes failed or died, but that always felt tragic and looked inevitable. I want to do epic fantasy in this 'emergent story' way too, and not the 'participationist' way.
    Without cheating, a system like Anima Prime does the job out of the box :P
    How does Anima Prime support epic fantasy? Could you write a few aspect of the RAW for me?
    it's actually more of an attitude issue: if the GM, particularly, treats the content of play as humdrum and constantly signals about more important things going on in the setting, then you're more likely to get a picaresque story than an epic story. This also works vice versa: the story does not need to have massive fictional stakes to be epic if the group treats it as one.
    A good principle! Also thank you for the game recommendations. I totally forgot TSoY... I played a shitload of Lady Blackbird, I don't know why I didn't realized that I already have the keys, haha!

    Do you think that it's possible to make arrangment like this: I want to bring the backbone of the epic campaing, but the players can contribute to it and even twist the story because I'm not interested in maintaining a plot, but in exploring themes (friendship, treason, etc).
  • Do you think that it's possible to make arrangment like this: I want to bring the backbone of the epic campaing, but the players can contribute to it and even twist the story because I'm not interested in maintaining a plot, but in exploring themes (friendship, treason, etc).
    Yeah, and I think that's pretty much the realistic thing to expect from many gamers. I don't want to say that epic is impossible to do, but my experience of what gamers and gamer culture is like tends to break it down like this:

    Drama gamers want to play human drama stories. They're the hipster types, GM types, story game types. They tend to take a game that could potentially be epic into more intimate soap opera style stories. As you can see by looking at what this type of gamer publishes as a game designer, they're not even that interested in doing a proper epic most of the time.

    Adventure gamers want to play immersive and adventurous stories. They're more likely to have a long history with D&D and similar games, and they may have no interest at all in GMing and being storytellers themselves. We are all well aware of the issues in trying to do an epic with them: they might not be willing to playact and establish their own character as a proper protagonist of an epic drama, which tends to take the wind out of the GM's sails.

    In my experience it's much more common for a GM who wants to do epic drama to be trying it with a group predominantly composed of adventure gamers than drama gamers. (The latter type of player can have their own issues, but let's not get misled by them right now.) My experience is that you will definitely have more success with it if you go in with the expectation that the GM brings the Plot and colorful NPCs and big stakes and some setting stuff. The group being adventure gamers does not mean that they cannot step up and provide great character moments and dramatic contribution (and even major plot twists, if the game in question supports that), but it'll be a turn-off for them if you choose a game that requires them to make authorial decisions from an out-of-character perspective. Better to get the game going and see what the players are ready to contribute than to try to brow-beat them into being co-authors with the GM from the start.

    Something like TSoY or Dungeon World (depending on how much creative responsibility you want to give the players) works well as an entry game into story games for adventure gamers precisely because they don't try to make the player do more than they're interested in doing. If you just want to come in, create your character and play that character in an exciting story, they will let you do that.
  • Yeah, and I think that's pretty much the realistic thing to expect from many gamers. I don't want to say that epic is impossible to do, but my experience of what gamers and gamer culture is like tends to break it down like this:

    Drama gamers want to play human drama stories. They're the hipster types, GM types, story game types. They tend to take a game that could potentially be epic into more intimate soap opera style stories. As you can see by looking at what this type of gamer publishes as a game designer, they're not even that interested in doing a proper epic most of the time.

    Adventure gamers want to play immersive and adventurous stories. They're more likely to have a long history with D&D and similar games, and they may have no interest at all in GMing and being storytellers themselves. We are all well aware of the issues in trying to do an epic with them: they might not be willing to playact and establish their own character as a proper protagonist of an epic drama, which tends to take the wind out of the GM's sails.

    In my experience it's much more common for a GM who wants to do epic drama to be trying it with a group predominantly composed of adventure gamers than drama gamers. (The latter type of player can have their own issues, but let's not get misled by them right now.) My experience is that you will definitely have more success with it if you go in with the expectation that the GM brings the Plot and colorful NPCs and big stakes and some setting stuff. The group being adventure gamers does not mean that they cannot step up and provide great character moments and dramatic contribution (and even major plot twists, if the game in question supports that), but it'll be a turn-off for them if you choose a game that requires them to make authorial decisions from an out-of-character perspective. Better to get the game going and see what the players are ready to contribute than to try to brow-beat them into being co-authors with the GM from the start.

    Something like TSoY or Dungeon World (depending on how much creative responsibility you want to give the players) works well as an entry game into story games for adventure gamers precisely because they don't try to make the player do more than they're interested in doing. If you just want to come in, create your character and play that character in an exciting story, they will let you do that.
    My experience is very different from this and I think most players I've ever encountered have a mixture of these traits.

    The "adventure gamer" you describe is, in my experience, not usually interested in story much at all. They want to manipulate a world (or explore via manipulation). That's where the "immersion" comes in - they crave a certain degree of verisimilitude so that their manipulations have the proper feedback and are at least comprehensible even if not perfectly predictable. With these players, the GM can lure them into situations that are local or grand by offering certain things to manipulate and having those manipulations play out in certain ways. The games that result in some kind of grand, high-stakes situations are usually recalled most fondly, but these players tend to enjoy themselves equally in all situations as long as their desire to manipulate is satisfied.
    It's not uncommon for such players to unintentionally steer games away from epic situations because of the scale on which they want to, insist on, or simply naturally interact with things. Drilling down into the fictional economy is a classic example.

    The soap opera type player, with incredible regularity, sticks to games that focus on and provide that intimate experience. As a result, they rarely "take" a game with epic potential and turn it into anything else.

