Anthropology, Psychology, and High Fantasy


While I love the game and the endless hours of fun it provides, anyone with a passing knowledge in Anthropology, Psychology, or even a college degree has to secede any chance of Dungeons & Dragons being "realistic." This is my big problem with D&D.

I'm not talking about hit points here, though I might rant about that another time (how the heck does anyone, I don't care if you're 15th level, survive a 200 ft. fall into cold concrete!), I'm talking about people, and the other "humanoids."

I'm going to start with the races. First off, I hate that term and everything that goes with it. Where the heck did we get races? In the real world, race means very little difference – he's Asian, I'm Arab. Our skin is a little different, our eyes are slightly off from each other, and we speak different languages, or with accents. That's about it. But, then, you might ask, why do we even bother to separate them, to say Asian and Arab? Well, it all comes down to culture. That's what separates us. But is there anything about culture that we are born with? No, that's absurd. We are taught our culture. You might think it's natural to be disgusted about cannibalism, but all you need to do is move to places like Indonesia 15 years ago, or just go back all the way to early human. Billy was particularly tasty. Culture is learned – we have some natural adaptive things that we are born with, such as the capacity to learn languages. But even that changes, as after you reach the age of 5 or so any other languages you learn will be second languages, will have an accent, and will be incomplete.

Now, how does this apply to D&D? Simple. Let's start by defining our terms. The "races" of D&D are better described as "genuses" (or geni, not sure) or even entirely different species. We can't mate with dwarves, but we can make half-elves so elves are at least somewhat close to humans along the evolutionary ladder, and therefore not a different species. Ironically enough, so are orcs. But, let's go all the way into gaming. Let's look at non-human characters. By the very mechanics of D&D, regulating this is essentially racist. It's like saying, "Well, Timmy, because you're white, I won't let you play a black guy, because you won't be able to play it accurately." What the heck? Who are you to say that all black guys are tough, wear sun glasses, and come from the hood? Same with the "races" in D&D. Who says all dwarves are tough, wield big hammers, and come from the mountains? You can't pigeonhole anyone that way. But then, we come full circle. This means the races mechanics are broken. If my dwarf is raised among elves, why does he still get all these Craft (stonecutting) bonuses? There is no good reason for it – there's no period in his life that he could've learned these things. But they are a part of the game. However, to flip it and put a human raised by dwarves, he gains none of those bonuses, though he sat and watched Eberk hammer out the mail himself.

But then we come to culture. We are told that all elves are like this, all dwarves are like this, and all halflings are like this. This by no means says you can't buck the system and play a dwarf sorcerer. However, you're strongly discouraged, and not just by stats, from doing so. But, back to topic: so many people place such a great emphasis on playing these characters "correctly." How are we to determine this? Especially, if we're thinking, "Well, that's not very elfish, it's more human-ish." That's one of the greatest loads of bull I've ever heard. Every one of the "cultures" (I choke just saying it) that these races are given is simply an extreme form of human thought. You take a whole bunch of human characteristics, blow them beyond proportion, give it a name, and, abracadabra, you have a whole new "race." This shows the ridiculousness of telling someone to "act more like a dwarf," or "less like a human" because, down to their essentials, they are the same thing. So, ultimately, all races are is a collection of various stats given some token characteristics that mean nothing. The system, in attempting to go so far, is broken.

And then we come to the "monstrous races." Question – why, by all the rules of logic, aren't these the only races? There are so many more monstrous races than not, they are much more powerful, and some of them breed faster than bunnies. Don't even start with the cop-out, "They're all evil, so they keep each other in check." Yeah, well, define evil, cause neither the PHB nor the Book of Vile Darkness get anywhere close to a good, solid definition (because such a definition is impossible). Everyone knows that evil is a force of perception, not a force of nature. Trying to make evil a force of nature is simply absurd – the world would either be all good, all evil, or all destruction because the two are constantly duking it out. Trying to make this plausible just results in a series of made up excuses, each flimsier than the last.

Speaking of humanity or its opposite, let's talk about being aberrations – does this make any sense? Not even going into world domination, the very idea of accurately portraying a mind flayer is oxymoronic – their intentions and motivations are supposed to be so alien as to be impossible to decipher for a human mind, and yet the GM is supposed to make it all make sense. Good luck.

And now we can have a quick rant about Common. Gee, that's a handy little language. Almost everybody knows it, mainly to cut short on game time. But, realistically, is this even possible, especially in a medieval world, even with magic? I'm going to have to say no. Even today, you have languages that take the position as the "language of trade", like English, where, in order to do well, one has to know English. So, I can hear someone arguing that Common is just like that. Okay, we'll go with that. But, wait, English wasn't the "trade language" back in the 1300s. Why was this? Technology. Globalization. Only with these two combined is this even possible, probable, or efficient. So, in order for Common to actually exist, every land must be discovered, every people, traded with, and, most likely, a huge international organization must be in place to regulate it, which organization would speak Common. I can't even begin to think about globalization in high fantasy medieval settings (you know that cool Oriental Adventures setting you wanted to run – can it, because there is no "orient" now, it's all the same).

And finally we come to my biggest problem with high fantasy – magic. Don't get me wrong, I love magic, but let's think about this here. At around 5th-7th level (too lazy to look it up) a wizard can start slinging fireballs. Nowadays, this is about the equivalent of a rather large car bomb, if used in the city. So, my question is, how the heck has magic thrived? It's like the government allowing everyone their own personal nuclear device. Any government even remotely concerned with security is going to criminalize almost every form of magic. It's absurd to take the magic as technology viewpoint, because they're nothing alike. Technology can be controlled, sold, traded. Magic is pure raw power. Yes, it's expensive to be a wizard, but what about a Sorcerer? Theoretically, an elf-supremacist punk living in the big city who holds a normal job but practices the sorcerous powers he has had since birth all his life in his spare time, could undoubtedly reach a high enough level to start flinging fireballs into a crowd of predominately human people, and that would be several fireballs, if he's talented. Not to mention burning hands, magic missile (which is enough to kill most commoners), and other 0-2 level spells. This is a walking terrorist in the works!

Well, that's my rant. I hope I have displayed accurately how high fantasy, indeed, the D&D setting itself, is practically impossible. My personal preference is to not worry about realism in a D&D game, but just fun, or to severely limit almost all the main staples of D&D. If any of you have found ways to reconcile these things, please share. It'd be interesting to hear.

Wow, quite the angry rant here. I'll pitch in my two cents.

First of all, I'm going to point out that DnD is a fantasy game that is made to focus around a group of people with an occupation that has never existed in the real world: "adventurer". It's not even going to approach realism, because the goal of DnD is to be a GAME, not a simulation.

Hit points. ( I don't know if you've found this article yet, but Rogue Githyanki makes a pretty solid case for how to interpret Hit Points in DnD. Falling is really goofy, but I think that for the d20 system, It's better to have a solid, unchanging rule for "How to Take Damage when Falling" than to leave it up to the DM. The numbers chosen for the rule also make a lot of sense from the game point of view, because you don't want 1st-level characters that fall into a 10 foot deep pit trap to take 1d12 or more damage and die because they failed their Reflex save. By the same token, someone who gets to 15th level obviously has been playing their character for a long time, and to have this character die because he is bull rushed out of a fourth-story window would be really lame. Doesn't work like that in real life, but this is fantasy.

Races. One of the WotC 4e designers (I wanna say Dave Noonan, but I forget) has mentioned that they're looking to refine that term for 4e. So this issue may already have been solved in the next set.

You can't get too uppity about the race thing in DnD because it's all based off of Tolkien's world instead of our own. Let's look at the general age levels of each race. Humans are the shortest-lived of the regular PC races, with the exceptions of orcs and half-orcs. Because elves and dwarves in particular reproduce much more slowly than anybody else, it makes sense that their culture would change a great deal more slowly as well, and so all of the pockets of dwarven settlement around the world would be pretty much the same to any non-dwarven eye.

I'm gonna put on my "budding Zoology major" hat on for a second. Genus is technically the taxon that comes before species, and so labelling each race as a genus would put them very far apart taxonomically, and the fact that some of them can reproduce belies us doing so. There are many different definitions of the term "species," but the one most commonly accepted for issues of zoology (that includes sentient animals too!) is the Biological Species Concept. The B.S.C. defines a "species" as being a group of creatures that can produce viable offspring, viable meaning here that they can survive long enough to reproduce. By that definition, DnD elves, orcs, and humans would all be subspecies of Homo sapiens. In short, the only way to really keep these different groups of creatures seperate without becoming so scientific that it turns people away from the game is to put labels on each of them. Doesn't work in real life, but this is fantasy.

Monstrous races are the way they are because it makes DnD work. If there weren't monsters, it wouldn't be DnD, and wouldn't even really feel like fantasy either.

There are spells and other effect that only effect beings with a specific alignment. While this is certainly not the case in real life, good, evil, law, and chaos are very much forces of nature in the DnD world. Both in our world and the DnD world, there's a little bit of each present in everyone, and the DnD rules chose to substantiate that rather than leave it abstract. It's more of a mythological view than a modern one, but DnD is very much a game of mythology (gods, magic, heroes with magical swords, etc.?). In a lot of ways, this can make dealing with moral conflicts easier. For example, a paladin kills a kobold baby, and loses his divine powers. "But they're evil!" the player exclaims in rage. "Pelor doesn't care if the parents were evil. Pelor DOES care that you killed an innocent baby."

The language thing is there so that DnD can better simulate the fantasy novels it is based on. How fun would Lord of the Rings be if Gandalf, the hobbits, Boromir, Aragorn, and the Gondorians, Legolas and the elves, Gimli and the dwarves, and Gollum all spoke different languages?

