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Old 09-05-2010, 12:49 PM   #31
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Default Re: The art of Dungeon Fantasy 13: Monsters 1

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Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
There is that. DF is comic-relief munchkin fantasy. That's how it was born, that's how it was written, and that's how I've seen it played at cons (I've even played in a few games!). It isn't about deep scene-setting or storytelling. It's about whipping out a combat map and slaughtering things to bits for rewards
I think you are overestimating the depth and seriousness of other dungeon RPGs. Most D&D, in spite of lacking the voluntary comic value of DF, is no less centered on the senseless, munchkiny hacking & slashing of weird/ridicolous monsters...

This possibly causes DF to be perceived as more serious than you intended.

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A straight, serious Fantasy Bestiary would be another kettle of flesh-eating, undead fish.
Straight and serious like this Monster Manual? :)
A straight, serious Fantasy bestiary sounds like an invisible pink unicorn to me...
I don't know if Harn has a serious monster compendium, but the most successful monster manuals (e.g., those for D&D) are far from serious...

Just to say, that even if DF Bestiary is tongue-in-cheek, it would benefit greatly from nice illustrations.
One could even make a point that, the sillier the monsters, the more you need a picture to relate with them, understand how they're meant to be (or possibly, laugh at them ^^)
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Old 09-05-2010, 01:17 PM   #32
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Default Re: The art of Dungeon Fantasy 13: Monsters 1

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[...] defining[/I] Dungeon Fantasy as comic-relief silly fantasy is committing the characteristical error of taking the partial for the total.
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Because taking the partial for the total results in reductionism.
That's only an error when done unintentionally and/or obliviously. Missing in your analysis is acknowledgement of the fact (and it is a fact) that GURPS Dungeon Fantasy wasn't written as a generic treatment. It's a very specific mini-game within GURPS that was – with great deliberation and understanding – designed to address a very particular type of gaming. In the words of DF 1:
Fantasy is an engaging genre, bursting with wonder and mystery. It offers worlds full of fascinating lands, dotted with great cities and populated by exotic cultures. All of this has a powerful resonance with any gamer familiar with myth, fairytales, and the fantasy epics of literature and film. For that, get GURPS Fantasy.

But something else resonates with nearly every gamer. That's the thrill of taking a powerful, faux-medieval adventurer down into a cave – or a haunted forest, or a sinister stronghold – and seeing lots of monsters, killing them, and taking their treasure. For that, there's GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. Break it out when you don't feel like dealing with complicated plots, fussy social interactions, and so on. The results won't be refined. They might not even be "real roleplaying" (whatever that is). But they'll be fun!
I think that GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is utterly honest about its objectives. It's deliberately looking at a very specific, not-generic-at-all subgenre of fantasy and even of fantasy that takes place in dungeons. It isn't trying to handle "all fantasy set in dungeons," but only, "all rather goofy, low-fi fantasy set in dungeons." As I said earlier, I'm just thrilled that people are going beyond that, using my very specific sub-subgenre books for things outside the sub-subgenre ("goofy, low-fi fantasy set in dungeons"), the subgenres ("goofy, low-fi fantasy" and "fantasy set in dungeons"), and sometimes even the genre ("fantasy"). But I would be lying if I claimed that I intended this. It's a fortuitous outcome – like seeing GURPS Undead cited in a research paper – but not a plan.

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I think you are overestimating the depth and seriousness of other dungeon RPGs.
Not at all. I'm merely identifying a specific subthread present in those games and focusing on it. As a writer, I value focus. I think it would be a mistake to try to do in a few 32-page supplements what often takes an entire game system to do.