    There are probably a lot of other types, but here's at least one type that I think is more common than both of those and includes traits of both: The Fan. This type of player wants to see interesting ideas realized. They can be fans in general and desire to see (and often work towards) the realization of others' ideas, but it's usually specific ideas about their own character and how that character fits into the world. Some fan players are way on the "let's see what happens" end of the spectrum and they embrace opportunities to realize ideas in ways they hadn't originally anticipated (sometimes to the point of chaos). Some fan players are way on the "right to dream" end of things and have strict needs about how their ideas are realized (sometimes to the point of shutting down when those needs are even incidentally challenged).
    I chose to call this type of player "the fan" not only for the sake of simplifying this explanation or even because these players are "fans of ideas," but also because they tend to be enthusiastic fans of a lot of media - media that fuels the genesis of their ideas and how they expect them to be realized. And because their familiarity with storytelling is always right near the surface, they tend to roll with "authorial decisions from an out-of-character perspective," even if that's not their primary mode when playing.

    The fan player also happens to be relatively easy to recruit into an epic experience.
  • Mythender RPG.
  • In Anima Prime the PCs simply can not die, unless their Player grants permission, or intentionally sacrifices themselves.

    This allows the GM to throw at the PCs any sort of crazy powerful enemy with no real balancing qualms.
    On the other hand, the Players throw themselves into epic over the top actions because they know they can not die.

    This does not prevents the PCs to fail in general.
    Simply, the focus of the game moves away from mere survival towards other, more dramatic, themes.

    And anyway, a PC can choose to sacrifice their life in order to achieve a success that would otherwise be impossible.
    Again, a very epic scenario.

    The rules also present a good bag of tools for the Players to communicate to the GM what they are interested about, and for the GM to easily react to their input and whip up engaging stories, quests and "encounters" ... be they a physical fight, or a chase, an investigation, a battle of wits, etc.

    The encounter rules are a bit crunchy, but in a simple way.
    Mostly they feel like a videogame.
    You have an AWESOME meter that charges over time, Tokens to perform special manoeuvres, and a fukton of dice (all d6) in three different colors.

    It's pretty much the Final Fantasy 7 RPG ... but it takes next to no effort to adapt it to whatever classic fantasy setting you might need.

    To me, it's a "fast furious fun" experience (more so than some other games, in my opinion) good for a 10-ish campaign or longer.
    The only caveat is that the GM needs to learn and understand IF / WHEN to setup an encounter, because that can usually take quite some time!
    (not the setup, but the actual play and resolution)
    No meaningless wandering monsters here ... unless you want to grind the game to a halt for no interesting reason :P
    But the rules explain this part quite clearly, and offer other mechanics to more effectively resolve less important outcomes ;)
  • edited June 2018
    My take on this is that you need both mechanical and fictional support for what you're trying to do.

    Mechanical support means being able to set up and resolve major conflicts, some kind of growth arc for the characters, not having rewards in place for things which don't matter (basically anything non-epic, whether monsters, treasure, drama, or world-building), and no way for the characters to suddenly die or become otherwise taken out of major events. Determination, courage, faith, desperation, etc, should be of high importance, compared to weapon weights or characters' training.

    Luke, Frodo, and similar characters don't win because they're the most capable, best prepared, or best equipped, but because they're on the right side of the conflicts and they're willing to face greater odds, no matter the cost.

    Fictionally, you need to have the right pieces in place. I think a defining characteristic of epic stories is how each element or detail connects to something larger and, as a result, the scope of the story is constantly broadening and increasing.

    At first, we know that there's a droid with important plans, and it falls into the hands of a farmer boy. But then it turns out the droid was sent by a Princess... and then there's an old man nearby who has a personal connection to Darth Vader, so the story keeps building in scope. And it turns out the plans have to do with a world-ending Death Star! Later we discover that this all has to do with important historical events and this all-encompassing thing called the Force. Finally, it turns out Vader is Luke's father, Leia is his sister, and now the fate of the galaxy is at stake.

    (Oops... should I have put a "warning: Star Wars spoilers!" tag in here? ;) )

    When you create your epic, you need to have some clear sense of who's going to be making that broadening of scope happen. Is it all in the GM's hands, or the group's, or what? It wouldn't be Star Wars if we didn't find out Luke's heritage; at your table, how is that kind of thing going to happen? Do we build it in upfront, so we can all play towards it, or is it going to be a secret to be revealed in play?

    Have a plan and communicate clearly about it upfront.
  • Thank you for the detailed answers, I appreciate them!

    My two main takeaway from the current discussion is:
    1. A call for realistic (but differentiated) expectations about my group of players.
    2. The stakes and scope of the story must regularily expand.

    I need to talk with my players but I will report back!
  • One recommendation that hasn't come up is Godbound. 10 sessions will get you a lot of mileage, and the game absolutely supports "epic from the get-go" situations.
  • Without cheating, a system like Anima Prime does the job out of the box :P
    Hasimir, I checked Anima Prime. I realized that Rookvale also used that. It looks good but was too crunchy for my taste. What do you think about Pocket Anima Prime? How much does it keep from the 'epicness' of the original game? Is it in the same zone of crunchiness?
  • Games that give the PC's big tools for big jobs tend to be epic by default. Godbound or Nobilis PCs don't really worry about a local gang of thieves, or even a Thieves' Guild, most of the time.

    I would point out that the reason I rarely play or run "epic" RPG sessions is that I've done that a lot, and I've seen a lot of it in the usual media I like, too. And epic can get old fast unless it's used sparingly. How many times has the average gamer discovered that an evil cult is about to destroy the world with an ancient ritual and foiled it at the last minute? I bet it's a lot.

