What Makes Dark Fantasy Dark?

Discuss our dark fantasy adventure tabletop roleplaying game based on BioWare's computer game, Dragon Age Origins.

What Makes Dark Fantasy Dark?

Postby Warden-UK » Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:09 am

What Makes Thedas dark and grim?

How does DA compare/contrast to WFRP?
User avatar
Warden-UK
Groupie
Groupie
 
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:58 am

Postby Balgin Stondraeg » Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:58 am

Well now let's see....

Thedas lacks the general feeling of rpejudice that the old world has. Yes, the Warhammer World has racism, sexism, religious factions and all sorts of other things ("Burn the witch") that Thedas seems to lack. In Dragon Age the blight seems to make the adventures much more apolcalyptic whereas the WFRP adventures tend to be more about grubby, grimey trying to survive (and that's fun too).

Thedas almost feels like WFRP but without the more grim elements. So just dark. Dark fantasy tends to mean adult themes entering in and actions having consequences (Lord of the Rings, various David Gemmel novels) as opposed to some of the more happy go lucky settings.
User avatar
Balgin Stondraeg
Enthusiast
Enthusiast
 
Posts: 429
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:39 am
Location: England

Postby Aldaris » Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:58 am

Thedas certainly has its share of GrimDark (Elves are second-class bums or homeless vagrants, Dwarves fight a constant war to avoid annihilation, Mages have a huge "Demons-please-eat-me"-sign over their heads and live under the yoke of a church that views them warily and hunts down dissenters without mercy, Templars are kept in line via drug addiction...), but I think a setting comes to life in the way you play it. You can either have your players be knights in shining armor not being affected much by all that, or you can make them a part of this setting, struggling to find a place in it and not being able to always do as they please, always come out on top or right every wrong. That is, at least in part, what truly makes a setting "Dark" fantasy for me.

As for the WHFRP comparison, it is a GrimDark setting to be sure, but pretty much the same applies to actually playing in it. I like both settings, but I am just getting to know Thedas whereas the Old World has been a favourite of mine for many years. I am looking forward to seeing other parts of Thedas fleshed out, but from what is known now, it has a lot of potential.
User avatar
Aldaris
Supporting Cast
Supporting Cast
 
Posts: 101
Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:18 am
Location: Stuttgart, Germany

Postby zebuleon » Thu Dec 17, 2009 11:20 am

To compare it to scifi which might be easier to see the difference, for instance thick Apocalyptic instead of dark that might help

example
Star Trek is Light SciFi while Battlestar Galatica is Dark SciFi

to me, to be dark, the lines between good and evil are a bit more blurred. There are heroes but they aren't all golden and perfect, if they had to they wouldnt be above murdering someone to save the masses. Life and death are also much closer to home, just because your heroes doesn't mean you can't be killed at any point and not always in a glorious way.
zebuleon
Cohort
Cohort
 
Posts: 165
Joined: Thu Oct 09, 2008 8:37 am

Postby Zapp » Thu Dec 17, 2009 1:05 pm

Dark = while winning, you might still lose what you're fighting for
User avatar
Zapp
Super Poster
Super Poster
 
Posts: 865
Joined: Thu Mar 06, 2003 5:11 am

Postby Riggswolfe » Thu Dec 17, 2009 1:33 pm

Elves are either slaves or second class citizens. Human nobles, for instance, can enforce prima nocte on Elven wives. (a Nobles "right" to have sex with the wife before the husband does) As an NPC says in the video game: "Elves are an old race that excel at poverty." They live in ghettos in the cities or as gypsies outside the city. Also, the elves have no homeland. It was destroyed by humans.

Dwarves are rigidly caste based. If you live on the surface you have no caste and can never return. Castless dwarves can literally be killed and tortured without consequence. (This is explicitly said in the Video Game). Your caste is determined by your same sex birth parent and is almost never changed. This can also lead to those with castes losing their caste and being exiled, which means their family literally considers them dead. For example: A woman has a casteless husband and bears him a son. The family will give her a choice, abandon the baby or lose your caste. Those who are casteless have their faces branded in infancy so they can never, ever try to escape their lot. The dwarves have only two cities left and they don't speak to each other. Between these two cities is a sort of "underdark" called the deeproads that is always crawling with darkspawn. The dwarves are fighting an endless losing war against the darkspawn and noone on the surface other than Grey Wardens know or care.

Humans actually have it easier. They have nobles and such, but no slaves or even a serf class in Ferelden at least. Still, the world is wild and it's not unusual for entire villages or small towns to be wiped out overnight, especially if a Blight is happening.

Mages are barely tolerated and locked up in a tower. Should anything bad happen the Templars can and will kill every single mage in the tower just to be sure.

