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Old 05-19-2019, 01:53 PM   #21
ak_aramis
 
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Default Re: Tolkienesque Worlds or Non-Tolkienesque Worlds?

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Originally Posted by shawnhcorey View Post
How would you define a Tolkien knock-off? I usually have elves and dwarves and goblins in my fantasy but most of my sources is pre-Tolkien. So, is it a Tolkien knock-off or not?
Consciously or not, most people making that claim are wrong, in that Tolkien's conceptualizations of them as separate species/subspecies have become the standard. He blended the Gaelic Sidhe, especially the Tuatha de Danin, with the Norse Álfr, and then made them distinctly corporeal, unlike the Álfr; the Sidhe were magical, and corporeal at times...
The German late-medieval and later elves are traditionally diminutive - Gnome sized and smaller; they don't fit with Tolkien's except that he's used the name.

The Tolkienian dwarf is mixing sources even more disparate. They're not the Nors Dwergaz - aka Svartalfr - those weren't of need short statured, and may even be animate corpses, depending where one draws the line; they're non-glowing Álfr, sometimes even animate corpses of men. The Tuatha were man-sized to giant, but other Sidhe were in other forms; many malevolent thanks to being displaced by the sons of Mil from the Surface. Many of the Welsh/Cornish legends have corporeals, but they don't fit with Elves...

Gnomes are a type of spirit or a type of Elemental, depending upon culture. One that can take corporeal form.

Goblin goes back a ways... but not in the sense used in most games, and certainly not as a term for something like an Orc... see https://blog.oup.com/2013/06/goblin-...y-word-origin/ for some musings on that... Kobold is the same critter in a different language.

Orc being a type of monster, rather than simply "monster" is pure Tolkien. Well, in Latin, Orcus was a specific demonic being.

Our modern meanings for Elf, Faerie, Dwarf, Goblin, and Troll are codified by Tolkien. Orc is his alone.

Even most modern alternates are reactions to Tolkien, rather than actually being grounded in older sources.

Not saying yours aren't, but it is awful hard to have Elves, Dwarves and Goblins that aren't Tolkien influenced.
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Old 05-19-2019, 06:27 PM   #22
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Default Re: Tolkienesque Worlds or Non-Tolkienesque Worlds?

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Our modern meanings for Elf, Faerie, Dwarf, Goblin, and Troll are codified by Tolkien. Orc is his alone.

Even most modern alternates are reactions to Tolkien, rather than actually being grounded in older sources.

Not saying yours aren't, but it is awful hard to have Elves, Dwarves and Goblins that aren't Tolkien influenced.
It's hard to not have those races at all. Dark Sun, for instance, was originally conceived to have new races other than elf, dwarf, et-al. But according to Troy Denning, the TSR, inc. marketing department had a fit. So they put the regular D&D races back in and twisted everything.
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Old 05-19-2019, 06:48 PM   #23
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Default Re: Tolkienesque Worlds or Non-Tolkienesque Worlds?

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It's hard to not have those races at all. Dark Sun, for instance, was originally conceived to have new races other than elf, dwarf, et-al. But according to Troy Denning, the TSR, inc. marketing department had a fit. So they put the regular D&D races back in and twisted everything.
In the 3/e supplement GURPS Mars, the Dying Mars chapter has humanoid Martian races that are clearly elves, men, hobbits, dwarves, and even orcs, just with the serial numbers erased a bit.
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Old 05-19-2019, 07:03 PM   #24
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Default Re: Tolkienesque Worlds or Non-Tolkienesque Worlds?

I try to come up with original concepts in general, but...

If something already has a name or is so close to something with a name as to be virtually indistinguishable, I just use the established name.

So, if I find myself using a race of underground folk who are adapted to such environments, they are called dwarves. If there are immortal, ethereal folk, they are called Elves. If there's a tall tree with pointy leaves, it's a pine. Etc.

Especially if you want your players to be able to navigate your world with ease, there's a limit to how much novelty you can throw at them at once. In a book, it's easier to have characters simply behave like they know the world (see Asimov's The Gods Themselves or Weiss & Hickman's Death Cycle) than to have players react appropriately in a very alien environment.

To that end, It depends also upon the length of the game. If it's a short game, I go for the familiar except in plot-relevant ways. If it's a longer game, sometimes I do some bigger world building. For such a large game, I have a large home-made fantasy world where I have my own take on many things. I stayed pretty close to Tolkien's view on Elves, but struck off on other races pretty dramatically.
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Old 05-19-2019, 07:17 PM   #25
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Default Re: Tolkienesque Worlds or Non-Tolkienesque Worlds?

