Here are some more random thoughts about the setting of my new game project, a tabletop roleplaying game I’m calling Heroes of Legend for the time being. So far I’ve described this game as having a “fantasy” setting, but I wanted to mention some of my thoughts on fantasy and science-fiction and how that relates to this game.
I think that a lot of times the two genres are indistinguishable. Take Star Wars, for example. Most people would define the setting of those stories as sci-fi, but there is really very little in the way of a scientific explanation of the Force (that mumbo-jumbo about midi-chlorines doesn’t count because it only explains how people interact with the Force). Now, I think you could probably come up with a more extensive explanation of what the Force is and how it works in quasi-scientific terms, but the truth is that really isn’t necessary. Most people are willing to just accept it for what it is and enjoy the story. On the other hand, you have the Dragonriders of Pern series of novels which, at first glance, would seem like fantasy stories. But, as I recall (I only read one or two of the books a long while ago), they actually reveal a sci-fi basis behind everything in the setting later on.
When it comes to Heroes of Legend, I think the setting will be presented as fantasy, but I would like to convey it in a way that one could easily imagine a sci-fi explanation to everything in the setting. For example, the deities who created the world could be powerful aliens who simply terraformed a barren planet and bioengineered life there. The setting’s “magic” is an energy field – a remnant of their terraforming technology – which explains its ability to bend and reshape reality. Magical artifacts are items possessing just a touch of their advanced technology.
I think I want to write the game sort of from the perspective of the common people. To them the creators are deities and everything they left behind is mysterious and magical. It will be up to individual players to decide if they want to view the setting in that light, or if they want to take a more science-fiction approach at their tables.