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Has Pathfinder given up on being fantasy?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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Sir Jolt wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:
I find it funny that Tolkien is considered high fantasy --
In the taxonomy of literature it's not. It's classified as Sword & Sorcery; same as Conan. Make of that what you will.

Which can also (and continues to be) much debated. Literature is the one place that probably has less consensus than role playing games.

I mean at least we can all agree that F.A.T.A.L. is an abomination that should never have been formed and should earn its designer a baggage ticket to an uncomfortable after life.

Literary types can't even agree that twilight is crap.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Asgetrion wrote:
Anyway, it's really hard to define what belongs to low or high fantasy, or even draw a clear line between fantasy or science fiction (or horror, for that matter). Ask a dozen literary experts and likely you'll get a dozen different answers.

That's not true. The taxonomy of literature is very precise. The confusion comes because readers, and even some authors, insist on using terms that have no true literary meaning.

Cheliax

CunningMongoose wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:
but I've noticed that a lot of younger readers have different assumptions and expectations for "good" fantasy novels these days.

+1

I find younger readers seems to like a much more rapid (almost ADHD) pacing, like the Dresden files. Don't misread me, I really like the Dresden files, but I do enjoy slower, immersive, descriptive prose once in a while.

We're living in ever more stressful times -- people have less spare time and seem to become less and less patient with each generation. other than that, I think anime and manga (and contemporary fiction, movies and games inspired by them) may have had an impact on that with their "instant-heroes-that-yet-grow-even-more-powerful" and ultra-rapid pacing. I've had several discussions with teens who've said that LotR is "boring because there's so little action and the protagonists are too weak -- unlike in Dragonball Z or Naruto" (although thankfully there are still many who still love the books). Nothing wrong with that; you should read what appeals to you, but I hate it when people claim that "Tolkien's works are cr**, no matter what".

Also, people quite often forget that Tolkien did not only have a huge impact on fantasy fiction, but also on literature (and writing novels) in general.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Abraham spalding wrote:


Which can also (and continues to be) much debated.

It's only debated by readers, self-appointed experts and others who have no influence and generally don't understand what the classifications actually mean. Sword & Sorcery, for example, is a specific classification with requirements to be considered such and a book (or series thereof) doesn't get to be S&S just because a few (or even a lot) of readers think it should.


Asgetrion wrote:


We're living in ever more stressful times -- people have less spare time and seem to become less and less patient with each generation.

Yeah all the old folks say that every generation.


TOZ wrote:
Define fantasy. I guarantee your definition is different from mine.

Fantasy in the media world tends toward Tolkeen style fantasy. Grant it the word itself is more broad, but that is the assumed fantasy and that is what Pathfinder and DnD was assumed to be.


Abraham spalding wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:


We're living in ever more stressful times -- people have less spare time and seem to become less and less patient with each generation.
Yeah all the old folks say that every generation.

True, and false. True, they say that. False, because things are really getting faster, and information is really now a matter of touch-search-get what you want-copy and paste.

Technology does have an impact on the human brain. My teachers told me I had difficulty to appreciate a slower pacing because I could use photocopies and did not have to manually copy pages from books, or type on a typewriter. Now, with the internet, I think it's right to say younger people are accustomed to get information fast, and to hyperlink to other topics without reading a long text between the two topics their minds want to get at.

This text will explain my point better that I can do: Is Google Making us stupid


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Sir Jolt wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:


Which can also (and continues to be) much debated.
It's only debated by readers, self-appointed experts and others who have no influence and generally don't understand what the classifications actually mean. Sword & Sorcery, for example, is a specific classification with requirements to be considered such and a book (or series thereof) doesn't get to be S&S just because a few (or even a lot) of readers think it should.

Of course -- so give me the definitive list of what is Swords and Sorcery that which no literary expert could possibly argue with.

Go ahead -- this should be easy since it's so specifically and explicitly defined...

You know what? Skip that instead just give me the definition, that shouldn't be a problem right?


CunningMongoose wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:


We're living in ever more stressful times -- people have less spare time and seem to become less and less patient with each generation.
Yeah all the old folks say that every generation.

True, and false. True, they say that. False, because things are really getting faster, and information is really now a matter of touch-search-get what you want-copy and paste.

Technology does have an impact on the human brain. My teachers told me I had difficulty to appreciate a slower pacing because I could use photocopies and did not have to manually copy pages from books, or type on a typewriter. Now, with the internet, I think it's right to say younger people are accustomed to get information fast, and to hyperlink to other topics without reading a long text between the two topics their minds want to get at.

This text will explain my point better that I can do: Is Google Making us stupid

I'd like to point out people have been citing this study or that for proof of the exact same thing (times are more stressful, things are going faster, etc etc) with each passing generation too...

It doesn't really make your point it just reinforces the, "Yeah this is what old people do" stereotype.


Abraham spalding wrote:
CunningMongoose wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:


We're living in ever more stressful times -- people have less spare time and seem to become less and less patient with each generation.
Yeah all the old folks say that every generation.

True, and false. True, they say that. False, because things are really getting faster, and information is really now a matter of touch-search-get what you want-copy and paste.

Technology does have an impact on the human brain. My teachers told me I had difficulty to appreciate a slower pacing because I could use photocopies and did not have to manually copy pages from books, or type on a typewriter. Now, with the internet, I think it's right to say younger people are accustomed to get information fast, and to hyperlink to other topics without reading a long text between the two topics their minds want to get at.

This text will explain my point better that I can do: Is Google Making us stupid

I don't know. At 32, I don't feel that old. And teaching to late teens, when I point then to that text, they do recognise themselves and say "yeah, it's true, our mind work this way, we do read text like that".

