Monday, October 2, 2017

Weird Revisited: Legend & Folklore in a Fantasy World

This post first appeared in October of 2011. It's as relevant today.

Perusing The Sutton Companion to British Folklore, Myths, & Legends got me thinking about the place of the strange, mysterious, and magical in fantasy worlds. The British Isles have got stories of all sorts of fairies, lake (and well) monsters, and more than a few witches--all of which could be easily approximated in local tales of nearby monsters in any fantasy rpg setting.

But real world folklore gets weirder than that. Ned Dickson’s skull on Tunstead Farm in Derbyshire would tap against windows to warn farmers about sick animals or cause the walls to shake as a sort of burglar alarm. Several phantom coaches roam the night roads. Every ghost is a story, not a monster to be battled.

It seems to me that most fantasy game encounters are mundane compared to this sort of stuff--or perhaps, utilitarian is a better word. As it has been said before, there ought to be more weird, unpredictable things in game settings.  Not just in the Weird Tales sense, but in the good, old-fashion folktale sense.

Beyond that, there ought to be more stories told by the local tavern denizens that are just stories. I don’t think the demonstrable existence of magic in a world, would make people less likely to make up tales to explain odd events or simply to pass the time--if anything, a world full of magic that the common man doesn't understand would seem likely to increase this sort of thing.  More events would need folk explanations; more fears would need comforting.

Player characters (no paragons of scientific rationalism, themselves) ought to never know whether the rumor they’re hearing is the inside-scoop on a local monster or another tavern tale. There ought to be as many fake magic items being horded away as real ones--maybe more.

1 comment:

Ragnar Hill said...

This is why I really like the .vs Monsters game. Everything is weird and mysterious and players learn to run or negotiate with the things in the shadows rather than rushing in to kill them.

Excellent post with an excellent point.