The Chantry is a "good" religion but like any religion with too much power it seems to be crawling with zealots and worse. Mercy isn't a trait that Chantry templars are known for.

There's more but that's the simple version.
Riggswolfe
Dabbler
Dabbler
 
Posts: 83
Joined: Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:54 pm

Postby Aldaris » Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:10 pm

Riggswolfe wrote:Human nobles, for instance, can enforce prima nocte on Elven wives. (a Nobles "right" to have sex with the wife before the husband does)

Actually, they technically (meaning: by law) can't in Ferelden, since Elves are free there. That doesn't mean he might not be able to do so and get away with it, but it is by no means a right of his. Matters might be different in other parts of Thedas though.
User avatar
Aldaris
Supporting Cast
Supporting Cast
 
Posts: 101
Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:18 am
Location: Stuttgart, Germany

Postby Saisei » Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:04 pm

I think that was a Denerim thing wasn't it? The current Arl of Denerim could invoke this 'right' if he wished, as in the CRPG.

If not, who's going to stand up for the elves anyway?
User avatar
Saisei
Firebrand
Firebrand
 
Posts: 611
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 6:50 am
Location: Rep. of Ireland

Postby Zapp » Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:11 pm

Riggswolfe wrote:Human nobles, for instance, can enforce prima nocte on Elven wives.

Though keep in mind; "Little or no historical evidence has been unearthed from the Middle Ages to support the idea that it ever actually existed."
User avatar
Zapp
Super Poster
Super Poster
 
Posts: 865
Joined: Thu Mar 06, 2003 5:11 am

Postby Aldaris » Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:21 pm

Saisei wrote:If not, who's going to stand up for the elves anyway?

That is the point. He doesn't have the right, but if he is a bastard abusing his position, who's to stop him? That's one of the things that makes the setting dark fantasy. If the players intervene in such an event, they are unlikely to get a pat on the shoulder from the local authorities for their trouble, since the arl is the local authority.
User avatar
Aldaris
Supporting Cast
Supporting Cast
 
Posts: 101
Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:18 am
Location: Stuttgart, Germany

Postby samuraidac » Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:29 pm

another thing to take into account is that so far all we know about is Ferelden. in the other countries of thedas slaves are normal and elves dont have nearly as much freedom and rights, if any.

so another reason that is is dark fantasy is maybe the fact that the elves of ferelden are the lucky ones even if they dont think so. i mean they could always have been born in say tevinter and have to slave away for nothing while the women get raped and the men get whipped.

hey thats weird i cant seem to find any rainbows or unicorns anywhere...
samuraidac
Bystander
Bystander
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:00 pm

Postby Jekias » Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:13 pm

samuraidac wrote:hey thats weird i cant seem to find any rainbows or unicorns anywhere...


I hear the unicorns were slaughtered and their hooves turned into magic glue for the dwarven golems. Their fleash was particuarly tasty too! And the maker decided rainbows were to ghey so he made an edict declaring they are banned.
User avatar
Jekias
Booster
Booster
 
Posts: 340
Joined: Sat Dec 12, 2009 5:22 pm
Location: Melbourne, AUS

Postby Riggswolfe » Thu Dec 17, 2009 9:14 pm

Aldaris wrote:
Riggswolfe wrote:Human nobles, for instance, can enforce prima nocte on Elven wives. (a Nobles "right" to have sex with the wife before the husband does)

Actually, they technically (meaning: by law) can't in Ferelden, since Elves are free there. That doesn't mean he might not be able to do so and get away with it, but it is by no means a right of his. Matters might be different in other parts of Thedas though.


Do we know this? I ask because in the cRPG one of the Origin stories revolves around this very issue and the authorities don't exactly say "No, don't do that."
Riggswolfe
Dabbler
Dabbler
 
Posts: 83
Joined: Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:54 pm

Postby Aldaris » Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:45 am

I know, but the point is: he IS the authority. Same as some corrupt ghetto cop today abusing his position really.
And yes, we do know: read the Elven entry in the players guide, the codex of the cRPG might yield some info too.
User avatar
Aldaris
Supporting Cast
Supporting Cast
 
Posts: 101
Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:18 am
Location: Stuttgart, Germany

Postby Batgirl III » Fri Dec 18, 2009 4:28 am

A few choice excerpts from the codex entry The City Elves:

We were not enslaved as we had been before, but our worship of the ancient gods was now forbidden. We were allowed to live among the humans only as second-class citizens who worshiped their Maker, forgetting once more the scraps of lore we had maintained through the centuries.
–"The Rise and Fall of the Dales," as told by Sarethia, hahren of the Highever alienage.


First, note that this is speaking only of Ferelden. We know from seperate codex entries that things are different in other nations. Second, note the similarities between the treatment of the elves and Jews in Medieval Europe. Not enslaved, but kept perpetually poor, forced to abandoned their faith, and denied basic rights.

