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aegis
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« on: June 14, 2010, 02:32:03 AM »

I was lately drawn back to Scion and had to write a (quite harsh) review on the game. Well, you may agree with me or not but I think Scion was one of these games with a HUGE potential, mostly because of a great pitch, ultimately ruined by poor rules and a quasi-inexistent setting in the core rulebook. I was really disappointed indeed.

At the same time, I was expecting Godspawn to come out soon for Fantasy Craft. This would have given me the opportunity to extinguish my thirst for norse epic tales of Ragnarök and other god-like battles. Sadly, this won't happen soon. If I heard Alex and Pat correctly, Godspawn requires too many twists of the rules to be released at the same time as Cloak & Dagger, Sunchaser, and Epoch. Don't get me wrong, I like what these three settings seem to look like, especially Cloak & Dagger which I'm awaiting even more voraciously than Godspawn.

But still, Godspawn is not for now, neither for next year. So I've been thinking, maybe we could all exchange our ideas on what we would like to see in an epic fantasy setting, both in terms of feel and rules. Rules that really go one step further in the heroism of characters, by letting them really not care about "mortal considerations" and rather focus on higher, divine-like challenges.

If you have ideas for places, adventures, easy-to-patch (or not) rules for FC, that would help support that kind of setting, I would really like to read them. Smiley
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Catodon
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« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2010, 02:48:16 AM »

Just so happens that my home campaign setting is 'Epic'. one of the things I do to learn a game is see what kind of world I can make with it. FC just screamed Epic even Mythic to me.
Here's some notes from that project to act as talking points. What do like what is totally wrong in your view. How would you do it differently?

Spirit of this world
This world is designed to be one of epic quests and mythic tales. This is the first age of the world a time of gods and monsters. There should be opportunity for wars against (or for) darkness and heroes confronting demons, but also for tests of faith, romance, temptation, and steely resolve. The world should be a place of heroic action but it is also a place for high drama.
As for what makes a setting epic, think about a how a regular fantasy would portray an event then ‘turn up the dial’. In a regular rpg fantasy setting the clerics gain spells from their gods, in mythic age game the gods cannot help but meddle in the affairs of mortals with miracles. In a typical rpg PCs might battle 15’ tall giants, in a mythic game 50’ tall giants are PCs! In other games you might fight to save a castle, in a mythic campaign gods and armies of mortals make war to decide the fate of the world.
That said this world is not about power gaming, it is about capturing the spirit of the mythic ages described as the early days of the world in many real mythologies. There are cloud continents, colossal statues, ships of the sky, and the like but it should be clear that these things are the works of the powerful, don’t let the awe leak away. Also the referee should be prepared for evil to triumph as well. Knowing that the world has really reached a crossroads and that the forces of evil could sweep aside all the characters hold dear adds grit. If the forces of good fail it will probably be at great cost to the party and the genre will become ‘Dark Mythic Fantasy’.

Genre
This is to be an epic fantasy (FC305) but more so. The genre is mythic fantasy and the chief inspirations are mythology not fantasy novels or films.  The early days described in the mythologies of most cultures. In most fantasy worlds there is a distant mythic age when the first great struggle against Darkness occurred and few powerful artefacts and people survive from this distant age. However in this world the mythic age is now and the first war against darkness is about to be joined. The opening scenes of the First Lord of the Rings film that depict the first great war with the Sauron captures something of the spirit of this setting. A world that is much like the ancient past of other rpg fantasy worlds. Here the elder races still dominate the world and humans are newcomers. The players take the roles of either potent individuals or determined or fellowships of determined mortals caught up in the wars of gods and giants.
Inspirations: the city state of Ur, Greek Mythology, Homer, Norse Creation Myths, Phoenician technology, Celtic archaeology and sagas, the Second Age of Middle Earth.

Campaign Qualities
Permanent
Miracles, Rare Magic items, Sorcery, Difficult Magic, Non-scaling (standard) NPCs.

