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Why I Hate Fantasy RPGs - Cephus' Corner

Why I Hate Fantasy RPGs

March 19th, 2017

I’ve been listening to a lot of roleplaying podcasts lately and one thing that I always notice when someone is playing D&D or Pathfinder or some other fantasy system, at least when they’re playing them seriously, is that I really lose interest very quickly. I’m fine when they’re playing for laughs, but when they want the listener to take what they’re doing seriously, I just can’t do it. Fantasy roleplaying, to me at least, is a complete waste of time and here’s why.

I want a universe that is, at least potentially, understandable.  I want to be able to figure out how things work.  I may never actually do so, I just want to know that it is possible, should my character put the time and effort into doing so. With magic, that’s simply not an option.  You can’t figure out magic.  You can’t dissect it, you can’t study it, it just happens because, well, it’s magic.

And that’s essentially the problem that I have with it when people say “I’m going to cast magic missle!”  What they’re really saying is “I’m going to break the rules of reality!”  There is a fundamental difference between pulling out a laser blaster and pulling out a magical spell, even if neither of them actually exist right now.  We can imagine that one might exist one day, the other never will.

I’ve found, at least in my experience, that the roleplaying narrative is completely  different between the two systems.  Sure, you can play a really cheesy setting with sci-fi elements, but that’s not what I want to play either. I want to play a serious science fiction game, serious in the sense that you take it seriously and treat it seriously, and I simply cannot do that with fantasy, period.  As soon as people start pointing wands at each other, I lose any seriousness I might have had and burst out laughing.

Plus the fact, I want to move forward, not back.  I have absolutely no love for the past, I care where we’re going, not where we’ve been and fantasy is going entirely the wrong direction IMO.  I’m fine with a good story told in a fantasy setting, but I have no interest in playing through that setting.  Fantasy is where it was, science fiction is where it will be.  If I’m going to play a game, I want to be where it’s going to be.

And then there’s the suspension of disbelief, which I simply cannot maintain in a fantasy setting.  I’m a hyper-rational person and while the things I enjoy don’t have to be real, they have to have a ring of realism to them. They have to at least be reasonable. And I have no interest in escapism.  I’m perfectly happy with reality as it is, I don’t need to make up a magical realm to live in because I’m miserable with real life.  I don’t get people like that at all.  Games are about adventures, not escape for me.  I can do things I can’t really do in reality in a game but that doesn’t mean I prefer the game world to the real world.  I can play a game and then get back to reality.  I’ll never understand those who never want to live in the real world.

Which, of course, makes me a much different gamer than a lot of other people, and why I have such a hard time finding good people worth playing with. But that’s a subject for another post, I suppose.  I still love playing games, I just want to play the games that appeal to me, as most do.  It just isn’t fantasy that interests me, I’m looking to a bright future, not an imaginary past.

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  • Mark Wilder says on: March 25, 2017 at 4:05 pm

     

    “I want a universe that is, at least potentially, understandable. I want to be able to figure out how things work. I may never actually do so, I just want to know that it is possible, should my character put the time and effort into doing so. With magic, that’s simply not an option. (…) As soon as people start pointing wands at each other, I lose any seriousness I might have had and burst out laughing.”

    That seems much, much less like a need for understanding that it does a unilateral rejection of a fictional idea for ideological reasons.

    “Plus the fact, I want to move forward, not back. I have absolutely no love for the past, I care where we’re going, not where we’ve been and fantasy is going entirely the wrong direction IMO. (…) I still love playing games, I just want to play the games that appeal to me, as most do. It just isn’t fantasy that interests me, I’m looking to a bright future, not an imaginary past.”

