Is the classic fantasy setting dead?


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Techno-pirate cyborgs shooting laser beams. Catfolk/fox people prancing around feudal Japan. These are the kind of things I read about on the forums. So I ask, is the classic European medieval inspired fantasy setting dead?


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Zolanoteph wrote:
Techno-pirate cyborgs shooting laser beams. Catfolk/fox people prancing around feudal Japan. These are the kind of things I read about on the forums. So I ask, is the classic European medieval inspired fantasy setting dead?

No, but it's awfully limiting. If you and your group are fine with the limits, grab a copy of Giantslayer and make PC choices appropriately.


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Gaming these days draws influences from a LOT more pop culture than it did in the 70's and 80's. There's just more crazy stuff out there, and fans of all that tend to bring stuff into their games.

Classic medieval adventuring just isn't in style right now. Material is out there, but it's sort of been relegated to "been there, done that." Eventually people will get tired of Dragon-riding Fox Ninja's with rocket launchers built into their cybernetic limbs.


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Oh, you can certainly play "Tolkienesque Fantasy, chapter 9,156,911,434,286,735,314,267,812". Pathfinder gives lots of support for that. It also supports other playstyles. As a GM, you can set whatever limits you want.

There are also many OSR games that are designed to limit the amount of "weird stuff" available.


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Zolanoteph wrote:
Techno-pirate cyborgs shooting laser beams. Catfolk/fox people prancing around feudal Japan. These are the kind of things I read about on the forums. So I ask, is the classic European medieval inspired fantasy setting dead?

You're running into the Mos Eisley effect.

Some people are perfectly content with (and enjoy) a setting that has dozens, if not scores, of intelligent, playable races that all mingle with one another on a regular basis...sort of like Mos Eisley in Star Wars.

Other people find that so many different things going on at once damages the game experience for them, changing the overall feel they seek in a fantasy setting.

It's just a matter of perspective and preference. Neither position is superior to the other in any way. Play how you want. Don't listen to anyone else that tries to belittle (even in a backhand manner) your decision. If you prefer to play a world that is more reminiscent of Middle Earth, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is literally no requirement, whatsoever, that any home game use all the material on races and such that have been published by Paizo or any third party.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

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Remember that younger folk don't have the boredom with classical choices. It's all new and fresh.

As you get older you want more choices and so your horizons expand. Mixing genres, grabbing content from other styles and pop culture, it's all part of the same effect.

And it's magic. It doesn't have to make sense. As long as it is enjoyable and you have fun, go with it. If that means you're playing My Little Pony and Friendship is Magic...there's a Campaign for That.

==Aelryinth


I still like a vanilla shake every once in awhile. So too it is with games.


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more exposure
more communication
more platforms
more variety


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Scythia wrote:
I still like a vanilla shake every once in awhile. So too it is with games.

No one said you didn't, and no one's taken vanilla off the menu. But the local Kree-Mee Freez is a business, just like Paizo, and either/both would go broke if the only flavor they offered was vanilla.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Classic is everywhere. So much so that it fades in the background while the special snowflakes stand out in contrast


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Tammy stands out.


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Are we talking about the "classic" fantasy setting of D&D that has included adventures like Expedition to Barrier Peaks and Temple of the Frog since the 80's?

You know, the one with crazed robots and a crashed spaceship or the frog-people with laser weapons?

That classic fantasy setting?

Seems pretty well-intact.


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Orfamay Quest wrote:
Scythia wrote:
I still like a vanilla shake every once in awhile. So too it is with games.
No one said you didn't, and no one's taken vanilla off the menu. But the local Kree-Mee Freez is a business, just like Paizo, and either/both would go broke if the only flavor they offered was vanilla.

That's why I said once in awhile. The rest of the time I'm getting chocolate peanutbutter, candy floss flavour, or more exotic fare. I use the full menu. :P


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Zolanoteph wrote:
Techno-pirate cyborgs shooting laser beams. Catfolk/fox people prancing around feudal Japan. These are the kind of things I read about on the forums. So I ask, is the classic European medieval inspired fantasy setting dead?

I wonder if somebody in Japan is asking if the classic medieval (actually Samurai-era) Japanese-inspired fantasy setting is dead . . . .


