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PhilFleischmann

Fantasy Immersion and the Things that Ruin it.

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1 hour ago, Old Man said:

 

The question was "what ruins your fantasy immersion" and those are my answers.  Greek fire was effectively magic and has never been exactly replicated; RPG players (and film directors) also tend to exaggerate how effective burning pitch and "bombs" actually were. 

 

Sure. I'm just surprised, because I don't know what about bombs and flaming stuff screams "not fantasy."

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On February 17, 2020 at 10:57 PM, Ninja-Bear said:

Elves don’t bother me as long as it’s one not hundred different ones.

 

Halflings I could do without except I have minis and the kids like them. But Gnomes? No way!

In my setting, any dwarf younger than 30 years old you'd look at and say "That's a hobbit." As they age they become denser and denser, until finally in their late 300's they finally become entirely stone. These statues called Elderstones comprise the walls of the inverted spires they build religiously downward into the earth. It can take years for an Elder dwarf to walk to his position in the   mausoleum of his Hall.

 

12 hours ago, Chris Goodwin said:

Fairy tale logic behind... anything, really.  Things like: gatherings of three, seven, or thirteen; monkey's paw wishes; evil wizards are ugly; some flavor of magic called "black" or "dark" is evil; etc

You take that back right now! Fairy tales are so underused! I find that folklore and mythology lend an ominous yet familiar vibe to whatever I do with fantasy.

 

On February 17, 2020 at 6:19 PM, PhilFleischmann said:

Evidence of a lost civilization that had modern-day, or future technology

I quite like this. I mean, I highly recommend trying out Endless Legend. It has a really fleshed out fantasy work that all fundamentally depends on it's "ancient futuristic tech". The world is full of "Dust" which is this golden dust that can be used to do anything (like magic (up to and including instantly finishing buildings that you're building for your empire)) and it has become the defacto currency of the whole planet. It's awesome.

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1 hour ago, pawsplay said:

 

Sure. I'm just surprised, because I don't know what about bombs and flaming stuff screams "not fantasy."

 

I get that it's a subjective topic.  But grenades and napalm just don't feel like fantasy to me. 

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7 hours ago, Old Man said:

 

I get that it's a subjective topic.  But grenades and napalm just don't feel like fantasy to me. 

Look up Greek Fire sometime. It is what the Byzantines used to flame Muslim ships. It may be an early form of Napthalene, and original Napalm, was NApthalene and PALM oil as a thickener. Gasoline though was more plentiful and economical. 

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10 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

3.  Horses that maintain exact pace, all day long, and never, ever balk, throw shoes, go lame, or split hooves.

 

Why do the horses get singled out?  Most fantasy games also feature:

 

 - armor, weaponry and other gear than never needs cleaning or maintenance;

 - you can just buy arrows and other weapons anywhere (clothes for that matter);

 - all people are entitled to bear arms;

 - no issues with food quality or hygiene (that wasn't just horse pee and poop in the road);

ad infinitum

 

We gloss over a lot of the unpleasant realities of history when we game.

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25 minutes ago, Hugh Neilson said:

 

Why do the horses get singled out?  Most fantasy games also feature:

 

Because the horses have minds of their own and physiological limits and needs (the only one of which that seems to get tracked is charging speed), all of which have been ig ored in every fantasy game I've ever seen. 

 

 

 

25 minutes ago, Hugh Neilson said:

 

 - armor, weaponry and other gear than never needs cleaning or maintenance;

 - you can just buy arrows and other weapons anywhere (clothes for that matter);

 - all people are entitled to bear arms;

 - no issues with food quality or hygiene (that wasn't just horse pee and poop in the road);

 

 

Are things that are not ignored in every game I've read. 

 

I wish I could remember which game it was for,   but I recall reading a module for a "once upon a time in France" swashbuckling-type game that made mention of the "chamber pot schedule" so that characters would know when to avoid certain streets. 

 

Gross?  Yeah; definitely, at least from our point of view.  But for depth of simulation, I had to give it a nod. 

 

Horses, though? They are ha dked better in most western games than in any fantasy. 

 

I can't even tell you when D&D decided you needed to start feeding them. 