As for magic, well, Dark Sun is a setting that is based on the idea that wizards have run amuk and destroyed the world. The wizards in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels have power in the city of Ankh-Morpork not because they use magic, but because the don't use magic in a threatening way, kind of like nuclear warheads are used today. I would say that wizards in mainstream DnD are the fantasy equivilent of the tobacco industry in America. By all rights, they should be shut down, but they have enough patrons to support them and enough power that they can't be overwhelmed by the government.

I myself see fantasy, particularly DnD fantasy, as a fun excape from reality, not a new take on it. Don't get yer knickers in a twist because a game doesn't translate well into real life. ;)

As for role-playing, there's really nothing in the rules set (at least, nothing in the rules set that a good DM can't overcome) that prevents you from exploring any kind of conflict you'd like, be it physical, mental, social, economic, whatever.

If you want it to be more real, you could always LARP or something...


lol. I'll have to check out that larping thing. Next time I wish to cast fireball, I will just find a way to light bugspray on fire and leave it in a crowded shopping mall, so I can figure out just how my character would feel if he did that.

Seriously, though, my point is to just say how horribly unrealistic high fantasy is, not to say that it should necessarily be realistic. I'm running a high fantasy campaign now - I understand and accept the lack of realism. It just makes me mad when people try to apply that realism to a game setting that so obviously negates any attempts at it. This was inspired by a little of my own musings, and about the raging debate that was inspired by Caliban's article about playing to your race. Because this is a rant, and I kind of took my mouth and ran with it, I did miss some points I wanted to make, at least I think so. I felt, while I was reading that article, that it was impossible to accurately portray a "race," because, if you think about it, all the different races are is certain select human qualities taken to an extreme. Dwarves are extremely gruff humans. Elves are extremely graceful humans. Halflings are the closest thing to their own culture, and that's primarily because they're taken wholesale from Tolkien's books, where they were his pet project, and then D&Dized.

I will attempt to address all your points. First, adventurer was a real world occupation, though it certainly wasn't as prevalent as in D&D. It had different names, however, among them "explorer" (think Marco Polo), "mercenary", or both (conquistadors). D&D attempts to implement this as a job because it best facilitates the feel of the D&D game, based off of adventurous novels like LOTR and the Terry Brooks series, where characters traverse great continents, visit lost ruins, and save the world.

The hit points thing was an aside, but if you want to discuss it, that's cool with me. I can understand the virtues of the hit point system, hence why it is so oft-used and hence why I still allow it. However, the judgments I am making here are based purely on the mechanics of D&D, not on what individual DMs have done with it. I believe a major strength to D&D is that it can be relatively easy to adapt to a different setting, though it takes thought work. You could never do this with World of Darkness - taking it out of it's setting would, in many respects, ruins the game, though the system is usable. Now, back to my original point, that particular mechanic is extremely unrealistic to me. I understand, again, the thought process behind the system, but it makes no attempt at realism. I don't care whether you're experienced, a sword in the gut will still kill you. Think of the ridiculousness of it. At first level, a kobold rolling high on his sword, particularly if you're a wizard (which makes no sense again), can kill you in one blow. However, if you go up to say, 10th level, then the wizard could wade through those same blows repeatedly with little or no ill effect. Tell me how this makes sense, because, if there's a way you can advance in "level" and be harder to hurt, I would love to know what it is.

As far as culture, perhaps Tolkiens works provide them with such (you could argue against it, though having a real language is a strong indicator), but D&D has no such culture. There's a thought behind it, but it must remain ambiguous to facilitate what again is a major pull in general D&D - you can do anything with your character, even to the point of reshaping current cultures to fit.

Thank you for correcting me, as I plan to go into philosophy and english, not zoology, and thus need correcting as far as things go. I was attempting to remember my 9th grade biology class, but the most I can remember, apparantly, is that it was exceedingly boring, there was a cute girl in it, and, at times, we colored pictures of cells and such. I made the point that orcs, humans and elves were all the same species, by biology, in the article. However, I guess I didn't mean genuses. I meant whatever is just below species. Though here I will admit my point is somewhat weak, as it would bog down gameplay to refere to everyone based on biology. So there your point stands. That was just a small part of a rant that probably received too much attention.

I think that monstrous races make things difficult when you're attempting to make any world in D&D work. I don't care how disorganized orcs are, just by the fact that they're stronger, faster, and reproduce faster (and with anything) means they should have taken over the world. You could say that's what we did. The case has been made, though there's no way to prove it, that neanderthals were smarter than we are, yet we came out on top. So, I guess in this world, we're the orcs. Also, the plentiful nature of these races means that you can just kill, and kill, and kill, and there's always more babies to grow up and come after you. It defeats trying to incorporate such interesting, thought provoking things as genocide, because some player's gonna be like, "Well, it really doesn't matter if they kill them all there, because they're orcs, I mean, they're everywhere." I think a much more fun game is one in which monstrous races are given their say, but D&D, as it is, discourages that. Orcs are "always evil." I think it'd be super cool to run into a holy order of orc paladins. By D&D rules, remember not the rules of individual GMs, this is not possible.

Now, see, your alignment argument's up for grabs. Another GM would say that the baby was probably chewing on a human fingerbone and would grow up to be a carbon copy of the devil, who would rape, kill and steal from innumerable people before he was killed. After all, they're all chaotic evil, no matter what. And what if you're a paladin of St. Cuthbert? The alignment's no different, but the god is. Does that mean anything? However, alignment's not what this article is about - other gamegrene users have effectively beaten to death all arguments for it, excepting one. It makes things easier for beginners. That's the only reason I tolerate it.

I know why the language thing is there. What I'm saying is it's completely irrational to even think that such a thing could exist without having a monumental effect on the campaign world. I also thought it'd be interesting to discuss such topics as globalism in a D&D setting (the Orcs worship Sting or somesuch, who was originally an elven bard), though I think most players would find that dry. Again, the case here is not being made to say, "Wow, D&D sucks because it's unrealistic." I know it is, and it probably always will be. What I'm talking about here is when people try to apply realism to a D&D world. It'd be a world I would love to play in, but few players would tolerate.

Okay, I see your point. Wizards are government funded. Well, what about sorcerers? Heck, theoretically these kids can throw off fireballs at age 2. If there were any way (other than the fireballs) to know a kid was a sorcerer, he/she'd be killed the day they were born. And what about "magical mishaps." Wizards are prone to experimentation. What happens when that enlarge spell got a little larger than you thought? No government is going to tolerate the level of magical mishaps that are assumed, accepted, and highly likely in the D&D world. It'd be, again, like giving a certain group, say the NRA, their own personal nuclear devices, for security, to protect their homes. Well, some gun nut decides to tamper and blows away his city block. Doesn't make sense. This is a debate where rights v. security, if such a debate was even entertained in a fuedal society, would fall squarely on the security side. And then bring in adventurers. If you go off the level of loot suggested in the DMG, we're saying that by 3rd or 4th level, you can buy a necklace of fireballs. Before long, you'll have enough firepower to level a small town, if you get the fancy. Nobody is going to tolerate this, especially from low-life ruffians how go about looting places for a job, when they should be at home benefiting society like everybody else. Public feeling tends to run counter to selfish adventurers, and this wouldn't even be a debate, if it survived the dumb fighter slinging fireballs into the crowd.

What's an excape from reality? No, just joking. Well, here's where I differ from you. I know that most fantasy is an escape from reality. But the best fantasy is reality seen through a different lens. We're interested in people, when all is said and done, especially ourselves. We like the characters we identify with, the stories that have situations we have an interest in or find important to us. To me, what makes classic fantasy classic fantasy is that it is deep and provides a construct to look into interesting moral and philosophical issues. Many would disagree, but that's how I see it.

Yes, the rules set isn't limiting you from running a campaign you want to run. My main point is that there is no way you can reconcile reality and high fantasy, so stop trying. You have to come on one side of the two, you can't do both. I'm not saying high fantasy is bad, though it can be fatal in large doses, nor that D&D is. I love them both and play them often, as an escape or a new outlook on things, or both. I'm just trying to demonstrate how high fantasy is nowhere near reality, and overtures toward reconciling the two are doomed to failure. If you want to encourage players to really play in character, don't run standard D&D high fantasy (dungeon crawls) unless you plan on putting a snake in the bag.

That's all I saying, that's all I'm trying to say. -Bryan Reagan

What is there to say that hasn't been said?

I recommend Tzuriel to read Factual Fiction, at the moment I can't remember who its by, but it is a fascinating yet straight view on the evelution of fiction. It highlights several different ideas of why and how fiction came about, to what we as humans are trying to hide, or what ideas we are trying to display under the guise of fiction. Yeah, it doesn't go into high fantasy, but it leads enough steps of the way to get you thinking. I believe that you would enjoy it.

How can I get my hands on this very interesting-sounding piece of work, Wroe? Is there a site, or would it take a trip to the local library?

I agree on most points, and the system I am developing already incorporates most of these principles. There is one thing, though, I would like to point out about magic.

The characters are heroes, the exceptional few. At first level, they're already probably the best in their village of origin, by fifth among the best in the kingdom, by tenth the best on the continent. The number of people who can pull off a fireball is really quite small - and to gain the XP he needs, your elf-supremacist couldn't be a guy with a normal job practicing on the side, he'd almost have to be an adventurer of some renown and probably on a list somewhere. So there's five people in the kingdom who know fireball, and four of them wouldn't dare. But there is one nut with the ability and the inclination to do some harm - that's your definition of a minor villain, the perfect challenge for a small team of 3rd level adventurers to take on, who are also uncommon, but not all that uncommon - every major city would probably be able to keep some around like a SWAT team.

