Why Fantasy?

Alon

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Even fantasy routinely doesn't do parties though, and small survivor bands in post apocalyptic settings work just fine for 3-7 characters (to pick just one example).
It routinely doesn't, but Tolkien does. And what examples are you thinking of in post-apoc? Because the original Mad Max films centered a single hero, and even Fury Road has 2.5 PCs. Generally I don't think multi-PC parties work really well on film. Even LOTR had to cull the story to just 2 PCs, Frodo and Aragorn, reducing Legolas, Gimli, Merry, and Pippin to shallow action support or comic relief. The ensemble story works better in prestige TV across genres.

It's also not like the 3-7 person superhero team isn't common, either.
It certainly exists, but Superman, Batman, and Spiderman are all way more popular than X-Men. Even the MCU is full of films that focus on a single character.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
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It certainly exists, but Superman, Batman, and Spiderman are all way more popular than X-Men. Even the MCU is full of films that focus on a single character.
On the other hand, I don't think its going to be a stretch for most people that when you're playing with other people, you're doing the JLA or the Avengers, not just their solitary components.

Honestly, the kind of people primarily pulled into RPGs since whenever are not likely to be people who's only exposure to a particular subset of fantastic fiction is liable to be only on the most superficial well-known cases.
 

DavetheLost

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Star Wars and Star Trek both feature RPG size parties for most of the action. So does Battlestar Galactica actually.

How often do we see all of the X-Men, Avengers, Legion of Supers, Justice League, et al on screen at once?

Even most ensemble casts have less than a dozen regular characters who might be considered the protagonists.
 

jvan

Ideas, Yes. Execution, No
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In the late 70s and early 80s, I would venture to say that in books fantasy was more popular than science fiction, while in movies and TV it was the reverse, and that this is part of why D&D caught on.
If I loved a book back then, I could tell you to read it, could pass it into your hands even, right away. If I loved a movie or TV show, I could tell you it was great but you had to get to the theater before it was gone or hope for reruns, because before VCRs you were otherwise out of luck. Even when VCRs were everywhere many movies were just not available and TV shows were even less distributed. So the fact that fantasy fiction was more popular meant it was easier to share, easier to build up a common picture of, than scifi visual media, and that fantasy would during the period end up dominant as a shared creative vernacular.
Because of this I think D&D had an easier time breaking through and just never lost their prime position. Had rpgs come about 10 or 15 years earlier, when scifi was bigger in fiction, I think we would have seen a somewhat generic soft scifi game like many posters have said might have been a good competitor.
 

Knaight

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It routinely doesn't, but Tolkien does. And what examples are you thinking of in post-apoc? Because the original Mad Max films centered a single hero, and even Fury Road has 2.5 PCs. Generally I don't think multi-PC parties work really well on film.
Why restrict to film? Once you bring books in, suddenly there's far more options. As for specifics take a look at the Wasteland and Wasteland II anthologies of short stories, which are full of that. Or take Station 11.
 

Mr_Sandman

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Somewhat coincidentally, I am reading "Playing at the World" and Jon Peterson points out that the opportunities for character identification and immersion in the fandom community before D&D was in pseudo-medieval fantasy settings (Coventry, SCA), and speculates that this could be related to the large number of 'visitation' stories in the fantasy genre, where the protagonist(s) from contemporary society is(are) transported into a fantasy world.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
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Star Wars and Star Trek both feature RPG size parties for most of the action. So does Battlestar Galactica actually.

How often do we see all of the X-Men, Avengers, Legion of Supers, Justice League, et al on screen at once?

Even most ensemble casts have less than a dozen regular characters who might be considered the protagonists.
Depends on which specific media. A half dozen aren't all that rare in the comic or animated versions.
 

mindstalk

Does the math.
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The only fantasy movies that made any kind of real money was Lord of the Rings.
Different kind of fantasy but the Harry Potter movies did quite well.

The more conventionally fantasy TV series Game of Thrones has done quite well.

Also, almost every Disney movie counts as fantasy. Frozen and the 2017 Beauty and the Beast are #13 and 14 highest grossing films. (Deathly Hallows 2 is #10.) Pirates of the Caribbean has a light fantasy touch and has 3 slots in the top 50.

In books... We know romance smashes all other categories in sales and genre fiction tends to come in last.
Romance seems a poor fit for a group TTRPG, though romantic or sexual roleplaying has its own vigorous role in life, like in bedrooms or sexy MUSHes. Mystery is a bigger genre than fantasy, and we await a world-storming mystery RPG. Fantasy genre is bigger than SF genre now.

