Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Done with high fantasy

I'm done with high fantasy.

I've never been much of a reader of high fantasy. All the big guys, Tolkein, Eddings, kind of put me to sleep. I read stuff that has elements of modernity in it... largely because I feel I can relate to the ethical choices better. But I like myth and magic, which I look at as recombinant whimsy, taking pieces of biology and physics and fantasy and smooshing them all together into something cool. So, I'm always reading fantasy of some kind.

On the other hand, I've always run and played high fantasy games, via Dugeons and Dragons. Oh, yeah, I dabbled in Vampire and Superhero games. I ran some Gamma World and played some Boot Hill. But they were always hard for me to get ahold of for some reason. Went back to DND. A couple of years ago, though, I picked up DND 4e and tried to run a couple of sessions, and it just left me cold. So I left the running to the very capable hands of one of the players at my table. And I played. Just, done with it.

There's a lot of other things mixed in to that "event". DND 3.0 was a very high maintenance game. Between career and trying to write and family andandandandand, it's just become hard to sit down for the blocks of time I need to make a story out some numbers and strategy. The story is never a problem. That practically comes vomiting out of my head in a fuge state... but the numbers and strategies to make it feel a little real, make the other players at the table feel like there was a little resistance in the world, that was harder.

Sometimes, I think part of my disconnect with high fantasy novels is how narrowly they view the genre. It's all dwarves and orcs and Mary Sue humans with no compunction about killing at all. Then again, add some guns and cool pets to that recipie, as per WOW, and I'm all over it. How shallow am I?

But games, man... it didn't matter how limited the sourcebooks were, there was another one around the corner. And a good GM was willing to let you make that sorcerer chick in a chainmail bikini YOURs. "Yeah, my wizard rides around in a giant metal dragon...'cause I'm that kind of badass." You could add a colorful skin to the goofy mechanics. My first DND character ever was a centaur wizard, badassery incarnate.

And it's not that I don't like the 4.0 game, it's just that I feel alienated from it. Part of the disconnect there is training. Monster stats don't look like a stat block to me. I've never really read game books. The prose is atrocious, and I'd rather play in my own mental gardens anyway. But now, I scan the rulebooks and don't really see the tools that I habitually looked at all my life. The exciting parts of the game. The bits of rules that made the fantastic graspable for me.

4.0 just doesn't feel skinnable.

I like the whimsy of fantasy. The speculative ecosystems and cultures. But I like to tell stories that are personal and consequential. Unepic fantasy. Fairy tales about personal choice.

I'd like to say I'm not done with gaming. Certainly not playing, but not running, either. But I only have so much more apetite for DND. I'd like to pursue the 4.0 Gamma World. I'm thinking of reskinning GW as a Singularity Apocalypse game, with nanotechnology mutations and shit. I've even thought about picking up...gasp... World of Darkness.

But probably not high fantasy again, unless Pathfinder really impresses me at Gen Con. Even then, I might rather wait for Pathfinder Modern.

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