Tuesday, March 26, 2013

[Design Journal: Heroes of Legend RPG] Science-Fiction and Fantasy

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.


  1. I'm really excited to see this develop. I like that you used Pern as an example because like you said on the surface you have these people in a sort of feudal society and then dragons that breathe fire and are telepathically linked to their riders and it all seems so fantastical. But eventually they find out that Pern was settled by very advanced people, who were all looking for a new start after a the end of some interstellar war. Dragons were genetically engineered from the native 'fire lizards' to fight these deadly acidic spores that would periodically rain from the sky and devastate anything they touched. And the fire breathing ability came from them eating a specific type of rock that when it mixed with their stomach acids produced flame. Everything had a very scientific explanation. And while I do enjoy fantasy here and there, I just loved how everything made sense, and the creativity of linking fantasy with some sort of reality.

    1. Thanks for your interest! I'll be posting more development notes here in the next couple of weeks. I always thought Pern was a cool concept. I'm not sure why I never read more than just a couple of the books.