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PostPosted: Wed Oct 14, 2015 6:50 pm 
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I'm working on a comic with my partner right now which features mer dwarves. Just sorta... mashed dwarves and merfolk together. Also the angels are tentacle-covered gene splicers. The main character is a transgender dragon. Expectations? What the heck are expectations?

I'm also spending a LOT of my time playing Fallen London and slowly untangling the story of that game and while there's some moments where the game and the story interact in slightly wurms with boots ways, it's really brought my tolerance of sacrifices in story for purported gameplay purposes to an all time low, I must admit... They're just so damn good at telling a complex expansive story through gameplay, and they DEFINITELY don't have the resources that WotC has.

I don't know, looking at the past seven years or so of the storyline just kinda makes me feel like this is lack of care rather than lack of ability to balance gameplay and story elements.

And yeah, there's loads of fantasy that doesn't adhere to archetypes and happily goes in totally bonkers directions. Pre-Tolkien fantasy in particular is a delight because it's often so totally bizarre from a contemporary perspective.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 14, 2015 7:46 pm 
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Barinellos and Keeper:
Tolkien basically established fantasy as a genre, as you are probably well aware. That's why fantasy that came after it has drawn heavily from the archetypes he created and thereby crafted expectations in the modern audience over decades. To argue that Tolkien did not adhere to expectations existing in his time is pointless, because there was no such thing as a fantasy-genre audience before Tolkien and therefore no expectations existed. The average reader at the time the Lord of the Rings first came out was in all likelihood unaware of the mythology the author had drawn from.

Also, Lorwyn elves are a beautiful, slender people with bows that like trees and fight the uglies in the world. That's proper Tolkien-elves for you. Their xenophobic motivation is interesting, but not really a deviation from the archetype. Zendikar's Mul Daya elves are actually more of a deviation at that (voodoo elves), but they're merely a splintergroup, not the defining type of elf in this particular world.

You might like experiments and great deviations from archetypes, but I for one don't, and I imagine the majority of people don't either, so it's more than understandable for WotC to not gamble there.

And yeah, I think this might be worthy of a new thread :D

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 14, 2015 7:56 pm 
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... I really have a hard time how you can associate the Lorwyn elves with Tolkien when they bear closer resemblance to satyrs than elves. In a visual medium, image is more important than character, a thing you're arguing yourself when you talk about archetypes.

You also can't hide behind the idea that people didn't have expectations before a work came out. Plenty of people knew of elves prior to Tolkien. Fairy tails were hugely popular throughout the Victorian era and the early 20th century. If asked, someone would likely describe elves as being small folk closer resembling modern gnomes than what Tolkien stitched together out of a hodge podge of folklore. You can't cherry pick expectations to only work in your favor. It makes your entire argument fallacious.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 14, 2015 8:35 pm 
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MattoFrank wrote:
Barinellos and Keeper:
Tolkien basically established fantasy as a genre, as you are probably well aware. That's why fantasy that came after it has drawn heavily from the archetypes he created and thereby crafted expectations in the modern audience over decades. To argue that Tolkien did not adhere to expectations existing in his time is pointless, because there was no such thing as a fantasy-genre audience before Tolkien and therefore no expectations existed. The average reader at the time the Lord of the Rings first came out was in all likelihood unaware of the mythology the author had drawn from.

Yeah I'm going to call bull on that too.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 14, 2015 11:18 pm 
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Hm, let's see, that's CS Lewis, William Hope Hodgson, Lewis Carroll, ER Eddison, HP Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, George McDonald, Edith Nesbit, everyone else who published in Weird Tales...

That's an impressive number of authors you just threw under the bus.

But no, right, no expectations, of course.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 12:17 am 
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Those are a lot of predecessors, without even going back farther into the gothic, romantic, or arthurian traditions.

And for expectations now? It's not Tolkien that created them. Certainly, many authors have aped Tolkien's plot arc of a scrappy resistance against a resurging Dark Lord, but few have actually followed many of his conceits. How often do you see fantasy nowadays take place in a provably monotheistic universe, where the users of magic are beings of power, and elves are not simply long-lived humanoids but immortals of a different order of existence?

That's not the legacy we see. Modern Fantasy purports to draw on Tolkien because Tolkien became very popular outside of the genre audience that was very well entrenched despite claims it didn't exist. In reality, it draws on Tolkien, yes, but as much or more it draws on Howard, Vance, LeGuin, and Gygax.

