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PhilFleischmann

Fantasy Immersion and the Things that Ruin it.

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5 hours ago, Gauntlet said:

I sucked majorly, but that's what the GM wanted to run and at the time there were no other GMs. But even that didn't stop most of us from quitting his game and deciding it was better not to play at all then play in his games.

Fine.  It wasn't obvious from your post.  I could see it being fun if that was the kind of game the players wanted.  And even if it wasn't what they wanted, I could still see it being fun for a session or two.  It can "suck majorly" for a few reasons:

 

* Repetition.

* No role-playing, no character development

* Humiliation - you are slaves for the gladiator arena, and you'll never be anything else.

* No world to explore

 

And probably others.  But depending on the GM and the players, it may be that not all of these are problems.  Some players (not me) might enjoy the tectical puzzle of "how do we defeat this particular enemy with this particular power set?  (presumably different from the last enemy's power set)"  And they might not care about role-playing or world-exploring.

 

The kind of game Shoug mentioned above could be quite good, even though it starts with the same premise:  You're gladiatorial slaves, but eventually (and presumably fairly soon), you're going to escape and be free, and explore the world or do whatever you want.

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4 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

As for poop. One way to use it interestingly would be if you’re out in the forest tracking an animal. That is a legit way to know if an animal is in an area. 

This is now a poop thread: A thread for and about poop. 

Another use for poop could be as an alchemical reagent. Dragon dung is a terrific source of sulfur for gunpowder, but the smell is so bad that only Dwarves are capable of collecting the substance.

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17 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

As for poop. One way to use it interestingly would be if you’re out in the forest tracking an animal. That is a legit way to know if an animal is in an area. 

 

Wow, can you imagine the modifiers to the Tracking Skill? +3 to your roll if the creature is "extra poopy" . . . . Build an entire modifiers table of gastrointestinal circumstances!

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17 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

As for poop. One way to use it interestingly

 

You are one-hungred percent correct; tracking scat is fundamental to both hunting and avoidance. 

 

But have you ever been sitting quietly by yourself, and you come to a certain comforting realization?  Something like "I know English is a complicated language, but I feel much beeter knowing that there are certain words that I am never going to here combined into certain orders...?" 

 

Yeah.....  I used to have those thoughts, too..... 

 

 

:rofl:

 

 

 

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EDIT FOR DOUBLE-POST ANNOYANCE: OTOH when I map out a castle or whatever, I include "necessities" such as garderobes and wells/water cisterns. In play, I try to slip in mentions of ordinary life such as the pushcart vendor on the street or the two guys in the tavern arguing about which chariot-racing team is ahead. It's not that I think my players' immersion will be interrupted if I leave these out, but I think it will be improved by little mentions of the everyday, to remind them that this world and its people "exist" even when their characters aren't around.

 

Dean Shomshak

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37 minutes ago, DShomshak said:

It's not that I think my players' immersion will be interrupted if I leave these out, but I think it will be improved by little mentions of the everyday, to remind them that this world and its people "exist" even when their characters aren't around.

 

Quoted for truth.  This more than anything helps me with immersion.  

 

When I read mythic fantasy or epic fantasy or high fantasy, I can enjoy the story, but I can't immerse myself in it.  I can't identify with any of the characters.  They're not made for me to identify with. 

 

The world and the people in it have to look real to me.  It has to seem like a place where people could live.  

 

That, and there's only so many times I can reread the Hero's Journey, even if the names and faces are different.  Humble farmboy with great destiny goes on a quest to save a princess from the evil Darklord?  I saw Star Wars.  Star Wars was a great story (while being a terrible film) but seeing it rehashed for the hundredth time...  Or when it's a Mad Libs story.  (adjective) (type of person) with great destiny goes on a quest to save a (noun) from the (adjective) (noun).  

 

Tell me there's a walled city, ho-hum.  Seen it a million times.  If you tell me there's a city ordinance that no permanent construction is allowed within fifteen feet of the wall on either side, in order that the city guard and the city watch may have free movement in case of invasion or disaster, and that's where beggars and almsmen live because they can live in tents, that is what will grab me.  

