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Fantasy Immersion and the Things that Ruin it.

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Quick informal poll.  Who of us got started in fantasy reading Lord of the Rings?  If not, what was your introduction?  

 

I have never actually completely read the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Hobbit.  I think I completed the Fellowship of the Ring after having seen the movie.  My introductions to fantasy were the King Arthur stories, Clash of the Titans, AD&D 1e, the Compleat Enchanter, the Sword of Shannara (which I recognized as derivative of a book I hadn't even read, and don't think I got much further in the story), Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series, Lawrence Watt-Evans' Ethshar novels, Xanth, the Incarnations of Immortality, Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, Jack Chalker's Dancing Gods series.  

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In a way, the superhero genre is almost impossible to "ruin" in these kinds of ways, because it freely incorporates every other genre.  Magic, monsters, super-future technology, aliens, ghosts/vampires/zombies/horror stuff, western gunslingers, martial artists, ninjas, superspies, conspiracies, "mecha"...  I can't think of anything that would seem "out of genre" for a superhero game.  But the same does not hold true for fantasy, or many pother genres, at least for me.

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2 minutes ago, Chris Goodwin said:

Quick informal poll.  Who of us got started in fantasy reading Lord of the Rings?  If not, what was your introduction?

I don't remember precisely, but I think I read the Narnia series (all except the last one), before I ever read The Hobbit.  LotR came somewhat later, and then I tried reading the Silmarillion, and didn't get through it until fairly recently, when I listened to an audiobook.  But several years ago, I read one of the Fafhrd & Grey Mouser books.  There were probably a few others, but as much as I enjoy the fantasy genre, I haven't read all that many fantasy novels.  I've read more science fiction.  Most of my fantasy exposure has been in movies.

 

And one other bit of fantasy source material deserves mention:  The Book of Weird by Barbara N. Byfield.  It's not a story, though, but a "lexicon of the fantastical".

 

Oh, I just thought of one other:  Pile, by Brian W. Aldiss, a beautifully illustrated epic poem.

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16 minutes ago, Chris Goodwin said:

Quick informal poll.  Who of us got started in fantasy reading Lord of the Rings?  If not, what was your introduction?  

 

I have never actually completely read the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Hobbit.  I think I completed the Fellowship of the Ring after having seen the movie.  My introductions to fantasy were the King Arthur stories, Clash of the Titans, AD&D 1e, the Compleat Enchanter, the Sword of Shannara (which I recognized as derivative of a book I hadn't even read, and don't think I got much further in the story), Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series, Lawrence Watt-Evans' Ethshar novels, Xanth, the Incarnations of Immortality, Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, Jack Chalker's Dancing Gods series.  

 

I have yet to read Lord of the Rings.  I liked Arthurian legend and Greek mythology were my earliest connections with fantasy, and I've read the Myth, Xanth, Dancing God, Mallorean, and Belgariad.  I am also greatly inspired by Robin Hood and the Three Musketeers.  Truth is, I am far more of a science fiction guy and that is where most of my fiction reading goes.   Almost forgot the Adept series which had both science fiction and fantasy elements.

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17 minutes ago, Chris Goodwin said:

Quick informal poll.  Who of us got started in fantasy reading Lord of the Rings?  If not, what was your introduction? 

 

 

LOTR didn't come my way until well into my teens. I'm pretty sure the first pure fantasy book I ever read was Michael Moorcock's novel-length Elric story, titled Stormbringer. An odd way to be introduced to the character, at the end of his career. Mind you, this was a couple of years after I read one of Andre Norton's sci-fi/fantasy hybrid stories, Victory on Janus, but I was nine years old and didn't fully grasp what I was reading. Plus it was a sequel to her first Janus novel. :rolleyes:

 

Anyway, after that I remember picking up Norton's Witch World novels, some more Elric (before Moorcock started publishing self-derivative drivel), and the Lancer Books series compiling Robert E. Howard's Conan stories. Things just snowballed from there. (Note that all of the above had been purchased by my older brother, part of a large collection of fantasy and sci-fi. He eventually tired of it, as he does all his hobbies, so I inherited them. Same with his comic collection.)

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2 hours ago, Chris Goodwin said:

Quick informal poll.  Who of us got started in fantasy reading Lord of the Rings?  If not, what was your introduction?  

 

 

I didn't read the Hobbit until 4th grade.  Didn't really like it.  Was coaxed into reading the Lord of the Rings series by a teacher who saw a fourth grader walking around with The Hobbit.  Read that in 5th grade.  Didn't like it, either.  If I am to be completely honest, I liked it considerably less.  :(   I _almost_ enjoyed the Hobbit, but it was in that "oh, look!  I could be the four-foot-hero" way that kids are want to use to project themselves into the story.  Alas, I kept getting thrown out of it with "but he's _so_ _stupid_....." moments.  Still, it was better than LotR, just not enough better to make me enjoy it  (I'm not bagging on it, all you fans, fanatics, and fanboys.  I am not blindsiding anyone with the idea that I don't like Tolkien's creation, so I don't see any reason to sweeten this a bit.  I'm not insulting it; it is something that has absolutely _no_ appeal to me, and a lot of annoyance.  Judging by its popularity, your mileage will almost definitely vary).

