Conceptual Questions And Answers
Q) Does the title "Fantasia" have any deeper meaning than sheer fantasy?
A) It might. To begin, you should look at the nice little article about Star Wars provided on their website here. In summary, it explores the origins of the word 'fantasy' as 'phantasia', meaning something not real, but could become real in your mind. Delve as deep into that as you wish . . .
Q) I notice on this site that none of the books mention what Levels the book is geared toward. Is this something that does not pertain to Fantasia adventures?
A) Fantasia games are not geared towards any Levels. Characters indeed earn Levels, but it's a testament to their accomplishment, and thus it puts them in a slightly better position opposite the world's challenges. Fantasia being more drama and story than tactics and 'game', it does not raise the level of challenge to match the Level of the Characters. Indeed, what one accomplishes should allow him to feel more capable of surviving. Moreover, the world's challenges remain, as they would to the Character, unknown as to whether he can actually overcome them or not. Sometimes an adventure is easier than one expects, and sometimes far more difficult. It's a randomness that helps create that feeling of reality. In addition, when a Character dies, the Player doesn't have to feel like he's dead weight for his new Character being of 0 Experience Points, as Levels don't make as great a difference in personal power as they do in other RPGs.
Q) Isn't Fantasia just a watered-down version of d20?
A) Not at all. Fantasia has been around since 1990, a good ten years earlier than d20. There are indeed many uncanny similarities between the two systems, but the fact is that Fantasia gained its federal copyright in 1995, and d20 didn't appear until 2000. Fantasia's creator, Matt deMille, only regrets that people assume d20 came first because they heard of it first. How often does life really work that way? Besides, d20 is a heavily detailed tactical game, while Fantasia is the exact opposite, focusing on more streamlined rules for greater role-playing. Matt deMille often compares them to Star Wars Episodes I and IV, in that d20 is like The Phantom Menace, with a lot of hype and glossy special effects and yet it lumbers along at a very slow and altogether boring pace because it has so much to account for, while Fantasia is like A New Hope, being comparatively crude and low budget and yet a lot faster, more fun and memorable despite all that. Don't let marketing and colourfully printed books fool you. It's about quality and content, and in that, Fantasia has no equal.
Q) The creator of Fantasia, Matt, clearly has a wild imagination from what I've read in his adventures, but why isn't the Fantasia setting or its mythology more developed, as he easily could make it?
A) Thank you for the compliments, and for the opportunity to make a good point about the Fantasia game. Indeed, why not create a more unique mythology? It's been done. It's pretty much that simple. I have been asked similar questions before, but they all essentially ask the same thing, and that is why not do what sells? Why not make a rich mythos to compete with those others on the market? Why suicide all your hard work into something not easily understood by the masses? Because I do this as a labor of love. It's not about money. I want to create something special, and any mythology presented in books, however detailed, is just surface appearance, indeed easily seen, as the novelty of creating the rich world has already been done. I don't really want to add to the masses, but rather, I want to take an approach nobody else has. Thereily, all my ideas and passion have been devoted to theme, not the mythology itself. My setting, being rather stereotypical, is by design. Others have seen this as a flaw, asking what is special about it, indeed what is unique about it, as if I had no ability to come up with new monsters or myths or new races or faces of evil to fight. The mythos on the surface is not what's unique, but ironically, that it is mostly the standard stuff is where the new approach lies, and that point is easily missed. The setting is designed to provide one's personal fantasies, passions and preferences a place they can always trust to remain unchanged, indeed a place that is already what they know they want, and will always be so. Look at Tolkien's Middle-earth. It's well loved, but is really 'basic' by comparison to a lot of RPG worlds. One must look at why that is. In my opinion, one of Middle-earth's greater qualities that attracts so many is that it is timeless, its ideals and innovations given more to subtleties and detail, indeed into making it feel like a real place. Tolkien could have invented more races and more radical ones, thus allowing future game designers an easier way to flesh out more pages, but what he did was further develop the few he had, thus making for a setting people could identify with better As for myself, I don't want to duplicate Tolkien, but rather, as he did, do something entirely new. By new, I don't simply want to make a new setting that is unique in its mythos, like the latest fantasy fashion, doomed to be forgotten when the next one comes along. I want to invest myself in a solid game and world whose strength is in its theme, not its surface appearance. Tolkien created the rich detailed world. Been done. TSR and other companies developed many worlds that followed in his footsteps and took Tolkien's ideas further (or tried to do so). I don't want to just go further with what everybody else has done. I want to back up, and like Tolkien, take a new approach entirely. My approach is to make a haven for the heart, a 'classic' world if you will, a place where the mythos is not constricted by my work, but enhanced by one's own ideas, hence the basic rules and emphasis on developing the world through the opportunities provided in Adventures, and the overall name of 'fantasia' . . .
