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Old 09-16-2018, 08:29 AM   #1
SilvercatMoonpaw
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Default [Creative] Trying to build a fantasy setting.

I really want to build a fantasy setting for GURPS, though my tastes tend to run more fantastic/less realistic than the impression I get around here. I still think the fact that GURPS is good for lower power levels is better for what I want to do with this, though.

Ideas I've had so far:
* The setting is a combo of Very High Magic, Lower Power and High Magic, Medium Power (terminology borrowed from Uncle Figgy's Guide to Good Fantasy). It should be noted that I don't like the view of magic that thinks of it as a separate force layered on top of strict-physics reality, so if there is some kind of mana zone system it will likely be of some kind of aspected variety ("no mana zone only for fires spells", that kind of thing).
* The land is inhabited in a fashion I call "Points of Stuff": people generally cluster at certain points on the map, and outside that the landscape is "untouched" or inhabited in a "magical living in harmony with nature" fashion. Note, however, that this doesn't assume that the wilderness is by default dangerous and filled with vicious beasts waiting to pounce (as is usually popular in the "remote settlements" style).
* There is definitely at least one Lost Civilization to provide ruins. However it's wasn't a Flawless Golden Age: it probably had some kind of "-punk industrial/war machine" going on that makes pining for it the province of the deluded and Bad Guys. The current inhabitants don't necessarily think that the techno-magic or whatever the Ancient had is Evil, just something to use carefully and in a non-overbearing way.
* Humans are either rare or non-existent and don't have any special advantages. There are just too many games that provide some self-aggrandizing reason for humans to be common and on-top that I have to be contrarian about it. Plus I have an easier time imagining my fantasy peoples if they have clear differences from humans. (That's not to say I go in for non-human psychology: it's just not something that I enjoy.)


One thing I don't know about including but I think might be fun would be if there was some kind of God/Spirit Conflict between competing magical-physics systems, like a cold war between the forces of the Classic Four Elements vs elemental beings who divide along environmental lines instead.
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Old 09-16-2018, 05:59 PM   #2
Anaraxes
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Default Re: [Creative] Trying to build a fantasy setting.

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Originally Posted by SilvercatMoonpaw View Post
There are just too many games that provide some self-aggrandizing reason for humans to be common
I'd say the usual reasons aren't self-aggrandizing, but instead simply trying to come up with some justification for humans to be common when it's obvious from the game stats that all the non-humans are simply better than humans. In those too-many games, the non-humans are stronger, smarter, more dexterous, tougher, more magical, can see in the dark, longer-lived, etc. -- sometimes several of those at once. It's hard to explain how humans manage to overcome their intrinsic inferiority. Sheer numbers (usually from more rapid breeding) is a common such justification.

If you don't want a lot of humans around, much less important empires of them, then your job just got easier. You can just rely on humans' natural inferiority, and stick a few in the ghettos of the elven and dwarven and orcish empires.
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Old 09-16-2018, 06:51 PM   #3
SilvercatMoonpaw
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Default Re: [Creative] Trying to build a fantasy setting.

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Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
I'd say the usual reasons aren't self-aggrandizing, but instead simply trying to come up with some justification for humans to be common when it's obvious from the game stats that all the non-humans are simply better than humans.
It still seriously bothers me: it's a slippery slope to unfortunately implications I'd rather never be on.
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Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
If you don't want a lot of humans around, much less important empires of them, then your job just got easier. You can just rely on humans' natural inferiority, and stick a few in the ghettos of the elven and dwarven and orcish empires.
That reasoning still feels uncomfortable.

I much prefer the idea that the "human" level/niche is simply taken up by a wider variety of races/species that aren't OP but still have some distinctions.

Last edited by SilvercatMoonpaw; 09-16-2018 at 06:55 PM.
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Old 09-16-2018, 06:58 PM   #4
AlexanderHowl
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: [Creative] Trying to build a fantasy setting.

One fantasy reason for humans could be a useful universal capability. It could be that all humans possess probability manipulation abilities that balances out when they are going up against other humans but gives them an edge against nonhumans. For example, if every human possesses Ridiculous Luck [60], it would go a long way towards explaining why humans are a factor in a fantasy world.
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Old 09-16-2018, 07:06 PM   #5
SilvercatMoonpaw
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Default Re: [Creative] Trying to build a fantasy setting.

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
For example, if every human possesses Ridiculous Luck [60], it would go a long way towards explaining why humans are a factor in a fantasy world.
I could live with this: it's outside anything that could be ascribed to Real humans.

Last edited by SilvercatMoonpaw; 09-16-2018 at 07:13 PM.
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Old 09-16-2018, 07:23 PM   #6
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: [Creative] Trying to build a fantasy setting.