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It's hard to not have those races at all. Dark Sun, for instance, was originally conceived to have new races other than elf, dwarf, et-al. But according to Troy Denning, the TSR, inc. marketing department had a fit. So they put the regular D&D races back in and twisted everything.
One of the standing jibes at Talislanta is based upon its advertising slogan including "... and no elves."
"But 25+ races that are, except for the visual, elves."

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Old 05-20-2019, 01:46 AM   #26
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Default Re: Tolkienesque Worlds or Non-Tolkienesque Worlds?

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Originally Posted by khorboth View Post
I try to come up with original concepts in general, but...

If something already has a name or is so close to something with a name as to be virtually indistinguishable, I just use the established name.

So, if I find myself using a race of underground folk who are adapted to such environments, they are called dwarves. If there are immortal, ethereal folk, they are called Elves. If there's a tall tree with pointy leaves, it's a pine. Etc.

Especially if you want your players to be able to navigate your world with ease, there's a limit to how much novelty you can throw at them at once. In a book, it's easier to have characters simply behave like they know the world (see Asimov's The Gods Themselves or Weiss & Hickman's Death Cycle) than to have players react appropriately in a very alien environment.

To that end, It depends also upon the length of the game. If it's a short game, I go for the familiar except in plot-relevant ways. If it's a longer game, sometimes I do some bigger world building. For such a large game, I have a large home-made fantasy world where I have my own take on many things. I stayed pretty close to Tolkien's view on Elves, but struck off on other races pretty dramatically.
Related to that I think if the PCs are from the world in question it can help if the the tropes and archetypes are familiar. If on the other hand they are from elsewhere, e.g. portal fantasy, having unique races etc can reinforce the fish out of water feeling.
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Old 05-20-2019, 03:38 AM   #27
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Default Re: Tolkienesque Worlds or Non-Tolkienesque Worlds?

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Originally Posted by shawnhcorey View Post
How would you define a Tolkien knock-off? I usually have elves and dwarves and goblins in my fantasy but most of my sources is pre-Tolkien. So, is it a Tolkien knock-off or not?
Knocking off Tolkien was one of the big negatives of Harnmaster - when you first get into the setting it comes across as a good, immersive low fantasy setting (okay, the religion is done really badly, but not in an atypical way) and then, suddenly … Tolkien fanfic? What? No!
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Old 05-20-2019, 09:35 AM   #28
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Default Re: Tolkienesque Worlds or Non-Tolkienesque Worlds?

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In my two perpetually WIP fantasy worlds, one has gone back and forth between human only and a couple of sapient non-humans (felinoid and reptilian, most consistently, sometimes also fae). The other has been consistently human only.

As to culture/technology, the first has most frequently been envisioned as akin to 16th century Europe, but occasionally early Republican Rome. Much more urban than Tolkien. The second is wedged somewhere between diesel punk and ocean punk.

I've also put some thought into Bronze Age China, but nothing has come of it.
Bronze Age China has a lot of possibilities. Lloyd Alexander did a very good Arabian Nights Verse (Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio) in what was basically a mock-up of the Silk Road. Two of the best I have read, Sevenwaters, and Anderson's Hrolf Kraki's Saga were in the last days of Pagan Britain, and Pre-Christian Scandinavia respectively. In fact making what is to more or less degree mythological fanfic is one of the best ways of making a fantasy that is compelling in a world that bears little resemblance to Tolkien.
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Old 05-20-2019, 09:59 AM   #29
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Default Re: Tolkienesque Worlds or Non-Tolkienesque Worlds?

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Originally Posted by khorboth View Post
I try to come up with original concepts in general, but...

If something already has a name or is so close to something with a name as to be virtually indistinguishable, I just use the established name.

So, if I find myself using a race of underground folk who are adapted to such environments, they are called dwarves. If there are immortal, ethereal folk, they are called Elves. If there's a tall tree with pointy leaves, it's a pine. Etc.

Especially if you want your players to be able to navigate your world with ease, there's a limit to how much novelty you can throw at them at once. .
That's why I went with Halloween monsters as the basis for my races in Sowan. While witches, werewolves and phantoms aren't the typical Tolkien array, they're still familiar enough that the players would instantly get the idea.
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Old 05-20-2019, 10:22 AM   #30
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Default Re: Tolkienesque Worlds or Non-Tolkienesque Worlds?

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That's why I went with Halloween monsters as the basis for my races in Sowan. While witches, werewolves and phantoms aren't the typical Tolkien array, they're still familiar enough that the players would instantly get the idea.
That's about 20% of the reason I prefer all-human settings. The rest is mostly that I see most such settings (in RPGs more than literature, anyway) treating non-human species too simplistically. This species is the mining one, that one is the magic one, this other one is an XP piñata. No reason to stop and think about it or talk with them, you can tell by their ears what purpose they serve.
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