The biger problem, I think, is with the economics of low-level magic.

Well, I would agree with your point, foltor, except this is high fantasy. I think more mid to even low fantasy fits what you're talking about. But the whole high fantasy idea is that there's a whole wizards guild just down the street of any big city. Even if they were so little, just those few is enough, I think, for any realistic government to ban it. The only people that should have mini-nukes (sounds like a fallout trademark) is the government, at least according to the government. This why I don't love high fantasy. I love low fantasy, especially nitty gritty fantasy, because it puts a really interesting slant on the real world, and on reality. But high fantasy just blows it out of the water.

I think higher than 5th, the characters are the exceptional few. I just had a real random thought, but it fits: okay, look at pokemon. I know, when making a case for realism, this is a really bad idea, but bear with me. Our friend Ash is not the best, though, supposedly, by the end he's pretty good. But there's a lot of trainers out there, not to mention rivals from his home town. That kind of fits high fantasy more - there are a lot of adventurers. If there weren't, that would assume that there wasn't much of a demand for them, so the adventurers that the PCs are might go months without a job. It's kind of like being a explorer nowadays - it just isn't economically feasible, unless you're already rich.

But that also brings me to something else - I really don't care for adventurers. In many ways, they're just mercenaries. I prefer characters who have deeper and more developed motivations and reasons for their actions besides "Loot! Loot! Loot!"

Your point about the whole SWAT team is a big thing, too. To elaborate on my other points, I'm not saying that powerful magic is impossible in a high fantasy setting - I'm saying it would either be highly regulated (read: slaves) or suppressed (read: baby execution). While that can be interesting, and I'd love to play a magic-user in such a campaign, most players would chafe at it, because the whole thing about high fantasy is, "I can do anything! Look at me fly!" I've always wanted to play a sorcerer in a world where they suppress and hate magic in all forms. Any takers! I'd be a good player...

What's this about economics? I'm not very well informed there...

Local library, its not a bestselling book or anything, but it is an excellent resource that any decent library would have.

Oh, somebody once plotted out how economic forces would warp any high fantasy setting. (D&D is not my preferred system, so I may be screwing up terms) A very low-level wizard can create a permanent light source several times a day. So one wizard who devotes his career to making those instead of wandering off and pillaging, or a couple of wizards who do them occasionally to pay for their lodging would quickly take the bottom out of the candle and lantern market. Just think about what a wizard can do, how often he can do it, and how many wizards might be doing it, and think about how that would affect the economy: the goods and services produced transported and consumed. Would people even need to farm anymore? Certainly not every wizard is off raiding tombs - there have got to be some who dropped out of wizard college and decided to go into business for themselves and make the easy money selling household conveniences to the vast number of ordinary people. Pretty soon, unless there are frequent, large-scale anti-magic natural disasters or something, the fantasy setting won't be very medieval. I'm told the Eberron setting deals with this well.

Yeah, as far as I know, Eberron really takes this and runs with it, which, I'll admit, does make for a really fun setting. But it's still really unrealistic. Hmm, I hadn't really thought too much about the whole economics thing. And one couldn't argue that all the prices would be too high, much higher than the normal businesses, because that really isn't true - in a high fantasy setting, there's a lot of magic-users running around, which would seriously keep those prices low, if, that is, we're using capitalism. But that's a whole new can of worms.

My personal favorite system so far is the Storyteller system, in particular World of Darkness. It's complicated enough that you can do interesting things, but simple enough that they don't bog down gameplay. Especially the combat system - fast, easy combat that's still exciting. Not nearly as complex as D&D. D&Ds main advantage, though, is that it has a lot of back up material that you can play with, moreso than any other system out there. Which is a real shame, cause it's not the best. But, oh, well, what can you do? I do like some of the supplemental material.

one of the major scenarios in high-fantasy with magic is the amount of things out there tryign to kill people. High-fantasy worlds are those with fairly dangerous occupants, where the entire world is (in theory) balanced with a rather hectic schedule of powerful forces destroying one another rather frequently.

Eberron discusses the business of too much magic quite well, in a way that I seriously recommend reading it.

As for the races, i've thought about this quite a bit, and yeah, ti's fairly anthropgenically impossible. But speaking mythologically, the idea of races makes sense.

Now, you have a serious point about Orcs and goblisn havign taken over the world at this point. However, to take over the world, you've got be able to run what youv'e taken over effectively until you cna take over the next thing. A world-conqeuror needs resources. Now if we're talkign just a general supremacy of a race, realize the fact taht orcs are solar-sensitive is a pretty severe weakness.

If memory serves, DnD orcs are easily thrown off by bright lights. that means a solid druid or cleric of a Apollo--I mean Pelor can blow the army's [plans to hell with a mirror and soem improvising. Any creature that is sun-sensitive (orcs and kobolds, for example) would have serious trouble thriving as a domianant force, regardless of combative superiority. Unless you're in the underdark. Orcs are handy in the underdark.

Politely yours,

You've got some good points, Theo. My reply to the magic/hectic world point is this - then why in heck is it so organized? You look at high fantasy settings like Forgotten Realms (probably my least favorite setting), and most of the cultures there are at least as established as our cultures and civilzations here on earth. If there are so many powerful forces slinging death rays at each other, then I think that we would have a dark sun setting instead of a forgotten realms one. The world just wouldn't last such abuse. If magic, as it is in D&D theory, is spontaneous breaking of the rules of science and logic, then eventually this is going to wreak havoc with the environment. So a setting as rich and detailed as the Forgotten Realms setting, with such a large amount of history, is simply impossible.

Yeah, Eberron probably handles the magic issue the best out of all the different campaign settings. I haven't read too much into it, though, but if I ever want to read the setting, or feel like I need more points for this debate, I will.

Yes, mythologically it has a semblance of sense. But if you're going to fall back on mythology, then I'm going to have to refer you to Cocytus' article on fantasy cosmogony (, which discusses this topic quite well, though more with an eye toward the GM making one for his/her game. However, let's look at the settings of Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk. Both of them have a whole bunch of gods, but really no semblance of a mythology. The closest real world example of this is Indian/Hindu mythology, which has a god/goddess for almost every possible subject. However, rather like how being a Catholic doesn't mean you know all the saints, you don't need to know all the gods in Hindu mythology. Really, you only need to know 3-4, because they're the important ones. But why are they important? Because they figure strongly in the creation stories and the later hero myths, and are the most powerful. That's where general D&D high fantasy, at least with the Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk, fails miserably. There's just a bunch of different gods, with no semblance of or attempt at creating an interesting mythological history. Every culture has some form of mythological history, even, especially, Christianity. What makes high fantasy so immune?

Okay, orcs are out. The light sensitivity thing is a major issue. What about hobgoblins? They don't have light sensitivity, and their like the Nazis of the D&D world - they're bent on world domination. By now, such an organized, intelligent force should've taken over the world, or at least, the world would be divided up among the savage races, each owning and fighting over their little chunks. All the player character races would be extinct or slaves.

Well, that's it. The underdark is a whole new thing, which, one could argue, is horribly unrealistic in and of itself.

So, anybody wanna play in a world dominated by hobgoblins?

And while we're at it....

What's up with Monopoly? I mean, seriously! Since when can you buy a $400 hotel? And why is it that a dog can go faster than a race car? What exactly does a top hat have to do to end up in jail anyway? ;)

I think you're taking the "realism" aspect of the game way too literally. As another poster mentions, it's a fantasy *game*, not a simulation of reality.

I mean, the whole feudal midevil setting wouldn't even exist in a world where magic was common place. The economic model would be turned completely upside down and inside out. A magic-rich world would be more advanced than our current modern real world, since transportation, agriculture, medicine and technology would be completely transformed by magic. A common language would actually tend to rise quicker than in our current society because communication and transporation would be near instantaneous.

Hell, magic breaks all the laws of physics, thermodynamics and relativity... So to complain about something as minscule as falling damage or misusing the word "race" to mean "species" instead is a bit of a non-sequitur to the fact that the universe would collapse in upon itself if such laws were so easily circumvented.

What one needs to expect when sitting down at such a game is that it was once built upon a foundation of fantasy literature and mythology archetypes with some simple rules to govern the way little lead figures move around on a table and "fight" one another.

D&D grew from Chainmail. It, in turn, spawned AD&D, 2nd Edition, 3rd Edition and all the campaign books, etc ad infinitum... but beneath it all is the crusty foundation of a hobbit facing down an orc using some paper, pencils, dice and lead figures.

So, of course D&D doesn't scale well to reality... It's not intended to. That's the "game contract" you accept when you sit down and play the rules as written -- that it's not supposed to be real, but it is supposed to be fun.

By the way, I never liked how a knight moves two spaces forward and one to the left or right the way it does in Chess... Someone really should think about developing Advanced Chess, 2nd Edition with better mounted combat rules.

Lots of ;)

I know! What is up with Monopoly? We should make the real world like that - $400 dollar hotels. I think I'd like that set up.

Well, actually, my point in writing this article (it was a rant, so it wasn't clear) was to explain why you can't ever put realism and D&D together, or at least not traditional D&D. I've seen too many articles and other where people talk about roleplaying "realistically," especially when it comes to roleplaying a fantasy race realistically. It just isn't possible - there's nothing remotely realistic about elves and dwarves.