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UnArcaneElection wrote:
Zolanoteph wrote:
Techno-pirate cyborgs shooting laser beams. Catfolk/fox people prancing around feudal Japan. These are the kind of things I read about on the forums. So I ask, is the classic European medieval inspired fantasy setting dead?

I wonder if somebody in Japan is asking if the classic medieval (actually Samurai-era) Japanese-inspired fantasy setting is dead . . . .

Considering how often the Sengoku era is still used for games and anime, I doubt it.


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Orfamay Quest wrote:
Scythia wrote:
I still like a vanilla shake every once in awhile. So too it is with games.
No one said you didn't, and no one's taken vanilla off the menu. But the local Kree-Mee Freez is a business, just like Paizo, and either/both would go broke if the only flavor they offered was vanilla.

Exactly.

All of these products are being released to generate revenue. So, people shouldn't think that all of it is a requirement to play the game.

People should feel free to mix, match, and use whatever they wish.

To further the ice cream analogy, all the products are like going into a Ben & Jerry's ice cream store. There are 70+ flavors, but the world won't end if you don't eat all of them. You can have a perfectly happy time just eating one or two.


I'm personally not a fan of the anthro races, they don't do anything for me (Ratfolk are an exception) but that's a different thread. The classic European fantasy setting is still kicking, but the standard setting for Pathfinder is even more of a kitchen sink than Greyhawk was, there's room for all genres of fantasy gaming within the boundaries of Golarion. I enjoy starting players off in a familiar locale and then having the call of adventure take them to fantastic far away places, a long way from the green hills and thatched cottages of fantasy Ireland that they hold so dear. Anglo Saxon roleplaying gets a little snoring.


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Define "Classic Fantasy", because Ashton Clark Smith, Lord Dunsany, Moorcock, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Lovecraft could all get pretty bizarre. Heck, even Tolkien was fairly weird for his, lots of non-human heroes and he invented Hobbits.


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Why would it be dead? The vast majority of Pathfinder material is geared toward that sort of campaign. But suddenly they have options for other sorts of campaigns and "classic" fantasy is dead? I'm not sure if this is more whiny or pretentious.

The use of 'classic' is a bit disingenuous, since intelligent animals 'prancing' about and killer robots have been around forever. That those things don't fit into fantasy is actually a sort of modern invention.


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I do not think so at all but what I like is that Paizo offers so many different options for people who want to play in a particular setting/world type. You can do all of the character types that you just mentioned. To each their own.


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I'm not sure, but I'm guessing the "classic fantasy setting" the OP is pining for has never existed. Every classic setting I can think of has its own bits of fluff and flavor that I'm guessing don't match up to the OP's idea of "classic fantasy setting". As others have pointed out, classic D&D has Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (and Greyhawk as a whole is set in a post apocalypse world). LotR was literally sung into existence. Conan is set pre-Antiquity.

Since the beginning of D&D making new, not medieval inspired settings has been a proud tradition. More than I remembered, in fact. Classic fantasy in roleplaying has been dead since the start.


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Zolanoteph wrote:
Techno-pirate cyborgs shooting laser beams. Catfolk/fox people prancing around feudal Japan. These are the kind of things I read about on the forums. So I ask, is the classic European medieval inspired fantasy setting dead?

No.. it's just after four decades, the appeal of it is not what it was in 1976. Tastes change in all venues. And the new crop of players has been raised in culture that's far more dominated in techno memes.


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When I finish this current campaign, I'm really thinking about a classic "European" style campaign world. But even now I don't allow anthropomorphic animal races, so I'm already partially there. Of course, it'll be at least another year before this current campaign ends, so I have time to think about it.


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More to the point, I doubt that you can get more than two people to agree on what precisely constitutes a "midieval european styled setting.". The closest one I think that TSR ever put out was Mystara.


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Aelryinth wrote:

Remember that younger folk don't have the boredom with classical choices. It's all new and fresh.

As you get older you want more choices and so your horizons expand. Mixing genres, grabbing content from other styles and pop culture, it's all part of the same effect.

And it's magic. It doesn't have to make sense. As long as it is enjoyable and you have fun, go with it. If that means you're playing My Little Pony and Friendship is Magic...there's a Campaign for That.

==Aelryinth

I doubt it has anything to do with being older. I've being playing for a long time and I'm far from bored with the classics.

Mind you I play other games as well, so I don't need to cram everything into Pathfinder.