 

One of my absolutely most favorite fantasy series is Glen Cook's Garrett, PI series.  It's a world with the full complement of fantasy races; the main character, Garrett, is a military veteran, of this world's equivalent to the Vietnam War; long, destructive, and traumatic.  After his enlistment is over, he becomes a private investigator.  Part of why I love it is that there are details galore!  For instance, swords above a certain length, bows, and crossbows are considered military weapons, and possession of them is severely frowned upon in the city of TunFaire, the setting of the stories.  That doesn't mean, for instance, that Garrett doesn't still have his old military issue crossbow stored under his bed just in case of emergency, but it does tell me a lot about the city.  It's not a story about killing monsters.  It is a series of quests; a private investigator essentially exists as someone who is hired to save a (noun) from an (adjective) (noun).  But it's different!  Plus, I'm also a military veteran, and I find it a lot easier to identify with someone who has been in a military with a formal military structure, rather than having those details assumed or glossed over.  

 

Here's a thing I want to use in a fantasy game.  There are walled cities, sure.  Everyone who enters a walled city are asked their profession and their reason for being in the city, and are charged an entry fee (residents can show a city-issued tag and skip most of this).  Wizards are asked if they know any of the spells from a particular list (including suppress fire, cure disease, purify water, light, night vision), and those who do are offered a small discount on their entry fee, and a greater discount in exchange for volunteering for four-hour shifts with the city.  The local guild is willing to teach these spells to any wizard who wants to learn them, in exchange for a small fee or for taking a volunteer shift.  The reason for this is that the city leaders have a vested interest in having people around who can put out fires, stop disease outbreaks, prevent crime, and so on, and they've asked the wizards' guild to be part of that.  I'm not necessarily looking to game out characters taking a shift lighting night-lamps or purifying the wells, for instance, but those are the kinds of details I want to see more of.  

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Names like this (taken from Turakian Age, though not a critique of that setting by any means):

 

Shularahaleen

Thugoradanirion, god of strength

Sikirarthasanaila, goddess of stealth and guile

Whandurashaneshir, god of dark magic

 

UGH!!!!! Why are fantasy names virtually unpronounceable, and so polysyllabic that I have to stop and sound them out phonetically before I can continue on?! Is this inherited from Tolkein? Is it supposed to be proof of the sophistication of a culture? Hey, it takes us five minutes to say hello! It takes even longer to read an account of it in a fantasy novel! It rips me out of immersion instantly

 

This reminds me of the story my Mom used to tell me about the King's son named Stickystickystombonosirombohoddyboddyboscoickenonnuenoncomberombetombo. Not surprisingly, when he was in danger and everyone had to relay the message that he was drowning, they couldn't get to him in time to save him because his name was absurdly long. The King's next son was named Zip.

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3 minutes ago, Brian Stanfield said:

Names like this (taken from Turakian Age, though not a critique of that setting by any means):

 

Shularahaleen

Thugoradanirion, god of strength

Sikirarthasanaila, goddess of stealth and guile

Whandurashaneshir, god of dark magic

YES!!!!  OMG!  One of the most annoying things you see in *some* fantasy sources - and almost always RPGs, rather than novels or movies.  (My Rep Wand is out of charges for the day.)

 

Yes, I know elves have very long lifespans so they have plenty of time to learn and say each other's names, rather than getting anything useful done.  Maybe elves have an inclination to procrastination even more than humans.  They say each others' full names when they're avoiding doing work.  But it still doesn't make much sense, since they still have to interact with the real world in real time.  An animal you're hunting won't run slower to accommodate your slower action.  The sun is going to set at the same time, regardless of how much work you got done today.  etc.

 

Two things:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYMRjnM6j6w

 

Are you familiar with the "Bulwer-Lytton" contest?  "It was a dark and stormy night."  If not, go look it up now, I'll wait.