 

I took another stab at the trilogy in High School.  Couldn't even force myself to finish it.  Decidedly not what I like.

 

Prior to and for some time after reading the Hobbit, I enjoyed Tarzan and the John Carter of Mars books (some of them; I wouldn't have access to the rest for several years), as well as various of Howard's Conan stories, though to be honest, the Conan books had a certain sameness that got old pretty quickly, even when I was a kid.

 

 I liked about half of the Wells to which I had been exposed, and _adored_ Verne.  (Probably why I really got into the very earliest bits of Steampunk, before, as someone else pointed out elsewhere, it became all about goggles and gears on hats--- and stupid.   Why do we do this?  Take something charming and fun, pull out the trappings rather than the content, and just bloat it up on trappings to the point of being unrecognizable?  ).  But of course, that came much later.  :lol:

 

At any rate: Burroughs, Wells and Verne (mostly Burroughs, but in a weird "John Carter of Africa meets Tarzan of Cimmeria versus Conan of Mars" sort of way......) were my first introduction to fantasy.  I've read more -- I hate to say "common" or "run of the mill," but....  well,  what's a pleasant way to say "stories placed in Tolkien-derivative worlds with Tolkien-derivative pretty much everything?"  I accept that Wells can be classified as Sci-Fi; I usually do that myself, really, but it kills me knowing that this is also typically what happens with Verne.  The setting didn't really even seem to matter with Verne; he was....  wonderfully fun to read.  :)

 

 

I know that there are going to be plenty of people who scoff at the lack of originality and breadth in my early reading materials, but let me remind folks that I am from a teeny-tiny town called Circle, Alaska.  The "school" I went to for half my life had two rooms: one of them was for the wood-fired boiler; the wall that made it two rooms was only there as some small protection should something go horribly wrong with the boiler.  The "school library" was I-kid-you-not across the street and down two doors and was, in fact, my Aunt Beulah's house.  She had collected books her whole life, and I think she was eighty back then.  If it wasn't in her library, it wasn't in town. ;)

 

 

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3 hours ago, Chris Goodwin said:

Quick informal poll.  Who of us got started in fantasy reading Lord of the Rings?  If not, what was your introduction?  

 

I have never actually completely read the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Hobbit.  I think I completed the Fellowship of the Ring after having seen the movie.  My introductions to fantasy were the King Arthur stories, Clash of the Titans, AD&D 1e, the Compleat Enchanter, the Sword of Shannara (which I recognized as derivative of a book I hadn't even read, and don't think I got much further in the story), Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series, Lawrence Watt-Evans' Ethshar novels, Xanth, the Incarnations of Immortality, Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, Jack Chalker's Dancing Gods series.  

 

Nope. Not Lord of the Rings.

Depending on your definition of fantasy, Dr. Seuss and Dahl  might claim earliest

 

But I got into Bullfinch's mythologies , then Narnia before I got into Tolkein. Loved the hobbit, but thought The LOTR spent too much time talking about trees ;)

Then I hit my teen years and things really took off. Belgariad remains 'comfort fantasy' to me (And a fine read on its own if you realize it DELIBERATELY tries to use every trope it can get its hands on), the Myth books made me laugh, and I much preferred Elf stones to Sword of Shanara.

 

 

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As for what takes me out of my fantasy immersion... I think it depends. I'm a big fan of working out with the players (or the GM on the rare occasion I'm not the GM) what sort of game we will be playing. So if we agree to Thundarr the Barbarian storms the walls of Mordor upon the back of a Pern dragon, then so be it. What would take me out would be,  I dunno, the sudden appearance of the Olympian gods in a steam powered zeppelin.

 

Sorry, I know that's not a specific example of what has ruined my immersion, simply what might.

 

I GM almost exclusively so those times I've been taken out of immersion have been player moments. By which I mean player idiocy.

 

Like a PC suddenly insulting the King in front of his court for no reason except "bored now, let's fight." Even more annoying when the player then says "I was just playing around. Jokes. I wasn't in character. I don't want to deal with the in-game implication of insulting the king. But I still want the king to be insulted." Grrrrr. Again not a specific example but this or something very much like this has happened so many times. So. Many. Times.

 

I get it. The players want to have fun and jokes while playing. Well, not on my watch, you don't!

 

Re. informal poll.

