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    Default Hard Fantasy

    Looking up something else, I came across a couple of essays by an author I really like, Marie Brennan.

    https://www.swantower.com/essays/phi.../hard-fantasy/
    https://www.swantower.com/essays/phi...asy-manifesto/

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    "And then I had an epiphany, boiling it down to five words that work for both sides of the genre: hard fantasy and hard SF alike are concerned with how stuff works, and why.


    In science fiction, that can mean physics, computing, biochemistry, etc. A hard SF story is one that takes the known facts of those sciences and extrapolates them, rigorously exploring the mechanisms by which they operate, and how they might be made to operate in new, expanded ways. The equivalent in fantasy, then, is the type of work Iíve often labeled ďanthropologically rigorousĒ ó concerned with history, religion, politics, systems of magic, etc. What happens if you set your world conditions like this? Just as in SF, a given novel may devote scads of attention to one topic while ignoring others; finely-tuned interstellar travel matched with nonsensical alien biology is paralleled by, say, Tolkien, who thought through his cosmology and linguistics like whoa but didnít seem much concerned with where anybody outside of the Shire got their food. Itís hard linguistic fantasy, hard cosmological fantasy, but politics and economics fall by the wayside.


    How stuff works, and why. George R. R. Martin treats his politics with all the attention and rigor you could hope for. Jacqueline Carey extrapolates an alternate Europe where Christianity never homogenized Western culture. To a hard SF writer, these may not look like much; human culture and behavior are inescapably fuzzy, and do not lend themselves to replicable laboratory experiments, much less testable thought-experiments. But a hundred years of social science research has produced some pretty good models for understanding how people live, and I think itís possible to devote in-depth attention to those aspects just as one can with the natural sciences.


    The result is hard fantasy. And I donít know about you, but I am a sucker for authors who write it."




    As a self-described worldbuilding addict, this really hits home for me.

    And maybe it will help explain why things like the "But dragons!" Fallacy and Kitchen Sink Syndrome are so irksome to some of us -- even though other people love 132-car pileup settings running on "rule of cool", "rule of awesome", and "what not why".
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-12-12 at 11:54 PM.
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    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    I love understanding the metaphysics of a fantastical setting. That's just plain and simple intellectual fun for me. I tend to try to port that over to games I play, at least as headcanon. I like my settings, be it book, videogame, or tabletop, to have internally consistent metaphysics. I admit I care less about economics, linguistics, politics, etc., though I like those to at least make enough sense that I can reasonably choose a path for my PC to take based on the knowledge at hand.

    In books, I like that about Brandon Sanderson's stuff. It might be soft in some respects, but the magic systems at least are pretty hard (even if the characters in the book don't know all the details so it may appear soft.)

    Although I've heard of some hard sci-fi tabletop games, I don't know if I've heard of one that does fantasy that way. Most metaphysics seem to have some internal inconsistencies. I have played a game of oWoD: Mage, where we houseruled a lot of the Spheres to try to make them more internally consistent, but at some points we just had to say that it didn't make sense the setting was that way and for our characters to accept it and not try to reason it out.

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    I certainly agree that this is a well established and also very popular current in modern fantasy. Ranging from pseudo-historical stories to works with very unusual worlds that are explored like the technology in sci-fi.

    I am under the impression that Ars Magica is aiming at being something like that, though I am not familiar with it.

    Though I think the lack of spelled out explanation doesn't have to make it a case of casual worldbuilding for the sake of simple fun. You also have works in which things are deliberately left unclear to put the character in situations where they have to deal with making difficult decisions based on highly incomplete information. That can also be quite difficult to construct and take considerable work.
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    Category is too broad to be useful, as you more or less point out in the OP. Something can be "hard" in one area and smooshy as heck in others (honestly, I'd submit Game of Thrones here). I don't think it's a useful descriptor by itself.

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    I came into this thread expecting an exacting definition of fantasy, or a guide on how to excoriate fantasy works for being insufficiently whimsical or fun.