I'd like to point out people have been citing this study or that for proof of the exact same thing (times are more stressful, things are going faster, etc etc) with each passing generation too...

It doesn't really make your point it just reinforces the, "Yeah this is what old people do" stereotype.


Asgetrion wrote:
I think anime and manga (and contemporary fiction, movies and games inspired by them) may have had an impact on that with their "instant-heroes-that-yet-grow-even-more-powerful" and ultra-rapid pacing. I've had several discussions with teens who've said that LotR is "boring because there's so little action and the protagonists are too weak -- unlike in Dragonball Z or Naruto" (although thankfully there are still many who still love the books).

Tangent:
There is generally a wide range of anime just like in literature. Some are deep and moving like Grave of the Fireflies, while others like Naruto and Dragon Ball Z are like Harliquin romances that follow a set formula to fill out monthly magazines. While you do get the repetative fighting ones, you also get a lot of ones that are about average teens put in remarkable situations, similar to how American comics found out their readers loved sidekicks as they where "like them", thus leading to everyone having one until it became "lame".

As far as books go, I'm enjoying Scott Lynch. Fantasy conmen with a lot of interesting background mysteries that drive me nuts because I want to know and a lot of great ideas (Bondsmagi SUCK).

OT: I think that PF remains true to fantastic sword and sorcery, and I hope Paizo keeps expanding options. Sure they'll probably produce some stuff that they'll probably make them look back and go "Wow, I most have been animated purely by coffee when I wrote that". To paraphrase a comment from the 4th Ed L5R design team, It doesn't matter what you do, the number crunchers will find a way to break the system.

To those who love Tolkien, I've heard good things about The One Ring. I'm honestly affraid of games in Middle Earth because I've been in some really bad ones and have heard several horror stories about Rolemaster (One Ring is a different system). The best being my brother's hobbit decapitating himself with a sling on a critical fumble.


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Could just be me then -- I'm 28 still feel young. I like reading long books when I have the time but at the same time I have more to do than I've had at any other stage in my life: I got all my own interests (which each take time and keep expanding into new interests too) in addition to work, keeping house, keeping up with the world news (in the way of politics, weather, etc which everyone has always needed to do) and raise my kids.

It may seem like its going faster because I have less time for each task, but that's simply because I have more tasks... which is natural for the stage of life I am in. As I get older some of these tasks will fall by the wayside -- I'll have the same time but less to do, and thus could become just as fretful as the 'old people' of now because everything seems to be speeding up for the younger people I know.

It isn't -- they will simply be entering into the phase that I will be leaving at the same time. Adjustment shock and perception will be all that is at play.

Now I won't disagree that our method of information consumption doesn't affect us... but I would say that the human mind has shown that regardless of the change of method the... human element involved (us for lack of a better word) continues to find new and great ways to show itself.

In short we are evolving, a natural and scary process... but hardly one I'm going to fret about.


Feeling old is just that, a feeling. I've felt old since I was 20, due to injuries incurred over time.


Abraham spalding wrote:

Could just be me then -- I'm 28 still feel young. I like reading long books when I have the time but at the same time I have more to do than I've had at any other stage in my life: I got all my own interests (which each take time and keep expanding into new interests too) in addition to work, keeping house, keeping up with the world news (in the way of politics, weather, etc which everyone has always needed to do) and raise my kids.

It may seem like its going faster because I have less time for each task, but that's simply because I have more tasks... which is natural for the stage of life I am in. As I get older some of these tasks will fall by the wayside -- I'll have the same time but less to do, and thus could become just as fretful as the 'old people' of now because everything seems to be speeding up for the younger people I know.

It isn't -- they will simply be entering into the phase that I will be leaving at the same time. Adjustment shock and perception will be all that is at play.

Now I won't disagree that our method of information consumption doesn't affect us... but I would say that the human mind has shown that regardless of the change of method the... human element involved (us for lack of a better word) continues to find new and great ways to show itself.

In short we are evolving, a natural and scary process... but hardly one I'm going to fret about.

I, don't get me wrong. It's not a value judgement, just a sociological description. Technology does have an impact in my opinion, but I am not generationally chauvinist enough to think it's for the worst. Different is not bad, but it IS different. And it may explain why Tolkien is not as popular now.


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Yeah the article you referenced (which I understand isn't your position necessarily) seemed to think that this was a 'sky was falling' moment and seemed to me to be reminiscence of the very position they suggest Plato took about the written word.


Well, I think it's a lost. Replaced by other skills, sure, but a loss nonetheless. Is it bad? I don't know. I do think young people that can do both will be more competitive and (maybe) more fullfiled, but then again, maybe it's a bias.

That being said, intelligence will always take the form adapted to the present technological level, but I think intelligence is also always being able to also be somehow being mentaly skilled in past skills enough to be able to relate to and understand the great works of people who lived before you.

Time will tell, I guess.


I don't think those past skills will be gone anytime soon. Remember that the gaming population has grown well beyond our starting points -- I can honestly talk to people about gaming and them get excited about the idea now instead of looking at me like I'm breaking a taboo. As such happens the nature of the population will change too of course -- people that didn't want in because it was, "that Tolkien crap" play because, "Oh it's like Harry Potter, or Dresden right?"

As such I'm not going to simply chalk it up to the changing of medium by itself (though I'm not saying that doesn't play into it too) but rather the expansion of the hobby itself.

Because lets face it for all Tolkien did even in his day the popularity of his work was decidedly niche even as it was widely praised as worthy work.