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12 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

 

You mean the stories I heard about sorority girls weren't exaggeration?! :blink:

 

Let's just say the lyrics of "Last Friday Night" are my actual memories of college.

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11 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

I have to update my list:

 

1.  Elves

2.  Random / Wandering Damage

3.  Horses that maintain exact pace, all day long, and never, ever balk, throw shoes, go lame, or split hooves.

4. Kinds of Elves

 

 

Don't forget Ninjas who just show up even thought Japan in no where near the setting of the campaign.

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10 hours ago, Old Man said:

I get that it's a subjective topic.  But grenades and napalm just don't feel like fantasy to me

 

2 hours ago, Scott Ruggels said:

Look up Greek Fire sometime. It is what the Byzantines used to flame Muslim ships. It may be an early form of Napthalene, and original Napalm, was NApthalene and PALM oil as a thickener. Gasoline though was more plentiful and economical. 

 

This goes back to what @DShomshak said earlier: 

  

20 hours ago, DShomshak said:

I don't think "anachronism" is the right word for some of what Phil finds annoying. I'd suggest "anamythism" -- not from the wrong time, but from the wrong story. The genre boundaries of fantasy are very wide, but that doesn't mean every possible thing fits in every story.

 

When we start with "anachronism" I want to get my arguing shoes on, and start nitpicking the definition of "medieval" in terms of fantasy, but "anamythism"?  I can't argue that.  And that's a good thing, IMO. 

 

I could argue a million ways about how I'd like to see a Jedi with lightsaber in a fantasy game, but I can't argue with "This is the wrong story for that."  Whether it's the right story is up to the GM and the players at the table; I add the players because without players there's no game.  

 

Thank you for the word and the accompanying concept, Dean.  

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2 hours ago, Scott Ruggels said:

Look up Greek Fire sometime. It is what the Byzantines used to flame Muslim ships. It may be an early form of Napthalene, and original Napalm, was NApthalene and PALM oil as a thickener. Gasoline though was more plentiful and economical. 

 

My God, what a condescending comment.  I know what Greek Fire is, jackass.  IT RUINS FANTASY IMMERSION FOR ME.  READ THE THREAD TITLE.

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For me, I like my fantasy* games to not have:

1. Guns, grenades, and just about anything that explodes.  I consider Alchemical Fire to not be an explosive, but a flammable - like oil but moreso.
2. "Tech" - Gnomish mechanical contraptions are generally ok, but the less mechanical (while being more complex) it is the more it smells like "tech" to me.
3. Real-world politics - I game to get away from that crap (I don't like it in any game, to be honest).
4. Steam powered anything.
5. Mass transit.

*Fantasy as in "sword and sorcery" games.  Which is why I consider Gamma World to be Sci-Fi and not Fantasy.

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21 hours ago, Scott Ruggels said:

Mythic or Fairy tale Cosmology.  Said on the other thread. not a fan of Geocentric flat earths on the backs of turtles going all the way down,  and "breathable space".

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course, but it seems to me that myths and fairy tales are the whole reason fantasy RPGs exist.  People have enjoyed them for millennia.

 

21 hours ago, Scott Ruggels said:

Eberron.

I don't remember Eberron.  I know I looked at the Eberron book many years ago, but I don't remember what was in it.  What specifically about it do you not like?

 

21 hours ago, Scott Ruggels said:

Illiterate does not mean stupid.  Peasants had to know the land, the seasons and the growing cycles , and how to make and repair their tools (outside of blacksmithing), and manage their animals.  Unsuccessful peasants starved to death or became wards of their smarter relatives.  Barbarians aren't stupid, they just have different priorities.

Absolutely!

 

And speaking of D&D published settings, there was another one whose name I don't remember (it started with a 'K'.  Something like "Kingdoms of Kalamar"?*).  I remember seeing the "atlas" for this setting - it was like 21st century satellite imaging, printed with high-resolution photographic-quality printing.  So there's another one:  21st-century cartography.  The maps in Turakian Age, and Valdorian Age, are useful for the GM, but they aren't the kinds of maps that people within the setting would ever see.

 

* I guess they liked to eat squid.  "It's a trap!"

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22 minutes ago, PhilFleischmann said:

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course, but it seems to me that myths and fairy tales are the whole reason fantasy RPGs exist.  People have enjoyed them for millennia.