But there was a second purpose in writing it. See, it's my personal preference that there needs to be some realism, at least a little. If not, we lose the only frame of reference we have, and therefore can't really play the game nor understand it. High fantasy, to me, blows this out of the water. There is little or no realism in this. For instance, I'll pick a particular magic thing that really gets at me. Raising the dead. This is asking for chaos, no matter what society we're talking about. Also, from a storyline viewpoint, it's lame. I really hate it when people just trounce down to the local death regurtitator, and there's Pete the Paladin again, who died previously because he was incredibly stupid. I don't like high fantasy magic. I like magic that makes some semblance of sense, that keeps things interesting. I really hate the "magic as technology" stance, because it ruins what makes magic special. It's just like having guns in the stone age now. Magic should be costly (and I don't mean gold-wise), it should be limited, and it should be somewhat realistic. Yes, this means spellcasters are few and far between. Good! That makes them important. If there were a whole bunch of people wandering around crossing the ocean on dry ground, nobody would care about Moses. The best magic is magic that relies on the environment, and doesn't break all the rules of physics and everything else, but uses them. Ever read the Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card? I love those books and one of the best things about them is that magic is realistic. This doesn't mean it's not powerful - it just takes intelligence and forethought to use.

A compelling game requires at least some realism. If the players aren't afraid of dying because Timmy can come back, then either they aren't afraid of anything and act recklessly, or you have to throw soul-sucking monsters at them always, to keep them concerned about their characters. A game that really makes players sit and think and really consider what's going on - that's good stuff. A game where players will actually think about the campaign as well as their character, in particularly the evolution of the character as the campaign progresses, when they're not at the table - that's good stuff. That's what I'm working for. D&D does not usually facilitate that. In fact, in many ways, it's anti-that. The whole thing behind D&D is cathartic monster-bashing. Sure, you as GM, can and should make things different, but the setting should facilitate it. And it doesn't.

Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm not a D&D hater. I love the game, and play it often (like last night for instance), but there are some major things about it that gripe me. That's all I'm trying to say here. If you gave me an option between low fantasy and high fantasy, I will pick low every time. Low is better. It inherantly facilitates roleplay, it makes things more challeging, more personal, more interesting. Low are some of the best settings there are.

Case in point - Lord of the Rings is low fantasy. There's some magic, yes, but the biggest, baddest thing Gandalf does with his magic is create a big light ray to scare off Nazgul. He doesn't drop fireballs on the armies of orcs coming for them. His magic is low magic, but it's still powerful. Without Gandalf, they would've lost. Lord of the Rings is low fantasy, yet it is still considered the best fantasy out there.

I know all about the origins of D&D, about the "contract" I entered into, about all of that. But what I'm asking for is a more interesting game, not the same old high fantasy bullcrap that spawns so much bad literature you could drown mankind with it (not to mention the paper cuts). I want to see a fantasy world that really should be the way it is. I want to play in such a world. So many GMs complain about munchkins. Well, low fantasy basically nips that in the bud. I want magic that makes sense, magic that doesn't break the laws, but magic that uses them to achieve a greater purpose. That's cool stuff. It requires intelligent, alert, thoughtful players. No more magic swords +18. I'm sick of that. It's dumb, has no meaning, and encourages people to find loopholes in the rules and abuse them to no end. Low magic is the best fantasy setting, hands down.

As for chess, I think the way the knight moves makes sense - he's all faster than everybody else, and I think he moves that way to reflect the flanking that calvary were commonly used for. Of course, we could go Advanced Chess, but then that might lead to some wierd hybrid roleplaying chess. "My knight gains a level!" I think we should keep it as is.

But we should definitely change Monopoly. ;)

You can't get too uppity about the race thing in DnD because it's all based off of Tolkien's world instead of our own.

I'm sorry, but I stridently disagree. Tolkien's world is little more than reheated Norse myth; Norse myth is sometimes associated with certain extremist racist groups for a very good reason; and it is our choice, as gamers, to game in this absurd milieu...or not.

There are spells and other effect that only effect beings with a specific alignment. While this is certainly not the case in real life, good, evil, law, and chaos are very much forces of nature in the DnD world. Both in our world and the DnD world, there's a little bit of each present in everyone, and the DnD rules chose to substantiate that rather than leave it abstract. It's more of a mythological view than a modern one, but DnD is very much a game of mythology (gods, magic, heroes with magical swords, etc.?).

As someone who has ranted previously in these forums about the absurdity and non-necessity of alignment, I feel obliged to point out that the majority of other fantasy gaming systems don't use it. At all. But the telling point to me is the rumor that it is being removed as a core mechanic of D&D at the particular insistence of one of the designers. Once again: about. bloody. time.

As for role-playing, there's really nothing in the rules set (at least, nothing in the rules set that a good DM can't overcome) that prevents you from exploring any kind of conflict you'd like, be it physical, mental, social, economic, whatever.

Have you tried hacking alignment out of D&D? I have. Despite my encouragement to people who do, it's a bear. You've got to come up with codes of conduct for at least three classes and revise the spell list heavily. By the time you've finished, you've practically got a different game.

And you know what? It's a good one.

BTW, Lorthyne - I don't mean to land on you like a collapsed tomb. You've obviously hit a nerve with me. ;)

Tzuriel: Nice rant. With me, you are obviously preaching to the choir. Or the converted. We could write a supplement on Orcish paladins, but then we'd have to...ah...convert it to 4ed.

Forgot to say something last time...
You're point about the common language was very good, and one that I honestly hadn't thought about. Good job. That brings up all kinds of interesting thoughts. However, I still think it would be fun to play in a fantasy globalization kinda setting.

We totally should! Actually, there's a great web comic that's really funny but also talks about a lot of this stuff. It's called Goblins and I seriously recommend anyone who likes this debate to check it out. Plus, it's really funny. This is the archives:
Really good stuff. And it shows just how cool goblins are.

First, thank you for referencing goblins, one of my favorite comics on the web by far and away. If you're ever in Reno, swing by. I owe ya some cookies, Tzur.

Second, godo to see a name I remember, Cocytus, and yes, as before, your rant on algiment is justified. If they can make alignment shot to hell and keep the game mechanics for behaviour and consequences from beign totally screwed, i'd be happy, even if they just ripped off a workign system from another game for it. Still hate having to re-buy everything, though.

I'll be the first ot admit alignment sucks. However, playing 3 ed. without it is beyond difficult. You think good and evil are hard, just try beign lawful, Monks can be such a nuisance to play in alignment, so I basically say lawful is defined as consistency and self-discipline and leave it at that.

As for Hobgoblins, that's why I love the Sarlya setting, where hobgoblins indeed did very well, even beating out the other races of the underdark (again, the drow's issue iwth sunlight made a few hobgoblin druids more than enough to contain the situation) and maintining control. Also, I think comapring Hobgoblins to Spartans is better than Nazis, but that's a moot point.

And yes, High-magic high Fantasy is by its very nature, an unrealistic setting. However, you can in a way play a race semi-accurately. Although a race itself is not an appropriate guideline, there are both Racial adn cultural identities, and those will in some way affect your character, even if your character concept has a backgroudn and identitiy not fitting with that race.

As for how magic is "regulated," I alwasy figured the gods and extraplanar entities that define the majority of "magical" sources had ah abit of regualting one self. And as for wehther or not civilizations could be built in such a chaotic time, yes. advanced past medieval in many ways, probably not, but you could have soem semblance of civilization at the time.

As for why "monstrous races" particularly the Mind-flayers and Hobgoblins, both of whom are nigh-unstoppable after a few levels are added, have yet to conquer the stnadard fantasy world, the character flaws that make a man a good conqueror tend to make that same man (or abberration) a poor administrator. Hobgoblins are prone to pride and self-destructive behaviour, as are most good Lawful conqueror types. Chaotic leaders are jsut too unstable, while lwaful rulers are too infelxible. Neutral conqueroros are rare, but I suppose if you foudn a man with a both a great tactical knowledge ad a n even greater sense of balance, they might become the dominanat power. but again, I woudl argue that magic is kinda like nuclear missiles, everybody's got enough to know they don't want to invade unless they are totally sure thye can both defeat all oppossition without giving enough reaction time to let the wizard's know what's happening, and they are defintely certain a victory coudl be achieved. I think that maybe a magical "cold war" is a very good method of explaining why the "monsters" havent' got the world yet.

Also, I think that the gods might interfere on bhealf of the huamns (again going very mythopoeic here, bt that's how high-fantasy always feels to me), because it certianly seems like msot of them favour humans, dwarves and the otehr "civilized" races while otehr races have smaller, less powerful or well-revered gods, and usually lack more than one.

I play a relatively reasonable campaign, in Sarlya (custom setting I currently fiddle) where the current king of the gods witnessed the einevitable collapse of the Forgotten Realms setting, and the death of the Gods but himself. He then reinstated the whole pantheon.

It seems more liek your issues are for forgottne realms than with the actual game mechanics, Tzuriel. That's why I prefer to make my own campaign setting. More fun anyway. Liek we have been fiddlign with in the forums.

From Sarlya with love and wildly yours,

Yes, I have always been anti-Forgotten Realms. I just hate settings like that. To me, the best fantasy is low and at least somewhat realistic. Oh, well, I've already had my diatribe about that.

I'll have to check out this Sarlya setting. Where can I find it?

Your point about race is an interesting one, Theo. But I'd have to disagree. See, cultures are so complex that to express them in a half-page blurb hardly suffices. So what do we really know? We are left with fantasy cliches - all dwarves are gruff and love stone. But really, all of that is just an extension of our own opinions on this. To go back to alignment, one could argue very persuasively that the anti-social character of dwarves lends itself better to a chaotic viewpoint than a lawful one. And one could argue just as well, if not better, that the stratified social strictures of elven society are extremely lawful. We have attempted to create new cultures and separate from what Tolkein had originally, which is impossible. If you're going to divorce from Tolkein, then do so. Don't make a half-*ssed attempt.

Maybe one could say some magic is regulated by the gods. But even that has problems. When it comes to divine magic, then, yeah, that works. But arcane magic is seen as some wack force that isn't really under the perview of the gods (as none of them are omnipotent or omni-anything). So the regulation must go down to man regulating himself. Which logically leads to the complete outlawing of arcane magic and, almost certianly, "evil" divine magic.

You have an interesting point concerning the monstrous races, but I have a counter to it. First, a cold war doesn't work because then the races have to be super powers and have common contact. A hobgoblin-mind flayer syndicate would be very interesting though... but as for balancing each other out, you would have to have a balance for every one of the "evil" races threatening all the forces of "good", which is coming to the point of ridiculousness. Even original Earth mythology didn't have these huge, evil races to be dealt with, at least not close to home. The Cyclops were in islands to the south. All the evil monsters were loners, and very, very rare. In Norse mythology, the giants were a race of gods - really not a concern of everyday man. There is never a horde like is so common in fantasy right now. So mythology doesn't offer any evidence for your argument here. The monstrous races are almost universally better as far as game stats, so why haven't they taken over yet? By the laws of evolution, they should be at the top.

The idea of magic as nuclear weapons is a very interesting one, and illustrates some interesting new viewpoints. However, that just illustrates one of my main points earlier - this is why no government would tolerate magic! It's just too dangerous.

Almost skipped your stuff about alignments. Well, alignment will always be a problem, but it really has little basis on governing. This is why I said hobgoblins would be the new world order, because they're smart and organized. The most stable societies are actually insanely lawful. America, a neutral, chaotic-leaning country, is very unstable as far as ruling (I think that's a good thing, but whatever...). They're all still around for a reason.

Okay, now to the gods. Hmmm...not sure I've got a reply to that one, other than Cocytus' article about fantasy cosmogony ( I'm just gonna have to go with saying that the conception of the gods for humans being better and more numerous than the gods of the savage races is incredibly unrealistic. It's like Greeks saying our gods are real and powerful, but you Egyptians, tch, there's nobody there. Every race should have it's own pantheon, not just one "orc god" or one "goblin god" like the savage races got the scraps from the god table.

Yeah, I agree original campaign settings are much cooler. But I am also lazy. However, there is no setting cooler than our stone age one. That's gonna be so cool!

Dude, you live in Reno, Nevada? If so, we're like, only a state away. We should definitely hang out some time.

You are right in the point that the gods are totally unrealistic. However, Forgotten Realms is kinda set up that way. I prefer gods taht are not race-specific, like my custom pantheon.

As for Sarlya, I've nenver gotten aroudn to making it public, i did it myself, and it's still very much a work in progress. It's basically a "post-apocalyptic" version of forgotten Realms, and it does rely pretty heavy on the gods, because they believed the situation got out of hand whne high magic got too powerful.

As for magic, you ave a very good point in that most sane govenrments woudl try to regulate it--they'd fail miserably, but they'd try.

You'll notice I didn't specify gods in term of magic regulation the first time. Extra-lanar beigns of unthinkable weirdness may be keepign thigns in balance by annihilating beigns who become "too powerful," such as Demo-gorgon the God eater (sorry if I amek too many comci references, it's a bad habit of mine). The Tarrasque woudl be an excellent example of soemthign used to regulate power, if some body had enough.

Personally, I think treating mages like either Messiahs or Mutants (X-men style, they're feared liek walking weapons) coudl easily be put in the setting. It'd also make mages a bit more careful.

Also, the Reason this country is still around is more about economic and poltical power, which is another argument concerning msot of the "monsters" which is that many of them either live totally in the wild (like Trolls) or are just too brutal to establish diplomatic trade and relations, making a nation of any size diffcult to maintain (Hobgoblins) or are prone to being assaulted by other groups because they're just too weird and scary (most undead and aberrations so-called).

And yes, that Reno. Which one state are you away? a state's can be a lotta distance out here in the west, especially Utah or anything to the east.

Oddly yours,

You are right in the point that the gods are totally unrealistic. However, Forgotten Realms is kinda set up that way. I prefer gods taht are not race-specific, like my custom pantheon.

As for Sarlya, I've nenver gotten aroudn to making it public, i did it myself, and it's still very much a work in progress. It's basically a "post-apocalyptic" version of forgotten Realms, and it does rely pretty heavy on the gods, because they believed the situation got out of hand whne high magic got too powerful.

As for magic, you ave a very good point in that most sane govenrments woudl try to regulate it--they'd fail miserably, but they'd try.

You'll notice I didn't specify gods in term of magic regulation the first time. Extra-lanar beigns of unthinkable weirdness may be keepign thigns in balance by annihilating beigns who become "too powerful," such as Demo-gorgon the God eater (sorry if I amek too many comci references, it's a bad habit of mine). The Tarrasque woudl be an excellent example of soemthign used to regulate power, if some body had enough.

Personally, I think treating mages like either Messiahs or Mutants (X-men style, they're feared liek walking weapons) coudl easily be put in the setting. It'd also make mages a bit more careful.

Also, the Reason this country is still around is more about economic and poltical power, which is another argument concerning msot of the "monsters" which is that many of them either live totally in the wild (like Trolls) or are just too brutal to establish diplomatic trade and relations, making a nation of any size diffcult to maintain (Hobgoblins) or are prone to being assaulted by other groups because they're just too weird and scary (most undead and aberrations so-called).

And yes, that Reno. Which one state are you away? a state's can be a lotta distance out here in the west, especially Utah or anything to the east.

Oddly yours,

I know I'm late as hell to this topic, but here goes. In response to Tzuriel's epic whining

1st whine "There's too much magic."
Let me ask you how many people knew how to read in the middle ages without a printing press. In a world where books are written by hand its going to be bloody hard to get your hands on a book, much less a magical spell book. Then factor in the superstitious and fanatic townspeople who will burn a wizard at the stake if the wizard starts throwing around fire balls. Because of the stigma against wizards then the magic users would be recluses guarding their identity and keeping magical knowledge secret. We're talking secret cabals of wizards. For the sorcerors keep in mind that VERY FEW people are born with this talent. Add all this up and you get bloody few magic users and those few who exist mostly stay cooped up in their towers studying magic texts. Then add up the effect of wizards on every day life and the economy and the sum is little to nothing.

2nd whine "DnD is KKK."
It would be ridiculous for DnD or anyone else to say that a race will always act in a certain way or is always LG or CG. However, we know that there are patterns of behavior for races. Two races are very unlikely to have the same social constructs. These patterns of behavior determine the probability of behavior not the certainty of behavior. Therefore, an Arab is more likely to Muslim, a European is more likely to be Christian, and an Indian is more likely to be Hindu. Unless globalization occurs (so a white man can get a copy of the Koran and become Muslim) culture and race will pretty much be the same. However, in a mideval world where they still think the world is flat, no one travels, nations and races are separated by natural barriers (oceans, moutains, deserts), culture will be nearly homogenus. So while a Dwarf is not born with knowledge stonework, it is 95% likely that it will be experienced in stone work by the age of 20. If you want to play the 5% dwarf then use your own imagination and don't let the book define you. I can't imagine the DM would get in your way and be a rules lawyer.

3rd Whine "Why don't monsters rule the world?"
Reread Jack and the Beanstalk and other human propaganda. Giants don't rule the world cause their stoopid. Hobgoblins don't rule the world cause their short. Trolls and orcs don't cause they can't organize (and when they do it takes adventurers to put em down).

Dang. I was hoping this cool-sounding setting was mainstream so I could pirate it. But, I guess all the good stuff's the stuff you can't get...oh, well.

The governments might fail miserably. That all depends on when they started trying, and how they did it. If, back in the day, a group of rulers had seen how destructive magic could be back when it was first being "discovered" and had taken measures then to get rid of it, then magic would be barely even heard of nowadays, and then only as evil sorcerers and dark, crazy witches. If the regulation began later, then the government would have a very difficult time. However, using psionics against magic or other magic users government-trained, now that might have a chance. That would be so much fun to play in! I wish I could find a GM who'd run that. A party of sorcerers or magic users would be really fun, but combine it with that...that's the stuff epic campaigns are made from.

Your point with the Tarrasque is an excellent one. However, in order for magic to be self-regulating it has to be intelligent, and no attempt has been made to make a being that regulates magic, except Boccob, but he hardly counts, because regulating magic is way too much for him. The idea, though, is really cool. Something like the fatespinner figure is so many mythologies - good stuff. Ever read Alvin Maker? Great series.

Yes, treates mages like those two does go a long way, but all of that is under the purview of the DM. My rant was against the mechanics and the Forgotten Realms setting, though the latter was to a lesser extent. There is nothing in the mechanics concerning this - in fact, the text of D&D encourages the opposite. This also brings up a lot of other problems, like whiny players complaining about how their mage can't do anything in cities, or other players wondering why they can't be the messiah.

Okay, economic and political power. Good point. But what if the French were smarter, faster, stronger, and reproduced faster? Is it unreasonable to assume that, if this had been the case for hundreds of years, that the French would be at the top of the chain. Ultimately, when it comes to world domination, political and economic power isn't that important. You just steal from the conquered peoples what economy you need, and, once you've taken over the world, who cares what they think of you? All you need is for them to fear you. And don't say world domination isn't possible here because they don't have the right technology, because they've got magic, and according to D&D magic is technology, so it's not a concern.

Cool! I used to live in Vegas, you know. Didn't like it too much, though. I live in Ogden, Utah. So not that far away. Reno's on the west side, almost edge of Nevada, right? That's not too bad - it'll be an 8-12 hour drive if undertaken by either party. So it's possible. We should definitely hang out, man.

