The Advancing Timeline of Fantasy Gaming


Gamer Life General Discussion


Just something I'm noticing:

1e/2e: Especially in 2e the majority of material is set roughly in in the high middle ages. Lots of chain mail and sword and board fighting. In most games the printing press has not been invented.

3e/3.5e: Early Renaissance. Some printing. Heavier armors make an appearance. Most games present a world much more urbanized than the rural serfs of 2e.

Pathfinder: Later Renaissance possibly going into the 1500s and 1600s. More light finesse fighters that also do something else (d8 3/4 bab) and attempt to make up the difference with touch attacks and crit fishing. Heavy armor becomes somewhat less important (more touch attacks).

(I don't know enough about 4e to have an opinion.)

Not sure if this actually means anything, but it is interesting to see the, average, technology level in fantasy gaming increase over time.

Keep in mind this is the average game I'm talking about. Spelljammer, Dark Sun, Planescapes and Eberron all throw this for a bit of a loop.


And least we forget firearms . . .

I think this has to do with the tend in out culture. Robin Hood, King Arthur et all, are more sword aginnst sword, historically grounded tales.
Currently, fantasy books, movies and video games are more based upon precepts created since the inception of post 1970's style of fantasy. The more complicated nature of the printing press, metal engineering, art, and other aspects of the renaissance age fit better into the elaborate fantasy worlds we now view as the norm.


First, I just want to point out that the "D8 3/4th BAB class inflation" stems from the fact that most of those were bumped up from the D6 they would have generally had in previous editions. A D6 hit die is now considered "Wizard hitpoints".

Overall, I think this really has nothing to do with the game system, and everything to do with the tastes of the players. All of the things you discuss and put on a chronological timeline of editions have existed in the game in many of it's earliest incarnations, and I think it's just natural for people to lump them as fitting in with a certain "edition" due to it being a major transitory point in gaming history.

I think many people back in the earlier editions of D&D wanted to play that finesse role, and weren't really able to because the rules didn't truly support it. I will give you that 3.0's introduction of variable-crit range weapons did have some impact on that, but I was seeing more finesse oriented fighters and less "Me grog. me hit stuff." fighters even towards the end of my 2nd Edition games.

I think what you're seeing is a combination of the evolution of thinking in regards to fantasy role-playing games. I think at some point, people started realizing "wait... we can sheer off a mountaintop, invert it, and build a city on top of it.. but we can't quickly produce books? That's.. rather stupid."

If you were to ask me a stake my claim on one aspect of gaming influencing this trend, it would be Caster vs. Fighter Balance. For a long, long time, the fantasy gaming stereotype was "Wizards start out frail and weak, and grow into beings so powerful the cannot be touched as they get higher in levels, while fighters start out strong and survivable.. and get a little better." I think the attempt at bringing these two extremes on par with each other has increased the level of "refinement" in the world a bit, as magic becomes a little bit less influential and world-shattering when similar effects can be reproduced through technology.

I refuse to comment on the firearm aspect, as firearms have been available in every iteration of the game since 2nd Edition. The idea that guns being available is something "new and different" is a fallacy.


The Forgotten wrote:


Pathfinder: Later Renaissance possibly going into the 1500s and 1600s.

Many elements of Golarion are 18th century or later. (eg politics of Galt and Andoran, technic of Alkenstar etc. And the infamous "tourism minister" quote of the CotCT AP would rather suit to 20th century)


The Forgotten wrote:

Just something I'm noticing:

1e/2e: Especially in 2e the majority of material is set roughly in in the high middle ages. Lots of chain mail and sword and board fighting. In most games the printing press has not been invented.

3e/3.5e: Early Renaissance. Some printing. Heavier armors make an appearance. Most games present a world much more urbanized than the rural serfs of 2e.

Pathfinder: Later Renaissance possibly going into the 1500s and 1600s. More light finesse fighters that also do something else (d8 3/4 bab) and attempt to make up the difference with touch attacks and crit fishing. Heavy armor becomes somewhat less important (more touch attacks).

(I don't know enough about 4e to have an opinion.)

Not sure if this actually means anything, but it is interesting to see the, average, technology level in fantasy gaming increase over time.

Keep in mind this is the average game I'm talking about. Spelljammer, Dark Sun, Planescapes and Eberron all throw this for a bit of a loop.

Now this can be a pretty tricky topic because the fantasy world itself is a big influence and D&D is reasonably capable of simulating a fairly wide range of time periods.