 

Indirectly so.  And fantasy stories have moved beyond myth and fairy tale.  Not that they're bad stories, but... again, not everything fits in every possible story.  

 

Here's another thing that pulls me out: references to Earthly folklore, especially related to Earthly religious lore, in worlds that don't have specific connections to Earth.  Fey, djinn, devils, angels; specific Earthly deities, especially well known ones like Thor and Hercules.  If a work explains them in reference to itself, it's less jarring, but it takes some thought still.  

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14 minutes ago, PhilFleischmann said:

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course, but it seems to me that myths and fairy tales are the whole reason fantasy RPGs exist.  People have enjoyed them for millennia.

 

I don't remember Eberron.  I know I looked at the Eberron book many years ago, but I don't remember what was in it.  What specifically about it do you not like?

 

It's Steam Punk, but with magic and D&D creatures, and Industrial magic, and "air ships", with floating hulls and sails. Steampunk for me is a turn off, because I do like Victorian Steam. I do not like uneducated, style over substance, Pseudo-victorian steam.

 

14 minutes ago, PhilFleischmann said:

 

Absolutely!

 

And speaking of D&D published settings, there was another one whose name I don't remember (it started with a 'K'.  Something like "Kingdoms of Kalamar"?*).  I remember seeing the "atlas" for this setting - it was like 21st century satellite imaging, printed with high-resolution photographic-quality printing.  So there's another one:  21st-century cartography.  The maps in Turakian Age, and Valdorian Age, are useful for the GM, but they aren't the kinds of maps that people within the setting would ever see.

 

* I guess they liked to eat squid.  "It's a trap!"

 

 Awwww man, I love maps.  But I do get your point. However seafaring maps, and Roman Ground maps were different things and Roman Maps, like what the PCs would get a hold of, would look like the London Tube poster or map with lines and vague directions and "times" to various stops on the road.

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What I want most out of a setting is internal consistency.  Basically, the physics and metaphysics of the universe should be true and the same throughout the entire story.  If the physics and metaphysics are thrown together haphazardly or changes from scene to scene without an internal explanation, that throws me off.

 

Regarding the use of anachronisms in storytelling, I am mixed and it strongly depends on how it is used.  There are many great and engrossing works of literature and cinema that are chock full of anachronisms.  Some times, the anachronisms are intended.  Sometimes, they are not.  Either way, the stories still maintain immersion throughout.  Regarding the use of anachronistic language in literature and anachronistic fashion sense in cinema, a story writer has to write and dress his stories in order to maintain the attention of the intended audience.  I've had literature classes in college, and I read at a high level, but sometimes, even the references from an American novel from only a century ago can be unapproachable without good annotation while the original English used by Chaucer might as well be a foreign language to most readers.  You have to write in a language and vocabulary sense of the intended audience.  Take the mesmer issue as an example.  I know what the word implies.  It has an oldish sound.  And, the fact that the word would not exist in the period in which it was used is not off-putting to me.

 

A similar problem can be had of fashion sense.  Some of the fashion sense of our ancestors would be shocking to us today if we weren't expecting it and could distract a potential audience from the actual story; so, you might get the clothes and hairstyles close to what the audience would it expect them to be even if it is not accurate to what they are supposed to be.  For example, if you want a certain character to considered attractive by an audience, you will want the looking attractive based on the biases of the audience and not to the biases of the people that lived in the time and place that the story is set.

 

What does throw me off is an excessive use of slang and pop culture references, especially as I get older and stay up with slang and pop culture less and less.  Okay, they work in comedy when I actually understand the reference.  Two examples where the use of slang and pop culture references are the Naked Gun movies and The Knight's Tale.

 

In regards regards Naked Gun, I loved the movies when they came.  The humor is right up my alley.  I saw the trilogy on sale at Walmart for real cheap; so, I bought them.  I still enjoyed a lot of the humor, but I really had to think back to get a lot of the pop culture jokes.  I'm over 50.  I was still a young man when the movie came out and was still active in staying up with pop culture.  I wonder if some guy in his 20s now would even have a chance at getting many of the jokes.