It is hard to tell our children about those of our people who have decided to live in the shemlen's cities. They ask, "Why would anyone want to be treated like that?" And sometimes I do not know what to say. I do not understand it myself. They were freed, but they have returned to live in the service of their former masters. They are housed like animals in walled sections of the shemlen's cities. They do the meanest of tasks and are rewarded with nothing. Why? I do not know.

We tell the children that the elvhen are strong, that we are a proud people, but they hear of these city elves who choose to toil under the humans' heavy hand. How do we teach them pride when they know there are others who would allow themselves to be trampled into the dust? So we tell them that these city elves are to be pitied, that they have given up on their people, given up their heritage. We tell them that some people are so used to being controlled that, when freed, they know not what to do with themselves. They are weak and afraid–afraid of the unfamiliar, afraid of our life of wandering. Above all, they are afraid even to hope that one day we may have a home of our own.
–Gisharel, keeper of the Ralaferin clan of the Dalish elves.


Note here that a Dalish keeper is going to have a natural bias against the city elves, but, he isn't necessarily incorrect. Anyone with a passing familarity with American history shold be able to pick up on the "house n---ger" vibe. I'll also point out that this attidue isn't uncommon with other ethnic minorities when speaking about members of "their own kind" becoming intergrated with "the wrong kind," especially if "the wrong kind" of people are the majority. Again, I refer you to European Jews, both Medieval and modern, as well as Muslims, Italians, Catholics, Chinese, etcetra, at various times and in various places.

And so we took the elves into our cities and tried to integrate them. We invited them into our own homes and gave them jobs as servants and farmhands. Here, in Denerim, the elves even have their own quarter governed by an elven keeper. Most have proven to be productive members of society. Still, a small segment of the elven community remains dissatisfied. These troublemakers and malcontents roam the streets causing mayhem, rebelling against authority and making a general nuisance of themselves.
–From Ferelden: Folklore and History, by Sister Petrine, Chantry scholar.


Sister Petrine's bias practically drips from her paragraphs on the subject, "It is for their own good!" is hardly a politically correct point of view to modern eyes. However, I think it is useful to see that a good majority of humans will see the alienage system as a positive for the elves, bringing them civlization, protection, jobs, and the one true faith... This sort of attitude is not exactly unknown in our own history, is it? But Sister Petrine illustrates that it is entirely possible for a human to regard elves, while not as equals, as worth kindness and humane treatment.

All in all, it is so much more interesting that "elves live in the trees, and love nature and song. La la la." of so many other fantasy games.
BARON wrote:I'm talking batgirl with batgirl. I love you internet.
User avatar
Batgirl III
Cohort
Cohort
 
Posts: 165
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2009 12:47 pm
Location: Gotham City, U.S.A.

Postby Warden-UK » Fri Dec 18, 2009 5:46 am

Reason I asked the question 'What Makes a is question (what makes dark fantasy dark) is because it's dawned on me, I dislike the setting and the atmosphere. It somehow feels too different what with darkspawn, mabari dogs, no halflings etc. It's like it's trying too hard to be new and trendy, I really fail to see any old school here at all. The paradox is that the religious setting is very much familair, it's basically Christianity with a new coat of paint.

This isn't a fault of the game's, it's just my opinion and preferences. I'm sure many hours of fun will be had with it. I'm just stuck in my ways that's all. Thus I'm sticking with Harn, but will follow the game's development for a while at least.

Happy gaming all!
User avatar
Warden-UK
Groupie
Groupie
 
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:58 am

Postby Batgirl III » Fri Dec 18, 2009 6:02 am

But Dragon Age is drawing from an "old school" well of fantasy fiction, just not the same well as HârnMaster. Hârn is explictly linked to Tolkien's Middle-earth and strives for a similar feel in tone. With Dragon Age the design gives good Professor Tolkien's mythology a day off and reaches for the themes, tone, and style of Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, and so on and so forth. HârnMaster is a fine game, if it does what you and your fellow players like. But Dragon Age aims to do something different, and (imho) does it rather well.

That said, I bet if you just dropped the Thedas setting material, you could run a delightful Tolkienesque setting with minimal effort. Sure, you'd need to kitbash some rules for halflings, orcs, and giant eagles... but that shouldn't take much.
BARON wrote:I'm talking batgirl with batgirl. I love you internet.
User avatar
Batgirl III
Cohort
Cohort
 
Posts: 165
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2009 12:47 pm
Location: Gotham City, U.S.A.

Postby 77IM » Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:55 pm

One thing I really like about the CRPG, is that the darkspawn are so vile.