    Gratuitous cinematic example:
    If you watch the X-men movies, compare X-Men: Apocalypse to the first Deadpool movie. Apocalypse is an apropriately apocalyptic villain; he soups up a bunch of minor mutants to become his heralds of doom, attacks the entire planet, and plans to commit genocide just to clear the decks for his new empire. And yet... I was watching the movie on a plane and skipped to the ending because I thought catching up on paperwork would be a better use of time that watching the whole epic conflict and showdown. Deadpool, by comparison, is one guy getting shafted, getting some friends together and getting revenge. Straightforward, pretty small stakes, but still really enoyable.
  • People use a word like "epic" for different purposes. I don't mean this as an exegesis on how somebody uses the word wrong or something, but for me it's useful to distinguish:

    Epic scope is what people tend to mean in gaming circles. This is actually very simple, but also very shallow: if the subject matter involves "high level" concepts, then it's "epic". Dragons, archmages and large armies are epic in this sense, for example. World-shaking threats as well. Grungy low-level concerns are the opposite.

    Epic literature is an entirely parallel issue that particularly contrasts with intimate "dramatic" literature. Literature is epic if it involves archetypal characters and situations, basically; epic literature is unpsychological, conflicts are external, characters in the story represent thematic ideas in relatively simple ways.

    It is much easier to realize how different those two concepts are if you look at literature and what is traditionally considered to be "epic". The Odyssey is an epic, yes? Well, it's also the story of a single ship-wrecked wanderer getting into various scrapes. Very low-level in terms of power and particularly stakes: we are literally following a story that has no stakes whatsoever except the survival and happiness of the protagonist himself. Ulysses is certainly not a superhero, or intended as one; his feats of arms are not his defining feature.

    The same goes for something like Lord of the Rings: epic, but that is in no way because the protagonists are powerful in their context of action, as is often argued in gaming circles. The protagonists of LotR are constantly entirely overpowered by their environment. What is epic in the novel are the archetypal situations and characters, and the extrinsic conflict as opposed to intrinsic psychological struggle.

    I find this such a relevant distinction because I often feel that gamers are trying to talk about the second meaning, but without having the tools to really verbalize it, so they're stuck talking about the first. This means that the more epic you want, the more power you pump into the game, as if a cynical dungeon crawl murder hobo wargame campaign is going to turn into a romantic epic by giving the characters +5 magic weapons.

    Or, I also often see people actually wanting a drama game instead of an epic when they talk about these matters: if you want complex characters who take time to make up their minds, and there is a lot of focus on difficult choices, then that's probably not an epic in a literary sense - you just want a drama in a flashy setting. It's essentially the difference between Marvel and DC: do you want Spider-Man agonizing about his aunt (superhero drama) or Superman punching a literal personification of human Evil (superhero epic)?

    For me, making gaming "epic" begins with discarding the dramatic core and embracing the idea that big emblematic scenes arise out of archetypal characters, big questions and appropriately grand backdrops. I don't mean to say that it's not "story gaming", but it is different from dramatic storytelling. It's not so much about discovering who the characters are - they often wear their convictions rather visibly - but rather showing what happens when those big ideas clash and interact.
  • edited June 2018
    @Eero_Tuovinen I think you make a good, crucial distinction in that there are at least a couple kinds of epic.

    However, I think players are actually pretty much never talking about epic in terms of an heroic or mythological epic poem like The Odyssey or The Epic of Gilgamesh. The transmission of values, knowledge, and religion are important to such works in a way that is neither relevant to contemporary gamers nor really within the purview of what most rpgs are equipped to generate.

    Players and gaming texts, in my experience, are almost always referring to scope, which revolves around stakes. That's why I strongly disagree with this:
    Or, I also often see people actually wanting a drama game instead of an epic when they talk about these matters: if you want complex characters who take time to make up their minds, and there is a lot of focus on difficult choices, then that's probably not an epic in a literary sense - you just want a drama in a flashy setting. It's essentially the difference between Marvel and DC: do you want Spider-Man agonizing about his aunt (superhero drama) or Superman punching a literal personification of human Evil (superhero epic)?

    For me, making gaming "epic" begins with discarding the dramatic core and embracing the idea that big emblematic scenes arise out of archetypal characters, big questions and appropriately grand backdrops. I don't mean to say that it's not "story gaming", but it is different from dramatic storytelling. It's not so much about discovering who the characters are - they often wear their convictions rather visibly - but rather showing what happens when those big ideas clash and interact.
    Not only because common perceptions of epicness are not bound to cultural archetypes of traditional epics; but also because, as long as the stakes are high enough, the game will tend to feel epic. Even if the player characters have very little power/influence on their game world, if they're wrapped up in events they know have far-reaching implications, the game will often feel epic.

    I don't think this is the first context in which I've seen you attempt to draw rigid boxes around Adventure and Drama in a way that seems simplistic and unnecessary. Maybe it's coincidence, maybe it's cultural, I'm not sure.
  • Different perspectives brought about by different experiences, surely.

    My experience with attempts at epic gaming is very much that a GM has Big Plans for something that I can only describe as an attempt at epic literature: they set up an entire fantasy world and a big ambitious plot, and they want it to be this grand spectacle with emotional flavours like majesty, beauty and awe. The typical roleplaying epic that I have experience with is similar to say Final Fantasy, if you're familiar with that video game franchise. Dragonlance is a model example as a game text, it documents the literary ambitions of epic gaming in a very detailed manner in my opinion.

    However, what happens when the players come in and the game is actually engaged is that the group fails to process content in a way that is actually epic in nature. It's not a matter of scope but rather the specific roles the game grants to the various players, and the way they are encouraged to play their characters. It's not always drama, either, that gets in the way; it's rather common for simple adventure gaming tropes to trip up the GM's epic expectations: the player characters act in petty and random ways, for example, and they fail to possess the necessary qualities, like nobility or courage, that the epic campaign's theming expects of them.