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You are right, indeed. I need to drop down my black glasses and enjoy the fact being a geek is now recognised as being "in".

I guess the Tolkien bashing should only be seen as what you say it is, a trendy way to affirm yourself inside the geek community, a teen reflex to bash what slighlty older geeks love. I guess most Tolkien bashing geeks will, when older, go back to him and appreciate (if not love) what he did when they will realize you can relate to something not only for the immediate feeling it provides, but also for the discovery of the cultural value it has and the ways it, unknowingly, accounts for a wide part of their experience as a D&D player.

But you may be right in saying this way of seeing thing strongly depends on your age. I guess what was an entrywork in fantasy in the 70s-90s has come to been a aquired taste for people, if only because the general style of writing is now more in pace with the current technology level and that going back to the past requires for you to search something different from what you were raised in.

But again, I think it distateful for people to bash something only because it's not formated to the way they think. "I tried, but it's too slow" should not be seen as a real critique of the work, but as a question about the way your mind has been determined in it's inner working.

I mean, reading is a skill. You need to work on it in order to appreciate and judge a book, and a lot of comments I see here are just an excuse for "I only read what I like, and don't try to like what I read." For me, that is the best way to never grow beyond your immediate taste, and get stuck reading the same kind of thing all your life, thus diminishing the richness of what there is out there, out of your small ego.

Ok, sorry for the rant. It's late, and I had a little too much wine. :-)


I would say your position isn't so off either.


GoatToucher wrote:


Easily my least favorite part of the books. It's self indulgence that I liken to a band putting their name in one of their songs.

Only because it amuses me: This and that


CunningMongoose wrote:


But you may be right in saying this way of seeing thing strongly depends on your age. I guess what was an entrywork in fantasy in the 70s-90s has come to been a aquired taste for people, if only because the general style of writing is now more in pace with the current technology level and that going back to the past requires for you to search something different from what you were raised in.

Interesting anecdote. I grew up in a household where both my parents were avid sci-fi and fantasy readers. My dad still has a collection of books that includes multiple copies of every Conan story ever published, every author. He's a ravenous reader. He is of the age that he attended college in the late 60s and early 70s. He never read Tolkien until the films came out. I still haven't, but one of these days...

So, while I appreciate that Tolkien was and continues to be a starting point into the exploration of fantasy literature, that isn't my experience.

I'd never downplay Tolkien and LotR's influence on the landscape of fantasy today, that would be foolish. But with a historical perspective in mind, D&D has always been very much a throwback to pulpiness. It almost has to be. Even the corners of the hobby that are more "epic fantasy" like Dragonlance read very much like a pulp writer's perspective on the events of an epic fantasy. And I mean the original adventures and novels.

To echo earlier sentiments, Pathfinder has that kitchen sink mentality: if it is vaguely considered fantasy it has a place in Golarion. A strictly High Fantasy world would be a lot more discerning, and since that flavor has been in PF/Golarion since its inception, I think it's fair to judge the intent of the world to be more of a pulpy smorgasbord than pristine epic fantasy.

Shadow Lodge

It's funny. The original poster thinks there's too much steampunk finding it's way into Pathfinder, whereas I would love to have a bit of actual "pure" steampunk show up. As in, actually tech-based, and not just magic with gears sloppily stuck to it with a bit of old chewing gum. Of course, this might go against the unfortunate tendancy that fantasy RPGs tend to have to make magic the only thing that can be both flashy and effective, something that Pathfinder is just as guilty of.

Cheliax

Abraham spalding wrote:
Sir Jolt wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:


Which can also (and continues to be) much debated.
It's only debated by readers, self-appointed experts and others who have no influence and generally don't understand what the classifications actually mean. Sword & Sorcery, for example, is a specific classification with requirements to be considered such and a book (or series thereof) doesn't get to be S&S just because a few (or even a lot) of readers think it should.

Of course -- so give me the definitive list of what is Swords and Sorcery that which no literary expert could possibly argue with.

Go ahead -- this should be easy since it's so specifically and explicitly defined...

You know what? Skip that instead just give me the definition, that shouldn't be a problem right?

Exactly; I personally know quite a few literary experts and also consider myself to be one as well. I've read a lot of books, articles and research papers on this subject, and I haven't yet found explicit, all-encompassing definitions myself.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber

@CunningMongoose: I'm an avid reader, have been all of my life. I love the English language, and the formation of sentences. I've read a lot of books that might be considered dry by the modern reader and enjoyed most of them. I finished the first book of Lord of the Rings and then gave up about half way through the Two Towers. See, reading that book feels like work.
I don't begrudge Tolkien's ability to world-build, or his mastery of language. The books focus too much on the background, and not enough happens in the foreground. It's why I prefer the films, the background feeds into the rich visuals while the plot is cut down to a mere 12 hours of movie.

It's not "ego", or hipsterism. It's taste. Not everything is for everyone. The world is FULL of books, and works of amazing fantasy and science fiction. Some people like Jules Verne, and some people don't. Some people like H.G. Wells and some people don't. Some people like Jane Austen and some people don't. Life is too short to read every book. At some point if the level of enjoyment does not exceed the level of effort there's no shame in finding something better to do with your time.

Lord of the Rings is too slow, it's a valid critique of the work. Some people enjoy a slow paced book. Other people don't.


I read Tolkien as a kid, and pretended to love it to score intellectual cool points with my geek friends and family. It was only after growing up and developing some self confidence that I could admit that it's too dry and slow and formal for me.

