RPG Gaming

Fantasy vs Science Fiction in RPGs

By Marcus Pan

Recently, a friend of mine attempted to get me interested in an RPG called Shadowrun by a company called FASA. This game seems to be a cross between Cyberpunk, Wargames and Spelljammers. I kept an open mind as I always do and read through the entire manual. It was interesting, I'll admit. But first of all, the realism sucks. It is entirely based on a single D6. There is no D4, D8, D10, D12 or D20. Only a D6, rolled singly or in combinations. This greatly reduces realism. It can only do so much, whereas having more dice increases realism. For example, using a D20 to base hits gives you more of a range so there can be many ACs, level modifiers and it makes hitting a goblin so much easier than hitting a dragon with a very large range in between for so much more. But having only a D6 greatly limits the range. Also, Shadowrun bases everything on a success or failure and only a person who can fire a pistol has a good chance at it, but has a problem if he/she were to pick up a rifle. In AD&D a person who picks up a shortsword may also pick up a longsword and vice versa.

Oh yes, let's speak of the guns. I find guns and magic a bad combination in an RPG. Guns and explosives give all characters what I call a "technological magic". And weapons such as this give a very low life expectancy. One pull of the trigger and you're dead. High level magic is deadly in it's own respect but handing out guns can give any low level squirt the ability to blow away anyone or anything. While in AD&D this low-level squirt would think twice before engaging Lord Joe in swordplay. And there is only two things that can happen. Either you're going to get blown away or you're missed. What kind of game can it be when there are "one-shot deaths"? And give a gun to a mage and he/she will beat anybody. Meanwhile, with people getting shot left and right, we have characters called "street samurais" who fight with swords. Yeah, sure. Pit him against a guy with an AK-47 and who's going to win this one? Sure as hell it isn't going to be the guy with the sword. He'll get blown away before he even gets the blade out of it's sheath.

Also, how much imagination can you possible draw upon in a normal, earth-like world? In games of fantasy there is no boundaries on how far you can go. In earth-type games there is too much considered "normal" to go too far into the fantastic or supernatural. Besides, it's very difficult to picture a dragon swallowing and airplane, lairing in the Rocky Mountains or buying shares of stock in some blue-chip corporation in Japan. Why play a game where your character's being hinges on one pull of the trigger? Could you picture a troll living next door to you? Trolls belong in some mythical mountain somewhere. This entire game totally unhinges the naturalness of earth.

I am not just an AD&D player. I don't just create a few PC's and visit a dungeon, then put these away and make a new PC, pick up a gun and blow away my next door neighbor the troll. That's not me. I am a DM. A creator of new worlds, mythical places where science and technology don't exist and one only has his blade and wits to rely on. Where dragons are supposed to be instead of buying stocks in Nintendo. It takes true talent and imagination to build a whole new world. It takes a few acid tripping geeks to put a dragon in the Rockies and call it an RPG. AD&D by TSR is the ultimate RPG pushing your mind's eye to the limits. It doesn't take much to imagine earth. My responsibility and loyalty lies with AD&D and Albinor, for this is where real adventures are made. This is the stuff of legends!

The above item may have been edited by the author since its first appearance in Legends No. 52.