    I have failed at producing "epic" myself many times, and it has had little to do with the literal scope of what the characters are doing in the game, and much to do with the actual literary style in which we've engaged the play. Last year, for instance, we played a bunch of sessions with a pretty traditional GM who was clearly struggling towards something sort of epic in nature: the PCs were routinely rubbing shoulders with the movers and shakers of the GM's fantasy world, and big events were occurring around them. It never had an epic literary impact, though, and I think that this was because the game didn't really use epic literary techniques: the characters weren't strongly characterized, the events were not thematically potent and so on. Simple scale did nothing to turn your average jackass murder hobo fantasy adventurers into epic heroes.
    However, I think players are actually pretty much never talking about epic in terms of an heroic or mythological epic poem like The Odyssey or The Epic of Gilgamesh. The transmission of values, knowledge, and religion are important to such works in a way that is neither relevant to contemporary gamers nor really within the purview of what most rpgs are equipped to generate.
    I disagree, and think that this is actually something that gamers regularly desire. Ancient examples will obviously be quite different in how they communicate and what their specific themes are, but that's because they're ancient; more recent epic storytelling has a more contemporary style. (I only mentioned the Odyssey there not because it's such a solid example of what an epic is, but because it's so widely known. I did not intend to limit my discourse to ancient epic poetry in the specific.)

    Examples of modern entertainment properties that are clearly more epic than dramatic in terms of storytelling:

    300
    Many Superman stories
    Star Wars movies
    Nearly everything J.R.R. Tolkien ever wrote

    Gamers often desire to do something similar to those. It's not a rare desire. Upping the power level and stakes may be an useful tool in doing this stuff, but I don't think that it's really the core wisdom; it's more important to get a handle on archetypal storytelling and externalized conflict, and then you can do an epic even without a world-shaking scope if you want to.
  • I agree that the Dramatic/Adventure breakdown sounds a little simplistic, but I think Eero is exactly on the money here:

    [...] the player characters act in petty and random ways, for example, and they fail to possess the necessary qualities, like nobility or courage, that the epic campaign's theming expects of them.

    I have failed at producing "epic" myself many times, and it has had little to do with the literal scope of what the characters are doing in the game, and much to do with the actual literary style in which we've engaged the play. Last year, for instance, we played a bunch of sessions with a pretty traditional GM who was clearly struggling towards something sort of epic in nature: the PCs were routinely rubbing shoulders with the movers and shakers of the GM's fantasy world, and big events were occurring around them. It never had an epic literary impact, though, and I think that this was because the game didn't really use epic literary techniques: the characters weren't strongly characterized, the events were not thematically potent and so on. Simple scale did nothing to turn your average jackass murder hobo fantasy adventurers into epic heroes.
    That sounds exactly right to me.
  • Simple scale did nothing to turn your average jackass murder hobo fantasy adventurers into epic heroes.
    That's because scale includes character investment/motivation/stakes. If you ignore that and you just insert murder hobos into a pre-written game and the players don't immediately adjust, the best you can probably hope for is comedy.

    That's why I think the insistence on focusing on external conflict is misleading. It doesn't have to be one or the other. The external conflict can arise due to and be met by characters with complex motives and internal struggles.
  • Resolve is what the players must bring to the tale.
  • So what *are* some good ways to help players portray their characters in a suitably "epic" style?
  • Epic in scale...

    I'm spitballing a little here, but I think when looking for something "epic" in a game, one is often looking for a feeling, the feeling that the actions and outcomes in the game are ever so weighty and important.

    So, that can mean big numbers I suppose, in the sense of saving the world from a doomsday cult, since of course it is important if thousands or millions or billions of people's lives are at stake. But somehow it falls a bit flat. Like Danny says about the X-men movie. Since those are the kind of abstract numbers that are just generically big without being relatable.

    My best guess at what makes things feel more weighty and important is time.

    Certainly that includes out-of-game time, in the sense that if you have been hearing about the demon lich god dragon king for ten sessions, he feels more real, big, bad, and important than if you met him in a one-shot. Even if it was established in the one-shot that he was the baddest bad bad guy in the world and he was planning to unleash an army of titans that would massacre the population of an entire unsuspecting continent. The build-up roots the idea of the villain in your mind, so you have time to integrate him into your model of the setting and have a clear vision of how powerful he is and what is at stake.

    But I suspect in some weird way this effect also includes in-game time. Like how in The Great Pendragon Campaign, a year passes between each adventure. Doesn't that make it all feel more big and important? Because we know that now this is a significant part of a person's life. The passage of time has unavoidable importance because it is so inherently tied up with mortality. Same strategy Microscope uses, I suppose.

    Maybe it is not so effective with the massive spans of time that people invent to try to make things sound important, like "For a thousand generations, the Jedi knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the old Republic." Since again, that's hard to imagine what it means and what it was like. It is more powerful when it is a length of time that we can measure against a life. "Years ago, you served my father in the clone wars." And oh, he has white hair; he is old, but he was once a soldier. Here laid out before us is the life of a man!

    (Alternate example: Is the Lord of the Rings "epic" because the people of Middle Earth fought Sauron for thousands of years, or because it took Frodo months to walk all the way to Mordor, or because the movies were four hours long, or because there was a one-year gap between each movie?)

    So my best guess at a strategy to make a game more "epic" is: (1) to heavily foreshadow the importance of events and characters some time in advance in real time, and (2) to allow a lot of in-game time to pass during the story, with time-skips if necessary.

    All this is assuming the players are on board and eager for such a game, trying to think what you then would want to do to make it work.
  • So what *are* some good ways to help players portray their characters in a suitably "epic" style?
    Other than starting with a system that enables or promotes that scale of play and having everyone knowingly collaborate towards that goal...