Yes, Gary Gygax. While Lord of the Rings was a huge, generally popular example of the fantasy genre, Middle Earth is very insular, and its conceits are not often repeated in modern fantasy even if its trappings are. It is not entirely Tolkien's own tropes that have influenced the fantasy of the eighties, nineties, and later, but the melting-pot synthesis that was Dungeons and Dragons. But while D&D plundered everything that came before it (including a lot of Tolkien), it also invented its own conceits, and mixed the old in new ways. Like, a Lich seems like such a classic creature, but it's a merger of the sometimes undead evil sorcerers of Robert E. Howard and the like with Koschei the Deathless, and adding dashes of Gygax's own opinions on magic -- namely, how much the settings of early D&D broke from tolkien's norms in making spell-casters essentially normal people. Gygax's wizards (drawing on Jack Vance's Dying Earth) are mortals with knowledge, not gods or fair folk or the tainted priests of ancient and forgotten gods. Nowadays, that's pretty common. Magic systems are something worth considering, something done before, yes, but how often? And how popularly?

And certainly not in Tolkien.

Modern fantasy actually owes a ton to sources less respected than its flagships. The fantasy genre became more codified in around the time of Tolkien, but it was not Tolkien's doing, at least not entirely. Tolkien wrote with consummate skill about a world much like our own, but in which not all of the magical wonder of mythology had faded, an age, the third of his world, in which some godlike beings still walked the world and some wonders could still be performed. The Lord of the Rings is in large part about a growing up of the world, of the loss of that magic but the gaining of a greater understanding.

The fantasy we see more of, though, is stories of swords and sorcery, high adventures with mighty heroes, in worlds unlike our own, where magic and wonder still lives, even thrives. This is the Fantasy of Howard, and Vance, and LeGuin, and absolutely of Gygax. While Tolkien has been pillaged again and again, as I said before for his arc, even the likes of Terry Brooks and Dennis L McKiernan (The authors of blatant Tolkien cover-bands The Sword of Shannara and The Iron Tower, as well as other, more original things) often give us a universe quite unlike Tolkien's.

And the genre continues to evolve, as new refinements and new luminaries add their tales to the bulk. Rowling has had a ton of influence on the fantasy we read now, providing her society of young witches and wizards, letting those without fantasy college work magic. And for that matter, Garfield and Rosewater have added their own notes to the dominant themes. Magic: The Gathering has been around for over 20 years now, and while Urza and Mishra, Gerrard and Hanna, may not be entering the public consciousness of Legolas or Hermione, they probably stand alongside the likes of Lord Juss, Randolph Carter, and Ged -- not known by name, but felt by reputation. I say this because twenty years ago I doubt you would have found the same sort of Magitech you see a lot nowadays, nor younger spellcasters limited by how much power they can draw. These are very familiar images...


When it comes to expectations, I feel like M:tG of now, playing to a mass market, does have to kowtow to some. When they want to ape greek mythology, they bring out minotaurs, pegasi, and yes, Krakens rather than generic undifferentiated sea-monsters. When they do their spin on gothic horror, they give us Rooftop Storm as a nod a certain gothic tale. But all the same, M:tG can innovate a TON. IT already has, and because it's one of the tier 2 fantasy properties in how many people it actually reaches (Below, you know, GoT and Tolkien movies) other things react to it.



... That one kinda got away from me, didn't it?

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 12:24 am 
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Somebody save THAT for posterity.

Well said, Tevish!


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 12:25 am 
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... That one kinda got away from me, didn't it?

No, I quite enjoyed reading all of it. I hadn't even properly considered how D&D has influenced the fantasy genre, but by god you are right on the money there.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 7:21 am 
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Tavish, well said. But I fail to see you point in this specific context really. Where do you stand then? Should MtG fulfill expectations or throw them out of the window?

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 10:30 am 
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Literally in the last paragraph, dude. =_=

@Szat:

That was great. And actually pretty good writing advice, I think, by extension--I think D&D shows that you can create something really strong from drawing on a diverse range of influences. A lot of the pre-Tolkien or even post-Tolkien-but-sort-of-doing-its-own-thing fantasy branches off from the Gygaxian tradition in some really interesting ways that haven't necessarily been explored fully yet. I mean, hell if we want an example we can look to your projects which have a pretty strong Hodgson influence.

