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Old 10-04-2018, 12:43 PM   #1
TippetsTX
 
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Default TFT Setting Influences

Thinking back, I recall that the different fantasy RPGs we were playing back in the 80s were usually influenced by the fantasy books that me or my friends were reading at the time. As a result, how I pictured our in-game settings, regardless of what the actual setting details were, was often colored by those other settings.

When I was introduced to TFT, I was reading stuff like Thieves World and Black Company, but the biggest influence on me at the time was Jhereg and the other Vlad Taltos books written by Steven Brust. Obviously, there are many differences between Cidri and the characters, races and setting of Brust's books, but even so the two have remained connected in my mind ever since.

What kind of world setting does everyone else picture when they play TFT? What sources were the primary influences in your games?
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Old 10-04-2018, 01:05 PM   #2
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Default Re: TFT Setting Influences

Naturally there are the expected influences of Tolkien et al, but apart from those the fantasy novels that most reminded me of Cidri are Roger Zelazny's Amber books. There are certain parallels between the Amberites and the Mnoren, though by no means identicality.

I like to draw inspiration from pastoral fantasy novels, such as the Zimiamvia books by E. R. Eddison and the fantasy writings of Jack Vance. I also draw on classic fantasy/supernatural fiction by H. P. Lovecraft, William Hope Hodgson, and various Gothic period authors.

One series of books that was an interesting influence on a campaign were the Well of Souls books by Jack L Chalker. While these are science fiction, they are a lot of fantasy elements and races in them. And the world is laid out as a series of huge hexes. ^_^

One other series that mixes fantasy and science fiction, and which makes a different kind of campaign setting, are the Gaea novels by John Varley.

It's also fun teasing out where elements of the original In The Labyrinth seemed influence by books. I believe the Goo is inspired by a similar creature in the Magic Goes Away series by Larry Niven (though giant amoebae exist elsewhere in fiction too, including Star Trek), and the Slinker seems inspired by the creature of the same name from Mad Moon by Stanley G. Weinbaum.
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Old 10-04-2018, 01:19 PM   #3
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Default Re: TFT Setting Influences

There's something about Cidri - probably the nature of artifacts, mix of cultures and the fact that of the limited monsters found within ITL some are specifically prehistoric mammals - that reminds be of the Book of the New Sun series by Gene Wolf. The square-off, mercury filled executioner's sword certainly made it into my games.

Also, the sheer size of the world makes me wonder if it's not a Dyson sphere or something like Larry Niven's Ringworld.

Last edited by Oneiros; 10-04-2018 at 03:48 PM.
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Old 10-04-2018, 01:56 PM   #4
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Default Re: TFT Setting Influences

Well, most of all our relevant references had some impact, some more than others.

Thinking about it for a while, I can think of some specific influences for some of the places and things in my TFT campaigns (Tolkien, Excalibur, history, and the wargames I incorporated to do major battles had some direct input and references), those were the minority rather than the norm in most of my TFT campaign world.

For the general flavor and style of the setting, apart from the main direct influence from ITL itself (and the TFT adventures), I think there was a lot of vague general input from sword & sorcery films from the 1950's through 1980's, and various things from studying history in and out of school. In fact, as soon as I started GM'ing TFT in 5th grade, suddenly I went from a semi-apathetic student to a much more interested one, as many subjects were applicable to world generation and GM-ing!

I think the Asterix books may have had a mostly-subconscious yet major influence, because Cidri is sort of a mix of ancient/medieval and modern in some more and/or less subtle ways, and Asterix does a lot of clever modern riffing and imaginative world development that shows a mostly ancient world but with many modern and anachronistic references and ideas (and humor).

I think the modernism, whatever its source, particularly shows up in the commoditization of things, especially magic, and the frequency of wandering adventurers and villains who are not particularly related to the aristocracy / military.
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Old 10-04-2018, 03:23 PM   #5
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Default Re: TFT Setting Influences

I would expect that "Appendix N" is a good starting-place.
Was there any published article interview of Steve Jackson stating his influences?
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Old 10-04-2018, 03:33 PM   #6
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Default Re: TFT Setting Influences

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skarg View Post
I think the modernism, whatever its source, particularly shows up in the commoditization of things, especially magic...
Funny you should mention this aspect. As I started re-reading Jhereg this week, that was one of the specific elements that jumped out at me; reminding me of the link between those books and TFT... the 'practical' nature of magic in Vlad's world and especially it's use in the economy.