That said I'd argue for an even earlier date for 1E. This is mainly because of the strong influence of Grayhawk on the game during this period, especially important as there was not yet clear boundaries between campaign world and the rules set.

Thing is Grayhawk City itself seems to be based off of about an 11th century city and the other people and places on the continent often have an even earlier feel - usually between 8th and 10th centuries. I have no doubt this was intentional - Gygax was a miniature war games enthusiast and these guys tend to be pretty competent amateur historians.

2nd Edition definitely felt like it clearly moved things into the high middle ages. For one things that is roughly the point where Forgotten Realms sits and, by the beginning of 2nd edition Forgotten Realms was the closest thing to a 'base' campaign 2E had.

I agree with you on 3.X and Pathfinder. 4E is probably about the same as Pathfinder, it also tends to put a lot of emphasis on mobility and Eberron is now probably the closest thing to 4Es default world. Its interesting that, in general, WotC and Paizo seem to usually be moving roughly in the same direction just using different methods to get there.


The Forgotten wrote:


Not sure if this actually means anything, but it is interesting to see the, average, technology level in fantasy gaming increase over time.

Bit of a narrow definition of fantasy gaming - Warhammer was renaissance-era 25 years ago ;-)

However, parts of the basic D&D Mystara also seemed to be renaissance-era (Glantri, Darokin)

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32

Counterpoint: Temple of the Frog (the OD&D adventure with laser guns).


Epic Meepo wrote:
Counterpoint: Temple of the Frog (the OD&D adventure with laser guns).

And the first "fantasy" RPG began with Dave Arnestan giving a Druid mini a phaser. I'm talking about the type of game supported by the bulk of the rules.

I'm ot sure WHF applies as it's a direct derivative of a war-game.


Really, what you're looking at is the realization that more is more. By definition having some areas more advanced than older editions' settings you add potential play styles and environments. You can still have more savage or unsettled areas because the game world is designed to be vast.

What I'm saying is that - for instance - the inclusion of firearms in the world guild doesn't mean you have to include them in your games. Stay away from the one country that's originating them. On the other hand, if there are no rules for such things it becomes much more difficult to include them if you want them.

Third edition was released eleven years ago. Over time what's available for that rule set has grown. It's natural. Pathfinder is effectively still 3.x


The Forgotten wrote:
Epic Meepo wrote:
Counterpoint: Temple of the Frog (the OD&D adventure with laser guns).

And the first "fantasy" RPG began with Dave Arnestan giving a Druid mini a phaser. I'm talking about the type of game supported by the bulk of the rules.

I'm ot sure WHF applies as it's a direct derivative of a war-game.

So is Dungeons and Dragons...

Grand Lodge

Robb Smith wrote:
I refuse to comment on the firearm aspect, as firearms have been available in every iteration of the game since 2nd Edition. The idea that guns being available is something "new and different" is a fallacy.

They've actually been in the game since 1st Edition. There were conversions for Boot Hill AND Gamma World in the 1E DMG. Believe me when I say they were used. I remember the DM saying that the only reason he bought Gamma World or Boot Hill stuff was to convert to D&D.

SM


Interesting theory, OP.

My personal take on it is that it takes a lot of historical expertise to run a game set further from our modern era's assumptions. Avoiding anachronism in an iron-age setting is actually kind of difficult, because most of us would die from lack of basic knowledge in those eras.

Being able to assume things like "newspaper" and "hotel" in the setting makes it easier for those with less historical expertise to feel like they are telling a consistent story. That might explain the forward creep in time.


Interesting topic.

I hadn't thought about it exactly in the terms the OP put it, but yes I have to say I do see a modernizing of the game over the editions (and years).

Is this due to the taste of the players or the creators? I'm not sure. I do think 3.5, Pathfinder, and 4E are all heavily influenced by player demand. I think since the 3.5 design days the creators have had unprecedented access to the players (thanks to the internet) and that has heavily influenced what they either create or approve to be published. Prior to and including 3.0 I think the creators went with their own ideas combined with a very limited influence from the players since they were not able to interact with them on the same level.

So, to me, the level of creator/player interaction has had a huge impact on the more modern game design and that would tell me the active players prefer the modernization that has been occurring.