It seems that perhaps some people have lost sight of auctorial license. A creative writer has every right to tackle the topic he pleases from the direction he chooses, including and omitting details as fits his vision. He isn't a journalist bound to present facts rather than conjecture, or an academic expected to recognize the state of the field or its philosophical groundwork. He can write as though he were, but this is – like topic and direction – just a choice. Frequently, good things come from zooming in on a small part of something and examining just that, as a "what if." While game systems, especially generic ones like GURPS, aren't creative writing in that sense, game supplements like GURPS Dungeon Fantasy are.
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Old 09-05-2010, 01:26 PM   #33
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Default Re: The art of Dungeon Fantasy 13: Monsters 1

I guess I ask why would a complex game system make a silly genre instead of a more serious one? If the game is only about laughs then you don't really need all of the complexity of the GURPS system, you could use some simple system instead and since it is just silly realism doesn't matter.
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Old 09-05-2010, 01:30 PM   #34
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Default Re: The art of Dungeon Fantasy 13: Monsters 1

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People can play it however they want . . .
Speaking as an author of a couple of DF works, I do try to write accommodatingly, so long as it doesn't actively conflict with genre conventions. For example, there are gags lurking in Treasure Tables, but it's not, say, an endless pun-fest. And even the jokes (Helvetian Pike? Seriously?) have serious effects behind them. If you're bound and determined to play it straight, you can.

However, it's a particular kind of playing it straight. To me, "serious" gaming in DF is the self-important seriousness of a 1970s martial arts movie or a heavy metal album cover. It's the fantasies of the teenagers we once were when we started playing, simple in structure but epic in scale. If that's how you want to play it, I'm going to try to stay out of your way. Indeed, it's the way I usually play it. However, the 40-something author also appreciates that very seriousness in a less than serious way than the teenager who came up with it. My gags depend on the comedy lurking on a meta level, enjoying the absurdity of the whole thing without necessarily needing it to comment ironically itself, break the fourth wall, or subjecting the characters to overt jokes rather than the players. I'm not at all certain that that's Kromm's original vision, but I like to think that at least it doesn't actively conflict with it.


(Some day, I'm going to write an essay on comedy in gaming. Not today, though.)
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Old 09-05-2010, 01:35 PM   #35
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Default Re: The art of Dungeon Fantasy 13: Monsters 1

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But something else resonates with nearly every gamer. That's the thrill of taking a powerful, faux-medieval adventurer down into a cave – or a haunted forest, or a sinister stronghold – and seeing lots of monsters, killing them, and taking their treasure. For that, there's GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. Break it out when you don't feel like dealing with complicated plots, fussy social interactions, and so on. The results won't be refined. They might not even be "real roleplaying" (whatever that is). But they'll be fun![/INDENT]I think that GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is utterly honest about its objectives. It's deliberately looking at a very specific, not-generic-at-all subgenre of fantasy and even of fantasy that takes place in dungeons. It isn't trying to handle "all fantasy set in dungeons," but only, "all rather goofy, low-fi fantasy set in dungeons."
Then the question becomes: what, apart from the mission statement you quoted, should be considered part of that "goofy, low-fi fantasy set in dungeons"? Nothing in your mission statement tells the reader whether to expect serious-seeming monsters or ones that are parodies of the genre you are attempting to emulate. DF is humorous and perhaps a little "silly" at times but it is not parody, at least in my reading of it. And I think some folks may be concerned that, based on your comments about the silliness/goofiness of DF, you're producing a parody bestiary. And given the kinds of goofy creatures that have appeared in the past, in the more serious bestiaries like Fantasy Bestiary 3E and Space Bestiary 3E, the concern seems legitimate to me. I really don't want to see monsters that are, for example, variations on the Leucrocotta (FB p. 42), which is "a swift animal the size of a donkey, with a badger's head, the legs of a deer, and the neck, tail and chest of a lion."
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Old 09-05-2010, 01:39 PM   #36
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Default Re: The art of Dungeon Fantasy 13: Monsters 1

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I guess I ask why would a complex game system make a silly genre instead of a more serious one? If the game is only about laughs then you don't really need all of the complexity of the GURPS system, you could use some simple system instead and since it is just silly realism doesn't matter.
Perhaps you skipped or speed-read past all the introductions and explanations: You already have the serious genre. It's in this book called GURPS Fantasy. I highly recommend it.

The whole point of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is that it agrees with your sentiment: Why use a complex system for a simple subgere? It takes that question and runs with it, reducing to a few short PDFs what you'd otherwise need all of GURPS Fantasy and probably GURPS Thaumatology to do. It condenses away the extra complexity and detail so that you can use GURPS for a "light" subgenre. GURPS is, after all, meant to be generic, and ought to handle both light and heavy genres and subgenres. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy exists to handle one of the light subgenres.