A Star Trek phaser, a Star Wars blaster, a Babylon 5 PPG, or a Flash Gordon ray gun are all just "glowy death beams with a point-and-click interface". All of them could be called "guns" and the stories would be unaltered.
Depends. I've read multiple Star Trek stories where the phaser was overloaded into a grenade, and even more where being glowy *stun* beams was a key difference from guns. Ditto for Bujold's SF which has stunners, plasma arcs, and nerve disruptors, which lead to rather different tactics and behavior.

- low technology tends to keep most of the action at a personal, face-to-face, visceral level
- low technology plus plot-friendly restrictions on magic tends to make certain kinds of plot lines (e.g. investigations) more tractable
- low technology cultures (as seen through our everyday assumptions) operate more at a personal level, with simple rules, unspecialised occupations, simple hierarchies, relationship-based transactions
- low technology seems easy to understand: even if the players can't light a fire by rubbing together two sticks, they have the idea of how it works
- pre-contemporary cultures are associated with lawlessness and personal violence: so it's a licence to engage in some shadow-play/ escapism

Supers? One problem here is that every costumed hero is unique. So if you're going to have rules for that hero's powers, the rules have to be unique
A lot of this feels right to me, though "D&D came first" has obvious merit. And given the success long spell lists, I wonder that a superhero game couldn't just have a long power list, with no two PCs allowed to take the same power (or combination of powers.)

And again outside of TTRPGs “Middle-ages-ish Tolkin-ish fantasy” is not overwhelmingly more popular.
It does seem to be a pretty good chunk of fantasy, though.

It was the generic statement about tech and explosives I was objecting to; most of the at all high-fantasy games out there have much the same issues, if not worse (because to get military weapons in a modern game you have to get them somewhere, but often all you need in a fantasy game is to be a mage).
Worlds don't break much if a tiny aloof elite has explosives and communications, they break if whole armies and cities do. And actually IME it's usually much easier to blow stuff up as a mage than to have good long distance communications. I'm not sure the Sending spell even existed before 3e D&D -- certainly not in BECMI -- and it's pretty lame.

That's not true for anything else. I mean, Fords were the first commercially successful automobiles but they are not hugely dominate in their market the way D&D is. It's not even like D&D had years and years of being the only game in town. pretty much from the moment it appeared people were making other games, some fantasy and some not.
That's a good point. Very quickly you had Empire of the Petal Throne (same year as D&D! then republished a year later by TSR!) Tunnels and Trolls, Bunnies and Burrows, Traveler. Within 10 years, Call of Cthulhu, Champions, Paranoia. D&D was first but it didn't have a long lead time before competition sprang up, though it did have 3 years on the thoroughly non-fantasy Traveler.

Science fiction settings seem less amenable to that kind of mixing, maybe because they have no folklore roots, so well-known properties are more distinct from each other and their distinctive features are less mashable. I would think that supers would be more like fantasy in that regard though, so I'm not sure why there hasn't been a breakout game in that genre.
My impression was that HERO/Champions did decently, and there's GURPS Powers. OTOH, I may be biased from having never been deeply into superhero comics, but I don't know if they're actually as widespread as fantasy tropes. Only so many people read comics, and before the modern movies that and newspaper comics strips (my own introduction to Superman and Spider-Man, but also the Phantom) was your only superhero exposure. Fantasy has lots of sources: Tolkien, Narnia, Disney movies, Prydain, the Secret of NIMH, Robin Hood, Arthur, fairy tales, myths, history... it's pretty diverse and not much of it resembles an RPG party, but concepts of knights/castles/wizards/witches/dragons/monsters bleed through a lot of places.

It may also help that D&D has classes, so a new player has (had) limited choice of what to be. Building a superhero PC from scratch is more daunting. And D&D started you as a schlub who advanced, and a tactical framework.
 

Alon

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Depends on which specific media. A half dozen aren't all that rare in the comic or animated versions.
It depends on the property - the best-known superheroes, like Superman, work alone, modulo the occasional crossover issue. People with stronger backgrounds in superhero comics than me can know this in more detail, but my understanding is that superhero popularity goes Superman = Batman > Spiderman > X-Men = Wonder Woman > rest. The MCU is outselling the DC films nowadays, but that's partly that beyond these top 5 the next-best-selling superheroes are all Marvel (Iron Man, the Hulk, w/e) and partly that DC got a bad director in Zack Snyder.
 

NathanS

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Marvel has been out selling DC comics since, well ever. With Spider-Man as the biggest. Batman has been far bigger than Superman since the 90's, maybe mid-to-late 80's.

Team books however have been the JLA was DCs best seller when it first came out in 1960, New Teen Titans was far and away DC's biggest seller in the early 80's (To be fair that meant it was doing barely okay by Marvel standards of the time.) And the X-men where real big in the 80's to 90's. And well eclipsed by Spidy quickly The Fantastic Four were successful enough to launch the modern Marvel universe in the 60's.
 
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