Black Company, Poison Elves, & Thomas Covenant; the Narnia alternatives like Dark is Rising and Chronicles of Pyrdain; certain translations of Arthurian, Norse, and Americas mythologies... These things I love instead, enough that any fantasy not sharing flavors with them doesn't feel right. I find it tough to understand people whose taste differs, like folks who can still enjoy other rpg authors after experiencing Paul S Kemp's stuff, but I suppose tastes do differ and other people actually enjoyed LotR at the same level that I've enjoyed other things.

I'm just glad that Pathfinder takes a wider view, and brings in enough toys that we all can enjoy it.


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
A very interresting point

Fair enough, and now I feel a distinction should be made, so please forgive my ongoing rambling but what you said is very important, and I feel I should try to reconciliate our two viewpoints now.

I never said you should love Tolkien, I only said you should at least try to. Now at some point, yes, you would have to make choices and judgement calls. I do not disagree with that. I only disagree with people who, first confronted with a style or pacing they never encountered before do not even try and quit after 10 pages.

Sometimes, even in reading, you have to work a lot in order to later, enjoy doing this work easily enough. I, for myself, am glad I had great teachers that made me work through some books I would never had read by myself and forced me out of my confort zone long enough for me to learn to love things I would not immediately had love for. Things that first may feel like work, you may also well learn to like because you learn to like that kind of work.

Does it means I love everything now? Far from it. I can say some authors, like Proust for example, I do not like. Is being too slow a valid critique of the work. Yes and No. The word "too" seems problematic to me.

Please compare 1 and 2:

1)"It is slow and I don't like slow pacing - I know, I've read at least a couple of slow paced books and after aquainting myself with this style, I can say for sure I do not like it"

This is a very different judgement from:

2)"This is too slow, so it's badly written, so I conveniently can just ignore it"

The first means you are able, like you did, to differenciate between your tastes and the objective value of the work. The second means your understanding of what have value is stuck in what I would call "immediate personnal gratification syndrome" or "If I don't first personnaly like it, it objectively sucks" reflex I see a lot in my students.


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meatrace wrote:
A lot of true things and valid points.

I agree with all of what you said. I would only like to point out the fact that saying Pathfinder received of influence outside of Tolkien, like pulp litterature, does in no way diminish the influence Tolkien had on Pathfinder.

And I like pulp too. Howard is a great read.


CunningMongoose wrote:
meatrace wrote:
A lot of true things and valid points.
I agree with all of what you said. I would only like to point out the fact that saying Pathfinder received of influence outside of Tolkien, like pulp litterature, does in no way diminish the influence Tolkien had on Pathfinder.

To which I would say that influence is relatively minimal and secondary. Tolkien is rather ubiquitous in fantasy culture and you can crib from him without even knowing. Which is possible because Tolkien tried to create a holistic fantasy world in which all competing myths could co-exist and be explained, so anyone drawing on those original myths (as much fantasy does) will be accused of cribbing from Tolkien.

If you want to know what the influences of the Pathfinder writers are, see their recommended reading list. There are a hundred books on that list if there's one, and only so many of them are Tolkien. The only thing I was really arguing to was the degree to which people expect and receive a LotR-esque world.

I think 90% is a pretty high estimate, considering the number and disparity in stylistic variety of their inspirations.


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I've always gotten the sense that if it could show up in someone's fantasy RPG campaign, even if that made it a hybrid fantasy-steampunk or Western-fantasy-meets-Far-East or what-have-you, Paizo has tried to include at least some set of rules for it, so GMs would have a realiable resource for rulings and guidelines on such matters.

After all, it doesn't really matter what your definition of fantasy more than it matters what your GM's is, and can Paizo provide some material your GM can use?

To the best of my awareness, Golarion has always been presented as a "kitchen sink" setting so there's going to be gun-land and asia-land and goth-supernatural-land and inventor-land and sword-and-sandals-land and space-aliens-meets-elves-and-unicorns-land and most other at least relatively common fantasy and fantasy-hybrid tropes seen in popular culture. That it adds more new stuff is not surprising.

I imagine the philosophy is to include as much as reasonable (without being overwhelming; there is always that careful balance to maintain) so the resources are there in the source material, but the GM of course can exclude whatever they see fit. As opposed to refuse to include stuff that many players may well be willing to pay money for simply due to an adherence to a narrow definition of "fantasy".

As a GM who isn't, in fact, interested in guns or ninjas in my campaign setting, for example, I find it very easy personally to simply disregard the elements I don't want to use. It may well be harder to use Golarion if that's the case since it is by its nature all inclusive, but there are other settings out there by 3PPs, plus 3.5 settings are relatively easy to convert.

Shadow Lodge

DeathQuaker wrote:

I imagine the philosophy is to include as much as reasonable (without being overwhelming; there is always that careful balance to maintain) so the resources are there in the source material, but the GM of course can exclude whatever they see fit. As opposed to refuse to include stuff that many players may well be willing to pay money for simply due to an adherence to a narrow definition of "fantasy".

As a GM who isn't, in fact, interested in guns or ninjas in my campaign setting, for example, I find it very easy personally to simply disregard the elements I don't want to use. It may well be harder to use Golarion if that's the case since it is by its nature all inclusive, but there are other settings out there by 3PPs, plus 3.5 settings are relatively easy to convert.

Agreed. I find it pretty easy to just ignore the parts I don't want in my campaign. For example, I'm going to run an Arabian Nights-style campaign revolving around the Bottle of the Bound (titled "One Thousand And One Nightmares"). For this campaign... no Varisians. No Ulfen. I'm virtually ignoring all of Avistan to the point that Common in this world will be Osiriani, not Taldane. Focus on one section of the map (the Obari Ocean, campaign starting in Katapesh), one feel for the campaign, and I'm good to go.