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Crafty_Alex
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« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2010, 11:56:59 AM »

But still, Godspawn is not for now, neither for next year.

Point of order - we have not said whether or not Godspawn might drop next year. Only that it won't be out *this* year.
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Crafty_Pat
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« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2010, 04:13:36 PM »

If I heard Alex and Pat correctly, Godspawn requires too many twists of the rules to be released at the same time as Cloak & Dagger, Sunchaser, and Epoch.

Such is true.

Quote
But still, Godspawn is not for now, neither for next year.

I'm NOT announcing anything, nor even hinting at anything, but I will point out that our active development slate only extends through Q1 2010. There's still a lot of next year left undefined yet. Wink

That said...

Quote
So I've been thinking, maybe we could all exchange our ideas on what we would like to see in an epic fantasy setting, both in terms of feel and rules. Rules that really go one step further in the heroism of characters, by letting them really not care about "mortal considerations" and rather focus on higher, divine-like challenges.

If you have ideas for places, adventures, easy-to-patch (or not) rules for FC, that would help support that kind of setting, I would really like to read them. Smiley

I wholeheartedly encourage this enterprise - not only because I'm a big fan of epic play but also because it'll help guide our decisions for Godspawn when it does hit. Smiley

Ah, I see Alex already responded on some of this. Still, my points stand.
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« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2010, 03:50:02 PM »

More points for discussion:

What does not belong?
An epic setting should besetting is a very diverse one with all manner of creatures and cultures, it should feel like a whole world, but there should be strict limits. In my opinion:
•   Good might not prevail. Without the threat of evil triumphant this setting will devolve into hollow power gaming wish fulfilment. Referees, be prepared to challenge the players. Players, be prepared to make sacrifices, face tough choices, and expect character deaths. The forces of darkness are planning to destroy all that is good in the world. What will your character do to prevent this or even just to survive?
•   Specific character types from real cultures don’t belong. The Ancient era of the campaign limits the technology available and defines the social structure, both clear influences on the types of characters available. Most fantasy types based on a pseudo-middle ages will have to be altered.  For example, you could use 'knight' to denote an armoured noble warrior but the knights here are not the knights of Europe, the world samurai would also be as close. I have not imported the knights of feudal Europe wholesale. For example the ‘knights’ of this world will serve a king directly, not through a feudal lord because feudalism does not exist. These Ancient heavy cavalry will be protected by scale mail or hardened leather because platemail is a Feudal technology. Similarly, the most suitable armament is probably the cavalry axe (the only Ancient melee weapon with the Cavalry quality).
•   No Oozes and modern monsters. These are a thoroughly modern idea do not appear in mythology and have no mythological equivalent and therefore do not belong in this world. The same can be said for other 20th century monsters.
•   No Flower fairies and other cutsie stuff. While Fey are common and potent mythological figures the diminutive winged fairy is a diluted elf and has no place in a time of awe and struggle.
•   No mechanicals. Technology is restricted. Unborn do occur (rarely) but are animated statues not clockwork constructions.
•   No Crossbreeds. The gods can crossbreed with mortals but the various mortal species cannot interbreed. Heritage feats are explained as characters being altered by the gods. Sometimes the gods alter an entire bloodline creating a sub-species. Note through if godlings elves can interbreed with other species. The offspring of these unions have the Fey Heritage feat.
•   No Jokes. Nothing breaks the mythic feel more than adventuring with “Rhubarb, Knight of the Suggestive Sausage”. Even the stereotype big dumb barbarian can break the mood if there is nothing more to the character. Guidance is given to make a character that fits this world. The same advice applies to referees, silly NPCs objects or locations should not be included.