 

I started with a rather beautifully illustrated book of Grimm's fairy tales. Then King Arthur. My folks were big fans of Camelot. You know, the musical. I also recall a series of kids books (I'd guess aimed at 5-7 yrs old) with all sorts of colour coded characters - there was a Blue Pirate (the character's actual name, IIRC) and his boon companion, the Golden Griffin. But I'd say I really started getting into fantasy with the Greek and Norse myths when I was 10. Shortly thereafter Lord of the Rings, which I continue to love to this day despite it's flaws. Then I dove into that ocean of pretty mediocre fantasy that inundated the 80s - your Shannaras and Belgariads, etc. Ye gods, I even read about a dozen of the Forgotten Realms novels. Still love Moorcock's stuff, although I agree he did seem to disappear up his own arse somewhere along the line.

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5 hours ago, Chris Goodwin said:

Quick informal poll.  Who of us got started in fantasy reading Lord of the Rings?  If not,I


Mom reading us kids The Chronicles of Narnia at bedtime. Otherwise it was mostly SF I read at a young age. Didn’t start reading Fantasy until I started playing D&D in 1976. Never finished Lord of The Rings. 

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15 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

 

I'm delighted that Hero System has opened a world of possibilities for you. :D  But the superhero genre was incorporating elements of fantasy long before anime took notice, or before many people in the West noticed anime. Many decades ago, Marvel Comics' Black Knight, and DC Comics' Shining Knight and Etrigan the Demon, were linked to King Arthur; while Morgana LeFay is a villain for both companies. Captain Marvel/Shazam was empowered by a wizard. Marvel's Thor has met Conan during the Hyborian Age. Iron Man has been to Camelot. Hawkman and Hawkwoman were reincarnated Egyptian demigods. Dr. Strange has fought Dracula. Marvel's Bloodwraith was cursed by a soul-sucking ebony sword -- sound familiar? ;)

 

The kitchen-sink approach to super origins taken by the mainstream comics companies has allowed the genre to absorb elements from practically every other fictional genre: literary fantasy, sci-fi, horror, pulp, mythology and folklore, espionage, space-opera, film noir, martial-arts action. In that context, the evolution of Hero System from supers-focused to universal can be viewed as a natural consequence.

This isn't Quite the same as what I was talking about. I don't mean fantasy has borrowed from supers through the presence of fantasy crossovers in kitchen sink superhero canon. I'm talking about airtight fantasy worldbuilding taking on the meta-structure of superhero literature (mostly through anime). In standard fantasy, the magic available to characters is some subset of a collection of spells which represent all of the magic in the setting, and it is all done by mages. Fighters and cleric/paladin style characters represent the majority of the characters who do physical combat, with more lightweight characters having practical skills and knowledge like rangers and thieves. In anime fantasy, each character represents a powerful but narrow band of the supernatural nature of the setting, and all are physical fighters, such that vanilla fighters with no magic are seen as a unique type character all on their own (deathstroke/batman (in justice league)). To me, this is the best type of setting: Fantasy, but modeled as a supers setting. I'm not interested in crossovers, I like thing like Demon Slayer, where the worldbuilding is perfectly circular, simple, harmonious, and sound.

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5 hours ago, Chris Goodwin said:

Quick informal poll.  Who of us got started in fantasy reading Lord of the Rings?  If not, what was your introduction

My mom was using Morrowind to stop herself from murdering my infantile self. So first it was that, then WoW, then Oblivion. Around this age my dad used to improvise fantasy stories for us which we would directly impact with our input so he would know when we'd fallen asleep. This was my first exposure to fantasy storytelling proper. Then I watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is to this day hands down the best story I've heard told. Nothing in any media has come close.

 

The first fantasy I ever read was A Spell For Chameleon, and around that time I first saw Naruto (which I have not seen since, it peters out quick, but the setting is phenomenal), then it was all scifi and (lord have mercy) a lot of fantasy power metal for me during high school. Since then I've read Nine Princes in Amber, Kingkiller Chronicles, and the first three Dark Tower books. I recently was exposed to the first 2 anime that I've been able to take seriously: Demon Slayer and My Hero Academia. Demon Slayer is really perfect so far, unbelievably tight worldbuilding, all the concepts and imagery in perfect sync. 

 

That and RPG has been my entire experience with fantasy.

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59 minutes ago, Shoug said:

My mom was using Morrowind to stop herself from murdering my infantile self. So first it was that, then WoW, then Oblivion. Around this age my dad used to improvise fantasy stories for us which we would directly impact with our input so he would know when we'd fallen asleep. This was my first exposure to fantasy storytelling proper. Then I watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is to this day hands down the best story I've heard told. Nothing in any media has come close.