If you want other fantasy, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy might be adaptable. As I keep saying, I'm really rather glad that it has proven to be adaptable for so many gamers. However, it might not do what you want – such is the nature of adapting something outside its original parameters. And if that happens, well, what's wrong with GURPS Fantasy?

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To me, "serious" gaming in DF is the self-important seriousness of a 1970s martial arts movie or a heavy metal album cover. It's the fantasies of the teenagers we once were when we started playing, simple in structure but epic in scale. If that's how you want to play it, I'm going to try to stay out of your way. Indeed, it's the way I usually play it. However, the 40-something author also appreciates that very seriousness in a less than serious way than the teenager who came up with it. My gags depend on the comedy lurking on a meta level, enjoying the absurdity of the whole thing without necessarily needing it to comment ironically itself, break the fourth wall, or subjecting the characters to overt jokes rather than the players. I'm not at all certain that that's Kromm's original vision, but I like to think that at least it doesn't actively conflict with it.
Quoting it all for truth. That's exactly my original vision.
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Old 09-05-2010, 01:42 PM   #37
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Default Re: The art of Dungeon Fantasy 13: Monsters 1

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I really don't want to see monsters that are, for example, variations on the Leucrocotta (FB p. 42), which is "a swift animal the size of a donkey, with a badger's head, the legs of a deer, and the neck, tail and chest of a lion."
As goofy as that appears to modern eyes, that's a legendary creature, just like cyclopses and griffons. Pliny the Elder described one, even.
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Old 09-05-2010, 01:45 PM   #38
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Default Re: The art of Dungeon Fantasy 13: Monsters 1

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Nothing in your mission statement tells the reader whether to expect serious-seeming monsters or ones that are parodies of the genre you are attempting to emulate.
Nope. That statement will be in the introduction to Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1, which isn't published yet. Pundits' concerns will be shot down or legitimized only after that item is published. Critics have every right to tear themselves up in conjecture, but I recommend against it – bad for the blood pressure, don't you know? I'd say that anybody who has made it through 12 DF titles and who is still playing the game has no call to expect the 13th one to be somehow out of whack. After 12 volumes, we've found our level and established our style.
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Old 09-05-2010, 01:50 PM   #39
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Default Re: The art of Dungeon Fantasy 13: Monsters 1

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I really don't want to see monsters that are, for example, variations on the Leucrocotta (FB p. 42), which is "a swift animal the size of a donkey, with a badger's head, the legs of a deer, and the neck, tail and chest of a lion."
You can't blame SJGames for that, the Leucrocotta is a folkloric animal and FB's version is basically faithful to the source.

As a general point:
GURPS already supports more "serious" genres of fantasy. GURPS Fantasy contains a very well written and literary analysis of how to adapt all aspects of the genre to RPGs in general and GURPS in specific. There was absolutely nothing stopping you from running a very high-brow game before DF came out. What DF deliberately facilitates is the low-brow "kill things and take their stuff" hack and slash gaming that many of us remember fondly. It's nostalgic and deconstructionist.

If you want a serious game, just run one. I run an occasional DF game along with my monthly Desolation Road campaign. When I run Desolation Road, I'm worried about continuity, willing suspension of disbelief, characterization, theme, and so on. When I run the DF game, I just let go. That's fun.
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Old 09-05-2010, 01:53 PM   #40
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Default Re: The art of Dungeon Fantasy 13: Monsters 1

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As goofy as that appears to modern eyes, that's a legendary creature, just like cyclopses and griffons. Pliny the Elder described one, even.
Yes, I know. There are a lot of those in FB. And I don't have a problem with them in theory, except that there really are quite a lot of them. Their presence exposes the silliness of those legendary creatures in the first place. If you compare their treatment in FB to, say, D&D, you'll notice that the D&D versions at least try to clean them up at make them respectably mean-sounding.

Also, when Pliny and other ancient authors describe these kinds of creatures, they're often describing what they are "like unto", not what they specifically are. They are providing analogues. By and large, GURPS FB takes these analogues literally. By and large, D&D-type bestiaries do not.
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