Monday, May 11, 2020

Weird Revisited: The Hidden Country Setting

A significant number of works of fantasy take place in some sort of lost or hidden realm within the real world: Oz (at times), Neverwhere, Pellucidar, the Savage Land, Fraggle Rock, Hogwarts, and some versions of fairyland are all around here somewhere. This sort of setting doesn't seem to have been often used in fantasy rpgs, at least outside of modern/urban fantasy.

There are probably reasons for this. The Medieval(ish) nature of most fantasy gaming suggests a historical(ish) setting. The scale of most rpg settings would preclude them being tucked away in some corner of Earth. Perhaps there's also a fear with the modern world close by it would be too easy for it to intrude.

These seem to me to be only relative contraindications. Most gamers (at least of the old school variety) are comfortable with plenty of science fictional or science fantasy elements that violate the pseudo-historical milieu  The scale may be sort of a problem (though Burroughs never let that stop him in Tarzan's Africa--and a Hollow Earth could have plenty of space) and a smaller scale setting isn't necessarily a bad thing.

This sort of setting opens up some new elements: Lost-like underground bases complete with enigmatic video instructions, modern world epherma as treasure, secret societies working in both "worlds." Pretty interesting stuff, I think, with a lot of potential.


Allandaros said...

Would something like Ars Magica or Mage: Sorcerer's Crusade qualify as wainscot fantasy? Both supposing a supernatural world overlaid onto medieval Europe, but not necessarily *hidden away* as such.

Jason Galterio (Legionair) said...

When Africa wasn't big enough, Tarzan traveled to Pellucidar as well. Which might have been the first example of cross appearances in an established series.

I thought Tarzan also made it to Mars / Barsoom, but that appears to have been done much later by a different writer.

Technically, you could say that Westworld is a type of hidden world. In the real world, but with enough barriers and window dressing to immerse the characters in the trappings of the hidden world.

I remember TORG and RIFTS taking this concept to a crazy level, but I could never really wrap my head around what the basic world was supposed to be.

Trey said...

@Allandaros - I think it would depend on how you ran the campaign. If the characters are generally in their own separate locations (world within a world) and ignoring the wider world, it would be, but not if they're more just a secret society in the normal world.