Friday, January 16, 2009

Science Fantasy D&D

My copy of issue 3 of Fight On! arrived the other day. Since I was too much of a slacker to submit anything to it (though I remain hopeful I can finish up something for issue 4 and my level of "The Darkness Beneath" collaborative megadungeon is shaping up nicely -- surprise, surprise, it borrows elements from my own Dwimmermount megadungeon), I had the rare pleasure of being able to read its contents with virgin eyes. Dedicated to the memory of Bob Bledsaw, it's another tour de force of old school gaming goodness and my favorite issue so far, providing just the right mix of contents. It's really an amazing thing watching this magazine blossom before my eyes; it's like giving me the chance to see The Dragon come into being a second time, which is great, since, old though I may be, I'm not quite old enough to have seen it the first time.

One of the articles that really grabbed me in issue 3 was Melan's "Fomalhaut," which gives a brief overview of his campaign setting of the same name. Reading it I was reminded of M.A.R. Barker's Tékumel, not so much for the specific details, which are quite different, but for the general idea of it: a fantasy world set far in the future after the collapse of high-tech interstellar civilization. It's an idea that lurks beneath the surface of OD&D and you can certainly see it in Gygax's selections for Appendix N. The RPG Jorune has a similar premise and, by all accounts, began as a wacky Metamorphosis Alpha campaign, which is pretty old school. For that matter, the introduction to the first edition of Gamma World offered the possibility of mixing magic and mutants, a possibility that the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide even provided rules for.

It's an idea I keep toying with. For whatever reason, I'm generally reluctant simply to import sci-fi stuff into my fantasy campaigns without some underlying rationale for it. On the other hand, I find it much easier to accept a science fiction setting where technology is so advanced as to appear like -- and thus effectively to be -- magic. That certainly explains why I spend so much time working out the hows and whys of magic and how it relates to the underlying metaphysics of the setting. I keep trying to hit on a rationale that would allow me to create a really fun science fantasy setting for use with OD&D, because I'm convinced that it's a neglected part of the game's heritage. The closest TSR ever came to paying homage to it (besides Empire of the Petal Throne, of course) was 2e's Dark Sun, which I actually liked in spite of its many flaws, but I think we can do better than that.

A few years ago, I had this idea of a campaign set on Earth in the very far future, after the collapse of technological civilization due to some catastrophe or other. Science had advanced to the point where genetic engineering was routine and where nanotechnology was similarly commonplace. Magic-users would be individuals who'd been taught how to use "free" nanites to create various effects. Clerics would be similar, except that they tapped into the power of various "oracles," which were artificial intelligences worshipped as -- and in some cases believed themselves to be -- gods and who likewise had the ability to manipulate nanites. From the perspective of the characters, this setting would be just a typical fantasy world with all the requisite tropes. Over time, though, they'd encounter stuff that "wouldn't fit" into the world they thought they inhabited but that made perfect sense within the context I'd established behind the scenes. Plus, how hard is it to recast most of D&D into something pseudo-scientific? A few moments thought and it's pretty easy to imagine wands as high-tech tools/weapons, golems as robots, and orcs as uplifted animals used as soldiers.

I didn't go this route with my Dwimmermount campaign, preferring instead to adopt a more "expansive" notion of fantasy, with other planets being little different than other dimensions/planes, for example. But I'm still very interested in a truly science fantasy campaign. It's something that has powerful literary antecedents and it's something we've never seen much of in canonical D&D, particularly after the early-to-middle Golden Age. And that's a shame.


  1. I always loved how the AD&D DMG included those extra set of rules. Wasn't there also a section on Boot Hill rules as well?

    I too have always wanted to run a scifi/fantasy hybrid campaign but have not had the players willing to break out of their mold (I don't get out much either). But I would take a different angle. Instead of "tech is magic", it would "magic is tech". Simply imagine any fantasy campaign setting (homebrew or commercial) and then fast forward 1000 years. Technology would evolve hand in hand with the arcane and divine aspects of magic (and whatever other domains you might include). Of course, this wouldn't be D&D at all - it might end up like some kind of Shadowrun / ChutluTech / D&D mashup but with its own completely overhauled campaign setting. Food for thought...

