Dip some Sci Fi in your Fantasy

As a gamer and really just as a nerd in general, science fiction and fantasy have been pretty equal parts of my life since childhood. When I needed a break from Ocarina of Time, I’d turn to Star Fox 64. I love both Mega Man and Dragon Quest, 999 and Ni No Kuni. Magic, technology, swords, blasters, robots, dragons – all of it gets absorbed into my brain and jumbled around. And even though I tend to prefer the fantasy genre, the relatively equal exposure to both genres throughout my life has resulted in a writing style that often blends the two.

My current Dungeon World campaign is certainly no different. I mean, last session the players lured an army of kobolds into a high-tech arena a la X-Men or RWBY that can change into any battlefield they desire, using the arena’s transformation to wipe out a wave of the kobold forces. That was before they showed up in a town the size of Tokyo, complete with the neon lights and the shopping and the culture, in a country where the knights are famous for riding dragons. The two biggest villains in play right now are a camel-dragon-dog-man-god bent on conquering the world and gathering worshipers and a wealthy organization that uses nano-clockwork technology to create high-powered explosives the size of a fingernail. The same race of dog-people who gave the players their first taste of magic and gave them a powerful spellbook also created their robotic animal companions with sophisticated artificial intelligence and the ability to shapeshift into staffs, spears, and swords. When it comes to stories, I always combine elements from two genres to create what I hope is a fun and refreshing fusion of the two.

Of course, this idea is not original to me. Plenty of other people mash sci fi and fantasy into one world. Star Wars features spaceships and blasters but also wizards and samurai, just re-skinned with a sci fi veneer. Final Fantasy has featured technology like robots and airships since their earliest installments, and the same people who wield swords that turn into guns also have the power to throw mystical fireballs. Heck, even in the world of film this happens. The Avengers, after all, have both Iron Man and Thor in their midst, and then you’ve got someone like Hawkeye who fights with a bow and arrow, using arrows that explode on contact and hack computers. It seems that there is something inherently attractive about mixing genres, as if writers and fans both embrace the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Interestingly enough, though, in the tabletop world this sort of thing generally has to be added in. Some games offer this as an option in supplement guides, while others have such a generic and open-ended system that you can call it fantasy or call it sci fi or mix the two and it all works just the same. For Dungeon World, I have to add in the science fiction elements of the game because the setting has been crafted with a very specific purpose in mind. My players have embraced this pretty readily – they’re just as scared of the bomb-wielding Oligarchy as they are the magical dragon god Dramel, and they’re just as excited about buying new swords and suits of armor as they are about upgrading their robotic sidekicks. Their willingness to explore such a world gives me as the GM creative power to continue creating it, and it’s been a lot of fun having elements of both in our game.

Now I’m sure that, as with all things, there is a point where this crosses a line. For one thing, you shouldn’t just throw in extra elements of one genre or the other just because. My campaign is never going to involve space travel, and it’s also never going to involve spelunking in an ancient tomb full of draugr. The elements of technology (or the lack thereof) are present because the game world is designed to have them, not because I’m trying to sensationalize or literally yank everything out of both genres. Additionally, not every game I’ve run blends these two genres. My last Dungeon World campaign had fantasy elements, but was post-apocalyptic rather than sci fi. Before that a friend of mine ran D&D, and before that we were playing Mutants and Masterminds. If every single campaign shoves the same elements together, things are going to get stale.

So if you’re a tabletop gamer and you haven’t indulged in an experience that puts a little sci fi in your fantasy (or vice versa), you should definitely give it a try. You haven’t lived until you’ve toppled a gun-toting sniper with nothing but your rusty sword, or worn high-tech armor to endure the mighty blows of a lightning-flinging wizard. Perhaps it won’t be for you, but you never know until you’ve tried. Sometimes all it takes to make a genre feel fresh and alive again after it becomes stale is to inject some elements of another genre into it. Change the things you don’t like, keep what’s working for you, and soon you’ll have a game where the world is interesting because it has become unique thanks to the elements you have chosen for it.

Hey, adventurers! I am excited to announce that we have achieved our goal of 100 cumulative followers in the year 2016! Now the blog started in September and we hit 100 at the end of April, which means it took eight months to get 100 followers. How many months are left in 2016? May, June, July – ah, eight months! I believe that if we can get 100 followers in eight months, it stands to reason we can reach 200 in sixteen. And the sixteenth month of the blog is coincidentally the end of 2016. So now that we’ve completed our first goal, it’s time to set a stretch goal. Let’s shoot for 200 followers on Adventure Rules by the end of 2016! My part in this effort is to create fun and interesting content for you folks to read. Your part is to invite people to read the blog, to share or retweet or reblog or whatever to make sure more folks lay eyes on it. I can only reach so many folks on my own, but all of you know somebody I don’t, and you may know somebody who’d love to read Adventure Rules. I want to say a big thanks to those of you who have helped us to reach this point already. Let’s keep working at it so we can meet our stretch goal by the end of the year!

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