On a superficial level, hurlocks are just orcs and genlocks are just goblins. But in modern fantasy, orcs and goblins are practically comic relief. I feel bad when I gas an orc village with stinking cloud. Orcs and "savage humanoids" are also portrayed, deliberately or not, in a manner similar to primitive human cultures (which is all kinds wrong, in terms of real-world racial subtext...). I don't think any of this is intentional or even harmful, it's just the way the genre has evolved.

But in DA, the darkspawn are monsters. There is no redeeming feature there. They have no culture to worry about preserving; there is no diplomatic solution. Their humanoid shape, rather than making them sympathetic, just increases their monsterness. (It's like Bioware is deliberately using the Uncanny Valley effect.) They are pure evil and will cut you in half with a rusty meat cleaver, and that's all there is too it.

-- 77IM
User avatar
77IM
Bystander
Bystander
 
Posts: 29
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2003 12:33 pm

Postby psychodrive » Fri Dec 18, 2009 5:47 pm

77IM wrote:They are pure evil and will cut you in half with a rusty meat cleaver, and that's all there is too it.


If you haven't already, read the novels for a slightly different encounter with a darkspawn emissary.
psychodrive
Cohort
Cohort
 
Posts: 181
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:15 am

Postby angel_lord » Fri Dec 18, 2009 7:56 pm

Man I hope I get those novels for Christmas.
angel_lord
Dabbler
Dabbler
 
Posts: 86
Joined: Sun Jun 22, 2008 12:53 pm

Postby Saisei » Sat Dec 19, 2009 3:32 am

I think making the game 'dark' is keeping that forboding sense of 'something really bad could happen at any time' and the players, while being adventurers, aren't out and out heroes.

I ran the Dalish Curse last night and (Possible SPOILER warning) in the first encounter one of our warriors was like "We might have to run, I'm getting torn apart here" in character. I've never heard that from any of my players whilst running 4e.

As well as that another of our characters (An Avvarian Hillsmen) upon seeing the (Again SPOILERS) carnage outside the house would go no further. He was genuinely scared of what had happened in that place. Most if not all the players were like "Yeah something bad happened here. And it might happen to us. Screw survivors let's get out of here."


I think the biggest factor was the real sense of danger. My players afterwards said that the combat and even the exploration encounters had a real edge of danger to them.

There's something perverse out of gleaning enjoyment from terrorising your friends...
User avatar
Saisei
Firebrand
Firebrand
 
Posts: 611
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 6:50 am
Location: Rep. of Ireland

Postby psychodrive » Sat Dec 19, 2009 4:27 am

Saisei wrote: Most if not all the players were like "Yeah something bad happened here. And it might happen to us. Screw survivors let's get out of here."


Assuming you're not going to post a journal (etc), did they actually forgo the farmhouse? If so, did any of the NPCs find out that they backed out? How'd they react?

Eeek, questions! Apologies.. Vicarious GMing as my group probably can't start play until sometime next year.
psychodrive
Cohort
Cohort
 
Posts: 181
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:15 am

Postby Saisei » Sat Dec 19, 2009 6:32 am

I'll post up in the old Dalish threa dso as not to get off topic :)
User avatar
Saisei
Firebrand
Firebrand
 
Posts: 611
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 6:50 am
Location: Rep. of Ireland

Postby Warden-UK » Sat Dec 19, 2009 12:06 pm

Warden-UK wrote:Reason I asked the question 'What Makes a is question (what makes dark fantasy dark) is because it's dawned on me, I dislike the setting and the atmosphere. It somehow feels too different what with darkspawn, mabari dogs, no halflings etc. It's like it's trying too hard to be new and trendy, I really fail to see any old school here at all. The paradox is that the religious setting is very much familair, it's basically Christianity with a new coat of paint.

This isn't a fault of the game's, it's just my opinion and preferences. I'm sure many hours of fun will be had with it. I'm just stuck in my ways that's all. Thus I'm sticking with Harn, but will follow the game's development for a while at least.

Happy gaming all!

Having read a bit more, maybe I was a touch too hasty in my decision to drop DA.

After all! Who is to say what could come through the Fade, or what menaces are found lurking below the deepest of roads!

Orcs, Ropers, Halflings (now ther's an idea), Ettins, Duran Duran, Drow, Simon Cowell!
User avatar
Warden-UK
Groupie
Groupie
 
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:58 am

Postby discuit » Sat Dec 19, 2009 12:20 pm

Mate, just do whatever you want with Thedas! I mean only a small fraction has been fleshed out so far, so if you want Halflings then just add them, and say they come from a far off land! Done! :wink:
discuit
Supporting Cast
Supporting Cast
 
Posts: 120
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:03 am

Next

Return to Dragon Age RPG

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests