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Monday, November 13, 2017

Gonzo Sci-Fantasy - What is it?


Hello all,

It's been a bit since I blogged on gaming in general. Life has taken over and I am pretty sure that blogs have been relegated to a bit of an old guard status, replaced by Facebook groups and YouTube channels but as I started here, I thought I would revisit this realm of communication to begin talking about some things that have come to mind for RPGs, miniatures and gaming in general. To start this return, I would like to talk about gonzo sci-fantasy.

This is the sort of fantasy that really used to the be the norm back in the days when I first started gaming. Fantasy itself was a lot more wondrous and over the top and hadn't learned to take itself so seriously. But this form of fantasy went a step further and intertwined itself with science fiction. Worlds built on this foundation were full of odd mash-ups of knights on robot horses, ray-gun wielding folks clad in strangely medieval garb, or laser word wielding barbarians. Monsters were often simple, odd-ball and a bit goofy. 

Sometimes it was as simple as adding a techno prefix or suffix to and existing medieval/fantasy word or crushing together two words to make strange compound words. This was most frequently done when naming equipment and creatures as it provided an instant reference point for what such a thing was. In cartoons of this sort, these combos were often as blatant as they sounded and seeing the critter on the old 480p TV screen after school or Saturday mornings left zero question what it was. 

Some of the best examples of this from my own childhood and recently, thanks to Netflix, my adulthood are cartoons such as Blackstar, He-Man, She-Ra and, Thundarr the Barbarians even Thundercats. These shows were masters of "punny", forced, literal combinations of words and concepts into some memorable bits. I recall fondly wielding a broomstick as Thundarr's Sun Sword and battlling imaginary foes that were odd robotic versions of mythological creatures or wacky hybrids. 

In the early days of RPGs these things were not foreign to players and we saw much of this sort of fantasy bleed over into D&D and even more so Gamma World. Whole adventures such as "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" was a D&D adventure that through the party into a crashed spaceship where fantasy and science fiction collided. Meanwhile, Gamma World often presented technology in the hands of post-apocalyptic savages as magic, indistinguishable to those people from true mystical abilities. The presence of psionics is another note of science fiction in fantasy as psionics or psychic powers have a long history of being magic explained as science.

So, there you have it. A brand of fantasy that was, for many of us, part of a splendid, wondrous childhood that has since gone to the wayside. It's fun, it's forgiving, and it is pretty simple to do. In my next post in this series, I'll look at some ways to run such a setting using tools you already have available in your existing collection of RPGs.

Take care,

And get out and game.

-Eli

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