    I am disappointed.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Looking up something else, I came across a couple of essays by an author I really like, Marie Brennan....

    .......maybe it will help explain why things like the "But dragons!" Fallacy and Kitchen Sink Syndrome are so irksome to some of us -- even though other people love 132-car pileup settings running on "rule of cool", "rule of awesome", and "what not why".
    .
    Oh I read those before! (I really liked her A Natural History of Dragons, though not the sequels as much).

    She had a series on Role-playing games called Dice Tales which is going to be expanded into a book.

    Anyway, on the thread topic, there are so many different "flavors of fantasy" that while I can see what is meant by "Hard Fantasy", by itself the category just doesn't help me find good reading by itself.

    As to RPG settings? I'm not sure I can think of any.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    I came into this thread expecting an exacting definition of fantasy, or a guide on how to excoriate fantasy works for being insufficiently whimsical or fun.

    I am disappointed.
    So offer something up. It's meant to start a discussion, not beat people over the head with one opening opinion.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2D8HP View Post
    .
    Oh I read those before! (I really liked her A Natural History of Dragons, though not the sequels as much).

    She had a series on Role-playing games called Dice Tales which is going to be expanded into a book.

    Anyway, on the thread topic, there are so many different "flavors of fantasy" that while I can see what is meant by "Hard Fantasy", by itself the category just doesn't help me find good reading by itself.

    As to RPG settings? I'm not sure I can think of any.
    I was hoping it might spark some discussion -- there's apparently a really deep gap in what people want from a "fantasy" setting, and I thought it might give some insight into one side of that discussion.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Eh.

    I never see settings as unrealistic or as hopelessly naive as the ones posted on this forum by people who are concerned about realism.
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vitruviansquid View Post
    Eh.

    I never see settings as unrealistic or as hopelessly naive as the ones posted on this forum by people who are concerned about realism.
    Well, um, OK... thank you for your contribution, or something.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-12-13 at 12:27 AM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    Planet Mercenary RPG Discussion

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    So offer something up. It's meant to start a discussion, not beat people over the head with one opening opinion.
    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I was hoping it might spark some discussion -- there's apparently a really deep gap in what people want from a "fantasy" setting, and I thought it might give some insight into one side of that discussion.
    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Well, um, OK... thank you for your contribution, or something.
    If you want us to discuss some specific aspect of these blog posts, tell us what you want to discuss?

    I agree with Airk. I think this idea of "Hard Fantasy" is not very useful.

    I don't like what Marie Brennan writes here:

    To a hard SF writer, these may not look like much; human culture and behavior are inescapably fuzzy, and do not lend themselves to replicable laboratory experiments, much less testable thought-experiments. But a hundred years of social science research has produced some pretty good models for understanding how people live, and I think itís possible to devote in-depth attention to those aspects just as one can with the natural sciences.
    So based on this, when you see an author's application of social science that you like, you get to tell all the naysayers, "well yeah, human culture and behavior are inescapably fuzzy, especially when you start changing things about the cultures as this author has done." And then when you see someone's application of social science that you don't like, you'll get to say, "naw, you can't make the defense that human culture and behavior are inescapably fuzzy because, look, a hundred years of social science research has produced some pretty good models, man."

    I get what she means - that the real world is chaotic enough that a realistic representation of a world with alternate cultures, alternate peoples should also have some chaos - and that's fine. That's balanced. That's a good logic for her to write with. But in its fineness and its balance, it also pretty much says nothing. Basically, factor in social science research up until such a point as you you think you shouldn't. Well, duh.

