Thursday, June 15, 2017

Making Fantasy of History


"I am Zorro. I have come to return King Arthur to the throne."
- The Simpsons, "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)"

This post is a callback to my post yesterday (or actually the previous post it linked to), so for a full appreciation,  you might want to catch up. So DC's Beowulf bore very little resemblance to the real world of the sixth century and not just in the fantastic elements. It cheerfully dispenses with any actual history (or legend, for that matter) with things like a contemporaneous-to-Beowulf Dracula harassing lost tribes of Israel. Ahistoricity of fiction is hardly anything new--it shows up everywhere from Arthurian legend to Hercules and the Masked Rider--but for some reason in rpgs anything really crazy gets safely placed in Hyborian world-esque fantasylands. In Mystara, you can have your Not early modern France in the same world with your Not Vikings, but you can't have the real thing together, it seems.

Why that is, I don't know. Maybe it's the historical wargame roots of the hobby or the pedantry that is not uncommon in the world of geekery. There's the off-repeated GM fear of being called out for inaccuracy in any sort of game where the players might have deep knowledge. But I think the advantage of a obviously gonzo, ahistorical game (or "stupid ahistorical game" ) is that it's so obviously wrong that questions of historical accuracy are sidestepped.

I think it's time to stop being held back by the shackles of chronology, ahistory awaits!

3 comments:

Scott Anderson said...

if you can suspend your disbelief to play an elf casting Knock, then why not gonzo history? It's almost as if they made sure not to read up on things. Just throw it out there.

Why not?

Trey said...

I agree.

Mister Sharpe said...

I've been considering running a D&D game loosely set in medieval Europe for some ahistorical fantasy adventures like in Robin Hood or Prince Valiant. I can imagine playing in a setting like that to have a few upsides; especially concerning maps.

Besides, every popular historical film is apparently set in some strange parallel universe anyway. And settings designers almost always fall back on history for inspiration, so it seems strange to me that I've never heard of a group encountering elves in Nottingham or fighting orcs from the Orkney Isles.