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Patrick Zoch
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A question suggested by

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How do you make a fantasy adventure have more of a mythic, legendary, or fairy tale feel, as opposed to standard D&D-type adventures?




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Joseph Hellar
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characters with virtues for names like beauty, charming, valiant, gallivant

mystical races and creature they meet instead of killing, mystical places to visit or travel through rather then loot

magical woods, evil witches, trickster faeries, gods disguised as mortal testing the players, a inn that moves each night, capricious djinn, quest for items to heal people instead of a weapon to kill something.

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Michael Daumen
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Move out of the dungeon and borrow some gothic tropes. Floating cloud castle, for example.

I ran a D&D game in which the PCs got shrunk and had to navigate a faery environment. Or, give them all donkey heads.

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Roger
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No healing except thru npcs. High ACs on critters. Low loot. Gee you got 4 copper for killing that cop. Limited magic casting pc classes. Or maybe you have roll a High DC before you spell goes off. If does not go off you don't lose the slot. 1 or 2 magic items for the group.
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Pete
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Ignore all mundane activities.

Pete (never checks his character's sheets to see if they have a rope)
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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"All history is made up. Good history is made up by good historians; bad history is made up by the others." -David Macaulay
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"We talked a little more of Milesians and Firbolgs; but I do not write what he told me here, as it is at variance with things I have written already, as is often the case with legend, whence comes a pleasing variety." -Lord Dunsany
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Start with a different RPG and never play D&D.
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Clark Timmins
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So stop your cheap comment, 'Cause we know what we feel...
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But... why would you want to do that?
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Paul Unwin
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pdzoch wrote:
How do you make a fantasy adventure have more of a mythic, legendary, or fairy tale feel, as opposed to standard D&D-type adventures?

The only thing I can think of that might classify "standard D&D-type adventures" is that the goal of a dangerous situation is merely to survive, and the goal of any participant in a battle (other than survival) is the utter destruction of the other side. D&D also tends to have conflicts that are paced-out affairs and rely only partly (if at all) on solving some kind of puzzle, or on doing something decisive.

So, make conflicts about more than just surviving or just killing the other side, at least for some of the participants. It's tricky to get players to want to do anything but kill the other side, but a GM can always decide that the opposition has some other goal. Take "Hansel and Gretel"; the children want to survive and maybe kill the witch into the bargain, and while the witch ultimately wants to kill Hansel, she needs him to be fattened up first. She could kill him easily, but she doesn't. She has (at least initially) little interest at all in killing Gretel, preferring to enslave her.

Fights in "mythic, legenday, or fairy tale" stories don't strike me as being "tactical," for the most part. They might be drawnout slugfests between two equally matched combatants, that go for days and nights on end, but I'd usually expect them to be something decisive that gets litte "screen time." Either the protagonist is immediately sent packing to find the thing that will ensure victory, or they're immediately victorious. Hansel and Gretel don't get into a wrestling match with the witch, they just shove her in the oven. One could draw that out, but it's not like they're going to fail. They succeeded as soon as the witch fell for their tricks.

So, don't focus on anything involving pacing mechanisms like stress or hit points: each conflict should be a puzzle of some kind, preferrably with a lesson about cleverness or virtue and should be concluded quickly and decisively.

(While I recommend alternate goals in combat, I do not endorse puzzle-based encounters but both seem necessary to me in order to achieve what the question is asking.)
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Geoffrey Burrell
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More role-playing instead of roll-playing.
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committed hero wrote:
Or, give them all donkey heads.


F. T. W.
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sos1 wrote:
Start with a different RPG and never play D&D.


This is your answer for everything, you old, wet sock. yuk
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Paul Unwin
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GeoffreyB wrote:
More role-playing instead of roll-playing.

This will never not be trite.

It might help if the originator of the question could elaborate a bit, especially since "mythic" and "legendary" don't mesh with "fairy tale" in my mind. Is there a specific story they'd like to see emulated?
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pdzoch wrote:
How do you make a fantasy adventure have more of a mythic, legendary, or fairy tale feel, as opposed to standard D&D-type adventures?