    After all, if you want to hold up Marie Brennan as an example of why some people find a fantasy kitchen sink irksome, you have forgotten to acknowledge that she also wrote this:

    Folks, the real world, taken in all its multifarious glory, is weirder and more wonderful than you could possibly imagine. And what that means is that there are (to butcher Kipling) nine and sixty ways of constructing governments, families, religions, genders, meals, music, fashion, houses, and anything else you care to name, and every single one of them is neat.
    and this:

    Especially in fantasy, where metaphysical propositions can be accepted as literally true, with demonstrable consequences that might seem unrealistic in the real world.
    edit: changed some stuff that was poorly worded to be more reflective of my thoughts on this blog.
    Last edited by Vitruviansquid; 2017-12-13 at 03:24 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I am under the impression that Ars Magica is aiming at being something like that, though I am not familiar with it.
    Since AM is set in the Middle Ages in the actual historical world, it does make an attempt to be pretty solidly historically accurate (magic and whatnot aside). I'm not sure that is exactly the same as 'hard' fantasy since it's less about thinking about situations and extrapolating possible/probable/necessary consequences and more just opening a couple of history books.

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    When I think hard fantasy it's the logical steps what follow adding an element to the world


    If there are dragons then what impact does it have. Do they sit on a pile of 13 metric tons of coinage and jewelry and where does that come from? How many of them are there and what do they eat? What does the human population do about them?

    If someone kills the dragon and steals the 13 metric tons of treasure, what impact does it have for the economy? Is it worth it to kill a dragon and destroy the economy through inflation?


    Kitchen Sink fantasy is where you just throw in things without giving a big F what impact they have upon the world or how they interact with each other.
    Last edited by RazorChain; 2017-12-13 at 05:01 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    When I think hard fantasy it's the logical steps what follow adding an element to the world


    If there are dragons then what impact does it have. Do they sit on a pile of 13 metric tons of coinage and jewelry and where does that come from? How many of them are there and what do they eat? What does the human population do about them?

    If someone kills the dragon and steals the 13 metric tons of treasure, what impact does it have for the economy? Is it worth it to kill a dragon and destroy the economy through inflation?


    Kitchen Sink fantasy is where you just throw in things without giving a big F what impact they have upon the world or how they interact with each other.

    That's a good part of it, yes -- just taking the causes and effects into account.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    I really enjoy the concept of "hard fantasy", but honestly it just boils down to two things: internal consistency and solid cause-effect relationships. Things don't need to be explained, or even need to make sense, but so long as one can apply logic to their processes.

    For example, Dark Sun. How does defiler magic work? It draws on the "life force" of all living things. What is this life force? No idea, but it doesn't matter. Defilers can draw as much as they want with no consequences, and thus, in the dim prehistory of Athas, cataclysmic magic wars were fought. These battles devastated the land, sure, but it was the Defilers who ensured it could never recover by constantly draining it until there was naught but sand.

    This is why I'm such a fan of Babylon 5, and Lord of the Rings, Avatar the Last Airbender, and many others. Their worlds make sense. You can follow one thread of a story or setting, and see how it shakes out. It's not our world, but the logical consequences of the setting are played with.

    As an aside, while I really enjoyed A Natural History of Dragons the first time I read it, her subsequent novels and my fiancee ruined it for me, which is a real pity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    Kitchen Sink fantasy is where you just throw in things without giving a big F what impact they have upon the world or how they interact with each other.
    Of course, when you attach a negative connotation to the term, you're going to find all of a sudden that settings with heterogeneous elements you don't like are true fantasy kitchen sinks and the settings you do like are just the product of the author's wacky premise being drawn to its logical conclusion, accounting for how weird and wonderful the world is, of course.
    Last edited by Vitruviansquid; 2017-12-13 at 10:44 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NRSASD View Post
    I really enjoy the concept of "hard fantasy", but honestly it just boils down to two things: internal consistency and solid cause-effect relationships. Things don't need to be explained, or even need to make sense, but so long as one can apply logic to their processes.

    For example, Dark Sun. How does defiler magic work? It draws on the "life force" of all living things. What is this life force? No idea, but it doesn't matter. Defilers can draw as much as they want with no consequences, and thus, in the dim prehistory of Athas, cataclysmic magic wars were fought. These battles devastated the land, sure, but it was the Defilers who ensured it could never recover by constantly draining it until there was naught but sand.

    This is why I'm such a fan of Babylon 5, and Lord of the Rings, Avatar the Last Airbender, and many others. Their worlds make sense. You can follow one thread of a story or setting, and see how it shakes out. It's not our world, but the logical consequences of the setting are played with.
    Well said.