    A world that naturally produces hooks that will draw the specific characters into epic discovery and conflict.

    If you have a completely pre-baked game world and it's mostly on the players to figure out how their characters fit into it, it's harder because the most obvious ways to those players to fit into the world might be fascinating, but match a different scale/tone. It certainly can work, but if you go with a fairly strict Setting>Characters approach, it usually requires being very much on the same page agenda-wise and reading the epic potential in what someone else at the table offers up. Basically, the more rigid your starting position, the more flexible everyone has to be in play.

    If, on the other hand, you riff back and forth as a group on the world and character concepts, you naturally end up with a lot of fuel. You generate both player AND character investment, allowing the GM to get a much better read on what pressures will inspire them to act. If you know that, then it's just a matter of imagining sources of those pressures as well as 1. potential epic outcomes of those pressures if ignored by the player characters, and 2. potential epic outcomes if acted on/interfered with by the player characters.
    It's not about authoring those things - just imagining/brainstorming/noting a bunch of different possibilities is the heart of it. The players will inevitably make choices you didn't anticipate, but that's okay, because this preparation process has generated potential epic energy in your setting. It doesn't have to be epic, but, in this case, those are the types of possibilities for which you've made space. Then, when the players act, epic things happen - and, what's more, it'll be epic things they're invested in. They won't always react in a 100% epic way, but that's cool, it'll feel epic enough to carry you to when they do something epic. A lot of times, they'll even have to react epically because the stakes and scale are too big for anything else.

    Maybe I'm weird, but I feel like these are incredibly basic gaming behaviors. You're likely familiar with media that's contained to a family in a house. You're likely familiar with media that's contained to coworkers and their families in a city. You're likely familiar with media that focuses on great heroes traveling space and time to fight gods. You want it? Put it in.
  • So what *are* some good ways to help players portray their characters in a suitably "epic" style?
    I'd say that encouraging the players to pick and choose simple, explicit and archetypal natures for their characters, and building the game thematically around that, helps a lot. For example, Exalted has fair support for epic storytelling due to how inflexible and pre-determined the nature of the player characters in the game is: you can basically choose whether your character's a team player in the cosmology or somebody who rebels against their role, but either way, it's pretty clear who you're playing and what they represent; it's easy for the player to have their character act in befitting ways.

    Pendragon is another game that supports epic storytelling well due to how powerful the chivalric archetype is. The game keeps the players busy doing "knight stuff", and it supports these behaviors, which means that it's simply not very difficult to act appropriately; many scenes in Pendragon are easy to roleplay correctly, as the players generally know how a knight acts, and as long as you act "like a knight" it's all going to be just fine.

    In general I think that "epic" originates in showcasing the cosmology and externalizing the big themes of the story, which means that you don't really want the characters to have internal complexity, and you don't want the characters to act in deconstructive ways. Any techniques that help shape out the player roles in a way that encourages e.g. bold speech-making and discourages e.g. random murder sprees will help the group execute an epic.

    Of course you can't expect the players to do epic-appropriate things without the GM coming along: you want to have a big cast of characters who wear their hearts on their sleeves, and you want to have clear external conflicts among them. You want to make the thematic value propositions in the scenario clear: the villains need to be very clearly dastardly in poetic terms, the patriarchs really patriarchal, the princesses very beautiful, and so on and so forth. The events need to roll up and occur around the PCs like waves of the sea, they need to be subjected to the setting and larger-than-life circumstances. These are all elements of the epic that make the kinds of player characters I describe be appropriate to the whole.
  • edited June 2018
    Jean Valjean, Galaad and Silver Surfer are epic characters but are not motivated by glory. Consider introducing an exteriorization technique (narrator comments, chorus counterpoint, inner monologue) for the silent types.
  • Nice examples, I agree on all three being epic.

    And yeah, epics can be about all sorts of things - it's not just fighting men and glorifying war. This is something I've been playing with for a while with one member of our gaming group for the last year: he's what I think of as the archetypal epic gamer, really into enacting and re-enacting manly speechifying and fight scenes and bad-ass moments. It's been interesting to work out more intimate and psychological drama with him, but also to extend the concept of epic storytelling to themes other than "Today is a good day to die!"
  • edited June 2018
    In terms of mechanics: do you think traditional Forge-ite flagging is good or bad for this purpose? Or is it more about the sorts of flags people write? Or perhaps whether or not (or how often) they change?
  • Some games:
    Mythender, Godbound, Nobilis. The "epic" feel is still substantially about epic color, and these games have that in spades. (I think opting for it in Mortal Coil is easy too, though I don't remember for sure.)

    Also any game where the group collaboratively builds setting, tone, and scope, like Primetime Adventures. That's your chance to establish that play will be about characters navigating epic types of stakes.

    As for epic character portrayal:
    I might use something like Pendragon's passions or Smallville's relationship dice or The Veil's emotional states -- anything to nudge or force the player to (a) react in extreme fashion as per their character's extreme nature, and/or (b) tie in what they're doing to more than what's immediately in front of them.

    As a GM:
    My version of "epic" has always been to have some threat that's going to destroy the world, and then during play I first show the players the threat, then bring it closer to fruition, then eventually arrive at "now or never". Along the way, the players pursue the means to stop the epic threat, and all of these means are also epic, by virtue of being uniquely powerful and famous/infamous in the setting. The player characters usually start as badasses on the individual level but nobodies in the grand scheme of things; their ascent to world-saver status definitely feels "epic".
  • My own game, "The Adventures of Eowyn..." was written in part to facilitate this kind of play, although it doesn't do ALL of it for you. I'm curious what readers here think about its applicability to the genre.

    It certainly does the "motivated characters against greater odds" part well.
  • This thread is burning a hole in my brain. I have so many questions and comments but not enough time to ask them or make them.