I will also add that I do believe Paizo specifically seems more heavily influenced by ancillary media (movies, TV shows, books, video games) then any previous creator base. If you just look at some popular fictional works I think you can see how heavily these things have influenced Paizo design decisions. For instance: Lovecraft, Pirates of the Caribbean movies, horror/gore movies, modern fantasy like Game of Thrones and Perdido Street Station, or the Dragon Age computer game. All of these things have had a pretty obvious impact on the things Paizo has published and in turn indirectly contribute to the modernization effect.

Strangely, even thought Paizo employees do have a strong "Sword and Sorcery" background and even publish the "Planet Stories" line of books, old school "Sword and Sorcery" is the genre I see being represented the least in Paizo game material. Which is odd to me, but I think can be explained by the intense player contact they have with the fan base and the modern media influence on the creators.


one thing to realize is there is actually two depictions of era I'n the game. the first is the themes of the cultures be it sndora or galt which are very renaissance or the land of the linnorm kings or osirion which are not.

then there is the technology of the items and weapons.

some of the games themes have been medieval but the technology from day 1 has been renaissance.

it's just that players don't look at plate armor and say, this is the most high tech form of human protection until the invention of modern materials. they just label it metal armor and therefrom medieval.

what about halberds? or many of the more advanced pole arms? these are all 16th 17th century.

basically I see golarion as the countries now fit more thematically with the weapons we have used I'n the game for years.


The game mechanics haven't changed much in terms of time period. That's more the campaign setting that does that.


Mojorat wrote:

one thing to realize is there is actually two depictions of era I'n the game. the first is the themes of the cultures be it sndora or galt which are very renaissance or the land of the linnorm kings or osirion which are not.

then there is the technology of the items and weapons.

some of the games themes have been medieval but the technology from day 1 has been renaissance.

it's just that players don't look at plate armor and say, this is the most high tech form of human protection until the invention of modern materials. they just label it metal armor and therefrom medieval.

what about halberds? or many of the more advanced pole arms? these are all 16th 17th century.

basically I see golarion as the countries now fit more thematically with the weapons we have used I'n the game for years.

I think you see it a little bit too complex. Golarion is more a gamist than simulationist world. I am not a D&D 3x specialist but halberds seem in this system not to be that advantageous than other weapons like longswords. (correct me please if I am not right) Players are used to their longswords and not to halberds and thats it. Golarion is not a simulationist world but a gamist world which gives the players what they like and used to.

Golarion is a wish engine.

IMO last decade many people (especially older ones, the youngsters didnt have the fragmentation of the older ones because they grew up with the new fantasy concepts) have been slowly changed their personal perception what the term "fantasy" is and what it could comprise.

Since the commercial success of eg. "modern Fantasy" like Harry Potter or diverse crossover Videogames and movies the term what fantasy can comprises is broader and more fluid than one or two decades ago.

Golarion authors are influenced by this new perception too, so its natural that they just throw everything successful in without the desire to "streamline" the setting according to a tight overarching design.

But not every successful setting is so. Warhammer FRP goes a different way. GW has heavy guidelines what is appropriate in the world and what is not. They would never allow an author to introduce any modern historical elements of 18th century+ (except war machines minis) for example. Thats ok from a pure design PoV but OTOH makes the setting not nearly as colorful and diverse as Golarion. GW wants to control the gaming experience of their customers, Paizo does not intend to. It is more free form.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

While there are certainly some elements of Golarion that are inspired by more recent events and eras than the true medieval era... the same is true if you go backward in time as well as forward. We've got a lot, probably MORE inspiration in Golarion from ancient Egypt, Rome, Atlantis, and a fair amount of other ancient world stuff in the world as well as more modern ships, democracies, pianos, and firearms.

Golarion inspiration spans a HUGE range of time to either side of the medieval era, in other words.


Enpeze wrote:
Mojorat wrote:
Stuff

I think you see it a little bit too complex. Golarion is more a gamist than simulationist world. I am not a D&D 3x specialist but halberds seem in this system not to be that advantageous than other weapons like longswords. (correct me please if I am not right) Players are used to their longswords and not to halberds and thats it. Golarion is not a simulationist world but a gamist world which gives the players what they like and used to.

Golarion is a wish engine.

IMO last decade many people (especially older ones, the youngsters didnt have the fragmentation of the older ones because they grew up with the new fantasy concepts) have been slowly changed their personal perception what the term "fantasy" is and what it could comprise.

Since the commercial success of eg. "modern Fantasy" like Harry Potter or diverse crossover Videogames and movies the term what fantasy can comprises is broader and more fluid than one or two decades ago.