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Zolanoteph wrote:
classic European medieval

Ah, I just love oxymorons. Then again, given how many people have (at least tried to) redefine "classic," that phrase is far from the most oxymoronic statement on this website (IMO "real life Pathfinder" probably wins that contest).

Anyhow, the "classic" fantasy world does seem to have been displaced. Back in my day, we had nymphs, and flying horses, and undine, and half-bull-half-humans, and centaurs. And demigods, obviously. And we had heroic craftsman who were so awesome that they could make fully-functional wings out of mundane, ordinary wax, bards who made such magnificent sounds that they could travel the planes and make stones cry just by singing, and fighters so tough they could reroute rivers or crack open a mountain and burst into another dimension just by punching really hard. Also, we didn't have any of this goody-goody "pure-hearted-hero" stuff. Just deeply flawed protaganists in a GrimDark world.

Nowadays, people seem to be obsessed with exotic races from other cultures like "elves" and "dwarves." Even worse are some new-age races like "hobbits" that some modern hack writer invented. And instead of having mighty martial leaders who nevertheless need help from the gods, people want these bizarre "wizard" things.


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Maneuvermoose wrote:


Anyhow, the "classic" fantasy world does seem to have been displaced. Back in my day, we had nymphs, and

I think that like the way science fiction only used to be about radio tubes, laser pistols, atomic energy, and rockets, fantasy like science fiction has simply shed it's straight jacket and simply covers a far broader field than it used to.


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Philo Pharynx wrote:

Oh, you can certainly play "Tolkienesque Fantasy, chapter 9,156,911,434,286,735,314,267,812". Pathfinder gives lots of support for that. It also supports other playstyles. As a GM, you can set whatever limits you want.

There are also many OSR games that are designed to limit the amount of "weird stuff" available.

I'd also say that unless you're talking strictly races (and even then gnomes come from nowhere and half-orcs wouldn't be PCs) neither Pathfinder nor any D&D is particularly Tolkienesque. The magic style pretty much blows any idea of Tolkienesque out of the water straight off. Pathfinder really doesn't support that very well at all. It can support many settings, but without serious houserules it really only works for its own uber-magic high fantasy.

Scarab Sages

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I wouldn't worry, Zolanoteph. That is not dead which can eternal lie!


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"Classic fantasy" is an absurdly recent phenomenon. If you look at the cover art of about a hundred fantasy novels from between the fifties and eighties, you'll realize that plenty of fantasy novels have had cyborgs and laser guns. The cultural perception of fantasy didn't start changing to "medieval Europe with wizards" until the success of D&D and the Lord of the Rings Movies (specifically the movies. The books had a lot of stuff to differentiate it from "classic fantasy"). In terms of what's had the longest hold on the traditions of fantasy literature, Final Fantasy 6 has more of a "classic fantasy" setting than Forgotten Realms.


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Zolanoteph wrote:
Techno-pirate cyborgs shooting laser beams. Catfolk/fox people prancing around feudal Japan. These are the kind of things I read about on the forums. So I ask, is the classic European medieval inspired fantasy setting dead?

As others have mentioned, you'd have to define that term first.

That being said, if you mean more limited race selection, standard fantasy weapons, etc., then no, it's alive and well.


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It's less 'dead' and more 'one of many options that didn't used to exit.'


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I'm Hiding In Your Closet wrote:
I wouldn't worry, Zolanoteph. That is not dead which can eternal lie!

And with Strange Aeons even death may die.

Bolded because, you know, strange aeons.


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People say they want a medieval setting, and yet none of D&D's settings Medieval at all.

The medieval period was dominated by a single church and the power struggles of various noble families with said church. If your setting doesn't have that, it cannot be called Medieval.


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Neurophage wrote:
"Classic fantasy" is an absurdly recent phenomenon. If you look at the cover art of about a hundred fantasy novels from between the fifties and eighties, you'll realize that plenty of fantasy novels have had cyborgs and laser guns. The cultural perception of fantasy didn't start changing to "medieval Europe with wizards" until the success of D&D and the Lord of the Rings Movies (specifically the movies. The books had a lot of stuff to differentiate it from "classic fantasy"). In terms of what's had the longest hold on the traditions of fantasy literature, Final Fantasy 6 has more of a "classic fantasy" setting than Forgotten Realms.

