Earlier today I found myself thinking about the lineup of humanoids that populate the current version of Kaendor and had a worried feeling that putting little bug-men and sophisticated harpies as regular people into a fantasy setting might be pushing things into something too weird and outside the lines of fantasy conventions. But I really liked their concepts and it was starting to make me get a little bit upset.
But then I actually got upset about how totally ass-backwards that whole line of thinking is! It’s fantasy! This is supposed to be the genre where you can do anything and everything can be made to work, and where nothing is impossible. And yet we still have concepts of how fantasy worlds should be done according to established conventions.
In a number of discussions over the last year or so about why fantasy RPGs are seemingly so much more popular than sci-fi RPGs, several people brought up on numerous occasions the idea that sci-fi just isn’t as accessible to new players because it doesn’t have established default standards that everyone already knows, which let players understand the game world from the start without needing lengthy introductions. I actually dispute the claim that sci-fi doesn’t have established default standards, but that’s not the point here. The thing that has me upset today is that fantasy being standardized in the Lord of the Rings/Conan model appears to be widely seen as a good thing, at least in RPGs.
And that just feels really wrong.