Q) How come Gary Gygax is given credit/tribute in Fantasia for 'creating' RPGs and not Dave Arneson, who was D&D's co-author?
A) Matt (Fantasia's author) credits Gary Gygax as an inspiration. Matt, like so many others, grew up playing D&D and hearing the name of Gygax yet not being aware of the corporate and publishing history of gaming (nor of anything in the real world for that matter). Indeed, to Matt, RPGs had been around forever and were taken as matter-of-fact, much like Chess or Monopoly. Thus, when he credits Gygax, he is not speaking of the gaming industry as a whole, but his own memories of playing. Gygax was the name he knew, the name he argued over and defended (like so many others he had religious anti-gaming 'friends' who jumped on the old Gygax-and-games-are-evil bandwagon). If Matt had known about Dave Arneson (i.e. if Matt had bothered to research his game more rather than just pick up the dice and throw 'em), surely he would have grown up with both men in mind, but as it is, his memories are linked more to Gygax. Moreover, to this day Matt does not know the full story of the origins of gaming (it's not like gaming is recorded with an objective history), and thus could not fairly or accurately credit anyone to any degree. That Gygax is widely acknowledged as the 'grandaddy of gaming', Matt's memories seem to be shared by many others, and so his good-will of Fantasia's first page (in the rulebook) remains just that, good-will, a way of saying to all gamers (including Gygax and Arneson) that "Hey, I'm a gamer too, and I share the passion that you do for the journey." It is fitting, perhaps, that Gygax is credited with the game that re-sets the standards of rules, which is more of what Gygax created, while Arneson, whose contributions were more conceptual, is credited in the Phenomenon game, which indeed explores new approaches to role-playing games.
Q) Why does the Game Master's Book only offer vague, basic instructions for writing an Adventure? One would think so much of that is obvious. Why not have a body of text devoted to the finer points of crafting stories into statistics, and scenarios into functional, viable game forms? The Fantasia Adventures I have played speak of a great wealth of experience in experimenting with an making RPGs work better. Why not explain all this?
A) A very thorough question, indeed as thorough as the guidelines one could ask for. However, there are no guidelines for creating art, and that is what a role-playing game becomes after a certain point. The rules and guidelines can only give one a foundation upon which to craft their own kinds of stories. True, guidelines could be offered for certain styles of adventures, but this would exclude other kinds by the absence of their mention, or at least imply such exclusion. Game designers have a limitless vocabulary of tricks and tactics to make stories work within a game's rules, and no one way should be emphasized above another, even Matt deMille's own style. Indeed, the example he sets can be seen and followed from his published works, inspiring the same style if others like it, showing them the way, or even inspiring new styles. In any case, the guidelines for writing an Adventure should only cover what the rules must do, never what the artist must do. While guidelines would help jumpstart some people, it would almost certainly limit them to relying on such guidelines for future creativity, and so in effect, defeat its own purpose. Matt deMille would rather have everyone experiment for themselves, or follow the examples of others, and perfect their own craft that works best with their own GMing style.
Q) Why is the 'neutral' pronoun in Fantasia 'he', when in so many other games it is now 'she'?