I think that's an exaggeration. There's always been some crossover. There was a fairly common tradition of pseudo-science fantasy, where the "magic" was really lost tech, for example.

But there's also been, throughout that time, a strong just fantasy strain. Certainly long before the LotR movies.

And of course, those different strains continue today. Pseudo-medieval pseudo-Europe with wizards is still popular. As are many other different approaches. Often written by the same authors. Many of whom write non-fantasy science fiction as well.

Damned if I could tell you what the "cultural perception" of fantasy was. I'd probably look at best-selling or award winning books, rather than random cover art.


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Zolanoteph wrote:
Catfolk/fox people prancing around feudal Japan.

Mostly they skulk, I've found.


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thejeff wrote:
Neurophage wrote:
"Classic fantasy" is an absurdly recent phenomenon. If you look at the cover art of about a hundred fantasy novels from between the fifties and eighties, you'll realize that plenty of fantasy novels have had cyborgs and laser guns. The cultural perception of fantasy didn't start changing to "medieval Europe with wizards" until the success of D&D and the Lord of the Rings Movies (specifically the movies. The books had a lot of stuff to differentiate it from "classic fantasy"). In terms of what's had the longest hold on the traditions of fantasy literature, Final Fantasy 6 has more of a "classic fantasy" setting than Forgotten Realms.

I think that's an exaggeration. There's always been some crossover. There was a fairly common tradition of pseudo-science fantasy, where the "magic" was really lost tech, for example.

But there's also been, throughout that time, a strong just fantasy strain. Certainly long before the LotR movies.

And of course, those different strains continue today. Pseudo-medieval pseudo-Europe with wizards is still popular. As are many other different approaches. Often written by the same authors. Many of whom write non-fantasy science fiction as well.

Damned if I could tell you what the "cultural perception" of fantasy was. I'd probably look at best-selling or award winning books, rather than random cover art.

I think you might be misunderstanding what Neurophage meant (or, if not, then I am misunderstanding Neurophage). I don't think they are saying that all or most fantasy had technology mixed in to it until the late 20th century. I think Neurophage meant that there never was a "standard fantasy."

For example, take a look at the worlds portrayed by Hesiod and Homer. Those were two authors writing in the same part of the world in the same language in the same time period with a lot of the same characters, and yet their worlds are markedly different from each other. Which one is "classic fantasy," and which one is "non-standard?"

More recently, neither Frank Baumn's Oz books, the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie, nor Tolkien's The Hobbit have "science fiction" in them. Even so, Tolkien's world is completely unlike Baum's world. And both settings are very different from Narnia. Which of those is "classic fantasy?" Which are "weird" or "strange" fantasy (words that are often used on this forum to describe talking beavers or talking lions). Fantasy stories by different authors have always been in starkly different worlds, so the notion of a single "classic fantasy setting" is erroneous.

With all that said, "medieval" fantasy streches all the way back to the middle ages (e.g. the stories of King Arthur), and continued through the early modern period, so it also isn't fair to attribute all medieval fantasy to the popularity of D&D or the LotR movies.


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GypsyMischief wrote:
Anglo Saxon roleplaying gets a little snoring.

I thought classic fantasy was more than just medieval England. Of course if you just pick one part of Europe it would be boring.


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If we're discussing this, I can't help but feel we should widen the discussion to the concept of archetypes. In much the same way lots of people have arachnophobia but would not react in the same way to a kalashnikov, there are concepts we humans seem to react to in a very primal way. By and large, these are the things set down in mythology. And, very evidently in books like Lord of the Rings, using them gets a response from us. Of course, we also know the old myths, and are not that interested in reading a simple retread. We want the archetypes, but ALSO, we want something about them we can recognize from our own situation. Written right after the second world war, LotR borrows themes rather aggressively from that conflict, even if I will not claim it is a straight retelling as some would say.

The hunger games is the story of Jeanne D'Arc in a sci-fi dystopia. Harry Potter. Spider Man. And so on and so forth, we get mythology, with a different sensibility.

As for fantasy worlds, it's pretty much the same thing. You need enough archetypes to make our mythological hunger start ticking, set with modern themes. Forgotten Realms is largely mythological, but also more than a little superhero-themed with great archmages, pig farming with huge amounts of description of shoemaker shops, discussions of merchant guilds and their tactics, and so on. Golarion spans the range of technology from neolithic age to 19th century or so, and so on.