Back?  Good.  On another website, they held their own version of the Bulwer-Lytton contest, but specifically for fantasy and similar genres.  This is my entry, which won the contest:

 

The night was as black as the scales on a rock dragon of the mountains of Thrûng’gahhrnix, but not one of the albino ones, born with an eerie lack of pigment and bizarre psionic powers, but one of the regular black ones, from the mountains, not the ones from further west, near the shores of the Zwěill’k’bołian Sea, which is still part of the kingdom of Thrûng’gahhrnix, but not the mountainous part, because the rock dragons there tend to be more of a dark gray, rather than true black; and of course, not one of the red ones either, because those come all the way from the haunted steppes of Bŗœđ’ĵæȥ-Ƙųźŵűƀ, five hundred leagues away, which look very different, even though the venerated sage, Gølåȶ of the Free City of Sęôţ’ǧäħ, says that they’re really the same species.

 

20 minutes ago, Brian Stanfield said:

Is this inherited from Tolkein?

No, it's not from Tolkien.  Tolkien's names were excellent.  Even the longer ones were pretty easy to pronounce.  Although it's possible that this practice was started by someone who was trying to imitate Tolkien without really understanding Tolkien's methods.

 

I'm not saying you need to invent six languages to come up with good fantasy names, like Tolkien did.  But it wouldn't hurt to put a little thought into what the names mean in their own languages,  After all, names mean something.  Names are not just made out of random letters and phonemes - they start out as words, with meanings.

 

I remember seeing a shallow attempt at this recently, but I don't remember where.  It might have actually been in The Turakian Age (or maybe The Valdorian Age).  A character with a name something like "Lifo-Mok", and the text explained that his name means "brave explorer of the northern sea and slayer of mighty serpents" or something like that.  Really?  So how do you say "brave explorer of the western sea and tamer of mighty serpents" in the same language?

 

Ans speaking of The Turakian Age, does anyone pronounce "Thûn" any differently from "Thoon" or "Thune"?  Diacritical marks are added to make your fantasy setting look more like an 80's heavy metal band.

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7 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

Names like this (taken from Turakian Age, though not a critique of that setting by any means):

 

 

 

I really, really want to rep that, but I'm out, and I still owe KA five more.  :(

 

 

Edited by Duke Bushido
Got ya, Brian! Finally!

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3 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

The night was as black as the scales on a rock dragon of the mountains of Thrûng’gahhrnix, but not one of the albino ones, born with an eerie lack of pigment and bizarre psionic powers, but one of the regular black ones, from the mountains, not the ones from further west, near the shores of the Zwěill’k’bołian Sea, which is still part of the kingdom of Thrûng’gahhrnix, but not the mountainous part, because the rock dragons there tend to be more of a dark gray, rather than true black; and of course, not one of the red ones either, because those come all the way from the haunted steppes of Bŗœđ’ĵæȥ-Ƙųźŵűƀ, five hundred leagues away, which look very different, even though the venerated sage, Gølåȶ of the Free City of Sęôţ’ǧäħ, says that they’re really the same species.

 

Holy Cow! I love that contest, and this one sounds fun as well. I also love that Monty Python sketch! This whole post deserves about 5 likes, but I've used up my quota for the day, dangit!

 

I think you captured my meaning with the Tolkein comment: he created entire languages and created names from them. Everyone else just invented crazy sounding names. Maybe it's Led Zeppelin's fault with their random Tolkein references in their songs, inspiring horrible heavy metal bands, like Spinal Tap! Ok, satire, I know, but a little too close to home.

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6 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

Names like this (taken from Turakian Age, though not a critique of that setting by any means):

 

Shularahaleen

Thugoradanirion, god of strength

Sikirarthasanaila, goddess of stealth and guile

Whandurashaneshir, god of dark magic

 

I take your point, but there are plenty of Real World(tm) names that are wildly polysyllabic and drawing on non-European roots.