I'm not ignoring Avistan because I don't like it, or because I don't think it's fantasy, but because it's not the feel I'm going for in this campaign. What's great is that I can.


I fail to see how its steampunk in any way. The Spellslinger wizards guy is obviously not made of brass, wood and leather, and most importantly does not use steam to fire bullets. (And by steam, I mean hooked up to boilers and the like. After all, real bullets produce steam.. sort of.)

I personally, hate when people say "They where like X, back then.." Back when? You mean back when they crap magical poo?

I mean seriously.. If they can make magical.. invisible horses pull wagons.. we can cars.


meatrace wrote:
To which I would say that influence is relatively minimal and secondary. Tolkien is rather ubiquitous in fantasy culture and you can crib from him without even knowing. Which is possible because Tolkien tried to create a holistic fantasy world in which all competing myths could co-exist and be explained, so anyone drawing on those original myths (as much fantasy does) will be accused of cribbing from Tolkien.

I'll just quote myself, as I already adressed this kind of argumentation a couple of posts above.

CunningMongoose wrote:

The mere fact you are having this argument is a testimony to Tolkien's influence over the hobby. Never saw a "Moorcock" had no influence on D&D, you could find all his things in other books."

This kind of argument (X had no real influence on Z because you can find idea Y, that is attributed to X, in other sources) is also, in itself, very weak. You could use it to show Darwin had no influence on biology because Anaximander had the idea 550 years B.C.

You may not like Tolkien, but saying he did not have a large influence on the hobby is bordering negationist history.

You see, I think it's more believable that the creators of DnD drawed on those myths because they read Tolkien, and if not for his trendemous work at creating "an holistic fantasy world" a lot of those myths would not have had the flavor they now have in Pathfinder that to believe they foud all this inspiration without reading Tolkien. As I think it's much more sound to say modern biologists draw from Darwin that to say they rediscovered the work of Anaximander by themselves.


CunningMongoose wrote:


You see, I think it's more believable that the creators of DnD drawed on those myths because they read Tolkien, and if not for his trendemous work at creating "an holistic fantasy world" a lot of those myths would not have had the flavor they now have in Pathfinder that to believe they foud all this inspiration without reading Tolkien. As I think it's much more sound to say modern biologists draw from Darwin that to say they rediscovered the work of Anaximander by themselves.

That doesn't even make sense to me. So you're saying there wouldn't be tales of heroism if it weren't for Tolkien? I think that's pretty crazy. Myths like Beowulf or Norse mythology wouldn't have the flavor they do without Tolkien? Wut?

What I have been trying to say is that Tolkien himself had forbears and peers in the realm of fantasy fiction that were also immensely influencial, and saying "nope, everything is through the lense of tolkien" is profoundly ignorant of this fantasy heritage. Two Sought Adventure, the first Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story, was published in 1937 and has virtually no discernable stylistic ties to Tolkien.

To me it seems much more honest to say that Tolkien dealt in huge, ubiquitous and relatable topics like war. If other fantasy stories involve war, why would you assume "hey they got that from Tolkien" rather than assume they got it from the world in which the writers lived? War made good fiction long long before Tolkien was even born.

I also tend to believe the creators of D&D (Gygax for example)on the subject.


Abraham spalding wrote:
Yeah the article you referenced (which I understand isn't your position necessarily) seemed to think that this was a 'sky was falling' moment and seemed to me to be reminiscence of the very position they suggest Plato took about the written word.

To be fair to Plato, I think we (humanity) lost something when memorization of large amounts of information was no longer the norm. And it isn't the norm today--I'm talking about people memorizing a small library of information verbatim.

Memorization does something to your mind. One, it exercises it. (Use it or lose it!) Two, what you memorize becomes a part of who you are in an almost literal sense. You are what you think. And to be fair to the techno-fear perspective, if most of what you think is OMG WTF LOL... well then... :(

Cult of Vorg wrote:
I read Tolkien as a kid, and pretended to love it to score intellectual cool points with my geek friends and family. It was only after growing up and developing some self confidence that I could admit that it's too dry and slow and formal for me.

Give it another try. At 32, I found it far more approachable and entertaining than when I first read it (and failed!) at 13. Books 4 & 5 drag, but what can you do. I suggest easing in with The Hobbit. And if you ever have any inclination to read the Silmarillion, the time is right after LotR. Otherwise it will hit you like a wall of text.


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meatrace wrote:
I also tend to believe the creators of D&D (Gygax for example)on the subject.

To be perfectly honest, Gygax's commentary strikes me as the opinion of someone who is only passingly familiar with Tolkien. Very passingly.

Gygax wrote:
Tolkien includes a number of heroic figures, but they are not of the "Conan" stamp. They are not larger-than-life swashbucklers who fear neither monster nor magic.

Gygax confuses subtlety with inferiority. Aragorn would have fought the Balrog beside Gandalf, as would Boromir. But the bridge breaking and Gandalf's fall happened too quickly. Aragorn does not fear the Nazgul. Aragorn's bravery holds together an entire army as they marched to Minas Tirith with the dead. Aragorn (and Eomer and Imrahil) were unharmed in the subsequent battle, "for such was their fortune and the skill and might of their arms, and few indeed had dared to abide them or look on their faces in the hour of their wrath." Then he goes into the city and virtually resurrects Faramir, Eowyn and Merry.

What, besides the author's style, struck Gygax as not larger than life about Aragorn? He is the very definition of it.