  2. James, your sci-fantasy idea sounds a lot like the Digest Group Publications pitch for their sadly aborted "AI" RPG. That was intended to be a kind of magitech world where deep space AI probes had set themselves up as the godlings of a post-apocalyptic Earth. The probes used nanotechnology to create creatures, artefacts and superpowered champions in accordance with their - wildly differing - grand plans for the world.

    Come to think of it, I'm reminded more than a little of "Out of the Vaults" tech-book for Gamma World (an excellent little volume co-written by our esteemed host). Any game where a character can be held hostage by his own egomaniacal 'Genghiz Gun' was doing something right. :-)

  3. I'm currently running a science-fantasy campaign I call Elves & Espers. If you're curious, I've been blogging about it over at Tales of the Rambling Bumblers

  4. I'm running a science fantasy version of the Wilderlands, though my players don't know it yet and quite possibly won't find out within the confines of our CURRENT campaign. I'd post my ideas here, but they know I read this blog. I truly want their discovery to be slow and accidental--a creeping realization--if they ever discover it at all. I've decided to keep the style mostly sandbox.

  5. Anyway, what I forgot to mention is that I really love that classic 1970s old skool science fantasy feel in a setting. The Wilderlands has it. Tekumel has it. Jorune has it. Talislanta has it. Blackmoor has it. There are even hints of it in TSR's published worlds. It's good stuff.

  6. Magic is MAGIC. In my humble opinion, rationalizing it is pointless. (See me recent blog post.) As I said in that post, "Quantifying or rationalizing it leads to a maze of rule judgments."

    Leave the magic to the magicians and the science to the scientists. Of course, I understand Arthur C. Clarke's third law of prediction, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." But I think making it one and the same transforms a fantasy RPG in to a sci-fi RPG. Or, more specifically, a science-fantasy RPG.

    D&D players toying with the "magical" artifacts of the strange metal dungeon of the Barrier Peaks is enough. Taken any further and you have to worry about your players inventing gun powder.

    I tried mixing magic and science in a D&D campaign back in the early 1980s. It turned the campaign into an irretrievable mess. I wouldn't recommend going down that path.

  7. But I think making it one and the same transforms a fantasy RPG in to a sci-fi RPG. Or, more specifically, a science-fantasy RPG.

    That's the whole point :)

    D&D's literary roots are littered with stuff like this, chief among them being The Dying Earth, which, while fantasy, is set in a far future world that includes both magic and technology from earlier eras. And the pulps regularly tried to rationalize magic by making it mental powers or high technology. What are we to make of C.L. Moore's "Northwest Smith" series, which mixes interplanetary travel and magic? This stuff is deep in the DNA of D&D.

  8. When I was still setting-up my science-fantasy Carcosa campaign, I did a poll on dragonsfoot and got these responses to the question, "Do you like mixing sci-fi in your fantasy?"

    27% said yes.
    34% said no.
    38% could take it or leave it.

    (link: )

    Even amongst us grognards, a great deal of us simply hate science-fantasy.

    For me, D&D is so much more D&D with laser rifles and such.

  9. Amongst the guys I used to game with as a teenager, they still point to the scenario they loved most was fighting against a small contingent of orcs from another world camped in a small wood, dressed in camouflage and armed with mortars and small arms.

    Their eventual solution to the encounter was to torch the woods, so they never discovered the reason these future-orcs even existed in their world (or rather, time).

  10. I'm all for it. Heck - you've got The Hounds of Skaith on your blog front page - those stories are riddled with an amalgam of science and fantasy, as are the Dying Earth stories, the Ganelon Silvermane stuff - even a lot of Howard's short stories (and HPL/CAS of course).

    In the end, it's just plain fun to turn genres on their ear a little and revel in how screwy things can get. Certainly nothing wrong with a little science in your fantasy (or vice versa).