    I don't want to be harsh to the other side of this discussion, but I have to say that the oft-posted "Why would you want reality in your fantasy?" response really misses the point. It's not about strict realism, it's about a setting for a story or game giving the sense, the feeling, that it's a place that could be real, that wouldn't start coming apart the moment one stopped holding it together with authorial fiat and total suspension of disbelief.

    Yes, it's all fiction, none of it is real. No one is disputing that... yay and point scored for any of the "it doesn't matter" advocates, I guess. But to me there's a fundamental difference between a setting that keeps rubbing that in your face and/or is hollow behind the facades, versus one that takes some effort to hide the seems and put furniture in the back rooms, that gives a sense that when you look away these people might still be living their lives in this other place.

    I'm also trying to find a neutral way to ask the following, and struggling because my position on this goes right down to the core for me; tastes vary, and I'm hoping someone might be able to explain in depth why it is that inconsistency and incoherence in a setting just don't bother them the way they bother me.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-12-13 at 10:51 AM.
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    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    I'm also trying to find a neutral way to ask the following, and struggling because my position on this goes right down to the core for me; tastes vary, and I'm hoping someone might be able to explain in depth why it is that inconsistency and incoherence in a setting just don't bother them the way they bother me.[/QUOTE]

    Well based on a thing about flat worlds that came up previously I would say it has to do with what people care about. Some people may be able to effortlessly ignore an aspect of a world that drives you nuts because they simply donít care about it and that thing that appeals to them whatever it may be is simply more important to them.

    Another thing that may happen is they are trying to emulate something other than the real world such as a mythology or fairy tale and because those logical inconsistencies are part of the source material they get a free pass by the people who really like that source material.

    A simple example of this is say vampires they have a real grab bag of abilities with little to no coherent explanation of how or why their powers work, or on a world building side how they keep themselves secret so well, but well their vampires they have those powers because those are the powers that our culture has decided vampires have, they are hidden from the world because, thatís what 90% of the urban fantasy genera is about. people who like urban fantasy can easily hand wave those aspects away because their use to seeing them.

    Itís the same way that your typical fantasy reader does not get all up in arms about dragons or giants being too large to function because giants and dragons being big is part of their core aspects. No one reads the lord of the rings and then rants that talking trees are not biologically viable because the stories not about that.
    If the story is about letís say a romance, then for people really into romances the quality of the relationship may outweigh the fact that the hypothetical settings social dynamics donít make that much sense. Because their simply not that important to the story they want to read. People care about different things and while it is entirely possible that the thing you thought was lazy really was maybe itís that the effort was spent elsewhere.

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    I think that hard VS the assumed soft fantasy in the terms expressed above are really about the amount of time you have to spend on it. From my experience, if I have x time to create a game and world building a hard fantasy setting takes x+y time, then I either make a softer setting that doesn't extrapolate, or I don't make a setting at all. There is also the frustration that comes with trying to make a setting that is more hard than soft, and having your players immediately find gaping holes in it, because even if you test four levels deep of extrapolation, they then have that as a launching pad to play with the fifth level deep. If that happens, there was no point to the harder fantasy, as it didn't net you anything for quite a lot of work.

    I love hard fantasy as defined here, provided it doesn't impede the fantasy aspect. As was mentioned above, I really don't want to write entirely new biological laws because I want dragons to exist. What I do want is to know about the world in which they exist. What are the implications of these terrifying creatures? Are they emperors? Monsters? What motivates them? What is known about them?

    So overall, I suppose that I straddle the fence. My main goal in all things is the result. It's what my players experience, after all. But the more questions I can answer about the world, the more nuanced and intact it is, the better it withstands the test of time and the more intrigue can be had when interacting with it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vitruviansquid View Post
    Of course, when you attach a negative connotation to the term, you're going to find all of a sudden that settings with heterogeneous elements you don't like are true fantasy kitchen sinks and the settings you do like are just the product of the author's wacky premise being drawn to its logical conclusion, accounting for how weird and wonderful the world is, of course.
    So you are saying that conformation bias will make me conclude that settings I dont like are kitchen sinks regardless if that's true or not?

    I'm no fan of kitchen sinks but I've played a lot in them and usually I dont like them because I identify them as kitchen sinks not the other way around

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    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    So you are saying that conformation bias will make me conclude that settings I dont like are kitchen sinks regardless if that's true or not?

    I'm no fan of kitchen sinks but I've played a lot in them and usually I dont like them because I identify them as kitchen sinks not the other way around
    No, I am not saying that confirmation bias will make you identify settings as kitchen sinks regardless of whether or not they are kitchen sinks.

    I am saying that the designation, "fantasy kitchen sink" as you use it is not useful in the first place because, according to Brennan, a Hard Fantasy setting should be "weirder and more wonderful than you could possibly even imagine." So when you look at a setting, if it is literally realistic, it should contain phenomena that is so weird and so wonderful, you cannot even think of it. So you are not getting false positives from confirmation bias, you are getting false positives because your human brain is too limited to understand the chaos of the real world.

    It's kind of like how you will once in awhile hear that movies based on true stories will tell little believable lies in place of actual events because audiences aren't willing to believe the truth. A recent occurence of this I read about is with the new movie about Tommy Wiseau
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vitruviansquid View Post
    Of course, when you attach a negative connotation to the term, you're going to find all of a sudden that settings with heterogeneous elements you don't like are true fantasy kitchen sinks and the settings you do like are just the product of the author's wacky premise being drawn to its logical conclusion, accounting for how weird and wonderful the world is, of course.
    Quote Originally Posted by Vitruviansquid View Post
    No, I am not saying that confirmation bias will make you identify settings as kitchen sinks regardless of whether or not they are kitchen sinks.

    I am saying that the designation, "fantasy kitchen sink" as you use it is not useful in the first place because, according to Brennan, a Hard Fantasy setting should be "weirder and more wonderful than you could possibly even imagine." So when you look at a setting, if it is literally realistic, it should contain phenomena that is so weird and so wonderful, you cannot even think of it. So you are not getting false positives from confirmation bias, you are getting false positives because your human brain is too limited to understand the chaos of the real world.

    It's kind of like how you will once in awhile hear that movies based on true stories will tell little believable lies in place of actual events because audiences aren't willing to believe the truth. A recent occurence of this I read about is with the new movie about Tommy Wiseau
    For those who didn't read the articles, here's what Brennan actually said:

    "Folks, the real world, taken in all its multifarious glory, is weirder and more wonderful than you could possibly imagine. And what that means is that there are (to butcher Kipling) nine and sixty ways of constructing governments, families, religions, genders, meals, music, fashion, houses, and anything else you care to name, and every single one of them is neat. "

    And yet the part of the quoted post I bolded above, despite even quoting some of those words, somehow manages to say something almost entirely unrelated to what Brennan actually wrote.


    AND it manages to sneak in one of the typical ad hom comments of these discussion, the "failure of imagination".
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Well said.

    I don't want to be harsh to the other side of this discussion, but I have to say that the oft-posted "Why would you want reality in your fantasy?" response really misses the point. It's not about strict realism, it's about a setting for a story or game giving the sense, the feeling, that it's a place that could be real, that wouldn't start coming apart the moment one stopped holding it together with authorial fiat and total suspension of disbelief.
    Again, uhm, hooray? Yes, we've pretty much all concluded that we'd like to suspend our disbelief, and that some things make suspending disbelief harder for some people than for others.

    But to me there's a fundamental difference between a setting that keeps rubbing that in your face and/or is hollow behind the facades, versus one that takes some effort to hide the seems and put furniture in the back rooms, that gives a sense that when you look away these people might still be living their lives in this other place.
    See, to me, labeling this whole thing with "Hard" and "soft" comes off as trying to find a way to explain why the fiction that allows YOU to suspend your disbelief is "better" than the fiction that doesn't. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. But adding the hard and soft labels don't actually help the discussion.