Comments, suggestions, corrections
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"I just do eyes"
Author of Gulliver's Trading Company and the map of the world of Gullivers travels:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/84956575/Gullivers-Trading-Co-Grub
http://browse.deviantart.com/#/art/Gulliver-s-Travels-World-Map-294804331?hf=1
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« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2010, 04:50:31 PM »

I think that definition of "epic fantasy" is pretty narrow - saying that one couldn't have an epic D&D-styled game, or that Final Fantasy VII or God of War don't feel like epic settings, does the entire genre a disservice (even though they feature mechanicals, oozes, and other no-nos from your list).

IMO, epic fantasy is more about stakes than it is about details. What happens in epic fantasy that does not happen in your average D&D game? Let's use for the sake of arguement 2 epic fantasies of the Western bent: the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Odyssey.

* The stakes are high - the higher, the better. LOTR had the Fellowship being the sole force that could unite the powers and thus prevent the ultimate fall of all free peoples. Pretty big deal.
* The heroes have a preternaturally powerful talent, status, or fate. The heroes are marked for greatness - the Fellowship is made up of an ancient wizard, an exile king, 3 princes, a guy charged with the fate of the world...and 3 civilians for everyone else to relate to. Odysseus and his men were resourceful and held special talents that kept them alive and through creative appication, gave them an edge to tip the balance in their favor.
* The challenges are gigantic. Epic heroes might be world class, but their enemies are too - Sauruman, Sauron, Cerce, the Cyclopes, all were worthy opponents. The mooks - well, better send an army.
* The heroes change worlds, and their successes and flaws reflect upon the world around them. Every action - for good or ill - has dramatic consequences upon the story and the world around the heroes. Aragorn's forefathers' failure to reign in the power of the One Ring cursed man to ruin, and Frodo's gradual seduction by the Ring nearly costs the entire world. Odysseus's cleverness gets his crew out of many scrapes, but his hubris also costs many men their lives and many years at sea, as well as his kingdom (very nearly). 
* Don't forget big setpieces. Travel, exploration of the unknown, clashes of armies - they are all critical to giving epic fantasy its epic feel. Odysseus' journey was entirely about facing the unknown and defeating it. LOTR send the Fellowship through dangerous areas and vast enemy forces to acheive their goals. For it to be epic, everything needs to feel big and important.

With those sorts of core themes, I think soe of the points that Catodon brings up (the lack of "joke" characters, the possibility that good might not win) become natural outcroppings of the campaign rather that flat restrictions. If the players feel the gravity of their challenges and what hinges on their actions, those will evolve to become part of the campaign. Speaking from personal experience, it's far better to create an environment where the players want to play that way, rather than tell them how to play your game.
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« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2010, 05:41:07 PM »

More points for discussion:

What does not belong?
An epic setting should besetting is a very diverse one with all manner of creatures and cultures, it should feel like a whole world, but there should be strict limits. In my opinion:
•   Good might not prevail. Without the threat of evil triumphant this setting will devolve into hollow power gaming wish fulfilment. Referees, be prepared to challenge the players. Players, be prepared to make sacrifices, face tough choices, and expect character deaths. The forces of darkness are planning to destroy all that is good in the world. What will your character do to prevent this or even just to survive?
•   Specific character types from real cultures don’t belong. The Ancient era of the campaign limits the technology available and defines the social structure, both clear influences on the types of characters available. Most fantasy types based on a pseudo-middle ages will have to be altered.  For example, you could use 'knight' to denote an armoured noble warrior but the knights here are not the knights of Europe, the world samurai would also be as close. I have not imported the knights of feudal Europe wholesale. For example the ‘knights’ of this world will serve a king directly, not through a feudal lord because feudalism does not exist. These Ancient heavy cavalry will be protected by scale mail or hardened leather because platemail is a Feudal technology. Similarly, the most suitable armament is probably the cavalry axe (the only Ancient melee weapon with the Cavalry quality).
•   No Oozes and modern monsters. These are a thoroughly modern idea do not appear in mythology and have no mythological equivalent and therefore do not belong in this world. The same can be said for other 20th century monsters.
•   No Flower fairies and other cutsie stuff. While Fey are common and potent mythological figures the diminutive winged fairy is a diluted elf and has no place in a time of awe and struggle.
•   No mechanicals. Technology is restricted. Unborn do occur (rarely) but are animated statues not clockwork constructions.
•   No Crossbreeds. The gods can crossbreed with mortals but the various mortal species cannot interbreed. Heritage feats are explained as characters being altered by the gods. Sometimes the gods alter an entire bloodline creating a sub-species. Note through if godlings elves can interbreed with other species. The offspring of these unions have the Fey Heritage feat.
•   No Jokes. Nothing breaks the mythic feel more than adventuring with “Rhubarb, Knight of the Suggestive Sausage”. Even the stereotype big dumb barbarian can break the mood if there is nothing more to the character. Guidance is given to make a character that fits this world. The same advice applies to referees, silly NPCs objects or locations should not be included.