 

The first fantasy I ever read was A Spell For Chameleon, and around that time I first saw Naruto (which I have not seen since, it peters out quick, but the setting is phenomenal), then it was all scifi and (lord have mercy) a lot of fantasy power metal for me during high school. Since then I've read Nine Princes in Amber, Kingkiller Chronicles, and the first three Dark Tower books. I recently was exposed to the first 2 anime that I've been able to take seriously: Demon Slayer and My Hero Academia. Demon Slayer is really perfect so far, unbelievably tight worldbuilding, all the concepts and imagery in perfect sync. 

 

That and RPG has been my entire experience with fantasy.

 

👍  I'm once again out of rep for the day.  

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7 hours ago, Anaximander said:

I liked Arthurian legend and Greek mythology were my earliest connections with fantasy, ...

That reminds me:  I've also read a lot of Greek and Norse mythology, and a little Egyptian (and a tad of Babylonian/Mesopotamian/Sumerian, and Hawaiian).

 

And also there were a lot of fantasy (and sci-fi) short stories in Dragon magazine, back in the 80's - most were not specifically based on D&D-specific things.

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I was a heavy reader of mythology in my youth. I enjoyed Norse the most. Their gods weren't just a bunch of dilettantes, they were in an actual fight for survival.

 

When I started getting into D&D, the old Deities and Demigods AD&D book was my favorite. I know a lot of people criticize actually giving game stats to RPG gods, but that appealed to my compulsion to order everything in my life. :rolleyes: (Anyone else combine the little Babylonian and Sumerian pantheons into one more impressive array of gods?)

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I was born in the late 70s, so my introduction to fantasy was early 80s fantasy movies.  Conan the Barbarian, Krull, Clash of the Titans, Last Unicorn, etc.  I also saw older swords and sandals movies, like Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts.  Ray Harryhausen played a big part of my childhood.  Of course I can't leave out the classic Disney cartoons.  Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Sword in the Stone, Black Cauldron, etc.  And who can forget the occasional Looney Tunes set in a medieval period -- I still love Yosemite Sam riding on the back of that green dragon.

 

When I started reading fantasy novels, I started with Chronicles of Narnia when .I was about 10 years old.  That and some old books of myths and legends that must have been published in the 60s that my grandma had at her house.  I read Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit in junior high.  But I really haven't read much fantasy beyond that.  I picked up a collection of Jack Vance books a couple of years ago and I liked those, but that's about it.

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I totally forgot the Ray Harryhausen movies.  I also remember having a grade school teacher read the Chronicles of Narnia and Pilgrim's Progress during story time.  Obviously, this was before those with certain political and philosophical views started raising a ruckus about such readings.

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20 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

 

Oh, I just thought of one other:  Pile, by Brian W. Aldiss, a beautifully illustrated epic poem.

 

Wow, someone else who's read Pile! <Offers the secret handshake of the initiated>

 

Dean Shomshak

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Re: Informal poll.

 

Lkikewise, it depends where you set the boundaries of Fantasy. If you leave out Dr. Seuss, I read the Oz books, Dr. Doolittle, and a fair bit of Edward Eager while still in grade school and unaware of categories such as "Fantasy." Assorted fairy tales, a kid-suitable adaptation of tales from the Arabian Nights, Greek mythology. An LP of The Sorcerer's Apprentice -- one side just Dukas' music, the other side with narration. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings came in junior high. In high school I ripped through Leiber, Moorcock, Norton, and a lot more. The Gormenghast Trilogy.

 

Not so much Fantasy in the last 20 years as so much seems, hm, very much of a muchness.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Re: Elves and half-breed "races":

 

I don't think it's intrinsically a bad idea for That Fantasy RPG to provide many varieties of elves, if they are presented as options to help you customize your world. After all, elves have been presented many different ways in Fantasy fiction, as they have been in folklore. Do you want your elves to be elusive forest-folk? Haughty lords of magic? Sinister twilight folk? Here's a variety of elf. But trying to fit all of them in one setting risks feeling cluttered. D&D 5th ed. does a good thing in calling out some PC races as options not every DM might want, but it could do better at stressing that all the variations form a toolkit from which DMs pick what they want.

 

As for halfbreeds, I too saw this as a can of worms I didn't want to open. If half-elves and half-orcs, why not half-dwarves? Half-halflings? Could somebody be half elf, half dwarf? So I let my players know there are no half--anythings. The Five Peoples (humans, dwarves, elves, halflings, orcs) are all interfertile to some degree (though offspring might be sterile mules), but in game terms they use one template or the other.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Hero's The Turakian Age took an interesting tack on one "half" race. In that setting Gnomes began as the offspring of Dwarf and Halfling, blending qualities of both, and can still be produced that way; but they also proved able to breed true, and in time resulted in widespread self-perpetuating populations of Gnomes.

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