A) 'She' is what is used now due to that ungodly monster known as 'political correctness'. Well, we at NDG are realistic, and unfortunately, due to the history of the English language, neither pronoun is going to be non-sexist. The PC-thinking is that just by defying the age-old 'male' pronoun, that by doing the opposite it somehow becomes magically neutral. Well, duh! It was neutral to begin with. And if it wasn't, going to the other extreme is just as bad. Now, I am the last person you will meet who is sexist. Hell, I violate many taboos of my own industry by having my personal game group comprised more of women than of men, and it's not for eye-candy, I can assure you, but rather because I have a deep respect for women, for their ways of thinking and what they bring to the game table. Besides, the male pronouns, as used in history and as we use them here, are for characters and objects, really, the small stuff. Traditionally, 'she' is a pronoun used for much grander and greater things, like ships, storms, and even mountains! The rest of the mundane world can go all PC-happy if it likes, but we see the glorification that is already provided in language and use it traditionally, thanks.
Q) The Fantasia rulebook (with the Larry Elmore cover) has some changes from the one I have seen before, so why isn't it titled as a '2nd edition'?
A) The whole notion of a 2nd, 3rd of 4th 'edition' is more of a marketing tool rather than a solid truth, and Fantasia just doesn't play that kind of game with its customers. Now, we are a little 'old school' (though we're new school as well, so I guess we're the 'timeless school', like a Wizard's sanctum or something), and if one looks at older editions of D&D, it was up to a 4th 'edition' as far back as 1983, though this was not included in the title. It simply wasn't necessary. But after TSR Inc. went ultra-corporate in the mid '80s, style rather than substance seemed to be the agenda for D&D, and AD&D was repackaged as the '2nd Edition'. Now, all things TSR and D&D especially being the standard-setter for the entire industry (and rightfully so), it became fashionable to title any game with any change as a new 'edition'. Now, if Fantasia were to undergo some radical changes, indeed to become a different game than it was previously, we would be justified in naming it a second edition. However, improvements, no matter how many, do not constitute such a title change. For example, the new D&D (d&d20 as we call it) is indeed a 'new edition' compared to the old system of AD&D (1st and 2nd). Different, not better or worse, just different (and they didn't title it as 3rd edition, to their credit). And we simply won't slap an extended title on something like a movie sequel to try and dig more dollars out of our loyal fans' pockets.
Q) Aren't the Fantasia rules a little too strict and stifling? Perilous even?
A) Perilous? As in, adventures can be perilous? Hmmm, I never thought of that. To be brutally honest, I think Fantasia is more exciting because it's perilous. I know it's fun and all to 'role-play' a Character in the village setting, but this is not a fantasy role-playing game. It is a fantasy role-playing adventure game. If there is no danger, there is no excitement. And we all like excitement. Referring back to one of my favorite film adventures, I believe the saga is called 'Star Wars', not 'Star Whores'. If that film was like a lot of games I've played, the party would never have left the Cantina, and would have had one bar-brawl after another. But in the perilous, exciting, adventure game, we're going all the way to the Death Star trench, and tell a helluva lot more of the story! Sometimes I have to look at what the typical fantasy city has become, indeed, a dungeon with shoppes at every corner of the map. There's a reason that all those trolls and orcs and other beasties mull about the tavern, and that is, quite simply because a lot of Players seem to have forgotten that there is a world of adventure out there, and GMs had to send the monsters to them. Role-playing doesn't necessarily mean role-playing Farmer Joe and how he hoes his fields, but playing the role of an adventurer, dealing with the crisis of a lost comrade, the cruel demands of honor on the battlefield, the choice between love and treasure in a collapsing dungeon, etc. In order to push the game's level of excitement to that of a memorable one, strict rules, and strict consequences are necessary. Rules that don't hold Players to grave consequences, rules full of gray areas, and rules that rely overmuch on an easily-influenced human GM will never raise the stakes to the level of excitement that we truly deserve! Without sounding like a rule-player, rules are still necessary, the hardcore black-and-white being what creates the odds that we are to try to overcome, as opposed to everyone seeing the 'killer GM' to blame when his discretion and attempts at a good story haunt him because Mr. 80-Hit-Points lost his +5 Holy Avenger. Twelve years and counting have endowed the Fantasia rules with a wonderful balance of fair play, allowing the smart, the lucky, and the faithful Player to have a great adventure, with fulfilling rewards rather than hollow ones, and victories they earned rather than those that were simply passed to them out of charity. Bottom line: If there is no real threat, there is no excitement, and you may as well not have dice, rulebooks or even a character sheet in the first place. Okay, rant over. Heck, I guess even my Q&A can be perilous.