Comments, suggestions, corrections


I don't believe any of this, except perhaps the final point.

What you've outlined here are, to me, guidelines on how to play a serious game with a strong, authentic mythological feel. Which is totally fine (and I want to stress that), but I hardly consider such a set up to be the only way through which you can achieve that epic feel.

The whole idea of being epic is about scope. As far as I can tell, it always has been. The original Conan the barbarian stories were almost always brilliant stories, but I would only really call them epic when Conan was a king or general, and when, in the conflicts he was involved with, the fate of nations and kingdoms hung in the balance. In the stories where Conan was simply a thief, or bandit, or otherwise a lone adventurer, the stories still had that impressive quality, but they weren't epic. In many of these stories, if Conan were to lose the conflict central to the story, very few people aside from him would be any worse off.

A story is epic when the protagonists are saving the entire kingdom, nation, world, universe, etc. when they win. I can see precious few hypothetical exceptions to this rule of thumb.

This does not mean that stories that are not epic are not good. By all means, it does not. Rather, I mean to say that epic is a style rather than a grade of quality, which I think you will agree with. The difference between us is that, to me, "epic" implies a sense of scale more than anything else.
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« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2010, 04:39:23 AM »

Excellent comments.
I think my problem is I need to untangle epic from mythic in my mind.
I think Crafty-Alex got to the core of the matter when he talked about getting the players to feel the gravity of the challenges.

So would a roleplaying mass-combat system be helpful? (definately not a wargame mind you)?
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http://www.scribd.com/doc/84956575/Gullivers-Trading-Co-Grub
http://browse.deviantart.com/#/art/Gulliver-s-Travels-World-Map-294804331?hf=1
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« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2011, 06:34:53 AM »

Another long-forgotten topic. I had time to think (a lot) about it and write down (a few) ideas. I believe - just believe - that I might have something of a simple mechanic that works relatively well with the existing FC rules. Mostly, it suppresses or engulf many small, relatively insignificant - on an epic scale - character options into what I have called Epic Abilities. Classes and skills remain, but aside from that, everything else is gone or dissolved into Epic Abilities (including feats, yes, don't worry). Epic Abilities are bought with points, which are rather liberally distributed by the players at character creation as they see fit. So no, the game is not balanced anymore. It's fully concept-driven and so abuses are easy. That's the main difference with FC but I couldn't conceive simple, epic character creation while keeping the balance intact. I've tried, trust me, and failed. Epic Abilities can also be bought with XP, so experienced characters will have to choose between leveling (i.e. growing more capable in what they do) or increasing their epicness (i.e. inherit greater pawaaaas from their patron/blood/destiny/whatever). At low levels, this makes leveling relatively more interesting, but as levels increase, Epic Abilities might become cheaper to improve. So it's really freeform and nonlinear.

I'll post a bit more on the topic as soon as it's properly ... explained (and particularly the Epic Abilities themselves). Because I'm really trying to keep this as simple and compatible as possible, while really really focusing on powerful, iconic epic stuff, and almost obliterating all things a quasi-divine being shouldn't worry about. And it's quite disturbing at first reading. It looks a little bit like a mix between the PC creation rules, the NPC creation rules, and the unofficial Origin creation rules (I guess), but simpler (I hope). More on that soon.   Cheesy
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« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2011, 11:56:40 AM »

Have you taken a look into the Epic Level Handbook for D&D3.x?  You should be able to get some inspiration from that.