    And that confirms my suspicions. The fact is, there *isn’t* any fundamental difference between pulling out a laser blaster and pulling out a wand of magic missile, because they both do exactly the same thing in exactly the same way: they shoot the target with glowing energy bullets that violate every law of thermodynamics, and a few other physical laws on the side. Star Trek’s “energy weapons” are particularly bad offenders in this regard:

    https://youtu.be/y65ZwVu3wwI?t=145

    To put that scene in RPG terms would be like so:
    Drone Used “Stopping Curse” on Commander Riker.
    Lieutenant Yar Uses “Magic Missile” on Drone for 20 dmg. Drone is destroyed.

    Seriously, there would be no difference if this were a scene from Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings. Scratch that: both of them would treat the situation far more seriously and have far better logic behind what was happening. Star Wars is no better. Battlestar Galactica *pretends* to be better, by leaving out energy weapons entirely… but it’s no different. For the record, this is what real energy weapons do:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlLsnlPvP64

    You will not find any “science fiction” that treats anything that realistically: it doesn’t exist to be found. You certainly haven’t seen or read anything that does, so you have no room to talk as if you have (though if you bothered reading this far, I’m sure you will try).

    “And then there’s the suspension of disbelief, which I simply cannot maintain in a fantasy setting. I’m a hyper-rational person and while the things I enjoy don’t have to be real, they have to have a ring of realism to them. They have to at least be reasonable.”

    I doubt literally every word in that sentence. To break it down from front to back:

    1. “And then there’s the suspension of disbelief, which I simply cannot maintain in a fantasy setting.” – By this, you very strongly imply that you enjoy “science fiction” through suspension of disbelief, but cannot enjoy “fantasy” the same way. However, all “science fiction” is “fantasy” by it’s very nature, nullifying that point entirely.

    2. “I’m a hyper-rational person” – That isn’t true, confirmed by point 1, above.

    3. “while the things I enjoy don’t have to be real, they have to have a ring of realism to them. They have to at least be reasonable.” – An ironic statement, because everything in point 1 strongly suggests that you don’t know what “realism” is. A more apt definition for your use of “reasonable” in this sentence would be: “implicitly matching my ideology because anything outside of it is obviously mental recession and abandonment of science”… allow me to point out that the condition of holding opinions like *that* is typically called pomposity. Allow me to further point out that “have to have” should be written as “must have” for grammatical correctness.

    “Which, of course, makes me a much different gamer than a lot of other people, and why I have such a hard time finding good people worth playing with.”

    More likely, they are fine people who have a hard time playing with such a pompous and antisocial person as yourself: you didn’t just arrogantly throw out a completely valid genre of fiction that interests them: you threw *them* out on the pretense that they can’t recognize the difference between their fiction of choice and reality, thus insulting their intelligence while revealing the limited scope of your own mind. Don’t bother saying you didn’t: you clearly said “hard time finding good people worth playing with”, which is a *value judgement* you made of them as people, based on their choice of board games. You didn’t base that judgement on their lifestyle or morality.

    With that mindset of yours, I honestly find it amazing that a person like you could find anyone to play with at all.

    • Cephus says on: March 28, 2017 at 11:58 am

       

      “And that confirms my suspicions. The fact is, there *isn’t* any fundamental difference between pulling out a laser blaster and pulling out a wand of magic missile, because they both do exactly the same thing in exactly the same way: they shoot the target with glowing energy bullets that violate every law of thermodynamics, and a few other physical laws on the side.”

      Actually, there is. We have these things called lasers? Maybe you’ve heard of them? But the one thing we simply do not have and never will have is magic. It’s not a stretch to think that one day, we’ll have energy weapons. It is an utter impossibility that we will ever have magic wands.

      “You will not find any “science fiction” that treats anything that realistically: it doesn’t exist to be found. You certainly haven’t seen or read anything that does, so you have no room to talk as if you have (though if you bothered reading this far, I’m sure you will try).”