Q) Will there ever be additional rulebooks made for Fantasia?
A) No. It is too easy for rules to rage out of control and make a game too complex. Moreover, the production of rules takes precious time away from designing adventures, which is what the game is all about. However, we have recently added a page for Optional Rules for the Fantasia game. These are both rules that were scrapped in the game design and household rules sent in to us by other players, both of which you may use at your Game Master's option. If ever a sixth core book was to be made for Fantasia, it would not be an expensaion of the core rules, but rules in a different Age of the world (the Sixth Age), when the world is radicially different and thus, in effect, a different game in itself.
Q) If Fantasia is so true to the original vision of Gygax, how come there are so few monsters?
A) There are many reasons. First and foremost, Fantasia is inspired by Gygax, but does not at all attempt to re-create what he accomplished with classic D&D. The original D&D game is still available through many channels, and accomplishes what it set out to do quite nicely. Fantasia tries to recpature the spirit of the players of that Golden Age when D&D first appeared, to capture the wonder, the passion and the excitement of a new frontier. But in order to do that, it must indeed be a new frontier, at least in some respects. One of those respects is the setting itself, and this is where the game is paid more in tribute to Tolkien than to anyone else. The classifications of monsters, Undead and all other creatures listed in the Game Master's Book are the archtypes of the denizens of Fantasia, indeed what can be more commonly known or believed about them. However, their variations, behaviors and sub-forms are not presented in a volume of rules or compendium of monsters, but rather in each individual adventure that they are encountered, leaving surprises on each journey for even the most seasoned adventurer. Also, there being less general types of creatures encourages the more detailed development of them, making them seem more real, more familiar and thus more terrifying. It is a choice between an acid-trip and a horror movie, bizarre variety versus structured storytelling. There are more than enough games with a thousand weird creatures from across time and space. Fantasia takes the classics and renews them each and every time they cross your path . . .
Q) The game makes reference to Fantasia's novels. Does Fantasia actually have novels, and if so, how can I get my hands on one?
A) The Fantasia game world was created side-by-side with a storyline played out in a seven-novel saga. The novels, set in an earlier Age, set the balance of the world in which the game takes place. Unfortunately, the novels are not in mainstream print right now, and the best I can do is respond to personal requests for a copy of the manuscripts, printed in the same format as the gamebooks themselves (8.5"x11", coil-bound, about an inch thick) for about $30. Books 1 through 5 are completely finished. However, the final chapter of the Saga, that of Book 7, has so far only been sent through one editing, and Matt deMille requires at least two full editing jobs before publishing them (unless you're interested in a 'raw' copy, riddled with typos). For the curious, the outline of the complete Saga is as follows:
BOOK I: THE CRYSTAL QUEST begins with the ending of the tale that is revealed throughout the following stories.
BOOK II: WHERE ADVENTURE ENDS begins the War of the Dragonlords and introduces the main characters.
BOOK III: THE QUEST FOR KADYSSES forms the fellowship of heroes, challenges and ultimately scatters them.
BOOK IV: THE LEGACY OF DRAGONSTARR offers a new hope in the War when the Dragonlords awaken.
BOOK V: THE DRAGON SLAYER reveals the dark designs of the War and the greatest foe of the Dragonlords.
BOOK VI: WHERE CHAOS REIGNS brings the War to its epic climax in the darkest days for the heroes.
BOOK VII: THE LAST QUEST relives and reinvents the original story and so brings the Saga full circle.
Q) Why did you make this game when we already have D&D?
A) With all due respect to other game companies and designers (and my chief inspiration of classic D&D), I felt that most games focus on combat, while the potential for so many other apsects of role-playing games are overlooked and underdeveloped. I simply wanted to offer an alternative game, one which puts more attention towards the countless other facets of the RPG experience. If this seems like it's not necessary or even impossible, I invite you to click here.