There is a setting by Reality Blurs called Shaintar that bills itself as an epic high fantasy setting.  They released it for Savage Worlds but now that the author is very comfortable with the SW system, he wants to push the boundary even further.  In that setting he has epic level professions characters can get into.

I wonder if the class system in FC can be viewed differently from what Crafty intended such that there is the base class that deals with the typical.  The Expert class would be more like the Prestige class in which it is setting specific such as the Purple Dragon Knights from Forgotten Realms.  Maybe Master class can be rewired to fit a more epic level denotation.

As for the original topic, have you taken a look into Anima and Alpha Omega?  Both deal with humans going beyond their physical self and reaching close to godlike status.
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aegis
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« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2011, 12:31:21 PM »

I'm familiar with D&D's epic level handbook, which is exactly what I don't want to get into. I haven't mentioned it, but I'd like to do epic FC starting from level 1!

I have taken a look at Anima, yes, and I have drawn useful information from it. However, I'm more inspired by In Nomine Satanis/Magna Veritas, a French RPG depicting the battle between angel and demon avatars in an espionage war. Also, M&M and Tri-Stat.

I'm not familiar with Alpha Omega at all, however. What is it?
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« Reply #11 on: August 16, 2011, 12:49:56 PM »

Although I always found the tone of the orignal offputting, I'm a big fan of the English version SJG put out. Especially the cannonical resolution to the 'false alarm for armageddon'. Marc and Lilith making a Deal over dinner in Paris seemed to sum it right up. I also loved the hints that the Archangel of Speed and the Prince of Theivery were the same entity.

To me, epic is more a playstyle and NPC guideline. Allbthe plain old mortals have lower stats, low grades, the mook quality, etc.
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« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2011, 04:11:06 PM »

To me, epic is more a playstyle and NPC guideline. Allbthe plain old mortals have lower stats, low grades, the mook quality, etc.

THis.
Epic=over 20th level is a horrible bit of game-speak. I'm about 40k words into an Epic setting where PCs begin at 1st level.

One thing I am considering is a one off bonus of +90 reputaion at first level so PCs can begin with high social status, a lair for thier drake, etc. or just have a pool of good will to draw on.
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http://www.scribd.com/doc/84956575/Gullivers-Trading-Co-Grub
http://browse.deviantart.com/#/art/Gulliver-s-Travels-World-Map-294804331?hf=1
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« Reply #13 on: August 16, 2011, 04:46:40 PM »

To me, epic is more a playstyle and NPC guideline. Allbthe plain old mortals have lower stats, low grades, the mook quality, etc.

THis.
Epic=over 20th level is a horrible bit of game-speak. I'm about 40k words into an Epic setting where PCs begin at 1st level.

One thing I am considering is a one off bonus of +90 reputaion at first level so PCs can begin with high social status, a lair for thier drake, etc. or just have a pool of good will to draw on.

This is one thing I love about this system in particular- it makes running a game of this sort very easy. In fact, I've been considering for a while the idea of running an (albeit quite potentially shorter) inverse of this idea- have all the PCs be just starting out from humble roots a la stereotypical fantasy, except start them at 14th level and have them build from there, it's all (read:mostly) in the telling of the story.
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« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2011, 12:41:38 AM »

As I said, the objective is to start playing epic starting from level 1, not even high level. I want to make rule changes as minor as possible - and simplifying rather than complexifying - and yeah, add "advice" on how to use the rules "best" for epic fantasy. Thanks for the comments guys, keep them comin'. It's helping me decide if I'm going in the right direction with a few ideas and whether I should put some details - like storytelling advice and obviously I should - into the document.   Smiley
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