In my current fantasy campaign, there are seven humanoid races, one of which is called "men." But they aren't quite the same as Homo sapiens sapiens. Rather, they're Tolkien's "man the mortal, master of horses," foot or horse nomads native to plains environments. They're more sexually dimorphic than we are, and their species average mating pattern is modestly polygynous.

Now, I think that one reason for putting "humans" or "men" into a world is for the convenience of players who want to play a character without thinking a lot about racial peculiarities, just as it's convenient to have a culture that's "people like us" to your players. But I borrowed another trick from Tolkien for this; my "modern people in a fantasy world" race is nixies, river and swamp dwellers who invented agriculture, cities, writing, trade, and beer. They're smaller than we are and less sexually dimorphic, and have some amphibious traits. And in the campaign currently, the player characters are two nixies and one each from three other races, none of them men.

This is one way of addressing this concern, though it might not suit your needs: Split the "familiar race" role into a race that's physically similar to humans (but culturally a bit exotic) and one that's culturally accessible but physically different (like hobbits).
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Old 09-16-2018, 09:40 PM   #7
Stormcrow
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Ronkonkoma, NY
Default Re: [Creative] Trying to build a fantasy setting.

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Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
I'd say the usual reasons aren't self-aggrandizing, but instead simply trying to come up with some justification for humans to be common when it's obvious from the game stats that all the non-humans are simply better than humans.
I think it's the other way round. Fantasy races are usually defined by human stereotype. Elves are artistic, dexterous, nature-hippies. Dwarves are craftsmen, quarrelsome, and merchants. You never see a nature-hippy dwarf or merchant-craftsman elf unless the player or referee is intentionally playing against type.

So if non-humans are narrow packages of human stereotypes, it only makes sense that humans cover ALL those stereotypes. Thus, they're "versatile." Really, what's happening is just an admission that a Planet of Hats is not realistic.

And if you don't make fantasy races a reflection of a stereotype, then your fantasy races become as diverse as your humans, so they're nothing more than humans with funny body parts.

To avoid this problem, come up with an explanation for your fantasy races. What exactly IS an elf? Just a guy with pointy ears? Or is there something fundamental to an elf that you can build a realistic society on. Forget stereotypes; let your races be as diverse as humans. Give them their identities through this fundamental origin.

And never, EVER, give dwarves Scottish accents.
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Old 09-17-2018, 12:13 AM   #8
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: [Creative] Trying to build a fantasy setting.

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Originally Posted by Stormcrow View Post
To avoid this problem, come up with an explanation for your fantasy races. What exactly IS an elf? Just a guy with pointy ears? Or is there something fundamental to an elf that you can build a realistic society on. Forget stereotypes; let your races be as diverse as humans. Give them their identities through this fundamental origin.

And never, EVER, give dwarves Scottish accents.
I'm with you on that. It's the orcs who should sound like Scotsmen.

Seriously, that's what I've been trying to do with my current fantasy campaign, Tapestry. For example, there's a region of matrilineal nixies who practice rice paddy agriculture and martial arts with farm tools; there's a region of patrilineal but fairly egalitarian nixies who grow wheat and barley and such and carry on river and coastal trade; and there's a region of swamp dwelling nixies who plant maize and peppers and cacao and whose rules of marriage and property are kind of vague and improvisational. All of their customs are rather different, even though they're also all Broad-Minded and Honest-Faced. Currently, Onofrio, from the third region, is trying to adapt to the second region, and getting hung up by the weirdness of their having male shamans.
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Old 09-17-2018, 03:42 AM   #9
SilvercatMoonpaw
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Default Re: [Creative] Trying to build a fantasy setting.

Difficulty with that is that it's a lot of information. I'd rather either give humans a hat or just have "humans with funny bits".

I mean it feels weird that "fully human but looks weird" is so dispised: it's like saying that appearance should dictate behavior*; that someone who doesn't look like you can never be like you.


* I'm aware the intent is that biology influences psychology, but there's kind of a weird point where a race/species seems so close to human that differences feel imposed.

Last edited by SilvercatMoonpaw; 09-17-2018 at 05:06 AM.
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Old 09-17-2018, 05:14 AM   #10
SilvercatMoonpaw
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Default Re: [Creative] Trying to build a fantasy setting.

In the end I'm more of a story tropes person than versimilitudinous worldbuilding person. The way humans cross my mind best is as a visitor from another world serving as a logical reason to have info-dumps. When you try to do that with native humans it feels "off".

Last edited by SilvercatMoonpaw; 09-17-2018 at 06:18 AM.
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