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Sunday, April 27, 2014

High or Low - How Do You Like Your Fantasy RPG Setting?

Quick question for this fine Sunday morning.

Do you prefer your fantasy settings in high or low flavor? Lots of magic and magical creatures or a bit more gritty with little magic and a very humocentric base?

Or are you somewhere in between?

Forgotten Realms is very much high fantasy - you can't walk down a road in 2e without bumping into a god's avatar ;)

I like to think I prefer low fantasy, but the reality is my games run fairly weighted to the side of high fantasy.

21 comments:

  1. I think Middle Earth hits the sweet spot for me. Magic and magical creatures exist, but are feared and distrusted by the common people.

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    1. I always liked how well ME dealt with the ambivalent relationship other races have worth Elves, who freak people out by being so pretty and weird, despite being generally harmless. That kind of ignorant envy based aversion is very realistic, it's why the Chinese got chased out of numerous African counties.

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  2. High fantasy, but not "continual light" streetlamps and that stuff. Very much medieval flavored.

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    1. But then you have players asking, 'so why hasn't done middling magic user charged an arm and leg to the city to do it? " If you leave magic commercialy or technologically unexploited I, as a MU PC, will make an enormous amount of money by doing the obvious.

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    2. No, you won't. First, the city isn't going to pay your prices, second you'll just make yourself a target for: (roll 1d6) 1. The thieves guild; 2. the assassins guild; 3. the lamplighters guild; 4. the woodcutters or oilmens guild; 5. any and every other second-rate mage around looking for someone to stand out and make a mark out of themselves; 6. roll twice.

      Also, I pretty much don't do "continual" spells at all. Or teleport, or wind walk. Fly has some changes (only affects an object, for one).

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  3. I'm all over the map; but I generally favour low fantasy.

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  4. These days low-fantasy is more interesting. Though so many people treat the amazing magical things in RPGs as mundane because of saturation.

    Low fantasy makes magics and magical creatures truly a spectacle.

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    1. I think a masterpiece campaign wound do as you suggest - no standardization of magic, and never use a monster more then once. It's inconvenient for the DM but it makes it actually fantastic, instead of technology with a paint job.

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  5. Depends on my mood, but generally low fantasy...I guess in the Camelot vein. Magic exists, but its 'somewhere out there', horrible to deal with and fading.

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  6. Low fantasy typically... But sometimes you just wanna go a little nuts with the weird.

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  7. I'm in the Joe Abercrombie camp now. Magicians weild great power but they aren't throwing it around without consequence.

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  8. There seem to be two different definitions of what is meant by "high" and "low". There's a definition based on the availability of magic and supernatural effects, and there's a definition based on morality and heroism. A low fantasy setting by the first standard is one with limited magic. By the second standard, a low fantasy setting is one where the protagonists are morally ambiguous antiheroes. As an obvious example, Tolkien is very low in the first sense (wizards and magical creatures are quite rare), but very high in the second (good and evil are clearly defined). That makes for a good story, but not a good game. Vance is the reverse, with plenty of magical pyrotechnics but little interest in moral themes.

    I think D&D benefits from being at least moderately "high" in the first sense (magic is fun!), but low in the second sense. Enforcing moral obligations in the game tends to deprive players of agency. If you're playing Frodo, you can't stop to loot Moria, you just need to keep on trudging toward Mordor.

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    1. I agree with your analysis of this - low on the sentiment and moral nonsense is a requisite, but I can cope with either low or high supernatural. I think everyone is mercenary and the last place I want social tropes enforced is in my fantasy world (I don't mind in game characters moralizing, but as the DM I declare them objectively wrong.)

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  9. Busy is my choice.

    And I will allow continual light stands on Parisian boulevards. Because the crafters are rare, not all know how to create one, and things wear out. The last is the reason there are no continual light stands in the college section of town. And why disspelling a continual light has such a heavy penalty.

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  10. There is definitely a Heroism Low-through-High continuum and a similar Mysticism scale. (Your choice of title words for the two grades may vary, but I believe you know what I mean.) Like Good-Evil & Law-Chaos. Crossing the streams, any setting can be mapped from Low-Low through to High-High.
    All that said, I prefer Low Heroism-Middle Mysticism. For example magic items, spells, monsters and the gods exist but they're rare and unusual. If the PCs slay a troll in a cave, they've likely killed *the* troll in the world.

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  11. Low fantasy, wizards are hunted and burned and generally forced to keep a very low profile because of ignorance and fear and the dominance of Cults of Law that oppose that sort of manipulation of chaos.

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  12. Personally I like my magic use low-to-middling, as others have said Middle-Earth is about right - or a bit higher to allow for some PC magic use. Perhaps Lankhmar would be a better example, given the Grey Mouser's origins.

    On the heroism side, I can take the whole scale from selfless paladin to the most self-interested rogue, though I'll allow that getting them to play nicely can be a challenge.

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  13. I prefer mid-to-low most of the time. Mid-level magic users and clerics are rare, magic items are precious, and high level magic users are beings of legend.

    But every now and then I get a hankering for cities with continual light lamp posts, where every guard captain has at least a +1 sword, and magic items can be found in the bazaar. Not the way I like most of my games, but once in a while it's a good time.

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  14. I like worlds that are mostly low-fantasy, but have hidden patches of high-fantasy.

    The heroes can then worm their way into the high fantasy aspects over time.

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  15. low fantasy. Conan and Sinbad are more interesting to me than Gandalf and Aragorn. Wizards are few and far between and mistrusted and feared due their incomprehensible powers. death comes cheap and there's not a cleric with magic on every corner to raise you, nor are there potions and scrolls all over the place. magic items are each unique, highly prized, and feared as they often come with strings attached. gold isn't found in abundance in every temple basement.

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