    I'm also trying to find a neutral way to ask the following, and struggling because my position on this goes right down to the core for me; tastes vary, and I'm hoping someone might be able to explain in depth why it is that inconsistency and incoherence in a setting just don't bother them the way they bother me.
    Because some parts of settings just don't matter to some people, and they matter to you. Usually, but not always, the parts that will bug people are the "people" parts - if someone acts in what seems like an irrational way for who they are supposed to be, that's jarring, and obvious, and right there in your face, whereas if some part of the cosmology of the world, which a lot of people don't even bother to keep in their head, is inconsistent with some other part, many people just won't care, because the cosmology isn't important to them. There's no magic formula for what is important to one person vs what is important to someone else. No one is ever going to be able to "explain" to you why they don't think something is important. It's basically like asking "Why are you interested/not interested in thing X?" and most people's answer will be "Because thing X is interesting and has enough depth for me to explore." or "I don't know enough about it to care" - neither of which does anything to differentiate those things from hundreds of other things. Why did Tolkien fixate on imaginary languages? Because he liked languages, so the languages in his work are super rigorous. Does it bother you if the imaginary language of a world is linguistically bull****? Can you explain why or why not?
    Last edited by Airk; 2017-12-13 at 08:05 PM.

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    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Vitruviansquid View Post
    No, I am not saying that confirmation bias will make you identify settings as kitchen sinks regardless of whether or not they are kitchen sinks.

    I am saying that the designation, "fantasy kitchen sink" as you use it is not useful in the first place because, according to Brennan, a Hard Fantasy setting should be "weirder and more wonderful than you could possibly even imagine." So when you look at a setting, if it is literally realistic, it should contain phenomena that is so weird and so wonderful, you cannot even think of it. So you are not getting false positives from confirmation bias, you are getting false positives because your human brain is too limited to understand the chaos of the real world.
    Oh thanks now I get it. Our brains are too limited to make sense of the world.

    I'll stop trying to understand how the world works then I guess
    Last edited by RazorChain; 2017-12-13 at 08:44 PM.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    Oh thanks now I get it. Our brains are too limited to make sense of the world.

    I'll stop trying to understand how the world works then I guess
    There is an insane amount of distance from that point A to that point B.
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Airk View Post
    See, to me, labeling this whole thing with "Hard" and "soft" comes off as trying to find a way to explain why the fiction that allows YOU to suspend your disbelief is "better" than the fiction that doesn't. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. But adding the hard and soft labels don't actually help the discussion.
    I didn't say "soft", did I?
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    Planet Mercenary RPG Discussion

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    I'll take a crack. You probably won't think the answer is terribly worth considering. More of a me issue really.

    Time and effort. It takes a LOT of effort to truly follow something through to a logical and well researched conclusion. And in a role-playing game suddenly you need to be widely researched too to deal in politics, economics, sociology, geography, potentially linguistics, etc. Then you need to make sure any extraordinary features either fit in the world or changing the world to fit them without busting everything else. It's a time sink that I find frustrating as I add details and suddenly realize five others have to change to make it fit.

    The three areas I am educated enough in to be confident in my ability to write something realistically are geology, ecology, and evolutionary history (I'm a paleontologist). Besides geology for setting up the basic geography, one of those things is usually outside of the scope of most games (evolution) and the other is nothing but painful to deal with when you really tinker with it under the microscope (ecology). To the point where, because it being done poorly does bug me, I wound up making most of my games urban fantasy with human on human action or dreamscape settings/monsters where ecology is almost literally a non-factor.

    Then I stare at the meat of an RPG, communities and individuals, with no background in social science besides 100-200 level elective in undergrad or high school years ago. And how magic would change all that realistically. Or trying to invent a new physics system to deal with magic in a way that wouldn't require so much change. Basically having to create a new setting and metaphysics from the ground up constantly as things change or further supernatural abilities are added. It's work that I don't enjoy (I have a hard enough time justifying doing the needed prep work on shallower setting as it is), and with all the work I already do I don't want my entertainment to consist of even more work. Oh, and then I actually need to strain my weak creative writing skills to make the characters and plot interesting on top of all that.