Golarion authors are influenced by this new perception too, so its natural that they just throw everything successful in without the desire to "streamline" the setting according to a tight overarching design.

But not every successful...

I was simply refuting the ops assertion that the timeline has moved forward. elements of the renaissance have been In the game since day 1 I used Halberds as an example because they are something that people don't seem them as advancing technology.

I'm not personally look g for a simulationist world and agree with your assessment about the long sword vs halberd from a game perspective.

but you cannot claim the games timeline I'n the depiction of fantastic is advancing site renaissance examples of Andoran and Galt ( as the op did) and ignore that a great many of the types of weapons and armor players use daily I'n the game did not exist In the middle ages. number I'n fact came into existence after guns.

so I'm hppy woth the world being more I'n synch with it's armament but neither did a dark ages style game with plate armor bother me either.

Grand Lodge

With the whole technologies arguement, and the amalgamation of golarion! I have to refer to one of the altime favorite DnD settings forgotten realms..... Egypt, Mesopotamia, Vikings, United England, Fractured England, as well as a few other examples. Or how about Mystara, or Hollow world all a mix of time periods and cultures. So I don't see the validity of this arguement when its already been done before. I mean sorry to burst your reality bubble but wow, am i the only one who sees this?


James Jacobs wrote:

While there are certainly some elements of Golarion that are inspired by more recent events and eras than the true medieval era... the same is true if you go backward in time as well as forward. We've got a lot, probably MORE inspiration in Golarion from ancient Egypt, Rome, Atlantis, and a fair amount of other ancient world stuff in the world as well as more modern ships, democracies, pianos, and firearms.

Golarion inspiration spans a HUGE range of time to either side of the medieval era, in other words.

Yes but the ancient world is closer in functioning to the modern world than most of the middle ages. There is a reason Europe after the fall of Rome is called the Dark Ages.

Scarab Sages

Critzible wrote:
With the whole technologies arguement, and the amalgamation of golarion! I have to refer to one of the altime favorite DnD settings forgotten realms..... Egypt, Mesopotamia, Vikings, United England, Fractured England, as well as a few other examples. Or how about Mystara, or Hollow world all a mix of time periods and cultures. So I don't see the validity of this arguement when its already been done before. I mean sorry to burst your reality bubble but wow, am i the only one who sees this?

I think you're right Critz. There have been anachronistic mish mashes in D&D since the beginning. In Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, the legendary dungeon under Castle Blackmoor had a turnstile and charged an entry fee. It was all in fun, but not "true to any time period" if there is such a thing.

I do think that the game has modernized somewhat by moving away from the idea that all monsters are just things to kill. The idea that the goblins have personalities and goals are there if you want to use them.

I guess, really it depends on the gaming group, and the GM. My former DM did not like fire arms in his main FR campaign, but when he ran SpellJammer it made more sense, so he rolled with it.

Scarab Sages

The Forgotten wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:

While there are certainly some elements of Golarion that are inspired by more recent events and eras than the true medieval era... the same is true if you go backward in time as well as forward. We've got a lot, probably MORE inspiration in Golarion from ancient Egypt, Rome, Atlantis, and a fair amount of other ancient world stuff in the world as well as more modern ships, democracies, pianos, and firearms.

Golarion inspiration spans a HUGE range of time to either side of the medieval era, in other words.

Yes but the ancient world is closer in functioning to the modern world than most of the middle ages. There is a reason Europe after the fall of Rome is called the Dark Ages.

True, we lost some beautiful, elegent advances during the dark ages, that we have never completely recovered. Our technology has been able to make things easier, but not always better.


The Forgotten wrote:

Just something I'm noticing:

1e/2e: Especially in 2e the majority of material is set roughly in in the high middle ages. Lots of chain mail and sword and board fighting. In most games the printing press has not been invented.

3e/3.5e: Early Renaissance. Some printing. Heavier armors make an appearance. Most games present a world much more urbanized than the rural serfs of 2e.

Pathfinder: Later Renaissance possibly going into the 1500s and 1600s. More light finesse fighters that also do something else (d8 3/4 bab) and attempt to make up the difference with touch attacks and crit fishing. Heavy armor becomes somewhat less important (more touch attacks).

(I don't know enough about 4e to have an opinion.)

Not sure if this actually means anything, but it is interesting to see the, average, technology level in fantasy gaming increase over time.

I too observed something similar, regarding D&D at any rate.

However, I'd say that rather than moving forward in time, the D&D series has been progressively moving away from the feudal medieval era to acquire a somewhat 'timeless' feel.