Gygax wrote:
His wizards are either ineffectual or else they lurk in their strongholds working magic spells which seem to have little if any effect while their gross and stupid minions bungle their plans for supremacy. Religion with its attendant gods and priests he includes not at all.

This statement is, for lack of a nicer way to put it, completely ignorant. In fairness, the Silmarillion was not yet published, but there is enough in LotR to make sufficient inferences. (The subtlety of magic in LotR often forces us to infer.)

Gandalf dies and comes back. He says he was "sent" back. There is only one conclusion what could have done this--some divine power. And Gandalf is clearly its hand on Middle-Earth.

A few references to "Powers" exist in the trilogy, referring to Sauron and Saruman, if I recall. In Catholicism, a Power is a type of angel.

The Silmarillion reveals Aragorn is the direct, distant descendant of Melian the Maia (an angel). But even without knowing this, we know Aragorn reveres someone named Elbereth, and has healing magic. Sounds pretty deific.

In Mordor, after their escape from the watchtower, Sam asks for light and water. They shortly get both. Coincidence, maybe. But what exactly, in a fantasy world, constitutes a spell? Especially one as subtle as Tolkien's?

Gygax seems to have thought that because the pantheon was not spelled out, and the cities full of temples, and because Gandalf was called a Wizard, and the divinity that all the elves worship (ie: make songs about) isn't clearly defined, and many spells are described in subtle prose rather than flashes of light that shout "here's the magic!" that these things don't exist.

I am almost forced to conclude he didn't actually read the books. His opinions strike me as formed based on second hand information, and dismissive without being sufficiently knowledgable to earn the right to be dismissive.


meatrace wrote:
That doesn't even make sense to me. So you're saying there wouldn't be tales of heroism if it weren't for Tolkien?

No, I'm not. I'm sayin D&D and Pathfinder would not be the same. Huge difference. They also would not be the same if it was not for the work of others.

meatrace wrote:
saying "nope, everything is through the lense of tolkien" is profoundly ignorant of this fantasy heritage.

I never said that either. I said a good part of the fantasy background that inspired D&D was through the lense of Tolkien, not that everything fantasy was. Huge difference again.

meatrace wrote:
Tolkien himself had forbears and peers in the realm of fantasy fiction that were also immensely influencial

Yes he had. I already agreed with you on that point. But again, saying others had influence needs not by itself to be a denial of Tolkien's own influence.

Why is it so easy for you to see the influence others had on Tolkien or on D&D, and so hard to see the influence Tolkien had on others and on D&D? You really seem to be begging the question.


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Every time some Tolkien fan gushes about it to me, I pick up one of the four, and I'm always shocked that anybody can enjoy it.
I've read plenty of slow paced books and enjoyed them, I've read plenty of textbooks and enjoyed them. I don't enjoy the way he writes descriptions, I hate the way the characters are voiced in thought and dialog, I don't feel any of the mythic resonance that I can get from other authors riffing on his source material. At no point does the story hook my emotions in any way, except for relief when I force myself to stop reading, and nostalgia for the time in my life I read it first.
The movies are better for me, its visuals are more entertaining than his descriptions, but the story and characters still bore me. I find it hard to believe that any fans of the books have actually experienced other fantasy authors, or aren't just blissing out on nostalgia, but I guess I'll take their word for it.
I feel a little offended that not liking Tolkien apparantly makes me some sort of poseur, and wonder why folks who don't enjoy the work should be expected to waste further hours analyzing and rereading it, when there's works I do enjoy or haven't tried yet I could be reading instead. And I'm upset with myself for wasting yet another hour giving it another shot because I payed attention to another fan. Same thing happens to me with the Bible, I never learn.


Hudax wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:

Yeah the article you referenced (which I understand isn't your position necessarily) seemed to think that this was a 'sky was falling' moment and seemed to me to

Give it another try. At 32, I found it far more approachable and entertaining than when I first read it (and failed!) at 13. Books 4 & 5 drag, but what can you do. I suggest easing in with The Hobbit. And if you ever have any inclination to read the Silmarillion, the time is right after LotR. Otherwise it will hit you like a wall of text.

Agreed. I had the pleasure of teaching _The Fellowship of the Ring_. I found LOTF to be a very different read than when I had read it at a younger age (on top of the fact that I was reading it as a piece of "literary fiction", not "popular fiction" or as a pleasant escape.

It is rich with literary elements (deliberate tools and devices) that make for great analytical discussions.


CunningMongoose wrote:


Yes he had. I already agreed with you on that point. But again, saying others had influence needs not by itself to be a denial of Tolkien's own influence.

Why is it so easy for you to see the influence others had on Tolkien or on D&D, and so hard to see the influence Tolkien had on others and on D&D? You really seem to be begging the question.

I haven't been saying those things AT ALL.

Never have I denied Tolkien's influence or talent. Especially not on the fantasy genre, where his impact was huge, but even on D&D in particular, where his impact was smaller compared to the influence of other authors.

ALL I have been saying is that his influence is routinely blown way out of proportion in the context of the development of D&D. That's all.

I had a friend who said to me, almost word for word, "well Gygax just basically just made LotR as a role playing game" which is profoundly ignorant of the influence of a plethora of other great authors in both the genre and specifically EGG and DA.

The entirety of my protest in this thread was to the assertion that 90% of the game is derivative of Tolkien, or that Tolkien and epic fantasy are the only kinds of fantasy that Pathfinder does/should/can/ought to draw upon. When you take issue with my protest of that it seems as though you are defending the point that Tolkien=D&D, which is patently absurd.