      There’s a difference between being realistic and being real. Anything that doesn’t violate physical laws, that could conceivably be done, even if we don’t have the ability to do so today, is realistic, at least potentially. Now I’m not a big Star Trek fan, but since you brought it up, there are a lot of things that we saw in TOS that are now real. Cell phones. Tablet computers. We’re even seeing the earliest attempts at universal translators and tractor beams. Now name one fantasy thing from Lord of the Rings that has come true in the real world. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

      “1. “And then there’s the suspension of disbelief, which I simply cannot maintain in a fantasy setting.” – By this, you very strongly imply that you enjoy “science fiction” through suspension of disbelief, but cannot enjoy “fantasy” the same way. However, all “science fiction” is “fantasy” by it’s very nature, nullifying that point entirely.”

      In the sense that anything that is not actually real is fantasy, yes, but that’s not how I was using the term. The dictionary defines fantasy as “the faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.” Nothing in science fiction, at least the sci-fi that I have no problem suspending disbelief, is impossible or improbable. It just isn’t currently so. The whole reason I can suspend disbelief is because it could actually happen one day, unlike most fantasy. Of course, you have to separate what kind of fantasy you’re talking about, high fantasy, which is high on magic, or low fantasy, which often places fantastical elements in a more-or-less real setting.

      “2. “I’m a hyper-rational person” – That isn’t true, confirmed by point 1, above.”

      Patently untrue.

      “3. “while the things I enjoy don’t have to be real, they have to have a ring of realism to them. They have to at least be reasonable.” – An ironic statement, because everything in point 1 strongly suggests that you don’t know what “realism” is. A more apt definition for your use of “reasonable” in this sentence would be: “implicitly matching my ideology because anything outside of it is obviously mental recession and abandonment of science”… allow me to point out that the condition of holding opinions like *that* is typically called pomposity. Allow me to further point out that “have to have” should be written as “must have” for grammatical correctness.”

      Again, patently untrue. Do you get tired of being wrong?

      “More likely, they are fine people who have a hard time playing with such a pompous and antisocial person as yourself: you didn’t just arrogantly throw out a completely valid genre of fiction that interests them: you threw *them* out on the pretense that they can’t recognize the difference between their fiction of choice and reality, thus insulting their intelligence while revealing the limited scope of your own mind. Don’t bother saying you didn’t: you clearly said “hard time finding good people worth playing with”, which is a *value judgement* you made of them as people, based on their choice of board games. You didn’t base that judgement on their lifestyle or morality.”
      I’m sorry that you’re such an asshole. But this is what happens when you get emotionally invested in a genre instead of being able to think about it intellectually and rationally. You haven’t actually disproven a thing I have said, you’ve just attacked my personal preferences because you have a different opinion.

      And I do have a hard time finding good people to play with, which indeed is a value judgement, based on what I am looking for. You seem to think there is something wrong with having preferences that differ from yours. I didn’t say there was anything wrong with people who want to play fantasy games, I said I wasn’t one of them. But again, you insisted on being an asshole who thinks that disagreeing with your preferences is an insult upon your person. That’s a very immature position to take.

      “With that mindset of yours, I honestly find it amazing that a person like you could find anyone to play with at all.”

      Then it’s a good thing that you are not even in the list of consideration, isn’t it? My standards are far too high for you.

  • Mark Wilder says on: April 1, 2017 at 7:55 pm

     

    “Actually, there is. We have these things called lasers?” – I addressed those already. No energy weapon in science fiction resembles a laser. All of them resemble magic missiles, as shown in the videos I posted and the references claimed.

    “There’s a difference between being realistic and being real. Anything that doesn’t violate physical laws, that could conceivably be done, even if we don’t have the ability to do so today, is realistic, at least potentially.” – Again, as posted, the energy weapons in science fiction violate physical laws in the exact way magic missile does.

    “Now I’m not a big Star Trek fan, but since you brought it up, there are a lot of things that we saw in TOS that are now real.” – And all of the links you posted about them have nothing to do with the context you used, and exist on nowhere near the scale needed to replicate the desired effect. While you’re at it, try explaining how phasers make glowy beams that happily go faster-than-light in TOS.