It's not whining - it's ranting. Jeez...

Okay, sacrosanct. I'll take all your points head on.

1-too much magic
Yeah, people didn't know how to read in the middle ages. But, let me ask you, are we really playing in anything remotely like the middle ages? How is it that everybody but the Barbarian knows how to read, and that's because he's from out of country? That sound medieval to you? As for cost, well, yeah, of course it's going to be expensive. But wizard isn't the only magic user. There's several that get it for free or at little cost. And I don't know about you, but most people that see some crazy lunatic throwing fireballs are gonna run, not try and burn him at the stake. And, yes, if he does get caught, he's a dead man, but does that really matter? A lot of crazy people go on suicide missions, and a lot of not crazy people do, too. They know they'll either get caught or die in the attempt. Doesn't matter. Taking out as many people as possible does. Enter Tom the Terrorist. Drop one fireball and BAM!- just like a car bomb. Where does it say that wizards have a stigma set up against them? Cause as I find it, most every pre-made city has a huge wizards guild, very lavish, rich and quite magical. That sound like a stigma to you? In fact, it could be argued that the stigma against sorcerers is because of wizards and the social power they wield. That's quite a stigma. Well, now we come to the big point, which is the effects of wizards on everyday life. Yeah, so a lot of wizards sit in their towers, noses covered in ink smudges, pouring over ancient texts. Well, all you need is one government official, watches a wizard levitate his companions onto a ledge of some sort or anything else magical, and this guy goes, "Hey! Will you find a way to get such magic to work for the government?" There you go - instant effect on population. Magic is technology is what the D&D books parade around. If so, it'd better have an effect on the general populace, because no technology has lasted long nor thrived without having such an effect. And magic has both lasted long and thrived.

2-Great title, by the way. That made me laugh, though it missed the point. I wasn't saying D&D is racist - I was saying it's view on races and the idea of portraying them accurately is stupid. Yes, they determine the probability but fantasy races, because of the fact we don't have direct experience with them, are treated like these things are a certainty. Why the heck to dwarves get -2 Charisma? Well, they're gruff and reserved - always, or at least enough that even one who generally isn't has the tendency. That's like giving white people an inherent -2 to Will saves on the grounds that they're all pussies. Or black people a +2 to Strength because they're better at basketball (supposedly). It doesn't make any sense, and it has no grounding. We've already discussed the globalization issue in light of both the common tongue and magic as technology. In both cases, generally, globalization is either a prerequisite, or a side effect. So your globalization argument doesn't have much ground. And, of course I won't let the book define me. And my DM won't get in my way, nor would I get in anybody's way who wished to spice things up a bit. My point is that a good system would better facilitate these things, or at least give them a little thought, because they are important, some would say all-important.

3-Giants are stupid? Have you ever read the stats for a Frost Giant or a Fire? That's far from stupid, my friend. And the hill giants, the dumb ones, would be like the shock troops of the others. So, technically, they would be a part of the new world order. Short? Height is a prerequisite for ruling the world? Either you're being very sarcastic, or you're about to have an army of Chinese people on you. And I might join them, cause I'm short, too. But, let's go even farther. Okay, so the monstrous races each have some fatal flaw that makes it so that everytime they get together to take over, they fail. And it sucks. Well, not all of them are dumb - so the different races band together, and then they take over the world. And the argument that their evil alignment prevents them from doing so is, as you well know, a weak one, because alignment is so fuzzy as to be impossible to decipher, and not all the monstrous races are evil. So, no matter what way you look at it, humans are not at the top, much as we like being at the top. Oh, and adventurers, by your own admission, are very rare. They're also generally fickle and greedy. So you can't really rely on them to keep the world safe (which brings up a whole new batch of issues).

Well, that's what I've got to say. Replies?

Alright, here goes.

1. First, a regulatory force would not need intellect, merely the ability to sense a strong power and act according. To maintain the balance, you don't nencessarily need ot realize you're doing it. Most participants in the food web are not cognizant (I think, i'm no pet or plant psychic) of how they contribute to the balance, and frankly, natural progression seems to work better without sentitient beings "in control" (weren't many landfills before people showed up, like it or not).

2. Sacrosanct, calling DnD "medieval" is a poor comparison. Msot of the settings are jsut too egalitarian towards women and funny-looking people to even consider a proper comaprison, and most classes are literate, even most NPCs (in the middle ages, many people we'd now call Aristocrats were inbred twits who couldn't read a letter of thier native tongue, as were many "experts").

3. Goblins are the tiny ones, not hobgoblins. Hobgoblins are aboutfive six and up, so about the same as an englishman or irishman (the english took over the world quite well).

4. Economyies very important. Even with magic subbing for techonology, remebmet that msot "monsterous" race have a much smaller number of mages, as they tend to be better at brute force.

5. Race mechanics are kinda dopey. The only wya to balnce them out woudl be to remove any non-physical disadvantages. However, I'd argue that a dwarf due to hieght, stature, and build shoudl take a hit to charisma. You coudl always blame it on pheromones, I suppose.

As for hits to intel, now that's biased. So you're telling me a half-orc raised by elves is still a doofus with little to no education? Jeez...

But the truth is that half-orcs nad orcs are stupid because it's balanced, to make a fair game, you have ot make a blanaced game.

If I asked nicely, I coudl probably convince a DM to give me a lack normal stats for a Half-orc. But frankly, I find the stat hits to be likely. Frankly, if the racial abilities (Dwarven Stone-cunning, elven awareness, etc.) were simply listed as replacable Racial feats, life would be easier on all of us. However, I think that's the best way to combat non-physiological abilities, is by simply asking the DM if you can susbsititute saidability for a feat. As for the stats, again, I'd need to ask the DM for help with each of these. Personally, I alwasy thougth of dwarves making more sense with a hit to dexterity. There tough as the earth, but also about as fast.

But frankly, I fins it's a small quibble that's easily remedied merely by discussing an alteranative with the DM. Atl east these thigns aren't totally integral to the races survivability.

As for gettin' in touch, Tzuriel, it'd have to be you coming over this way. No complaining, but I don't have a license or a free-wa legal vehicle, and my gnoem army lack enough zeppelons to get my house afloat as of yet.

Cheerily yours,

Actually, despite being in college, I don't have a license either, Theo. All us youngins. Oh, well, I'll have one soon. Tell you what - we finish the stone age stuff, get it all together, and then we'll celebrate by going over there and doing the first session together! Dude, that'd be so cool. And I know both Wroe and Lorthyne, so we could all totally get together. So, we'll have to plan that. Might be a while, though...

Wow, those are some very good points. I agree with all of them, though I'm not sure I understood 2, except 4. This is actually something that has a story behind it. One of my friends back when I first got into D&D really liked kobolds, so I heard about them...constantly. Same with Drazz't (snigger). Anyway, knowing that they loved sorcerers, and knowing that I loved sorcerers, I thought I had found a kindred spirit, so I went to look them up sometime to see if I wanted to play one. What the heck!? There is nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, in their stats that reflects this sorcerous propensity. You'd think they'd get a Cha bonus, or something, at least one thing, that says, "We like sorcerers!" But you don't. It doesn't make any sense. What I'm saying is there is no reason why monstrous races should have less magic users other than stereotypes. Why the heck can't orcs have druids and clerics? They take no hit to Wisdom. Even with low Int and Cha, they should still have a few wizards and sorcerers. So, I have to say, that while the amount of spellcaster types varies by montrous race, they have generally the same amount percentage wise over the board.

On that note, why the heck do elves like wizards? Again, there is nothing that says we like wizards, other than flavor text. However, they get great stuff with longswords and bows. You'd think they all like swashbucklers, or fighters, or even rogues. Heck, they are chaotic. But, I don't really care for elves so I could go on forever on that.

Oh, and I still see no reason why dwarves should get a hit to Cha, particularly when it's tied to spellcasting. Why would being ugly affect your ability to drop fireballs? Doesn't that seem a little shallow. The Dex idea with dwarves really fits, though.

Charisma doesn't equal prettiness, it equals awesomeness. Sorry if this rant is a bit off-topic, but I hate that comparison. You can look pretty unpleasant, and still have a personality that's driving and passionate. Gandhi wasn't much to look at, but I'd say he had at least a 17 CHA stat and the leadership feat to hell and back.

Charisma-based spell-casting is about will power and personal drive--the forcefulness and persuasive skill of your inner person determines how good you are at acting magically, as you are using the strength of your personality to "compel" the mystical energy within you to come out. It isn't a looks contest, it's a genuine issue with one's "presence," more a psychological issue than a physical one. How commanding is this person, that's the real question.

Personally yours,

Dude, I'm with you all the way. What I don't get is this: what makes dwarves have less presence than everybody else?

The same reasons I think hobgblins shuld realluy take a hit to charisma, their military mindset. Most people alwasy think that if you like to make shiny weapons, you're some sort of kill-happy loon. Personally I think Id' t alogn grat with dwarves. They love good beer and sharp pointy weapons, who can't get behind that? Aside from paranoid human peasants, anyway....

Actually, like I said, I always thought a minus to dex made more sense. Especially seeing as every thing else in their style compares them to rocks. And I have met soem rocks with a lot of charisma (sparkling gems) and some that were lacking (raw clay).

Of course, I like to mess with people's heads in game, so I like Charisma (Bluff rolls are my survival mechanism)and may e a tick biased. Personally, that's my favorite way to play a sorceror--a total trickster who is almost as skillful as a rogue in terms of manipulating people. It's pretty fun.

Oddly yours,

P.S. The gt-togetehr soudns liek a grand idea, e-mail at if you ever think you can manage it.