 

Then there's The Knight's Tale, I wanted to like this movie and I genuinely tried, but ultimately, I didn't.  The anachronisms and cultural references were just too jarring for me.  First, I was starting to lose my interest in pop culture; so, the pop culture was not endearing to me, and it's use of anachronism was so haphazard that it left me feeling like it didn't know what kind of movie it wanted to be, and that's a shame, because I kind of liked the actual story.

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Gods, Religions, and Religious institutions as unimportant and lacking any power or purpose save as healing shops.

It's such a waste of material to use it that way. And it often throws me off. Even if the gods don't feel chatty, religious leaders can still exert enough influence and power to hobble or raise up rulers, they can direct codes as strong as any secular set of laws. And, unless one is speaking of 'chaching, the God of #$#You, Payme!', their entire purpose should never be confined to just taking gold and then curing that STD you got at Madame Stonegate's House of Dwarven pleasures.

 

Not meaning any disrespect to anyone who follows Chaching

 

And I always appreciate when the not priestly types still have a spiritual side, and pay a bit of respect to the gods. NPCs who are farmers, bartenders, or the like who tip their hat to the local holy man, or pray for good weather etc are small touches, but it shows off nicely. Heck, even creative ways of using a god's name in anger can reflect wel. But when a fantasy village seems to be entirely secular to a man, unless there's an in setting reason, it kind of jars me a bit. I don't expect Hozanas and Psalms all the time, but the idea of "Who do these god people think they are anyway?" Should not be the norm unless you're going for a Monty python skit ;)

 

 

But that's just me.. just sort of makes me roll my eyes and disrupts my immersion a bit.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

 

Why do the horses get singled out?  Most fantasy games also feature:

 

 - armor, weaponry and other gear than never needs cleaning or maintenance;

 - you can just buy arrows and other weapons anywhere (clothes for that matter);

 - all people are entitled to bear arms;

 - no issues with food quality or hygiene (that wasn't just horse pee and poop in the road);

ad infinitum

 

We gloss over a lot of the unpleasant realities of history when we game.

Probably cause it’s a game  and not book keeping. 

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Related to Hermit's statement on religion, I think that his argument can be broadened to differences in station in general.  I might not hold serving people in especially low regard or the well-to-do in high regard.  I judge people equally regardless of station, but I was raised that way, but that is not how I would have been raised in medieval Europe where everyone was expected to live according to their station whether they liked it or not.  So, I find it jarring when I see a character talking smack to noblemen in general conversation without having their heads summarily removed.  Admittedly, enforcing those kind of standards with modern players presents its own issues beyond mere story writing.

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43 minutes ago, Anaximander said:

Then there's The Knight's Tale, I wanted to like this movie and I genuinely tried, but ultimately, I didn't.  The anachronisms and cultural references were just too jarring for me.  First, I was starting to lose my interest in pop culture; so, the pop culture was not endearing to me, and it's use of anachronism was so haphazard that it left me feeling like it didn't know what kind of movie it wanted to be, and that's a shame, because I kind of liked the actual story.

 

loved The Knight's Tale, partly for its anachronisms.  I created a variant Car Wars setting once that was basically this, except with cars, guns, and magic.  Cars and weapons could be repaired, reloaded, and refueled by medieval blacksmiths with hammers and anvils and other medieval tools.  It would have been glorious (at least, to me).  

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Another thing that ruins immersion for me, is that when a fantasy world goes into space, it's 18th century space, with wooden galleons, and phlogiston and ether, and I'm looking at you Spelljammer.  I want big metal Star Wars and Star Trek ships, with spherical planets that revolve around incandescent balls of gas.  Optional but recommended are mana batteries, life support spells, FTL spells, magical lasers, &c.

 

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On 2/18/2020 at 1:54 PM, Scott Ruggels said:

Said on the other thread. not a fan of Geocentric flat earths on the backs of turtles going all the way down,  and "breathable space".

 

Speaking of worlds on turtles...

 

I've enjoyed many of the Diskworld novels. Often funny, often pointed in its satire. But for me at least, hardly ever immersive. No matter how much I enjoy the story, I am fully aware this world "exists" to comment on other stories or aspects of RL. It's never a world that feels like it could exist in its own right.

 

Again, at least not for me.

 

Dean Shomshak

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