    “Patently untrue.” – You wish. If you were anywhere approaching rational, there would have been no need for me to reply in the first place.

    “I’m sorry that you’re such an asshole. But this is what happens when you get emotionally invested in a genre instead of being able to think about it intellectually and rationally.” – No, it’s what happens when a person like you insists that games should all align with some esoteric belief that science fiction (full of nonsense beings like Q and weapons that treat physics as a guideline and not a set of rules) is somehow an attainable goal. For the record, games were meant to entertain, not fit your nonsensical standards.

    “You haven’t actually disproven a thing I have said, you’ve just attacked my personal preferences because you have a different opinion.” – That’s what you did, not me. Your entire original post makes that quite clear.

    “And I do have a hard time finding good people to play with, which indeed is a value judgement, based on what I am looking for. You seem to think there is something wrong with having preferences that differ from yours.” – You don’t even know what my preferences are, and you are projecting your own flaws onto me.

    “I didn’t say there was anything wrong with people who want to play fantasy games, I said I wasn’t one of them.” – So you are denying that you implied that people ho enjoy fantasy games are mentally backwards? Because that is exactly what you did, and that is exactly why I treat you the way I do.

    “Then it’s a good thing that you are not even in the list of consideration, isn’t it? My standards are far too high for you.” – You say this as if I was asking to play with you in the first place. I wasn’t.

    • Cephus says on: April 2, 2017 at 7:17 pm

       

      “No, it’s what happens when a person like you insists that games should all align with some esoteric belief that science fiction (full of nonsense beings like Q and weapons that treat physics as a guideline and not a set of rules) is somehow an attainable goal. For the record, games were meant to entertain, not fit your nonsensical standards.”

      Nobody ever said that, anywhere. So clearly, you’ve got a stick up your ass and I suggest you go find some professional help to aid in its removal. Nowhere did I say that everyone should be this way, I said that these are *MY* opinions. You are welcome to write about your own opinions on your own blog. Rent a clue.

      • Mark Wilder says on: May 16, 2017 at 6:42 am

         

        “Nobody ever said that, anywhere.”

        That’s a backpedal. If you think it’s not, reread your original post up there.

        “So clearly, you’ve got a stick up your ass and I suggest you go find some professional help to aid in its removal.”

        More projecting: I don’t insist that all RPGs must fit my standards: you did, brazenly, even going so far to suggest that fans of fantasy are socially regressive.

        “Nowhere did I say that everyone should be this way, I said that these are *MY* opinions.”_

        Having opinions is fine. Having an “opinion” that an entire group of people are “not good people worth playing with” BECAUSE they prefer fantasy RPGs is simply ridiculous. This is not about “opinions”, it’s about not classifying an entire chunk of game players as regressive anti-technologists simply because they prefer magic missiles to meson guns

  • Sam says on: July 4, 2017 at 12:24 am

     

    Like reading fantasy, hate playing it. My God, I can relate to that. I’ve tried many times to play any number of fantasy CRPGs and my mind always, ALWAYS! goes blank after a few hours. Just lose interest. Ultima, Baldur’s Gate, you name it. Weird thing, though, is I can sit and play something that’s at least somewhat parallel to the real world (Fallout, Arcanum) and I’m hooked.

    • Cephus says on: July 4, 2017 at 6:16 pm

       

      I really don’t like reading it either, I’m a sci-fi guy, not fantasy. And there are some fantasy games I do enjoy, like the Elder Scrolls games, but that’s because the games are just good, regardless of setting. There’s a limit to how far I can suspend my disbelief. Fallout though, I’m there. I’ve played Fallout 4 for probably 500+ hours and I’m still going strong. I couldn’t even manage that with Skyrim, even though I loved Skyrim.

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Cephus' Corner

A Place to Share my Geeky Side With the World. Comics, movies, TV, collecting, you name it, I indulge in it.