    One important comment/question that comes to mind. A lot of people have talk about player buy-in. Some people don't find high fantasy compelling, though of course many do (I do for example). What I can't figure out is why, and how/what design features can be used to reinforce a compeling story.

    If someone answered this early, then my apologies, but I must have missed it.
  • One thing, that's hasn't been the focus of this discussion as far as I can tell. As a short-hand:

    Everywo/man hero + McGuffin+journey+invincible Big Bad+world alterning consequences for failure=high fantasy

    The hero of a high fantasy is almost always a novice or everywo/man, they are the chosen one but they usually have a modest background.

    The Big Bad is too powerful to defeat with direct force, invulnerable. Only the McGuffin can defeat him, either used against him or destroyed by the heroes.

    High fantasy shares a lot of features with Bildungsroman so there's a journey, usually external, but representing an internal transforation/growth.

    The chosen one might be surrounded by powerful allies but they can only be mentors or temporary protectors. The chosen one must complete the journey to find/use or destroy the McGuffin themselves. In the end, it's the chosen one against him/herself.

    I feel a high fantasy game/campaign design needs to encode this stuff into the design with mechanics.

    Funnel World might work well for high fantasy, perhaps with some homebrew added. But in my limited experience, I don't know of a game that does this--perhaps one of the previously mentioned games does this, but as I said, my experience is limited.
  • Did you really ask why somebody wouldn't find high fantasy compelling? It is an interesting question, certainly, but isn't it also pretty self-evident? It is very common for people to have different tastes, for all kinds of reasons.

    My own experience regarding high fantasy is that it can be disinteresting for many people because it often lacks in emotional depth. The book industry also ran down the genre in the '80s and afterwards by the mass-production of post-Tolkien fantasy garbage, which means that much of the genre consists of literature with few of the merits that actually would go well with it: your average popular entertainment high fantasy novel will generally not be very epic, not have very unique phantasmagoric ideas, not have any remarkable poetic qualities.

    I find the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and the Chronicles of Amber, two emblematic 80's fantasy novel series, rather instructive to think about in this regard: both are unquestionably mediocre (or even shitty in the case of Thomas Covenant) in terms of pure literary craft, yet they are elevated in the context of fantasy literature simply because their substantial content is acceptably unique and ambitious. Think about this: we are talking about a genre where the wider canon of remarkable works does not require a book to be written well; there is such a dearth of philosophical substance here, in between the endless elfdwarfwizarddragon stuff, that anything with passing relevance will qualify for the hall of fame.

    It might be interesting to note that when I discuss literary canons with my friends, I have often characterized fantasy literature as a pyramid of trash with a remarkably narrow head of gold on top. I like to compare it to another genre, science fiction: although both genres - as all genres - include an infinite amount of mediocrity, the upper end classical canon of science fiction consists of dozens of authors by this point, making anybody involved with the genre proud, while there are only a handful of fantasy authors who surpass the level of incidental entertainment. I say this as someone very passionate about fantasy literature; I would much prefer it if it hadn't turned out so mediocre as a genre.

    So, keeping in mind that much of high fantasy consists of frankly pretty shallow and formulaic entertainment, is it any wonder if some people find themselves unable to relate to it meaningfully? They just haven't encountered the right kinds of content at the right times in their lives for it to speak to them.
  • I'll also hazard an answer as to what game design can do to fix this - how can you make a high fantasy game compelling for people who don't like the genre as a matter of course?

    I'd say that having good taste as a literary author would be the basic foundation: the game needs to use its high fantasy trappings meaningfully, and it should be "about" something, the way meaningful things are, rather than just existing to be a vessel for a generic D&D murderhobo adventure campaign. It cannot rely on the players being invested in the genre, the way many fantasy roleplaying games do: it is not sufficient to present rules for orcs and dwarfs and call it a day, confident that the players will be able to amuse themselves with that.

    In fact, I think it'd be a pretty good rule of thumb if you treated creating a high fantasy game as an exercise in not creating a high fantasy game: just assume that the genre's not going to do you any favours, and therefore whatever it is that you're doing, it needs to be good in its own right. Whether epic storytelling or character drama or picaresque adventure, whether there's strategic boardgame elements or character acting, the game should actually work well in those regards aside from any connection it has to the genre of high fantasy. If it's good objectively, aside from the genre, then it will be good within the genre context as well, and even people who don't like the genre will acknowledge that.
  • @Eero_Tuovinen We could argue about this but I think a game designed specifically for high fantasy should use a conflict resolution system rather than an action resolution system. That would be one concrete suggestion. I feel like a conflict resolution system captures the bold, dramatic vistas of action and danger better than an action resolution system which is more granular by its nature. YMMV, it's just my opinion.

    On the other hand i'm still wondering about what kind of mechanical tools can make a high fantasy story game compelling for the players. What drives the characters/story forward (other than player buy-in). What design tools can be used to put pressure on the players in a game where relationship (pressures) are not the main focus.

    p.s. I wasn't really asking why others might or might not find it compelling. I was trying to express the fact, that I don't even understand why I find high fantasy compelling despite not knowing.
  • Ah, so the dramaturgy of the high fantasy epic... yes, let's look into that:

    So, making a high fantasy story game means enabling the players to create a high fantasy story via play, yeah? The basic design question, as I see it, is to discover the meaningful, interesting roles that people can have in the activity.

    We could say that it's just like doing an intimate drama story game, where you play to discover what the characters are like, and you put the characters on the spot to achieve that discovery, and so on. However, does an epic work like that? Should you just do drama with high fantasy trappings instead? Or should you discover a different relationship between the players and the their characters and the plot?