While it makes some sense that given all the monsters, magic, intervening gods and interloping dimensional travelers the world has developed into something different than 14th century Europe, I kind of miss the 'default' feudal setting where a king was an actual king, owed vassals and knights, and when armour made some kind of aesthetic sense (the armour illustrations of the 3rd edition PHB was a big turn-off for me).

Having a wide variety of styles and culture is great, but I'd prefer a bit more universal cohesion backing up the medieval-fantasy roots of RPG.

my 2 coppers

'findel


Interesting topic, I've been thinking a lot about this sort of thing as well. From what I've seen in gaming over the years, I think it's just as simple as establishing a game system as a baseline, then over time more and more thing get converted to it. New edition of the game comes out, stuff gets updated, new stuff gets added.

I think it's literally as simple as: "Ok, so this system works for swords and shields, but what if we add magic?"

A few years later: "What if we add X(insert obscure weapon or combat style here)?"

Later still: "Ooh, that's pretty neat, but what if we add firearms?"

It's a pretty blunt explanation, but that's my reasoning behind the advances in fantasy-technology in gaming over the years; Players get comfortable with a game system, then they start adding in what they'd like to see customized, and it grows from there.

So, we started out with gallant knights on horseback, and wind up with talking robots wielding magic guns on elemental-bound airships or riding trains on lightning rails. Obvious evolution right there.

Grand Lodge

I will admit though I did not care for Eberron and its inevitable breaking of DnD 3.5 to transform it into 4e. though I liked the warforged I didn't see how they would work in any other type of world.

On another note I've always had a blend of culture and time periods in my games, as the World i created has a few different types of cultures though they are spread form each other. I have a more rennisance/pre-industrial continent though it has a island mass to its northeern shores that do to its imperialistic nieghbor is still in a fuedal state. I think we all can agree that the time and culture blend is world specific and that though golarion is well a mixture of these concept as well, we should look at how these cultures interact and how they well are presented, because if you look at the world and say WTF!!! at a nation resembling fuedal japan, next to a constitutional Monarchy of revolutionary france.. and they don't tie together.... that to me is an issue, more than Its not medevil!


James Jacobs wrote:

While there are certainly some elements of Golarion that are inspired by more recent events and eras than the true medieval era... the same is true if you go backward in time as well as forward. We've got a lot, probably MORE inspiration in Golarion from ancient Egypt, Rome, Atlantis, and a fair amount of other ancient world stuff in the world as well as more modern ships, democracies, pianos, and firearms.

Golarion inspiration spans a HUGE range of time to either side of the medieval era, in other words.

What I am wondering is whether this state of things relates to the fact that Golarion does not have any big metaplot? Certainly, the simple answer is no, but it seems to me that it would follow logically.

Meh, I feel I am probably a bit too tired to make this make sense.


I would equate magic to be equal to science or technology, so when looking at D&D or Pathfinder, you see it presented in many different forms. This is driven by the author or developer. But at the same time these ideas may loosely reference specific cultures, time periods, or locations in the real world. Therefore, I agree with posters that state it is more about the game world or adventure, versus the system itself. You will see more modern concepts introduced as the boundaries are pushed.


Could someone please just get it over with and scream out, "They didn't have guns back then!" Please? It's going to happen. Just get it out of the way. Somebody? Anybody?

But seriously, I wouldn't still be gaming if not for this "modernizing". If I wanted historical accuracy to specific time periods in my roleplaying... I would be a dull person with a lack of imagination.


Cathedron wrote:
If I wanted historical accuracy to specific time periods in my roleplaying... I would be a dull person with a lack of imagination.

I wholeheartedly disagree with that statement. On the contrary, a 'dull person with lack of imagination' would be more comfortable in a modern-like fantasy world that copies his/her own daily reality.

Believe me, it takes just as much imagination to play in a period RPG.

'findel

Grand Lodge

Cathedron wrote:
If I wanted historical accuracy to specific time periods in my roleplaying... I would be a dull person with a lack of imagination.

I disagree with this as well...

Both 2nd and 3rd editions had many different products that dealt with specific time periods. Plus there are many different RPGs that are based solely upon specific time periods...

Not to mention the miniatures war gaming that our very hobby sprang from is still very much alive and well...

I get that it's not your particular cup of tea, but to call it (and those that enjoy it) dull and unimaginative is just a tad off the mark of true...

-That One Digitalelf Fellow-

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