Thursday, June 9, 2011

Some Thoughts on Moving Away from Tolkien

Via Lament of the Flame Princess and Grognardia



I read the back cover and hated the rejection of the concept of "hero" ala LotFP. It deliberately discourages the ideas of nobility, self-sacrifice for the benefit of others, honor, etc. Better to be non-committal philosophically, and let DMs create the tone they want. Game designers are trying to give their games a nihilistic bent, which I think is a mistake.

Sure, not purely for nihilism's sake, but the section on alignment demonstrates that good/evil are merely ideas or opinions. This makes all ethical ideals baseless, including valuing life and respecting others. The cosmology chosen in the alignment section leads to nihilism, which leads to the mercenary spirit, contra honor, nobility, heroism. Honor and nobility become opinions without base, no more intrinsically good than dishonor and evil. That cosmology stinks, and it is too bad that it is accepted by default.

I think this game, and LotFP, are both trying to make their games more unambiguously conformed to the nihilistic sorts of literary inspirations (e.g. Lovecraft). In other words, they are "purging" so to speak other works from Appendix N (Tolkien). AD&D was less committed to this nihilism than these two newer games.

And you know I think the man has a point. I have no issue with scruffy S&S (love me some Howard and Leiber) but I am kind nonplussed with the whole Cthuloid horror idea and I'd like less of nihilistic stuff like the flavor text for the Speak Dead Spell (via James Raggi from LOTFP Grindhouse)

People that were decent, honest, innocent, or will be anxious to answer questions and remain on Earth for as long as possible. They have learned that the afterlife is nothing, simply a void with no effective consciousness and no sensation but for the numbing awareness of passing time. They know that being alive, even inside a rotting corpse for the briefest sliver of time that leaves them in agony as the decay of their physical form leaves every nerve transmitting unrelenting pain, is better than being dead. Cads, scoundrels, and heretics, on the other
hand, were pleasantly surprised to not find eternal torture waiting for them in death. Only
the vicious and undeserving find this peace in death, and they will be furious about this peace
being disturbed. This allows them a saving throw versus magic to resist answering questions.

and HP Lovecraft and maybe a bit more Tolkien ,Stardust , Legend and Excalibur.

And yeah sure its possible to go far into 2e territory and try to forget the S&S roots of the game to try and bowdlerize out the darkness but its also possible to go to far the other way and forget heroism as well.

JMO here but the next retroclone ought to embrace this other way a bit, more faeries and witches and a lot less squamous frog gods.


  1. Engines & Empires is a bit more like that, although I imagine the engines and guns and such are not everyone's cup of tea.

    Still, like I said earlier...I'm overfed on retro/pseudo-clones... if there was one that was going to catch my interest, though, it would be something along the lines of what you've just described, and not so much another "Back to the Ooooooold Skoooool, bitches! Characters die by the dozen! Stats for Shoggoths! Sagging harpy titties and pentagrams for everyone!"

  2. Great post Ryan. It'll take quite a while for the grin to roll off my face after the last part there.

    Also I have to say, I like Wing Chun, its a solid, practical Kung Fu style which I find refreshing.

    Its been years since I dabbled though.

  3. I've really let my Wing Chun training slide these past couple months. I'm going back on Monday... got to get back in form. My school is doing a panel on "Kung Fu techniques vs. Zombies" at the local con next month and they want me to narrate.

  4. Good luck with the Wing Chun panel, sounds like fun.