    To draw an analogy to my actual job, paleontologists (all scientists really) do not always use the most cutting edge tools or strenuous methods, collect data on every last specimen of a taxon, or do all the additional checks for things like taphonomy, time-averaging, or preparation background (this one almost NEVER). Ideally, we should. But grant money and time is highly limited so we make choices and get on with the research best we can. Super matrices for phylogenetic studies are excellent and we now have the computing power to make them feasible; we still don't see them used on many studies because it's an enormous time investment to put the matrix together that alternative methods don't require (some people even today are hanging on to super-trees for dear life, despite them being TERRIBLE, because they make running analysis so much faster). It's the same for me when preparing game; I do what I feel is the minimum to prevent the facade from actively denigrating the game at a superficial level, but not enough to withstand sustained prodding because I don't have time and it's not fun to stress over it. That means I can't have people with tastes like yours as players, but I think we're both fine with that.


    I mean no offense, and this is likely off the mark. But in the time that I've lurked here, Max, it seems like the games you aspire to would need to be written by a panel of social scientists with a few phys. science PhD's thrown in for good measure. Oh, and an actual creative writing author too since a lot of scientists are terrible writers. No single author has the expertise it takes to truly create a realistic fictional world that doesn't fray at the seams somewhere. It's already been brought up that some "Hard" works are only so in specific aspects. I certainly don't have time for it when I have grants and papers to write, tests to grade, field and collections work to attend to, and still want to prepare and run tabletop games on the side.

    Oh, and I think "hard" aspects are easier to hit in novels and linear stories that neither have to support play mechanics nor players tugging at the threads of the fictional reality.

    So yeah, tl'dr "Ain't nobody got time for that. Or at least not me."
    Last edited by RifleAvenger; 2017-12-14 at 12:11 AM.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    @RifleAvenger Hello fellow scientist who digs up dead stuff!
    I think you hit the problem square on. Yeah, time and effort are such finite resources, especially for a game. This is why I tremendously appreciate the efforts of any DM who even tries to address the internal consistency angle, and don't get too worked up about it if they don't. I'm not so much concerned with the final product so much as the attempt. In my own games, I run low magic settings because I know that the road leading to magic also leads to OCD insanity about the internal consistency, at least for me.

    Two related factors behind some people's lack of concern with internal consistency are the theme of the campaign and the characters involved. If the game is lighthearted, in a monster of the week format, or not taking itself seriously, many people will cheerfully overlook the nitty gritty details and just accept whatever the DM puts in front of them. Othertimes, the characters are so interesting that the plot and world bends to accommodate them, which is likewise totally fine. It's just a game after all. Sure, I appreciate my actions have consequences down the road, but not in all of my games.

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Vitruviansquid View Post
    There is an insane amount of distance from that point A to that point B.
    Maybe I decided to go with a syllogism fallacy because your argument was nonsense?

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    Default Re: Hard Fantasy

    I am usually always concerned with how things work and why and with the fictional work being internally consistent and taking the included elements to its logical conclusion. At the very least for any work that tries to uphold itself to some level of "seriousness". That is, I don't actually care so much about how things work and why when I read Discworld or watch Dr. Who, but I will with ASoIaF or Star Trek (which is actually portrayed as serious).

    In any case, it is a bit problematic when moving the term "hard" from sci-fi to Fantasy. In science fiction, it corresponds to how much real world physics that has a place in the work, whereas for Fantasy, we often specifically do NOT want real world physics. So instead perhaps it would be better with a new term to reflect that we are rather talking about internal consistency, logical cause-effect and the like. Perhaps something like "strict" vs. "free" Fantasy or "causal" vs. ... something.

    In any case, I am waiting for an upswing of Hard Romance. That would be something!
    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    Blue text for sarcasm is an important writing tool. Everybody should use it when they are saying something clearly false.

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