Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thoughts on Creating a High-Fantasy "Story-Based" Game


Everyone who plays DnD has played high fantasy. Y'know, the swashbuckling, heart and fist pumping,constant magic, awesomeness, etc., typa fiction. I was thinking about how to take the feel of high fantasy and make it more story and narrative-based. The first thing to do is to realize that the game will quickly fall into line for whatever you reward the most. What should a high fantasy game reward? Here's a few ideas.

High Risk-Reward Actions
Swinging off a chandelier to kick someone in the face, breaking the floor beneath a foe to temporarily knock him over, jumping down a monster's throat to shred his insides, etc. These are the types of things that people who are in a high fantasy story do often. Players should be rewarded for these types of decision that, while they're bone-headed in a low fantasy system, are the bread and butter of high fantasy.

Intertwined Plot and Action
I've always seen low fantasy as more character driven, because you're dealing with the failings of the world and how people deal with that. In low fantasy the plot must deal with characters being aware of the possibility of failure at every possible second, only to succeed anyway. High fantasy is much more akin to Gurrenn Lagann's "Who the hell do you think we are???" type of fiction: attempting the impossible and somehow getting away with it. The emphasis is in the amount of thought afforded to the odds.

Low fantasy? Dude, you'll spend forever making sure everyone doesn't die. Because they will.

High fantasy? LET'S KICK IN THE DOOR, BITCHES, WE'RE GONNA KICK SOME ASS!

It's like the difference between Halo and Mass Effect. In Halo you just go and kill the aliens. Mass Effect you have to slug through all the grunt work, getting people to overcome their inner foibles and such, otherwise you won't have the best type of ending. In Halo you just walk in and do it yourself. Character work must serve the action, not the other way around.

Gurren Lagann-Style Thought
... or lack thereof. A high fantasy RPG should reward those actions that you feel from your gut. Wanna just shoot the politician who's holding things up, give an awesome speech that'll convince all the people who were formerly against you, and lead them all to fight the big bad? In a high fantasy game you should be rewarded for those types of actions. That doesn't mean complications won't happen because of your boldness, quite the contrary! That'll screw up a LOT. The difference is that you'll make it awesome.

A Clear-Cut Resolution Mechanic
You cannot have a dice pool for a high fantasy game. Either the thing worked or it didn't. I'm not saying d20, but there can't be shades of gray in the feel of the mechanics either, which is something a dice pool models rather well.  

To sum up: high fantasy is all about the gut and the intuition. Obstacles are things to be overcome, setbacks are to be smashed through, and enemies are to either get out of the way or be defeated.

There, Carpe, there's my thoughts on a high-fantasy story game. Make an RPG inspired by Gurren Lagann!