Last edited by TippetsTX; 10-04-2018 at 03:57 PM.
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Old 10-04-2018, 10:00 PM   #7
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Default Re: TFT Setting Influences

I'm feeling a lot of Disk World in Cidri's DNA. Nothing about the meta-story of the world or how it was made, which is all 'front brain', but rather a feel created by the combination of familiar fantasy tropes and weirdness, the humanization of the non-human, the goofy silliness. Hard to put my finger on it, but this is the connection I feel.

The only trouble with my theory is that Cidri predates Disk World's published debut by a couple of years. I conclude that SJ and Terry Pratchett have some dark Cthonic connection and/or love child that they aren't telling us about.
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Old 10-05-2018, 08:09 PM   #8
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Default Re: TFT Setting Influences

Personally,we always liked the Wilderlands maps and ideas from Judges Guild, and while novels helped us conceptualize our descriptions (and added a few cool monsters/creatures -- the Stenrect Stinger, anyone?), they didn't cause us to create a campaign world to play in (I think probably because we all read mostly the same books, and would have found it far too easy to navigate in such a campaign world; already knowing the major "plot points," as it were).

I'd love to see Rob Conley do a TFT adaptation of his Majestic Wilderlands products!

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Old 10-06-2018, 11:20 AM   #9
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Default Re: TFT Setting Influences

I never felt like TFT was good for simulating much of anything. The magic, particularly, doesn't resemble any fiction I'm familiar with. Vance's fantasy stories don't really have the gritty combat I'd expect - the closest thing he's ever done would probably actually be The Demon Princes, where fights could get rather detailed.

[An interesting note: Vance was in his earlier career a sports writer. You can see that experience in his detailed description of a rather brutal sport in The Demon Princes. I can't recall the name of the sport, but it's played on a field of concentric rings, and involves trying to hurl your opponents out through them, while staying inside the rings yourself. You'll remember it if you've read them. I actually think The Demon Princes is his best work, although I love the Dying Earth as much as anyone.]

In any event, I always pictured Cidri as a little bit swords-and-sandals, with a slightly lower average material tech level than "standard" D&D, but a slightly higher social tech level. That is, clockwork and so forth might be rarer, but banking, mass production, and government structures might be a bit more advanced.

You can do some interesting things with a society if you're willing to mix in sharply different grades of technology.

What if you build a society with:
1. Just outright crappy metallurgy, mechanical engineering, and armaments. They can make great pottery but most people don't even have a metal belt buckle.
2. Really good, Roman or Egyptian levels of concrete, architecture/civil engineering and urban planning.
3. Genetically engineered crops and animals from higher tech-level civilizations such that farming is very productive, even without metal plows or the like.
4. Sophisticated modern levels of law and finance.
5. Basic public education with further scholarship available to the gifted or especially hard-working.
6. Magic.

Now you've got a civilization with running water, productive farms, giant cool step pyramids and ziggurats, an educated populace, good rule of law and a sophisticated economic system, but they're in real trouble against a mongol horde with metal stirrups, steel armor, and recurve horse-bows.
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Old 10-06-2018, 01:04 PM   #10
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Default Re: TFT Setting Influences

Hmm, I feel like TFT has always been great at simulating lots of settings. In many ways it is a more natural fit with familiar fictional fantasy settings than is D+D.

The one thing it is super bad at is cinematic play, where PCs can do all sorts of wild things without substantial risk. I just finished a session where a group of players went on a sort of commando raid into a temple. Within minutes one of them had broken his sword, another had been shot in the chest and was nearly dead, the place was alerted, and they had to light a huge fire and flee. Not exactly the heroic triumph you'd expect in a game of D+D. But
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