Giving It The Fairy Tale Touch

Here's 10 observations on contrasting styles of fairy tales and fantasy adventure.

Common people versus Heroes

Fairy tales feature regular people from everyday walks of life. Even the prince or princess is out of the castle among the commoners. People might discover a destiny, but rarely forge one through deeds.

Animal companions versus Animals

Fairy tales frequently support protagonists with loyal friends who are more than beasts of burden or pets. Often they can speak and have human feelings.

Epic magic versus Functional magic

Folklore has a lot of magic in it, but the magic doesn't just fill a need or replace a common task. There's wishes and curses, not the curing of light wounds or the lighting of a dark cave.

Happily ever after versus Leveling up

Fairy tale protagonists are on a journey of growth and reward like traditional fantasy adventurers, but their story has a beginning, middle, and end, not a campaign. The folk hero wins through to their goal and retires, they don't continue soldiering.

Wits versus Might

Force of arms features prominently in traditional fantasy, but in fairy tales the direct approach is the least successful. Enemies are clearly force superiors and are usually confronted by cleverness or rallying allies.

Love versus Loot

It is much more common in folklore for basic social connections like family, community, or interpersonal relationships to be the standard of success or the greatest payoff.

Breaking rules versus Patrons

The folk hero acts independently out of noble intentions, but usually outside the bounds of authority or order, which often serve as their antagonists. It's not usually a powerful patron or factional rivalry soliciting their service like their traditional fantasy adventurer kin.

Straight and narrow versus Investigative

Fairy tale characters don't have time or energy for exploring lost lands or charting underground lairs. Fantasy adventure is much more about exploration and discovery while the folk hero stays true to a vision or quest.

Friends and enemies versus Factions

There's no complex web of interactive, morally flexible factions or negotiated settlements for the fairy tale heroes. Their villains are plainly sinister with simple motivations.

Traditional tropes versus Exotica

Fantasy adventure might seem like it has settled forms, but it's really open to creative re-interpretation and new material, strange settings and imaginative inspiration. Exotic foes and strange magic are par for their course. Fairy tales are less inclined to weirdness or inventing strange things.


This has been an impromptu addition to the following series;

Giving It The Horror Touch
Giving It The SciFi Touch

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This seems like more of a "feel" thing to me. If you want your fantasy adventure to not feel like D&D, you can try the following:

Don't use D&D terms. Don't call anyone a fighter. Call them noble warriors. There are no bugbears or gnolls, only misshapen monsters combining attributes of both man and beast. No fireballs, use waves of flame instead.

Don't use skills. Myths, legends, and fairy tales are all about creativity and ingenuity solving problems, not skills.

Don't rush into combat. Combat should only be initiated after challenges, riddles, boasts, etc.

There's more you can do (or not do) but those are the big three in my mind.
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quozl wrote:
Don't use skills. Myths, legends, and fairy tales are all about creativity and ingenuity solving problems, not skills.

An odd distinction. Creativity and ingenuity is what character is exhibiting when they use skills, if one chooses to describe it that way. I guess you mean that the player should be as creative or ingenius as the mythic, legendary, fairy tale character they're playing, whether or not they themselves actually are.
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cosine wrote:
sos1 wrote:
Start with a different RPG and never play D&D.


This your answer for everything, you old, wet sock. yuk


Maybe so. But he's not wrong. devil
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I tend to run self built adventures in D&D with a lower magic...and Magic items are usually cursed or have will of their own. Wizards have to do a lot of collecting and studying. Spells just don't pop up, they require effort, and time....effort that is world "balancing", they have butterfly effects, back fire effects. I also like to put a lot of Fey creatures in my world.

Note: NEVER accept a wish spell from me. You have been warned.
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chuckdee68 wrote:
cosine wrote:
sos1 wrote:
Start with a different RPG and never play D&D.