 

For example, look up the current Sri Lankan national women's cricket team. Some of their players have European derived or influenced names, but most have names like "Shashikala Siriwardene". Admittedly, easier to pronounce than "Whandurashaneshir".

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I once asked a Hindu man with a long polysyllabic name if people from his country ever had difficulty remembering each other's names when they became that complex. He told me that, since such names were actually compounds of names from history or religion that everyone from the same culture recognized, nobody had trouble following them.

 

BTW to be fair, Tolkien himself did the same thing as what we're complaining about here with Entish, the language of his tree-people, made up of long strung-together words, a reflection of their tremendous age. We just weren't inflicted with much of it in LOTR. ;)

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9 hours ago, DShomshak said:

In 40+ years of gaming, not once has my suspension of disbelief been spoiled because I thought, "There's not enough attention to poop."

 

Just sayin'.

 

Dean Shomshak

 

 

For what it's worth, I've used it as a tip-off to having suffered a non-fatal poisoning: had the character's not opted to share each other's food into one big smorgasbord, one of them would have...  well, HERO has no saving throws. ;)

 

 

 

33 minutes ago, assault said:

I take your point, but there are plenty of Real World(tm) names that are wildly polysyllabic and drawing on non-European roots.

 

 

First: you are absolutely correct.  But by the same token, I have no issue with them grinding their own gears over overly-syllabic European words.  My own solution, like since I was able to read, is that when I encounter something like that, I immediately rename it and move on.   :lol:  Turns out that it takes nothing away from the enjoyment of the character or place if I change it from Mrdlingjrsislstartzch to "Hank's Place"   Or Shupbenfridlotzk to "Shu-town."

 

 

 

 

10 minutes ago, Lord Liaden said:

I once asked a Hindu man with a long polysyllabic name if people from his country ever had difficulty remembering each other's names when they became that complex. He told me that, since such names were actually compounds of names from history or religion that everyone from the same culture recognized, nobody had trouble following them.

 

 

That's just neat information!  Thanks!

 

 

10 minutes ago, Lord Liaden said:

the language of his tree-people, made up of long strung-together words, 

 

 

The Ents spoke German?!

 

 

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I think the best way to name a character is with some combination of a 1 syllable word and a 2 syllable word. This makes things sound very "Star Wars" in the best possible way. Some recent names I've used,

Jorai Grix

Yit Efek

Ural Thahn

Ysban Lod

I find these easy to pronounce, memorable, and fun to say.

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16 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

First: you are absolutely correct.  But by the same token, I have no issue with them grinding their own gears over overly-syllabic European words.  My own solution, like since I was able to read, is that when I encounter something like that, I immediately rename it and move on.   :lol:  Turns out that it takes nothing away from the enjoyment of the character or place if I change it from Mrdlingjrsislstartzch to "Hank's Place"   Or Shupbenfridlotzk to "Shu-town."

In my experience, this is what players often do when presented with a person or place name that's too long or too hard to pronounce.  And readers of fiction do this too, in their minds when reading.  There's a character named "Frolistheckdilowpiriasnemquod", and because you just want to continue reading the book and get on with the story - and not ruin your immersion - you just move on.  You vaguely remember the sequence of letters for when the character makes his next appearance, but in your mind, he's just "F-man" or "Fred".  And even within the work of fiction itself, other characters may call him by shorter, easier names, like "Froli".

 

Long names are no problem at all, as long as you understand the language they're in.  This is why I often like to use real words or phrases for names - because that is indeed where real names come from.  I have characters in various games named Cobweb, Winecork, Sun and Mars, Moonstaff, et al.  And I have place names in my fantasy world called Bear Head Keep, Pepperrose, Middlemarch, Lion's Port, Madman's Watch, et al.

 

Ask your doctor if Whandurashaneshir is right for you.