Hudax wrote:
meatrace wrote:
I also tend to believe the creators of D&D (Gygax for example)on the subject.
To be perfectly honest, Gygax's commentary strikes me as the opinion of someone who is only passingly familiar with Tolkien. Very passingly.

Which is the ENTIRETY of my point. How can D&D be almost entirely based on or inspired by Tolkien/LotR when the chief architect was so ignorant of it. Looking at early modules it's plain as day, to me at least, that the feel of the game was always more of a Howard/Lieber/Moorcock/Anderson bent.

In summary, D&D was never intended to be "epic fantasy" it was intended to mimic pulp short stories. Not that campaigns haven't been played that were epic fantasy, but the bread and butter of D&D/PF is Sword and Sorcery.


The White wrote:
After looking through some of the books (namely UM and UC), it has occurred to my group that PF has pretty much given up on being a fantasy game and just gone "screw it, let's go Steampunk". Especially after UC. I mean, just look at the picture of the Spellslinger Wizard... Not that this is a bad thing, just an observation and a thread to see if anyone else has noticed this and what people's thoughts are on it. Personally, I quite like it.

Great discussion question. I don't have any of the books on hand that you refer to (and the PRD does not supply the artwork), so is your question based on the appearance of the characters, the game style, the mechanics, or a combination of those?

The following is just *my* answer. I don't claim it to be canon. It's just based on my understanding and studies, and it's just for the fun of answering the original post question:

Pathfinder is a fantasy roleplaying system...with legs.

Strictly speaking, Steam Punk is a genre that draws from a speculative historical Victorian-era world (particularly its science, technology, and society) as the underpinnings of style, purpose and content.

Fantasy as a genre is pretty broad, but concerns itself with 1) escape from our world as we know it 2) a redefined look at characters and setting, especially with "rules" or "laws" of that universe which are implausible or unexplained by the rules or laws of our universe. Much is imagined without concerning itself with being realistic.

Whereas sci-fi focuses on science and technology as the underpinnings for dealing with the story setting, characters and conflicts.

So, I'd say that Pathfinder is still truly fantasy. But perhaps elements of steam punk are finding its way in, which, I would argue, makes room for another facet of fantasy.

By the way, there is an ongoing debate and discussion in steam punk culture as to what defines steam punk. Many feel that steam punk has simply become a (weak) aesthetic appellation for one's decision to nostalgically wear or display or write about cogs, goggles, wheels and inventive machines and such. Others feel it is a true genre and culture that celebrates the ingenuity of re-purposing and re-imagining what others have discarded or that which has become status quo (as it relates to resources, equipment, etc.)

Thanks for reading, folks.


meatrace wrote:

I haven't been saying those things AT ALL.

Never have I denied Tolkien's influence or talent. Especially not on the fantasy genre, where his impact was huge, but even on D&D in particular, where his impact was smaller compared to the influence of other authors.

ALL I have been saying is that his influence is routinely blown way out of proportion in the context of the development of D&D. That's all.

I had a friend who said to me, almost word for word, "well Gygax just basically just made LotR as a role playing game" which is profoundly ignorant of the influence of a plethora of other great authors in both the genre and specifically EGG and DA.

The entirety of my protest in this thread was to the assertion that 90% of the game is derivative of Tolkien, or that Tolkien and epic fantasy are the only kinds of fantasy that Pathfinder does/should/can/ought to draw upon. When you take issue with my protest of that it seems as though you are defending the point that Tolkien=D&D, which is patently absurd.

Fair enough. I think we are basically saying the same thing from a different point of view, and misread each other as being the proponent of an absolute position (Tolkien=D&D, or Tolkien had nothing to do with DnD) where if fact we both want to say the same thing, mainly that he had a large influence on the game, but certainly was not the only one and so did other writers.

I disagree when you say his influence was "minimal and secondary" - Don't forget that Gygax, even with the denials, had to change the name "Hobbits" for "Halflings" because of a lawsuit by Tolkien's rightholders, and it's difficult to deny the races of the games (tall elves living for centuries, orcs who are Tolkien's invention and that you can't trace back to previous mythology, etc.) were laregely drawn from Tolkien. That being said, other large parts of the game are inspired by other authors, but I think saying Tolkien's influence was "minimal and secondary" is really pushing your thesis too far the other way.

Also don't foret Arneson, and the hundred of people that made the game what it is now. D&D = 100% Gygax seems rather restrictive when you are trying to see how the game evolved.

As for giving an exact quantification, (0%, 50%, 20%) I think it's impossible.


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Hudax wrote:
Give it another try. At 32, I found it far more approachable and entertaining than when I first read it (and failed!) at 13.

That's the source of my problem with Tolkien -- giving it another try. I read the whole series at age 10 and found it to be new and awesome and devoured it greedily. Tried to re-read it in my mid-30s and discovered that my sympathy and tolerance for the whiny hobbits was exactly zero, and found all the other characters vaguely annoying as well. By the time I got through The Two Towers, I wanted to throw Frodo into Mt. Doom myself, just to make the thing finally end.

What's changed? Dunno, but between age 10 and now, I dicovered writers like Jack Vance, Dashiell Hammett, John Bellairs, Roger Zelazny. Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo is something I'd happily reread a dozen times before subjecting myself to LotR again. If that makes me a "poseur" of some kind, so be it.

Grand Lodge

Fun discussion. I don't get the elitist stances expressed one way or the other, but hey it is a forum.

Some like Tolkien style some don't.

Way back re: the OP. My answer is No, it has not given up on being fantasy; High, Low, or whatever. I have to throw in a But, is the path Paizo is taking Pathfinder to my liking? Also No.