This your answer for everything, you old, wet sock. :yuk:


Maybe so. But he's not wrong. :devil:

They're only not wrong for certain meanings of the phrase "play D&D." It doesn't mean one particular thing, as much as some people might want it to, and its various meanings can be so different that two people can both honestly believe they "playing D&D" and both honestly believe the other is not.
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Alain Curato
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cosine wrote:
Giving It The Fairy Tale Touch

Here's 10 observations on contrasting styles of fairy tales and fantasy adventure.


Not a contrast, but according to my memories of Vladimir Propp's Morphology of the tale:

* Important things go by three or seven, sometimes nine. (Kings of Men, for example...)
* Often, the same scene is repeated - the hero uses the same trick three times in a row.
* Characters are often unidimensional, with a single function, and speak in the same manner. The epitome of this being animated objects (a talking head, a magic mirror, an iron guard) which can do nothing but say one sentence/do one thing which sends the hero on a given path.
* Weird tasks are given, which are either tests of wits and virtue, or traps, but never straight combat. If a combat task is given, then there is a trick somewhere.
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Peter Robben
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A lot of good advise here, I'd like to add. No.Combat.Grid.Maps.
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Some clarification about what I meant about "standard D&D-type adventure" when I suggested the question:

Big damn heroes who have mighty thews, mighty spells, mighty weapons, and save the world every other day, twice on the weekend.

Cosmopolitan settings where the wondrous is mundane. You go into a tavern in a metropolis and the bartender is a minotaur, the serving girl is half-succubus, and an imp washes the dishes.

The obvious answer, I suppose, is "don't put those things in." ("Doctor, I broke my leg in two places!" "Well, stop going to those places.") But the absence of high fantasy doesn't automatically create a fairy tale feel, e.g. many old-school games are gritty and much more sword-n-sorcery than fairy tale.

Also Eric's list is great.
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Benevolentgamemaster wrote:
A lot of good advise here, I'd like to add. No.Combat.Grid.Maps.

Please elaborate on that. Surely the grid maps themselves don't have bearing on how mythic or legendary or fairy tale something is, but rather what the maps tend to be used to facilitate, in which case just removing the maps won't substantially change anything except perhaps complicating what they were being used to simplify.
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enduran wrote:
chuckdee68 wrote:
cosine wrote:
sos1 wrote:
Start with a different RPG and never play D&D.


This your answer for everything, you old, wet sock. yuk


Maybe so. But he's not wrong. devil

They're only not wrong for certain meanings of the phrase "play D&D." It doesn't mean one particular thing, as much as some people might want it to, and its various meanings can be so different that two people can both honestly believe they "playing D&D" and both honestly believe the other is not.


Hmmm... need a better tongue-in-cheek emoji
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I think it comes down to the storyline created by you and the players. Maybe avoiding single one off adventures in general can help create a more strictly woven story which would feel more legendary and mythic. What I'm trying to say is basically sprinkling some clues about future events (doesn't have to be just one) as you play would create a feeling of a much bigger world and a, to quote, 'mythic, legendary or fairy tale feel'.
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I think if the players or GM have a mind set to "win" the game isn't going to be very mythic or legendary. "Win" could mean killing as many baddies as quickly as possible or acquiring vast sums of treasure so you can get the powerful magic items to kill as many baddies faster then ever.

I'd also like to point out there is nothing intrinsically wrong with playing the way I illustrated above, but you're game is going to be more like an arms race than a fairy tale or mythic story for the ages.

If the only person that want's a mythic game (as in fairy tale or story worthy of literature) then you're going to have to curb your expectations.

Also Mythic has come to mean playing a game where the point is power on the level of a demigod/god. Mythic in my mind (and in the above examples) is more like Gilgamesh or LOTR (the books).

Again, there is nothing wrong with wanting to plow through semi-divine baddies on your way to cosmic power but if you're looking for deep characterization and interpersonal struggles or memorable encounters because you learned something about your character's personality instead of where the "+X dragon headed sword that eats swords and absorbed their pluses" everyone needs to be on the same page or at least in the same chapter in the same book.
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