Yeah, I agree with your sentiments on rocks. I think a race should only get a Charisma penalty if it's something like a lack of soul, or something that makes it so they have no force of personality. Like duergar (those are the evil dwarves that worship Laduguer and are like, slaves to him, right?). Oh, well.

I actually don't use Cha rolls much. I don't like using mechanics like that, except as a fall back. I have the player explain or roleplay what he says, then, if the lie was somewhat convincing, but not convincing enough that I think it could be believed, then I would have the player roll to back it up. Or something like that. Really depends on my mood. For playing myself, well, I love the idea of a sorcerer trickster, but I don't think I could play him as anything other than an NPC. I tend to play dark, moody, angsty characters. So you get to be the trickster - I'll be the emo kid (just in game, just in game...).

I'm thinking we're gonna have to manage it. I'll make us manage it. It'll have to be early next year, cause Lorthyne's gonna going on a long haitus sometime after march. Don't worry, though - we'll crash your place during some break. Or we'll just miss a few days. It'll all work out. But I've got your e-mail when it comes time. And it will come time.

I also think it's appropriate for creatures with truly abnormal thought patterns, such as warforged. Because of the fact that they were made,not born, and are such alien cretures naturally, they have diffculty expressing themsleves in a meaningful way to the rest of the universe, animate or otherwise. That in my opinion is what we'd call a natural psychological barrier.

Thos I think are inherent to certain non-default races, sme of which are in my opinion better built than the main eight. I'm rahter fond of changelings myself, as they actually have a decent and well-buitl culture. Reading the "Races of" Series will actually give some more insight into a lot of these critters, I reccomend Races of Eberron, it's pretty fun stuff.

Oddly yours,

1) Magic would be persecuted for exactly the reasons you described you described. There would be a few wizards who abused their powers and so cast a stigma upon all magic use. Also, a great deal of suspicion, mistrust, and alienation would occur because magic users possess a power that normal people do not have or understand. The Puritans hung people for the mere suspicion of using magic. What would the townsfolk do to a wiazrd when the last magic user blew up half the village? The government would not encourage use of magic because it would destabilize monarchies and dictatorships. Too many people with the ability to shoot fireballs could easily overthrow the government. Therefore, the government would have a vested interest in the suppression of magic (like the Empire did with the force).

2)Again the stats like int, char, and wis describe societal patterns of behavior. Orcs are not inherently stupid, but their culture encourages them to be strong first and smart second. Therefore, the dwarven culture values being wise before being pretty or charming. In our disneyfied society charisma has been elevated as social more, while the Eastern cultures place more value on technical skill and efficacy. The weapon preferences of the races also can be explained by culture. The use of the bow isn't encoded in elven DNA, but they are hunter gatherers who use the bow to feed themselves, the dwarve uses hammers and picks underground, and Egyptians use sickles cause they're agricultural. If you want an exception to this rule then go for it. The dungeon master guide even addresses this issue with the dwarf-raised-among-humans paradox.

3)How many kids do fire giants have in their lifetime? How long does it take for their young to mature? Compare that to humans. On the issue of shortness, height would definately play a factor when battles are decided by physical hand-to-hand combat. In today's world where wars are decided by button pushing and ballistic missiles, the height factor of the button pushers is negated. Okay I didn't look up how tall hobgoblins really are, but (at the risk of sounding like a goblin racist) that just makes them ugly humans. What advantages do they then have over humans? Night vision? Sorry, I can't take over the world till my night-time free minutes kick in. Yes I am being sarcastic for those people who identify with the plight of the goblinoids.

lol. Plight of the goblinoids...that's funny.

1) That's just my point. That's the way it would be realistically. But in high fantasy wizards are very common, to the point where they have enter city regions dedicated to them. So high fantasy here is incredibly unrealistic.

2) That's a very interesting take on those stats and what they mean. But, I'm going to have to disagree with you. Societies don't determine someones force of personality. They determine the expression of it. So Cha should never be tied into spellcasting, because, if it's determined by society, then magic becomes tied to a societies way of looking at things, when it's supposed to be "universal." Also, I think you undermine your own point. By your own example, societies determine which stats are more important, but not what those stats are. These stats are meant to be universal. Also, these stats are supposed to be biological - they are not the product of things learned. That's what skills are for. So saying that orcs are dumb because their society devalues intelligence doesn't make any sense. The only way they can be dumb is that they are biologically more stupid than the "average". The only stat that I can think of being culturally determined is Wisdom, but even that has problems, as Wisdom ties more into perception, not what a culture feels is "wise."

3) I really have no idea about fire giants. But I'll tell you one thing - if the world is teeming with evil mind flayers, dark drow, dark dwarves, hordes of orcs and goblins, and then even just a few giants, not to mention extra-planar forces, there is no way humans are at the top. Who cares how many kids fire giants have? One of them is equal to a huge amount of us. Even if they haven't taken over the world, they've at least made it descend into complete chaos. Also, hobgoblins have bonuses to Dex and Con, a keen military intellect, and they can Move Silently. That sound like a good combo to you? I'm seeing roman legonnaire tactics (which took over most of the known world, by the way), combined with quick, guerrilla warfare, and that's without goblin cannon fodder. Not to mention, the hobgoblins don't have the major weakness of Rome, that being trying to rule such a huge area, as they have magic, and they also lack a centralized government, but they are smart enough not to fight each other, at least until the rest of the world is taken over.

Of course, you can change any of this in your own campaign. In fact, I would love the run or play in a setting where hobgoblins have taken over the world. That would be really cool. What I'm talking about here is high fantasy settings, like Forgotten Realms, and Greyhawk. This is why I hate them, and why I like low fantasy so much more.


Despite my counter-rant, I actually agree with you on many points... but it's not just D&D that breaks many of the "realism" aspects of gaming. It's actually seriously hard to model "real world" aspects to a fantasy setting, even with one that limits magic to low power levels. Magic's affect on the reality and society of the game world means that they're all "unrealistic".

Let's take a quick macroscopic look at fantasy settings:

1) Monsters -- Let's face it. Most RP games are about fighting "monsters" which is the fun part, but from an ecological standpoint, no world could sustain the immense number of carnivores that many fantasy settings portray. Where do all these creatures get their food? The number of prey species would have to be astronomical to feed all those "evil" creatures roaming the wilderness.

2) Giants -- I don't just mean really big humanoids, but all overly large creatures as well. How are they getting the thousands upon thousands of calories required to sustain their bodies? Bipedal giants would have a difficult time standing if they had a humanoid body structure. The biophysics are all wrong.

3) The Golden Economy -- Who the heck are all these people leaving hundreds, even thousands, of precious coins in various ruined castles and such? At the rate the typical adventurer finds treasure, local economies would be devestated by inflation. Precious metals seem terribly common in fantasy. Who needs to be a king? Apparently, all the money and power lies in being a scavenging adventurer.

4) Magic - This is a huge one, but I'll try to be brief as I've touched on some points before. Even low level use of magic would transform a world. Let's say that magic in your game world doesn't allow for the massive firebombs or devestating attacks such as in D&D... Even a small amount of magic would vastly change society.

A villiage with an agricultural mage/cleric could produce an excess of food goods even if spells only slightly enhanced crop growth. Starvation and disease would decline sharply as the population was better nourished. Drought would pose a much smaller threat if mages could create even a small rain shower's amount of water on a regular basis, so agriculture would be completely transformed. Magic-based agri-businesses would likely spring up as groups of these mages/clerics formed business alliances and decided to corner the trade of certain crops.

Even if you disallow powerful magic like teleport, transporation would be revolutionized by spells like speed, haste, levitation, etc... Anything that would allow a heavier load to be more easily transported would be akin to a modern railway system. It would get goods to market faster and easier thereby changing the economic landscape.

Levitation, flight and invisibility would completely change politics. Unpopular leaders would be culled quickers than you can say "No Kennedy conspiracy." Given that fact, any power structure would protect itself by outlawing magic (or at the very least trying to control it with an iron fist). And you don't need a Trojan Horse if a few of your soldiers can quietly and easily enter the enemy's city and open the gates for your army.

Even if you discount political assassination, information gathering magic (sure as scrying, far seeing, etc) would create massive spy networks and constant political change due to the excess of information on one's enemies. Even used in the most benign ways, information/communication magic would probably create some form of magic based mass media, which has its own ripple effects into the economy, politics and other areas of society.

As I mentioned previously, magical advances would replace technological advances and still transform society very quickly in a similar way that trains, autos, airplanes, the industrial revolution and information technology has transformed ours.

These are just a few small examples why magic, even at the lowest power levels, could easily break what our notions of a fantasy society would entail. So, you either say, "To heck with realism! I just want a fun game with Arthurian-style knights and Tolkien style elves and goblins running around hitting each other with swords!" and go with it, or you have to completely revamp the fantasy game concept from the ground up.


On another note, one of the reasons I've always liked GURPS is the low-power nature of the magic system. On the flip side, they way GURPS tries to model reality means character death is a more likely occurrence and the combat mechanics are slower than games like D&D (although D&D sure has caught up in combat complexity of late)...

Anyone tried Monte Cooke's Iron Heroes? It's supposed to be a much more low-magic version of d20, but I haven't really gotten a look at it.

It might be interesting to set up a wiki about a low-magic fantasy world and have a number of contributing authors asking the tough questions like we are and see what results from it. Of course, it might also devolve into chaos as everyone's ideas of "what would really happen" would probably conflict on all levels. :)

That would be really cool, to set up that wiki. I would love it. I have never tried Iron Heroes. I'll have to check that out, though, it sounds cool. As for GURPS, I have actually had very limited experience with GURPS. I knew a kid who played it, but he moved away before I could get into it (he actually introduced me to roleplaying). There are a lot of problems with that system, too, though, from what I do know.