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On 2/26/2020 at 1:20 PM, Brian Stanfield said:

Shularahaleen

Thugoradanirion, god of strength

Sikirarthasanaila, goddess of stealth and guile

Whandurashaneshir, god of dark magic

 

UGH!!!!! Why are fantasy names virtually unpronounceable, and so polysyllabic that I have to stop and sound them out phonetically before I can continue on?! Is this inherited from Tolkein? Is it supposed to be proof of the sophistication of a culture? Hey, it takes us five minutes to say hello! It takes even longer to read an account of it in a fantasy novel! It rips me out of immersion instantly

 

I also find that names like this drive player ability to remember names down to ZERO.  They can play for weeks and not be able to name a single location, deity or NPC when the names are like that.

 

Recently I listened to the Empire of the Summer Moon audio book and the Comanche names were impossible for me to remember.  The rough English translations were real eye-poppers and unforgettable.

 

 

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On 2/22/2020 at 1:49 AM, Lord Liaden said:

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?)

 

Yes. 🙂

 

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Back onto poo.

 

One of my current games, the one with my ersatz Ancient Egypt and Akkad, is called the Shitting Curse. For reasons... 

On two occasions the players have attempted to weaponize bags of flaming poo. It didn't work. (no, this isn't why it's called the Shitting Curse.)

 

And then back onto fantasy names.

 

Just last night I was working on a system to come up with fairly consistent sounding names for gnolls. (Gnames for gnolls?)  It's for the above mentioned campaign, the players are about to wander across ersatz African savannah and gnolls happen to be the main inhabitants.

 

I went into it with a definite idea - I wanted the names to sound like a mix of laughter and growling. I already had one name - Heeyahee. It occurred to me to write out a list of sounds that I wanted to work with. I jotted down: Hee, Hai, Ha, Har, Her; Yee, Yai, Ya, Yar, Yer; Gee, Gai, Ga, Gar, Ger; etc. When I had 10 of those little lists I started putting the syllables together. Overall it's turned out alright, I have a decent list of potential names for NPCs. But a few of them turned out... poorly. For instance Garyee. It's Gary. We all know it'll be Gary the instant the players hear it. Gary the Gnoll. Then there's Yeehar. Yeehar has to wear a cowboy hat.

 

Will my players remember any of the names? God no. Except for Gary and Yeehar, of course. Do I intend to have fun at the players' expense by having the NPCs be offended when the foreigners mangle their names? Yes. Yes I do. 

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On 2/18/2020 at 4:08 AM, PhilFleischmann said:

Oh, here's another one for me that has nothing to do with anachronism:

 

Bad names.  If your name is Jim Ward, don't name your wizard character "Drawmij".  If your name is Tom Keogh, don't name your character "Keoghtom".  Don't name the god of insanity "Ssendam".  Don't name your halfling character "Dorfongolf".   You don't have to invent seven languages like Tolkien did, just to name the people and places in your setting, but you should put a little effort into coming up with names that sound reasonable.  There are plenty of fantasy name generators online, and even the worst of these is better than just spelling something backwards.

 

Oh This...so much this. If players come to my table with stupid character names, I veto them. If they persist, I just have all the NPCs refer to them as a fantisized version of the name until it sticks. I had one player name his character Kevin. So everyone referred to him as Kev-An until all the other players were doing it as well. 

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4 hours ago, Tywyll said:

 

Oh This...so much this. If players come to my table with stupid character names, I veto them. If they persist, I just have all the NPCs refer to them as a fantisized version of the name until it sticks. I had one player name his character Kevin. So everyone referred to him as Kev-An until all the other players were doing it as well. 

 

well...https://www.behindthename.com/name/kevin

 

Of course, the issue of "real world names" is an issue parallel to "just stupid names" if the game is not intended to have "real world" links.  What would you think of Edward or William?

 

I find consistency the big challenge.  Conan, Hercules, Fafhrd, Elric...Solomon Kane and Harry Potter?  Why do some have two names?  Why do some have real-world names, and others don't? 

 

Similarly, in a world of Harry, Ron, Molly, Tom and Ginny (each with surnames), Hermione Granger is a bit jarring and what kind of name is "Voldemort"?

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