    I'd say that the classical model for how to do a high fantasy epic in roleplaying games has much in common with expressive theater creativity: the game's central task is to provide the players with a platform for showing what their characters are like. This is different from discovering the nature of the character, which is a common activity in dramatic games, but if we're doing epic, then there's going to be much less room for that, as we already know in the abstract who and what the characters are. This guy's the Hero, this is their exotic sidekick, and so on. The real meat of the epic is in the portrayal, as the player chooses what it looks like to be a Hero in this situation or that situation.

    From this perspective it looks to me like you'll want a game that provides structural support for clear scene flagging, and clears conceptual space for the players to portray their characters. The ideal creative interaction would be one where the players know, with no uncertainty or murk, that now's the moment when you have an opportunity to give a grand speech, for example: no guessing at it, no dicing to see if you get the opportunity, just a scene clearly labeled as the Big Speech Scene, and a character who has already at character creation been tagged as the Inspiring Leader, and a player who wants to playact that part when the time comes.

    I again turn to Dragonlance as an example of how people have tried to do this, in broad strokes. The D&D mechanics clearly have a tendency to get in the way, and it particularly doesn't help the campaign that the players can have buy-in for the D&D stuff without also buying into the idea that their character has a heroic personality and will be involved in epic proceedings. The big picture is solid, though, in that the characters are put into colorful scenes with black and white stakes, and encouraged to emote at them. The plot does not have much in the way of meaningful flexibility, but I don't really think that it needs that, anyway: that's not what epic storytelling is.

    --

    Breaking it apart in a different way, here's what I think makes for characteristically epic storytelling:
    * Clearly defined, archetypal characters.
    * External conflicts between said archetypes.
    * Appealing phantasmagoric imagery and good poetic style in delivery.
    * Rarefied, idealistic themes.

    So what if, as a first step into achieving buy-in, you let the players actually pick the themes of the up-coming high fantasy epic, and go from there? Sort of like how Shock: starts with the players picking their own future shocks and dramatic themes? I could see that helping provide the buy-in, simply because doing it this way ensures that you avoid the number one quality bottleneck of high fantasy gaming - namely, the lack of substantial thematic content.

    Epic fantasy, when properly executed, can deal with a wide variety of themes. For example, consider these opportunities:
    * The nature of good and evil is a perennial favourite: you fill the character roster with a variety of good and evil people with different backgrounds and foibles, and show how they each must be what they are, each according to their nature.
    * Inevitability of fate is also a classic: the story depicts how the structure of society and the limitations of human condition have pre-determined our final fate, and how people deal with that. Some characters accept it, others struggle, but can anybody truly change anything?
    * The will of the people as the most absolute force in society is an epic theme common to revolutionary and socialist literature. The story is set in a time of change, and while some characters will back the old order and its ideals, they are doomed to tragedy as the will of the people asserts itself, washing way the ancient order.

    I could see an appealing high fantasy game that brings the players in at the planning stages; this might well be because I find those parts of the creative process to be the most exciting ones. So you let everybody pick and choose themes, and you let them invent the fantasy imagery. Make your own light sabers and ring-wraiths, in other words! The creative buy-in will be much stronger if "high fantasy epic" does not simply mean recycling the imagery of Tolkien and D&D, with vague and vapid themes underlying the exercise.

    This would, of course, be nearly the opposite of the Dragonlance recipe, as we're inviting the players to create their own epic rather than simply taking on the main roles in somebody else's story. I suppose which you choose depends on what kind of creative role is found desirable for the players to have.
  • Good/bad genre referents aside, why do we find any kind of story compelling? IMHO:

    In Fantasy:

    -We find stuff to wonder and dream about: unique and mysterious cultures and species, places hard to picture in reality, skills and powers alien to ourselves, etc.

    -We see creatures and people that relate more to a metaphor of a theme than to real everyday people. Archetypes, used then to express a particular vision of the author by the discourse of their story. By being moralist and/or somewhat ambiguous in the delivery, these convince the reader to interpret their "meaning" as true, deep wisdom. Sometimes the author strikes true though. This is perhaps the main reason we forgive plotholes in fantasy, like the eagles in LotR. Or try to reason explanations for them.

    -We incarnate the hero in fantasy to live the fantasy of power.

    These are the same reasons why people won't find fantasy compelling: things alien to ourselves and our reality are hard to grasp as possible, breaking immersion. Absense of logic in favour of metaphor causes the same. If what we're looking for is ways to deal with our life instead of escapism, fantasy will feel like a waste of time. Not that a small drop of it can't take enough logic and be wrapped in more "real world" stuff to make it palatable for people less adept to fantasy, but fantasy won't be the part comelling for them.


    In Epic:


    -Stakes skyrocket: whatever the protagonists decide affects too many people for good or bad, it can even change reality or erase it. It means a bet on the destruction of a status quo of worlds, such as emotional worlds, ideological worlds, even physical worlds.

    -But the protagonists must feel responsible and attached to those worlds for this to really became epic. If they are not invested, haven't interacted with this world, grown frustrated and/or attached with it, epic fails.

    -So, the process of growing attached/invested in these worlds passes more easily as a process of growth: the protagonists start unattached and without responsabilities, which are taken up by them as they grow in power and become able to handle them, because they start to care about this world they are interacting with, as they start to build things in it: relationships, memories, places and organizations. As they leave footprints, their legacy, their mark upon this place, it becames a part of them. They get their efforts recognized or at least see their effect on the world and it's enough for them to start caring about it. It's a natural thing most people do on real life, if they are keen enough to see what's the effect of their life in this world.


    That's why doing epic fantasy isn't exactly a matter of a system, but a matter of the story being told, which it's better supported by a GM/player skills instead of by a system. In fact, whenever a system forces epic or fantasy into a game, both start to suffer. Orcs and Elves are seen as packs of stats and XP instead of methaphors, the journey of the hero gets gamified, the pacing of the growth gets disengaged from the process of attachment, etc.