I'm not sure I agree with you, about just D&D breaking the rules. I agree, it is more difficult to make it realistic, but it's not impossible. It just takes more work, but it's far more rewarding that way. Let me use the examples of realistic fantasy that I have encounted, and the different types:

1) Rare. Not just anyone can use magic. In fact, almost nobody knows about it, and those that do, excepting those that have experience with it, are doubtful of it. Also, this magic is very, very low key. We're talking very specific, limited abilities. Like being able to see the future, but only through a specific medium (tarot card reading). Also, this magic has some serious penalties for use, so it is used rarely. A great example of this is the TV show Carnivale, a modern fantasy story that takes place in the dust bowl during the great depression. Really good stuff. In a game, this would mean magic that is primarily used by the DM to drive story, and every know and then can be used voluntarily by the players, but only very rarely.

2) Secret society. A specific group, not necessarily secret, but very much unliked, hold the secrets to magic. People don't trust and don't like magic. Also, this group doesn't use it for frivolous things like crop failure. This is for "greater stuff." A good example would be the Aes Sedai of the Wheel of Time series, or the Jedi.

3) Consequences. Use of magic isn't pretty. You use it, you pay some serious consequences. This is my favorite, and is actually the one that best fits the view of most of the world concerning magic and religious devotion. To see some really great stuff on this, checking out the forum called "low-magic dnd" on this site. That's got some cool stuff on it. It's really long, though, so if you want to jump in, go to the bottom. Near there, there's a couple of posts summarizing all the posts before them. Wheel of Time fits here again, with magic for males.

4) Sacred. Magic is widespread or not - doesn't matter. Magic is thought to be sacred, and people don't really use it, for cultural reasons. They might think they are unworthy, they might be trying to prove they don't need it, etc. You're chioce. I've never actually read anything with this, but Wroe has. She mentions it somewhere on the low-magic forum.

Of course, there's more, but I'm getting lazy, so I'm not gonna go on. So, you're right, Waldo, about most everything. Typical magic is very unrealistic and there is a good reason for that. It's just not my schtick. I'd rather revamp the whole setting from the ground up. But that's just me.

You know what, someone should totally make a webcomic about the "Golden Economy." Like, some party of dnd adventurers keeps finding this treasure and discovers some secret group going around the world, making dungeons, and stuffing them full of gold. That'd be pretty funny. Their goal is to knock the economy off-balance or something.

I had a nice long reply when my browser bonked on me. :( Firefox just hasn't been the same since the 2.0 upgrade.

Yeah, it definitely sounds like a "from the ground up" approach would suit your ideas and preferred play style.

There are a lot of problems with that system, too, though, from what I do know.

As with any system, yes, you can find issues. But given your preferences, you might consider giving it a second look. Because it was built to be truly generic, the power level of magic system is *really* easy to customize. Despite PR to the contrary, d20 is not "generic". Level advancement for the various classes means that play balance requires a certain amount of power for mage characters in order to keep up. I don't think it scales down well at all, but I'm going to check out the article you mentioned.

The biggest difficulties I've had with GURPS is adjusting the play style to match combat danger. Combat can become fatal easily in GURPS and it's a real challenge for GM's used to throwing hordes of orcs and kobolds at players. Even larger than life heros can be overcome by numbers in GURPS. In D&D, it's much easier to take on a gang of critters with feats like cleave, improved crit, etc.

Also, the learning curve for running quick combats is fairly steep, although they've made a lot of changes in the 4th Ed to alleviate this (and meanwhile D&D combat has become more complex).

Anyway, you might want to drop by your local game store and browse GURPS Magic (and possibly GURPS Powers [psi,superhero]) if you're at all interested in trying something new with a low-magic setting.

Speaking of Wheel of Time, I read through some of the d20 WoT game material when it first came out and was really disappointed with the magic system. It was D&D 3.0 magic with a WoT veneer and was the sole reason I skipped picking up that game book.

Wizard of the Coast missed a really good opportunity to try a non-D&D style magic system. Ironically, not long before the buyout, TSR developed a new magic system for the Dragonlance 5th Age diceless game. It was a thing of beauty and adapting those game mechanics for Wheel of Time would have been a perfect fit.

It is one of the best magic systems -- one that works more like you read about in fantasy literature (ie - weaving the elements [ley lines, spirit powers] together to create a magical effect)... If you even come across a Dragonlance 5th Age box set, pick it up. These rare finds are filled with some excellent game mechanics.

You are right about dnd. That's one of the things I quickly got jaded about in dnd, because magic to me has always been mystical, interesting, but also limited in pretty significant ways. Again - Lord of the Rings. Gandalf never drops a fireball. I absolutely hate the "magic as technology" idea - it's nowhere near even an attempt at realism, and it ruins what makes magic special. Also, it doesn't fit in with modern fantasy at all. By the way, anybody heard of a good modern fantasy setting? Cause all I've got is Mage: the Awakening, and I wanted to see if there's more.

Yeah, I should look more into GURPS. I know the kid who introduced me liked it because when they updated they put it on their website, unlike dnd, which made you buy a whole new book (he used to play 3rd dnd, but stopped when 3.5 came out - wasn't too keen on shelling out another 90 bucks for a few rule changes). A guy I know now ran his first game with GURPS, and it was a disaster, so I think he's been jaded. I don't know. I'll have to look at GURPS. I think I have a pdf of it somewhere...

Oh, so there was a Wheel of Time setting made. I wasn't sure. Well, no wonder it tanked if wizards made it. Wizards is great with dnd, but they really suck at just about anything else. That's too bad. Wheel of Time has some compelling and interesting ideas that the d20 system could never get across, and it would be a fun world to play in, that's for sure.

Dragonlance 5th Age, huh? I'll have to look into that. I love looking at new magic systems.

I want to find a magic system based more on internal magic, like pulling the energy out of you. I've always loved that concept in fantasy novels. Any takers?

GURPS Lite is a free download if you want to browse the basic game mechanics (but doesn't include magic rules in the free download):

I want to find a magic system based more on internal magic, like pulling the energy out of you. I've always loved that concept in fantasy novels.

GURPS magic actually works that way. A character's spell points are based on Health (Fatigue) and casting spells cost Fatigue points. GURPS also allows you to draw directly out of your Hit Points if you run out of Fatigue, so casting a spell tires and can actually damage a character if you need to pull out that extra bit of life essence to power the magic (keep in mind that unlike D&D, GURPS Hit Points rarely exceed 16... 14 is fairly high in a normal-powered game so a large number of hit point doesn't get around the fatigue rules). The basic magic rules give a pretty good toolkit to customize the magic in your world.

Need lower level magic? Make these kinds of adjustments to the campaign:
1) Limit characters the the Magery 1 advantage (Magery 2+ gives access to more powerful spells)
2) Make a rule that doubles the fatigue cost of all spells (ie -- your game world is a "low mana zone", which means characters will likely dip into their HP more often)
3) Limit characters to one or two levels of the Increased Fatigue / Increased Hit Points advantages (so they don't try to work the system) etc...

There is a "coming soon" supplement called GURPS Thaumatology that looks pretty interesting (combining all the alternate magic rules from three previous 3rd edition source books), but there's no ship date currently announced, so it could be a while.

However, most experienced GM's shouldn't need anything more than the Basic Set: Characters and Magic source books. The basic set includes the trimmed-down magic rules, so Magic is somewhat optional as well. The "Basic Set: Campaigns" book isn't really required, but it is helpful (just like d20 really only requires the PHB, GURPS is ready to run with just the Basic Set: Characters book).

Optional books:

* Fantasy -- self-explanatory: gaming in a Fantasy setting with tips on building game worlds or incorporating historical settings with fantasy elements. Less about game mechanics, more about the "flavors" of the genre.

* Powers -- Super power and psi powers. Required for a Supers game, obviously. Psi powers might make for an interesting flavor of "low powered" magic if you wanted your magic to be more about mental dominations, scrying, or similar. Also a good source book for Force-like powers.

* High Tech -- gear and information for historical and modern settings
* Bio Tech -- cyber punk, implants, medicine, magic-tech

Anyway, I don't want to sound like a GURPS fan-boy. I'm not. I'm the first to admit that it's not a system for everyone (ie -- a single sword wound *could* potentially kill a character... usually not, but it can happen), but it sounds like you'd enjoy some of the mechanics.

Yeah, it does sound like my thing. Besides, I want to dip my hands into as many game systems as possible, mainly for ideas for homebrew.

I understand the whole fanboy thing. Sometimes I sound like a White Wolfer when I rave about WoD. Again, though, that system also has a lot of problems, and only fits a certain market. I just happen to be in that market.

Yeah, I used to have a whole bunch of pirated old-style GURPS, but I'm not sure if I still do. One thing I have always loved about GURPS is the huge amount of supplemental material, and how that material is mostly flavor. People talk about wikipedia. GURPS sourcebooks are almost as good a source on their source material. It's got some good stuff. I also like the universal feel.

I think I had, maybe have, GURPS lite, and I've looked at it. I'll have to look deeper. Might be a while, though. Right now I'm running a dnd campaign, which is occupying almost all my attention, as well as getting ready to continue a wod game (after a long haitus), as well as getting ready to run maybe a couple sessions (maybe more) of my stone age campaign, not to mention creating the source material for that. And I'm in college. So I'm pretty well tapped for time. But, if I'm bored and in need of something else to do, I'll definitely check it out. Thanks for telling me some stuff about a system I haven't heard too incredibly much about. it's time to mine my pirate library...hehe