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Subject: Are tropes more thematic? rss

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Nathan Woll
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I have a fantasy game I'm working on with asymmetric races.
Are tropes important for thematic immersion?
For example,
1.Is it better for the dwarves to be better at making money, the orcs to be better militarily, the gnomes better at building things, etc?
2. Or is it better for the Rock trolls to be good at making money, the elves better militarily, and the giants better at making things?

Would you prefer game 1 (stereotypical race abilities) or game 2 (non-stereotypical race abilities)?
 
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Pelle Nilsson
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Stereotypical makes it more thematic imo and easier to remember what the races do.

Unless you can spend a huge amount of work on worldbuilding and marketing to make players relate to your specific fantasy world instead of expecting the default high fantasy tropes.
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Iffix Y Santaph
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Consistency is key.
A large variety of fiction paints the characters in a different way than traditional. Compare stories where dragons are sentient, or knights ride dragons, with those where knights hunt dragons as monsters. There's definitely room for adaptation. But keep consistent with what you say about them. In one recent design, abilities of monsters were essentially picked at random, and that inconsistency proved to be a very bad idea, since the sense of reality was essentially destroyed.

Also, while following tropes is easier, generic fantasy in games often feels disappointing.
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Iffix Y Santaph
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One more design factor to consider. The longer you expect your players to spend in your world, the more homework you will be expected to do on the design. Whereas generic fantasy is fine in a 20 minute microgame, that's less likely to be okay in a 4 hour questing game.
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Adrian Pillai
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If people can learn the rules of the game, they can learn the rules of your races and world.

I would argue a non stereotype world is always more interesting and sets your world apart. A troll magician would create thematically more interesting spells as opposed to a human magician.
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Corsaire
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Match trope names with tropes. If you want to get creative with the stereotypes, get creative with the names.

e.g. If you want a short, bearded stocky race that enjoys the woods and nature, don't call them dwarves.
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Chris Puram
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nswoll wrote:
I have a fantasy game I'm working on with asymmetric races.
Are tropes important for thematic immersion?
For example,
1.Is it better for the dwarves to be better at making money, the orcs to be better militarily, the gnomes better at building things, etc?
2. Or is it better for the Rock trolls to be good at making money, the elves better militarily, and the giants better at making things?

Would you prefer game 1 (stereotypical race abilities) or game 2 (non-stereotypical race abilities)?


One of the most important purposes of a theme is to make learning the mechanics of the game easier. Themes that are counterintuitive cause players to spend too much time trying to remember mechanics while intuitive themes make the mechanics second nature or at least more obvious. For this reason I support using traditional stereotypical race abilities.
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Warren Fitzpatrick
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elfboy wrote:
If people can learn the rules of the game, they can learn the rules of your races and world.

I would argue a non stereotype world is always more interesting and sets your world apart. A troll magician would create thematically more interesting spells as opposed to a human magician.


I'll get to this guys point in a sec, but first, let me say that if you call them elves, they should fit into the preconceived notions of what makes something an elf. Sure, you can find some variety, but most immediately adhere to D&D-speak (whether they play D20 or not).

I love what this guy is saying, and feel that it's a great way to take a trope about trolls, and then think of it in the terms of progressing toward something new. In my paragraph above, I said to keep them the same, but I believe you can make a troll wizard and make it the same if you focus on an aspect and then exaggerate that in the direction you want it to go.

I hope that all makes sense!

 
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Ryan
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I think you're probably better off staying around the tropes (with some variation) for a lighter, shorter duration game. Races resembling the stereotypical fantasy races require less explanation and probably less lore (though you can certain still add it if you want). Most people will intuitively get that orcs are violent, warlike, etc. will less explanation.

My feeling is that with more complex, longer duration games, players tend to get more into the lore. Longer, more complex rules are also expected. I think departures from the fantasy stereotypes are more likely to be appreciated there.

I'm painting with a pretty wide brush there, but those are my thoughts based on my experiences. And if you do come up with new names for fantasy races, don't make them nearly impossible to pronounce.
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maf man
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XendoBreckett wrote:
One more design factor to consider. The longer you expect your players to spend in your world, the more homework you will be expected to do on the design. Whereas generic fantasy is fine in a 20 minute microgame, that's less likely to be okay in a 4 hour questing game.

+1
I like when long games have more unique takes on typical tropes. I'd like to see orc that rather than being brutes bent on war they are a hulking muscle race that are great builders because they can rip a tree length wise to make wood planking for houses or ships.
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Phillip Harpring
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To the question, 'are tropes more thematic,' I would answer 'no.' Your theme and consistency therein are yours to make. My opinion is that leaning on established tropes is lazy and often problematic. Generic fantasy tropes in particular are inherently problematic once you dig into their origins.

That said, they are popular and recognizable. They can be useful from a design standpoint because players are likely to be familiar with them. I think they can be a decent starting point for a prototype, but I'd be more critical of a finished product that used them.

As a person that heavily values theme in their gaming experience, I would 100% prefer game 2.
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Laura Creighton
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They are less thematic. They require less investment from the player, which sort of is the whole point -- the stereotypes are well understood, and therefore don't require work. So very much, more accessible. But oh, are they stale. People like me just aren't interested in a game that uses standard Western trope fantasy elements because we had out fill of that many, many years ago, and really don't have any desire to read more fiction of that sort, or play games of that sort, etc. Colour me 'bored already and I haven't even read the rulebook'. You will have to do something extremely interesting with the gameplay before you can get me to even consider playing your game ....

I'd prefer your game if it didn't have stereotypical races at all. And I'd like it all the more if the different groups weren't races -- but professions, or nationalities .... ideally, something which could be chosen, rather than something you were stuck with from birth.
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