    Not to say that it can't be tried though. Perhaps a less wargamey system with less bookkeeping and less weight in the tactics will allow the players to focus on the story and the world. Perhaps some mechanics that reward/allow players for/to create their own meaningful interactions with the world and some focus on the consequences of PC actions (I've seen some of those recently, can't remember where). Monsters and challenges should be built and defeated on the basis of the things they represent instead of just taking the content for flavor. Well, at least that would be my approach anyway.
  • edited June 2018
    My problem is that I find it very easy to create a story like that with one-shot narrative collaborative RPGs. But I have no idea how to make it great and not railroady / boring / too long in a classic campaign. I feel like I dont have tools and dont know how to fight against our RPG habits. (I'm more interested in defining methods, principles and 'moves' (a la DW / PbtA games) than edition nitpicking.)

    What do you think?
    I think this question is really interesting. Why do you fear (or suspect) that things will get railroady if you would play a longer campaign?

    When it comes to epic, if I try to write it short, it's about escalation, and thinking bigger. Like the game master tips in Star Wars d6. I didn't know how to game master Star Wars to get the right feeling but when I read the rulebook, a part said "Everything in Star Wars is big. They don't blow up bridges – they blow up planets". After that, I had no trouble setting the right mood in Star Wars.

    However, it's common to escalate in order to keep the story interesting (D&D's leveling system, anyone?). But if you start big, it's hard to escalate without it becoming ridiculous. The trick is if you start off big, you don't change anything. Instead, you give it a twist. You can't have someone to show up that is even bigger and badder than Darth Vader. Instead, Darth Vader is your father!
  • edited June 2018
    But that takes us to the problem of "narrative logistics", as in "how do we keep the BBEG alive and coming back later?" which can easily derive into railroading.

    I've been working on similar issues with my gameplay and for one thing I can attest that Eero's advice above stands:

    I could see an appealing high fantasy game that brings the players in at the planning stages; this might well be because I find those parts of the creative process to be the most exciting ones. So you let everybody pick and choose themes, and you let them invent the fantasy imagery. Make your own light sabers and ring-wraiths, in other words! The creative buy-in will be much stronger if "high fantasy epic" does not simply mean recycling the imagery of Tolkien and D&D, with vague and vapid themes underlying the exercise.
    This way the scope of the epic becomes a bit more clear, so you can scale things according to players expectations. Players straight invest in the world by creating it rather than slowly interacting with it, though both approaches should see use just to be sure.

    For most of the rest you have to trust your players and get rid of the mechanic fences that limit their story choices. Like, needing 4-10 levels to be able to face a dragon, which need lots of grinding to achieve. I'd rather have a mechanic to let the GM say when and how the players can face a dragon, minus the part where everyone has to recalculate their stats to get on par with the monster. Not saying that the characters should be able to challenge world-shattering menaces from the start of the game (that would totally ruin epic) but that the path there shouldn't depend solely on grinding but more on whatever the player's story is about.

    Maybe the veteran soldier only needs to get back his confidence and get into shape again, maybe the newcomes just needs to believe he's the chosen one and once both are there the dragon isn't undefeatable anymore. Maybe they learn by then that the dragon isn't an actual monster but a manifestation of the fears of the kingdom, so they won't get anywhere attacking it directly and must bring up everyone's confidence to defeat it.
  • edited June 2018
    Two perspectives on epic stakes : PCs stepping up to save a world they cherish / the vortex pulling them in at the center of all events.
  • Some wonderful discussion here, everyone. I'm just following along for now (mostly due to being short on time), but really enjoying where this thread has gone. Thanks, Story Games people!
  • Fellowship worked for me, though caveat: I played it once, in a four hour slot at DexCon, so this was mostly a taste.

    Everway's an interesting case, as I tend to think of it as very good for certain types of stories that may overlap with epic, material one might find in Le Guin or McKillip.

    Fate Accelerated can work, and I like the changes Dresden Accelerated rings on it.
  • I was thinking of Fate earlier, actually - I think it has a lot to offer as regards epic storytelling specifically. It certainly seems much more suited for than than drama, for reasons hashed out in the past. I would consider it a very sensible choice to use Fate to run something like Dragonlance, for example.
  • @David_Berg thank you for mentioning Smallville and The Veil. Great recommendations!

    I think that using Smallville drives (Duty, Glory, Love, Power, Truth, Justice) as PbtA stats would serve epic gaming well. It'd bring the ideals and the motivation of PCs to the surface every time they act.

    But my group decided on a more character focused, more psychologizing campaign idea. I like the states in The Veil but instead of them I used Ekman's universal emotions (Anger, Fear, Joy, Sadness, Disgust and Surprise) as stats because they indicate more about facial expressions than those in The Veil. But they will work the same way (spikes -> acting out -> cooldown).

    We are also using Themes from The City of Mist. They are great cornerstones to outline shifting personalities in identity crisis.

    To sum it up, I think our new campaign will be not epic in the 'high fantasy with high stakes' nor in the 'epic literature' sense, but I hope that the emotionally driven story and it's drama will be 'epic' in some way.
  • Even though @hamnacb has gotten what he wanted out of this thread, honestly, I haven't. I would like this thread to continues. This is a genre that really interests me, and I feel like most of my pressing questions haven't been answered. I'm going to go back to read it from the beginning again. I'll have more questions once I'm done. I hope you will be patient and I hope the conversation will continue.
  • @Hopeless_Wanderer, you've read too much into my last post :) My new campaign is starting up but that does'nt mean that I got what I originally asked for. I'm still baffled about this topic but I tried to organize the ideas shared here. I would be happy to compare it with the results of your readthrough!
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