We need both myth and modern.


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Conservative Anklebiter wrote:
GypsyMischief wrote:
Anglo Saxon roleplaying gets a little snoring.
I thought classic fantasy was more than just medieval England. Of course if you just pick one part of Europe it would be boring.

In classic fantasy, it doesn't matter where your setting is located, the characters are always English dudes with a very specific accent.


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^And to make up for their lack of budget for horses, each tapping 2 coconuts together to increase their movement speed and endurance.


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I pretty much agree with most of the posters here.

When people refer to "classic" fantasy, what they really mean often is Tolkien fantasy. Tolkien was hugely successful and spawned a ton of imitators, especially in the 80's and 90's. But for as long as there has been Tolkien-esq fantasy, there have been people using strange races in their works, or incorporating "lost" sci-fi technology into there narrative, or people who use talking animal folk. Hell most of the tropes actually predate The Hobbit.

If anything, you could make a solid argument that "classic fantasy (e.g. what you see in Conan as well as many other settings)" really is about very low magic and no other significant races, and those other races that are around are rare NPCS or monsters to be slain. Pathfinder and DnD certainly don't fit within that definition.


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Aelryinth wrote:

Remember that younger folk don't have the boredom with classical choices. It's all new and fresh.

As you get older you want more choices and so your horizons expand. Mixing genres, grabbing content from other styles and pop culture, it's all part of the same effect.

And it's magic. It doesn't have to make sense. As long as it is enjoyable and you have fun, go with it. If that means you're playing My Little Pony and Friendship is Magic...there's a Campaign for That.

==Aelryinth

The existence of the Ponyfinder campaign setting is what drew me into Pathfinder in the first place.


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137ben wrote:
More recently, neither Frank Baumn's Oz books, the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie, nor Tolkien's The Hobbit have "science fiction" in them.

Well... the Tin Woodman WAS a cyborg. Tik-Tok was a robot, one of whose inventors later went on to emigrate to the moon. In The Tin Woodman of Oz the air that was "made hard" might, arguably, qualify as a force field. In Glinda of Oz, the city of Skeezers used machinery to extend its bridge and to submerge itself. (Technically, the submarine had been invented, but it's certainly not "classic" fantasy.) And of course, in the 1939 movie, the lion was obviously anthropomorphic. And that's just off the top of my head.


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Zolanoteph wrote:
Techno-pirate cyborgs shooting laser beams. Catfolk/fox people prancing around feudal Japan. These are the kind of things I read about on the forums. So I ask, is the classic European medieval inspired fantasy setting dead?

You mean settings inspired by classic European tales like Reynard the Fox, or Puss in Boots? Anthropomorphic animals are probably more true to classic fantasy than those Johnny-come-lately orcs and halflings.

There are other games that probably do that sort of setting better than D&D/PF - Ars Magica and Runequest leap to mind as obvious choices.

(That's before you start arguing that "Medieval" in classic fantasy is completely ahistorical anyway, and medieval Europe was a much more sophisticated society than baseline D&D made it out to be.)


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"there is no spoon canon"


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

You just need to travel with clergy of Calistria if you want to know where the spoon(ing) is. :-D


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Neriathale wrote:

There are other games that probably do that sort of setting better than D&D/PF - Ars Magica and Runequest leap to mind as obvious choices.

(That's before you start arguing that "Medieval" in classic fantasy is completely ahistorical anyway, and medieval Europe was a much more sophisticated society than baseline D&D made it out to be.)

Runequest can be used for "classic (medieval-ish) fantasy", but it's more geared toward bronze-age city-states.

As to the OP: Yes. It is dead. May it rest in peace. Now on with the new!

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Zolanoteph wrote:
Techno-pirate cyborgs shooting laser beams. Catfolk/fox people prancing around feudal Japan. These are the kind of things I read about on the forums. So I ask, is the classic European medieval inspired fantasy setting dead?

"Not-me group X doing thing-I-don't-do A. Not-me group Y doing thing-I-don't-do B. These are the kind of things I read about in [information source]. So I ask, is the classic way-people-like-me-do-things dead?"

This is no less ridiculous and offensive on the topic of fantasy gaming than it is on the topics that make the news.

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