Through all the discussions on what is or is not fantasy, siege engines, guns, robots, aliens, when what entered the game when, etc. I just shrug.

To me Pathfinder is, to be blunt, what they put into the Beginner Box. Simple fantasy the way I like it: Dragons, elves, goblins, dwarves, dungeons, a small home away from home town to protect (or whatever) magic, the quest for heroism.

No ninjas shooting 13 arrows in 6 seconds. No gunslinging Clint's and Roy Rogers.

But that's my style. It isn't expected to be yours.

To me, the reason I read and re-read Tolkien, IS because I care more about the background than the foreground. I care more for the stage than the actors. I always have. I am not wrong and neither are you. Odds are we just disagree and go about our little lives when we close this browser window.

Again.. /shrug


meatrace wrote:
The entirety of my protest in this thread was to the assertion that 90% of the game is derivative of Tolkien, or that Tolkien and epic fantasy are the only kinds of fantasy that Pathfinder does/should/can/ought to draw upon. When you take issue with my protest of that it seems as though you are defending the point that Tolkien=D&D, which is patently absurd.

I would like to add to this by asking what about the influence of Le Morte de Arthur had on D&D? When people think of Medeival times, they are usually think of something out of Excaliber unless they actually study the time period. The image of knights fighting in platemail and going up against fantastic opponents, doing incredible things like Lancelot taking out 50 guys without suffering a scatch, and dealing with sorcery. Arthur, Merlin, and several knights were in Legends and Lore back in the day. Also what about St. George and the Dragon? I believe these are things that have had influences on D&D as well as Tolkien. I believe that they had an influence on Tolkien too(see Gwain and the Green Knight).

The thing is that Tolkien can be attributed to most fantasy because he drew of the myths and stories common in northern europe. Greek and Norse myths are probably the two most common mythologies people are familiar with in common culture. Tolkien drew heavily from Norse/Northern European myth because it was familiar to him. So anything that could bear a resemblance to anything Norse or Arthurian in fantasy could be attributed to Tolkien because they influenced him.

Tolkien didn't create fantasy as we know it, he took mythology and blended it with a war story. Everything he used had existed before. I believe Tolkiens true contribution to Fantasy was proving that you could write a serious piece literature in fantasy rather than it being Sword & Sorcery escapist fantasy. Yes, Tolkien did influence D&D but he is not remotely the only influence. I think D&D would still be more or less the same without Tolkien, as most of Tolkiens influences would still be prevelent as well as the heavy influence of pulp fantasy. Without Tolkien though, fantasy in general might have never climbed out past comic books or harlequin romances in terms of popularity.


Kirth Gersen wrote:
Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo is something I'd happily reread a dozen times before subjecting myself to LotR again. If that makes me a "poseur" of some kind, so be it.

If that makes you a poseur, then we both are. Count of Monte Cristo is, IMO, a work of art, and arguably the best novel ever written. LotR is a good fantasy epic, a good read from a fine writer, but it's out of it's league when you try to compare it with Dumas' masterpiece.


Skaorn wrote:
I think D&D would still be more or less the same without Tolkien, as most of Tolkiens influences would still be prevelent.

And I think biology would be the same withouth Darwin because most of Darwin's influences would still be prevelent.

Seriously. Tolkien stood on the shoulder of giants. Everybody does. What he did is far from being "new" because there is no such thing as being totally "new" and original.

Does that mean that without his influence the game would have been the same? No, it does not. Being "original" and being "influential" is not the same thing.


CunningMongoose wrote:


And I think biology would be the same withouth Darwin because most of Darwin's influences would still be prevelent.

Seriously. Tolkien stood on the shoulder of giants. Everybody does. What he did is far from being "new" because there is no such thing as being totally "new" and original.

Does that mean that without his influence the game would have been the same? No, it does not. Being "original" and being "influential" is not the same thing.

I would counter by saying that you're calling fantasy a narrow field of a large subject. I will say that Darwin had influence on science as a whole, it would be very small in another area such as physics. Fantasy covers a lot and, on this thread, there are plenty who believe that Sword & Sorcery was a larger influence on D&D then High Fantasy.


I haven't had my front door kicked in by anyone at Paizo telling me that my Pathfinder game has been switched to steampunk. Perhaps they just haven't gotten to my name in the phone book though. I see the material mentioned in the OP as options for the OGL Pathfinder game system. I can choose these additional options or leave them on the shelf as the situation/story warrants.

If the OP's concern is less about the actual game system of Pathfinder and more about the Golarion campaign setting, then I can see how maybe the addition of steampunk elements is more concerning. But even then, you can easily just avoid Alkenstar geographically and dump any gunslingers out of adventures if they crop up. There's about ten campaigns worth of exciting goog-gaws and plot hooks in Varisia alone...no need to worry about gunsmiths from a tiny nation on the brink of the mana wastes...or simply wipe Alkenstar off the map. Mr. Jacobs probably won't put a Red Mantis hit out on you for it, provided the death of Alkenstar was accomplished by the King in Yellow and devotees of the Yellow Sign.

I am going for jovial sarcasm above, but the gist of my point is: Paizo hasn't abandoned anything. They've simply embraced more menu items. If you choose to exclude portions of their menu for the betterment of stories told at your table...game on homeslice!


I share some sentiment with the OP, given how many fantasy versions of modern technology the game has, or at least were present in one Pathfinder game I played in. Gas masks, guns, explosives, I mentioned to the DM at several points "are we playing Pathfinder or Rainbow 6? Might as well play Shadowrun or d20 Modern."

But really, all the game is is a set of tools. However much fantasy the game is, is dependent solely on the group playing it.

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