[4e] What's the sub-genre?

edited June 2008 in Story Games
Hey, all you S-G maniacs talkin' bout 4e -- what flavor of fantasy are we talking about here? Is this stuff suited to Tolkien-style High Fantasy? Vance's Dying Earth tomfoolery? Howard-esque Sword & Sorcery? 3.X style "Dungeonpunk"? Speak to me of the implied setting.


  • I think it's even "higher" fantasy than Tolkien, if by that you mean the fantastic dial is up to 11. Lots of magic, ever-present. Floating cities. Characters from fallen empire civilizations. PCs are total asskickers from L1 who toss about magic powers, curses, blessings, and cinematic tricks in every single turn.

    There's no map, and in fact the DMG talks about the possibility of not mapping out the world at all. It felt like a "pockets of civilization with lots of dangerous places all in between" kind of place. John said something about us characters almost being the only ones who venture out from those pockets when the shit hits the fan somewhere.
  • Pulp fantasy, clearly, just like every other D&D before it.
  • Core out of the box its got the "fantastical" dialed up pretty high.

    This is not a low fantasy setting where undereducated peasants packed by priests burn magic-users at the stake for heresy and witchcraft. Its a setting where wizards and clerics are best friends and even small towns of under 1000 people see regular traffic in Dragonborn and dwarves.

    There isn't really a "setting" per say, just flavor. There are gods and names of old empires and such like that so they could convey the flavor with a sense of historical provenance, but mostly stuff that the serial numbers can be filed off.

    The biggest "setting" feature is that there are no maps with modern-esque borders where all the world is carved up and claimed by various powers. Instead they use what they are calling a "points of light in the darkness" setting...where you imagine the entire world being labeled "here there be monsters" and scattered throughout the wilderness are small settlements, tiny kingdoms, city states, and other vestiges of empires lost.

    Some of the background falls prey to the usual "fantasy authors have no sense of time" problem, but really its more about evoking a feeling rather than a setting. And that feeling is that if a 35 foot tall mountain of living rock suddenly started stomping all over your town...the people would be frightened and flee for their lives...but no one would really be surprised by it..."Oh no, Rognog the Mountain Giant is back...Aieee...send for the heroes" When the mysterious city of the high elves suddenly appears on the moors no one is calling the witness crazy and telling them to cut back on the sauce...instead they're all "oh yeah...it does that periodically...I saw it once when I was a lad, maybe I'll go see it again before it fades away"

    If not exactly every day, the fantastic is common enough that people tell stories about it rather than live in superstitious fear of it.
  • That's easy: DnD Fantasy.

    DnD has never been faithful to any fantasy subgenre, but this edition seems to have cut all ties.

    Alternatively, Dungeonpunk I think it's the current name for this flavour of fantasy
  • edited June 2008
    I would call it 3 Inches of Blood fantasy. It doesn't seem to take itself too seriously, which I think is a good thing, honestly. I think defining it by a literary category would be misleading. I think I would compare it more to fantasy manga/anime or video games would probably get you closer. Or, you know, metal.
  • Nah, DnD is pg13 fantasy for american teenagers, at its core: warhammer, for one, is much more metal :)
  • I'd say the default setting is somewhere between 3e's Dungeonpunk and an old school setting like the Wilderlands of High Fantasy -- with leanings in either direction being a matter of taste. The flavor is definitely Dungeonpunk. But the tropes take a nod to the Wilderlands and Greyhawk (as I remember them).

    Having perused the DMG though, I'd say 4e is capable of Howardesque Sword & Sorcery (probably moreso than previous editions) and Tolkein fantasy with very minor rules tweaks like only allowing rituals or spellcasting as a multi-class ability, getting rid of or altering magic items and tweaking the way healing surges and hit points are recovered.
  • Scott, thanks: that's perfect.
  • edited June 2008
    In my mind, I'm forming two different subgenre campaigns I hope to DM with 4E:

    * Howardesque Sword & Sorcery, but amidst a world-wide zombie plague. (I just finished reading a Conan anthology and now I'm reading World War Z.)

    * interplanar prog-rock fantasy. A game where this (hypothetical) rulebook might be helpful. :)

  • Posted By: Chris Peterson
    * Howardesque Sword & Sorcery, but amidst a world-wide zombie plague. (I just finished reading a Conan anthology and now I'm readingWorld War Z.)
    I don't see how you could do this without taking out most of the classes. The Fighter and the Rogue might work for this, but the rest of the classes aren't Howardesque at all.

    Also, to answer the op, 4e is D&D fantasy. Whereas the original game tried (and failed) to emulate a strange mixture of Sword & Sorcery fiction, Tolkien and Vance, 4e emulates 3.5e and spices it up with some Warcraft.
  • I'm going to go out on a limb. 4E is not
    Posted By: James_Nostackwhat flavor of fantasy are we talking about here?
    I'm going out on a limb and saying that the flavor has changed significantly. Where 3E was a bit of a step away from old-school, this is an even bigger step.

    Previously, the game strongly implied a pseudo-medieval world of mixed civilization and wilderness dotted with dungeons. The unit of play is the dungeon, which is divided up into rooms. Characters move from room to room. A room might be empty, or have 2 goblins in it, or a dragon.

    4E twists that aesthetic. Now the unit of play is the encounter, which is a unit of difficulty. Characters move from encounter to encounter. An encounter might be an entire dungeon, or section of a dungeon, but it could also be a kingdom, or a fancy dress ball, or who knows what.

    The creators of the game were right to emphasize a change in setting, because it's matched by a change in how the game is played. I suspect that most groups who sit down to play "D&D" using 4E will start out by playing the same flavor they always did, but find over time that the flavor shifts into a new form. Personally, I'm looking at Dan Abnets "Inquisitor" novels for Warhammer 40k as a better model: a group of highly diverse, high competent individuals moving through a landscape of set-peice battles, weaving it into an epic storyline.
  • Posted By: tony dowler...I'm looking at Dan Abnets "Inquisitor" novels for Warhammer 40k as a better model: a group of highly diverse, high competent individuals moving through a landscape of set-peice battles, weaving it into an epic storyline.

    "In the grim darkness of the fantastic past, there is only war."

    Yup, that's the sub-genre of 4E.
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