The cliché

Fantasy gaming is rife with clichés from the bumbling human wizard and the gruff dwarf fighter to the kid with a birthmark who turns out to be the rightful heir to the kingdom. Searching the web for clichés in fantasy, it’s easy to find plenty of articles on how to avoid them. However, is that really necessary? Clichés are clichés for a reason: They work as motivations and personalities that resonate with us.

So where did these clichés come from? What makes one idea from fantasy resonate to the extent that it becomes a cliché? And what can a writer or designer do to use those clichés that will work for them while avoiding those that will come across as ham-fisted?

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Let’s get physical

Burpees.

The other day, I saw this followed shortly after by this. I felt inspired: here is an exercise routine that I can do without gadgets, without a gym, without memorising weights and rep counts.

So I started two days ago to just do a few every day and see what happens.

Day 1: Two burpees in I realised just how hard they are to do (insert caveat about my fitness level here). I made it to 35 total over four sets.

Day 2: I expected it to get easier for some reason, but I’m in pain. I have muscles aching that have clearly never been used in my day-to-day life sitting at a desk typing. Should I be surprised? I made it to 40 total over four sets, but it HURT.

I don’t think I have the right form as I’m just not strong or fit enough, but I think that will come as I continue to do them. I just have to keep pushing myself to try to do them ‘right’.

The written word

Through all fantasy games, single- and multi-player, virtual or table-top, runs a common thread: The writing. It has been argued many times, and reasonably successfully, that the history of fantasy gaming was born of the ground-breaking work of Tolkien, however it is more correct to say that he was the great populariser of a genre that has been with us for hundreds of years. The archetypes that exist in his work still inhabit the games we play today: Orcs, Dwar(f|ve)s, Elves, Trolls, etc.

The images that those names invoke, and that are visualised in modern MMOs, aren’t too far from the descriptions found throughout fantasy literature. So what of the state of writing in fantasy games themselves?

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Player vs Character

The separation between player and character is at the core of the role-playing experience which is what separates DnD, MUDs and MMOs from other multiplayer games. By definition, when you’re playing a role it’s assumed that the role is not that of “person playing a role-playing game”. Aside from the physical and sociological differences between the player and character, how is this split realised in the game? And how has the separation between player and character developed from DnD through MUDs and through to MMOs?

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Homeward bound

After a late night with the Watchmen last night (I won’t bore you with another review, but it was everything I hoped it would be) we woke late in a mad panic to get to the vet appointment we’d booked foolishly early. Oliver’s all good, but has an ear infection that needs to be monitored.

While we were waiting for results to come back for a swab, a young man came in with a beautiful fluffy pup. The pup looked like a healthy young thing so it was a surprise to learn that he was fifteen. His owner went to speak to one of the vets in attendance. I didn’t hear what he said, but the vet stated clearly “I can’t do that.”

Myself and Mirto looked at each other as we’d both heard it, and had reached the same conclusion: Had the owner just asked for this sweet, healthy looking pup to be euthanised? Our fears were realised when the owner left without the pooch some minutes later.

Mirto was brave enough to ask after the pooch, and indeed that’s what the owner had asked. Apparently, the reasoning is that he has a tendency to pee in the house. Now I don’t know about you, but that made me surprisingly angry. I can’t presume to know the full background to this family’s story, and I must hope that the decision was not taken lightly, but when that’s the reason you give, I’m glad that you’re handing the dog over to someone else. I’m also cheered that we have a vet who is unwilling to euthanise and instead had decided to contact rescue services to try to find a willing new owner to take care of this distinguished little man.

We talked and made it clear to the staff that we’d be interested in taking on the challenge of fostering and possibly adopting Eddie the PBGV. We’re now awaiting the tests that are being done to ensure that he’s not seriously ill, and might have a new addition to the family this week.

To be clear, this is not something that we’re entering into lightly. We’ve talked about fostering and adopting a pup who needs our love for a while, and this just seems to be a great opportunity to give a home to someone who needs one. We’ll find out in the next couple of days if Eddie will be homeward bound.