  11. I cannot possibly be the only person who immediately though of this?

  12. Blotz,

    Thundarr the Barbarian is a good example of one way to do a science fantasy campaign that's in keeping with OD&D's literary roots. Most people tend to associate it more with Gamma World, but I personally think that's a mistake, given the presence of magic and other "weird" elements. Still, it's a great little show from the same time as D&D's late Golden Age, so it's perfect.

  13. When I was much younger than I am now, we first played through S3 - Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

    Although the idea of mixing the peanut butter and chocolate of fantasy and sci-fi together may be terribly cliche today, back then it was as if scales had been lifted from my eyes when we finally figured out what was going on.

    It is the type of experience that I think only happens to you once in a lifetime, something that causes you to look at things in different ways from that point on. A paradigm shift, if we want to get all buzz-wordy, I guess.

    And to this day, just thinking about it makes me smile.

  14. I have to admit, I am not at all interested in explaining magic in any metaphysical sense any more than I wish to have "teleporters" and "blasters" explained. They tap into a mythology that exists in the imagination parallel to the real world.

    Gygax made a good point about the difference between "science fiction" and "science fantasy". The latter isn't really science at all, but fantasy with "futuristic" trappings. He was adament that gunpowder would not be introduced to his World of Greyhawk, but laser blasters were fine.

  15. Cool idea. Part of what I like about it is the way the general idea (a setting with many "layers" of reality) could be applied to the development of other campaigns. One of the many interesting debate I've followed here regards the proper place of "story" in D&D. This concept of a post-apocalyptic world illustrates a way to encourage "story" without a linear or railroad plot. The DM does has some kind of grand plan (though much of it might be vague) and sooner or later the players will peel back layers to learn more about the world, creating a sense of story development, but without anything being forced. (Apologies to those for whom my personal epiphany is not especially novel.)

  16. There was a point in the 80's when I think almost everybody with a fantasy world would hint at some point that their world may have started as a hight tech civilization that fell. Sword of Shanara had that background, and all the D&D'ers were reading that book. I even toyed with that. I love Arduin (and even the crazier shit in The Dungeoneer), but I never got around to including much in the way of technology in my setting. Somehow I saw that as putting an impurity into my precious fantasy lands.

    I've also toyed with running a version of my fantasy world set 1000 years in the future, but so far only had fun imaging how things might be like. As it is, there has been about 120 game years in my world since I started it as a kid, and I've only just had the printing press show up in the big city. Big high tech mojo.

    Still, I've always loved Ralph Bakshi's Wizards movie - a great combo of fantasy and Gamma World elements. Outside of the nazi stuff, that would be a great setting for characters to stomp around in. "They killed Fritz! Those miserable fairy bastards killed Fritz!"

  17. Personally I love science fantasy, a la Barsoom, Barrier Peaks, Jorune or Many-Coloured Land, but I'm not so keen on scifi denouements that unmask my fantasy world, a la Piers Anthony's Sos the Rope trilogy, or even the later Riverworld. It seems to me that once the Ethicals or whoever enter the narrative all the fun rushes out, leaving a rather deflated and sad-looking masala of mismatched fantastical widow-dressing on what, it turns out, is a rather more explicable world.

    you have to worry about your players inventing gun powder.

    This, on the other hand, fills me with glee. If I ever get around to running a pseudo-medieval campaign again, this will be the premise of it - the early days (centuries) of gunpowder lend themselves more to tragicomedy than to sudden and lasting world domination.

    If you're worried about the players conducting a single-handed technological revolution, I say respond with the situation we know today, where inventions are always appearing everywhere, and you have to run as hard as you can to keep up. I can't remember who it was who said, of noir, "secrets always get out because someone is always watching, and if you kill 6 guys one of them always comes back." This seems like a good DM philosophy to me. Perhaps the PCs are the first ever to use manufacturable explosives: that places them at an important node in the timestream of the gameworld. If any ingame sorceror-Science!-tists* will ever invent time-scrying, the PCs will be famous.

    * you know the kind - in their goggles and long-tailed labcoats, or high wing collars and metal skullcaps, with their huge bronze machines full of precious stone lenses, used for focusing the powers of the moving stars on world events.

  18. The killer for me is mixing science with medieval history.

    Stuff like Jorune, EPT, Dark Sun, Carcosa, heck even the Phantasy Star CRPGS -- I am 100% hell-yeah behind those mixtures of Broadswords & Blasters, probably because medieval Europe has been filtered out and the science is part of the setting.

    I think even Greyhawk reached a state of being its own not-medieval thing, like Conan's world where anything seems possible from any age of history. It includes some medieval verisimilitude, but just as a facet. Call it pulp fantasy flavor.

    For me, I think there's still a large part of D&D where it's fun to get my historical geek on and play it "closer to the metal", though. When I play Jorune I want to be playing in the world of Jorune, I don't want my characters to encounter Yule Brynner from Westworld. That's easy to state because the system and setting are wedded. But with D&D there are so many variants of play that it's hard to tell where the subgenres begin and end, and you have to be more careful at the rudder.

    So sometimes my reaction is "Robots? Cool!" and sometimes it is "Robots?! Lame!" and I don't think it's because I'm inconsistent or a unimaginative fuddy-duddy.

  19. Interesting discussion here. I wonder how much of this is related to whether or not each of us also like the idea of "The Rule of Cool" in RPGs. Maybe for some, scifi fantasy is very RoC; but others who have a general distaste for RoC are the same ones that like to keep their fantasy and scifi on different menus. I mean, its not to say that cool things cant happen in fantasy settings; just that... is there a connection here?

  20. @Jonathan- probably not. Or at least, it's a fundamental disagreement over what is cool, and you're not allowed to invoke the Rule of Cool unless the participants agree that the result is cool.

  21. Jonathan,

    "The Rule of Cool" isn't even on my radar. I'd never even heard of it until very recently. My only light when it comes to this particular discussion is the literary heritage of D&D, which includes writers like Burroughs, CAS, Vance, Brackett, Moore, and many others who regularly mixed what we now call "fantasy" and "science fiction." That, I think, is the dividing line for me: if it's something that harkens back to the time before fantasy and SF were distinct genres, I'm generally fine with it, regardless of how "cool" it might or might not be.

  22. Oh you didn't have to bring up the Rule of Cool did you? :D

    Now, that is a subject that folks have pretty strong opinions on.

    IMO, I agree that this has much more to do with the old literary roots than any modern interpretations of what could be entertaining in a setting or not. I would speculate that these pulp authors were motivated by other things than sheer entertainment value which is the guiding criterion of the Rule of Cool. Perhaps they had a historical bent and took a longer view of the cyclical growth and fall of nations, for example. Or maybe they were interested in modern ideas of Atlantis theory and became inspired.

    Now this is something that I would like to know more about.

  23. I've got a scenario about half done which I'm calling "Gamma Hawk". It involves zapping the players a few dozen centuries into the future and having them try to find their way back. Mutant elves and orcs, cyborg dwarves, continent-spanning sub-trains (a la "Genesis II"), "the final solution to the gnomish question" has all but wiped out that race centuries before...

    So yes, I don't mind the idea of mixing science and fantasy, but I'm working in the "air lock" of time travel so I can control just how much tech gets permanently added to the campaign.

    Someday I'll wrap it all up it up in a bow and spring it on my players.

  24. I blame James entirely for making me want to play/start up a sci-fantasy game! Since your post on the Dying Earth I've been reading the series and up to my eyeballs in youtube videos of Thundarr and Galtar (remember that one?). Heck even He-man is sorta sci-fantasy.

    The John Carter novels have an air about them that's very similar, but there's also a tinge of gentility to it them (likely the byproduct of ERB's writing style and the time in which he lived).

    I'm really grooving on the idea of a fantasy set far in the future, BUT I just can't desecrate my beloved fantasy-fantasy realm with science. Magic is magical because there IS NO explanation. I like the old-fashioned knights vs. dragons feel. King Arthur, Merlin, Beowulf, etc. Sci-fi would spoil that. Besides, futuristic sword and sorcery is cooler when it's tipped to be more barbaric than regular old medieval fantasy. IMHO.

    I'm interested to hear what rules any of you would use to run a Thundarr/Dying Earth campaign. 0E? SW? LL? Does it matter?

  25. I have enjoyed Bradley's Darkover, DeCamp's Krishna and Norton's Witch World. Traveller for a while eclipsed D&D in my fascination, but my inclination to "hard" SF was not rigid.

    One possibility in my new D&D campaign (or perhaps the next) is the "lost colony" scenario. I like the concept in Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, that Earth is in a galactic zone beyond which the limits of natural laws as we know them do not necessarily apply.

    There can be a limited Interstellar Empire presence on the world, following a mostly hands-off policy except for controlling interplanetary commerce.

    It might have been nice to have established in the currently local scene elements such as the Barsoomian code of honor for more distinctive flavor -- but the starting area itself could be a bit eccentric relative to others.

  26. OK, first of all, this 'worry about your players inventing gunpowder' thing? It's nuts. If it's handled remotely realistically, they'll be fifth level or higher by the time they succeed, and guess what? Primitive guns blow up on a natural 1 and don't do as much damage as a fireball even when they hit.

    If you don't want them for stylistic reasons, that's fine, but the idea that they're unbalanced is whack.

    I think there was a vague paranoia that some engineering major with a first level fighter would go get saltpeter, etc. and make it bit by bit. But this is not a problem with guns, it's a problem with play style.

    Even laser rifles are not significantly different from wands of lightning, in the end.

    I have never had problems mixing tech with fantasy in my games, when it fit the setting.

    Anyway, thanks for the shout out to Fight On!, James! I agree, Gabor's article is one of the best things we've published, and that's saying a lot. Of course, there will be some who don't like it, but that's why we deliberately keep the magazine broad, including Traditional High Fantasy and Gygaxian Naturalist submissions alongside the weird fantasy and science fantasy stuff and the way-out experimental stuff - something for everyone.

    Looking forward to your dungeon level, and there will be room for the city article if you get it in in time. If not perhaps we can have a double shot from you in #5!

  27. I think there's a fallacy somewhere in the reluctance to mix fantasy and "science". I'm not sure I can put my finger on it exactly, but there seems to be some assumption that robots and rayguns are somehow more "real" than unicorns and magic, and would as a result undermine the latter.

    (I understand that robots are real, and so too, theoretically, are ray guns, but I'm talking here specifically about how the concepts are used; I suspect there are more Robbies than Asimos running around in campaigns.)

    The presence of something we might recognise as "science" in a fantasy realm does not necessarily then mean that magic can be explained using scientific principles. Magic can still be mysterious and unexplainable and incompatible with scientific theory; that's what makes it magic, after all.

    (To look at it from a different perspective, no one seems to mind bringing magic into a modern, mundane setting; Neil Gaiman's made a career from it!)

  28. And for probably one of the earliest cross-promotions of this type we have the following rules for a Type 24 Hyperspace Generator from Star Empires (TSR 1977):

    Hyperspace 24: Field generators cost 500 Megarons, 600 Mineral Units, and 350 Food produce Units. The generator will only operate on a planetary surface, and the field affects the entire world.

    Effect. The natural laws of the system alter, causing science to be an uncertain art and the arcane arts (such as magic) to be reliable.

    Side Effects. The operation of scientific devices (including those of TSL 1 and 2) are determined as below each time they are used. Magic works at all times within the field (for rules on magic try DUNGEONS & DRAGONS).

    1-5: Device turns into a fine powder.
    6-60: Device fails to operate.61-70: Device operates with twice the normal output.
    71-75: Device operates with five times the normal output. Directional weapons fire in the opposite direction from the one pointed in.
    76-80: Device operates at five times normal output.
    81-90: Device operates at 10 times the normal output.
    91-95: Device operates at 25 times its normal output, but a radiation field causing genetic mutation is set up in a 100' radius until the device is shut off.
    96: Device operates at 100 times normal output. Directional weapons as 71-75 above.
    97: Device operates at 100 times normal output. There is a 10% chance that a portal to another dimension will be opened.
    98: Device operates at 500 times normal output. Direction weapons as 71-75 above.
    99: Operates at 500 times normal output
    100: Operates at 1,000 times normal output, then explodes.

    This generator makes a Technical civilization impossible. Any world with one of these generators on it can have a Technical Social Level no higher than 2. [Longbow] On activation a planet will go into a period of chaos lasting for 10 budget periods. [30 years] No trade tariffs may ever be collected from such a system.

  29. It's absurdly easy to change D&D into a science fantasy just by changing the window dressing and leaving the basic mechanisms intact, especially if you are running a dying world campaign, where the actual knowledge of how things work has been mostly lost. Most technology then becomes ... magic.

    [Then again, most technology is "magic" for most people these days - they just take it for granted.]

    Although you can get interesting variations along this theme. I ran a tournament game once set on a dying Mars and it was easy to get the players (expecting a "normal" D&D game) into the spirit of the thing. Although the fighters particularly enjoyed that wands became pistols and staffs became rifles, and thus weapons they could use – something which served to balance the characters (it was a reasonably high-level game).

    "Magic" users, who understood technology (or rather had an inherited Interface that allowed them to work "magic"), were very rare and clerics were generally those responsible for maintaining the remaining old machines in the basements of most cities (by faith rather than technical knowledge). And it was in these basements that the miracle material plas could be created and wrought into weapons and armour. It came in various grades (although in most of the remaining cities the machines that produced the higher grades no longer worked), such as plaswan, plasdoo, plasfrey, plasfor, and plaseyve (to use the <ahem> Ancient Martian terms for the various alloys).

    People had fun.

  30. "This generator makes a Technical civilization impossible. Any world with one of these generators on it can have a Technical Social Level no higher than 2. [Longbow] On activation a planet will go into a period of chaos lasting for 10 budget periods. [30 years] No trade tariffs may ever be collected from such a system."

    Hmmm...anyone else read S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire? I'm pretty lukewarm on the quality of the series, but at one point some of the characters actually postulate that this is what happened to the world in order to shut down all technology.

    Wonder if Stirling ever read that description...

  31. I think Sci-fantasy is in keeping with the pulp roots. I think moderation and keeping power creep under control is the key. Too much and you end up with Gamma World, although while fun in its own right, its a different game than D&D.

    BTW, I am definitely a fan of dropping Sci-nuggets into the game!

  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

  33. This thread has made me wonder what the difference is between (fictional-) science and magic, and why the distinction seems so important: why enjoy one and reject the other? I offer this proposal: that the "science" of sci-fantasy is generally ubiquitous and operates reliably, while the "magic" requires specialist operators - exceptional people who have it and know how to use it. Maybe it would be interesting to reverse this, and to make the rare sciency elements highly valuable exactly because they're reliable (who's going to expose their king to magical scrying when it attracts demons from beyond? Much better to go on a quest to find the fabled Telefon).
    Also, I'm curious about where people get there ideas of what's really fantasy and what's sci-fantasy (or space opera, ftm). Although you've done a lot of work exposing some of the canonical art/lit sources, I don't think we're anywhere near a complete list for our collective vision - what's really universal and currently missing? What sets our expectations? How important are movies and comics for setting the zeitgeist?

  34. Certain forms of science work with certain forms of fantasy. For instance, in a straight high fantasy Tolkienesque setting, or a mythic setting like Glorantha, you probably don't want robots and blasters. A swords & sorcery setting is more accommodating.

    Settings like Wilderlands and Te'kumel, where science forms part of the backstory seem to work much better than eg something I did when young, having a straight space opera type galaxy surrounding my 1e AD&D fantasy world.

  35. As mentioned in my previous post, "having a straight space opera type galaxy surrounding my ... fantasy world" is just what I'm considering now. It may be especially intriguing because it's been so little done in gaming -- yet harks back to so much of the fiction that I read back in the '70s.

  36. For the old school setting I'm brewing, I'll sure as hell have a few of SF/interplanetary elements lying around, a la Tékumel. Nothing that'll make the world noticeably different from your average D&D campaign, on first sight... but as players dig deeper into its secrets...

    Who's to say that the "Elemental Plane of Fire" isn't the heart of a distant star, and that the "fire elementals" are the strange beings of living plasma who dwell on that hostile place?

    Or that the Abyss and the Nine Hells are different continents of the same war-torn planet, where genetically-engineered soldiers we've come to call "demons" and "devils" wage and eternal war in the name of long-forgotten masters?

    Or that elves, dwarves and halflings (and perhaps orcs, goblins, and kobolds too!) are anything other than genetically-engineered "clades" derived from baseline humans?

    The possibilities are truly endless.

  37. Iglesias, I really don't mean to criticise your setting, but it seems that your description of it is a good example of what I was trying to get at above.

    You could use "science" to explain elves and dwarves, but why is this the first thought? Why can't they coexist with the "science" without being part of it?

    Again, no criticism intended.

  38. I had this idea of a campaign set on Earth in the very far future, after the collapse of technological civilization due to some catastrophe or other.

    I think the free RPG Enoch by Chad Walker has done this very idea, and done it quite well:

    QUOTE: "In Enoch, interacting with demons (intelligent machines) is called sorcery and those who
    do so are called sorcerers."

    It's an amazing piece of work, IMO.

  39. Dwayanu:
    "As mentioned in my previous post, "having a straight space opera type galaxy surrounding my ... fantasy world" is just what I'm considering now. It may be especially intriguing because it's been so little done in gaming -- yet harks back to so much of the fiction that I read back in the '70s."

    Well, there may be a way to do it right, but looking back on it I think for me it was a mistake. Part of the mistake for me was not having a very interesting sf setting around the planet - a bureaucratic human military dictatorship at war with aliens - and not having it properly integrated with the fantasy gameworld. But then, I was only 12 years old. By contrast, I think Judges' Guild Wilderlands does it right.

  40. kelvingreen sayeth:

    You could use "science" to explain elves and dwarves, but why is this the first thought? Why can't they coexist with the "science" without being part of it?

    It's not really my first thought; being a "child" of the Bronze Age and AD&D 2e, I've long used the usual "mythic" explanations (e.g. this god created dwarves, that goddess created elves, etc.).

    Using SF (not really science) is a novelty for me. And in my specific case, it's a small but sincere homage to the tropes of pulp fantasy and SF.

    I don't intend to shove it in the face of PCs, just to drop hints here and there that a discerning player might pick up. Besides, in-character, most PCs won't really grasp the distinction between planets and planes, or sentient blobs of stellar plasma and good old fire elementals. So it's mostly for my players' and my own enjoyment, as pulp fantasy fans.

  41. One thing I might try is if the players in my campaign ever reach the dizzy heights of level 20, turning everything on its head by having alien starships crash land into the world and have new, technologically advanced, species arrive with their own agendas. That would then make it a kind of magic vs tech scenario and completely change what the hell is going on. However, we're a long way away from that though at the moment.

  42. "Magic-users would be individuals who'd been taught how to use "free" nanites to create various effects"

    This + Prey from Michael Crichton.

  43. The problem with tech in our fantasy is that we have it already. There are functional laser guns even if they require to much energy to be feasible. We have Cellphones that do more things then any computer from the time that Dungeons and Dragons was made could every hope to do. When Star Trek came out it was more imagination then it was cutting edge tech. Cellphones where made because someone thought the communicator on in Star Trek would be cool to own. We can hold in a single hand an entire library's worth of books. To the people before Star Trek came about our Computers would be counted as magic to many people. The difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy in the past was non-existent because the real world difference was non-existent.

  44. You may consider Eclipse phases as a resource. It's sort of the spiritual successor of the AI product mentioned. Also it is actually futuristic. If you think about Akhier's post even stuff like shadowrun isnt very high tech anymore, we are almost there. It has tech that can completely rework matter at the atomic level which would be something different than lasers. you could have clouds of nano disassemblers undo people.