One thing that interests me is the qualities you mention about elves and the monotheistic framing and so on... I don't think those deeper aspects have been explored in games so much. Like, I don't think I've ever played a game that had Le Guin's approach to philosophy and spirituality, for example. I'm honestly not sure what that would even look like. Hell, I'm still not totally sure what something that delved into the deeper level construction of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell would look like... Jo Walton of Tor wrote that "it reads like something written in an alternate history in which Lud in the Mist was the significant book of twentieth century fantasy," and that quote has been banging around in my head ever since, I guess because the idea of an alternate literary history where a completely different set of influences caught on is really fascinating to me.

I think Tolkien does cast a long shadow at least in his inversions--I've heard A Song of Ice and Fire cast as an anti-Tolkien fantasy story, fair or not, and I'd definitely place Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn in that category.

Also, just throwing this out there: Harry Potter's been a big influence but anime's surely had an influence as well. There's a LOT of fantasy comics that I think show a strong influence from Fullmetal Alchemist for example. And of course there's Final Fantasy. I think a lot of the magitech stuff might come out of that tradition... and it's quite possible that this game, which early on featured a story about two brothers fighting a war of magical machines, had an influence there as well.

Yeah this is wandering so I'm gonna stop but this is incredibly fascinating stuff and I'm glad you wrote a post that was so long and has so much to dig into!


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 2:21 pm 
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Looking at everyone's comments, I feel that everyone agrees, to varying degrees, that it is important that Magic both be able to meet expectations while breaking others. The questing becomes, then, how far should they push. In Theros, I feel they had to go with the popular monsters, even those that didn't make sense (Krakens) because they were putting the variation into other ideas. for example, Enchantments defining godhood was a major new shift, and they wanted emphasis there. Also, the idea of having tribes of Minotaurs was a major shift from classic greek, and they may have felt that doing that meant they had to ground reality elsewhere (I feel that the Minotaur tribal was more to please Tammys wanting their Minotaur deck than matching pop-culture adaptations).

For Tarkir, I feel like they were too focused on varying side elements, and didn't spend enough on the central plot. For example, I imagine they treated Alesha and Narset as deviations from the norm of their type, and to some extent the time travel trope was inverted in that the time traveler did not regret the changes they made to the timeline. What that meant was they were not comfortable deviating from potentially sticky tropes, such as all the Khans still existing in some form, or Sarkhan being 'a man out of time' (seriously, if all the Khans still exist, there's no good reason for him not to).

On an unrelated note, I'm okay with Sarkhan being 3-colored from a somewhat meta-perspective. The idea, I think, was to show him with an identifying feature of the old world (in this case, being a wedge) in order to draw further attention to his man-out-of-time nature. So, as long as that doesn't become a character trait of his (admittedly, no guarantee) then it worked in this instance.

Last note: I saw someone mention that there was a lot of dissatisfaction with Narset. I'm curious about that, since I personally liked the story.

Edit: Oh, and I'll jump on the bandwagon of praise for Tevish. Well deserved.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 2:59 pm 
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Re: Narset-
There seems to be a solid movement of people that feel that making her autistic verges on the disrespectful, or at least intrusive to what they go through, rather than it being inclusive as with Alesha. It would appear it isn't something people enjoy being reminded of, so the fact it is being played up makes said people uncomfortable.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 3:45 pm 
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That's interesting. Is there any solid analysis of that take anywhere?

Also I feel like we should have a Theros thread like this, because I've heard some people say that it stuck way too close to audience expectations for a Greek plane, and others suggest that including cat people was a step too far... or maybe I've just seen MaRo claim that other people made that claim. Anyway my sense is that the reaction to Theros was pretty divided on that specific level of expectations.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 3:52 pm 
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That's interesting. Is there any solid analysis of that take anywhere?

Also I feel like we should have a Theros thread like this, because I've heard some people say that it stuck way too close to audience expectations for a Greek plane, and others suggest that including cat people was a step too far... or maybe I've just seen MaRo claim that other people made that claim. Anyway my sense is that the reaction to Theros was pretty divided on that specific level of expectations.

Wait... you mean you weren't planning on making this a series of threads?


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 4:01 pm 
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That's interesting. Is there any solid analysis of that take anywhere?

Also I feel like we should have a Theros thread like this, because I've heard some people say that it stuck way too close to audience expectations for a Greek plane, and others suggest that including cat people was a step too far... or maybe I've just seen MaRo claim that other people made that claim. Anyway my sense is that the reaction to Theros was pretty divided on that specific level of expectations.

My first literary love was Greek Mythology. I checked out every book my grade school library had on it, many times. I studied it in college. I am, personally, in the boat of "they stuck too close." I mean, overall, I don't dislike Theros, but numerous cards just stand out to me as "Hey, remember that myth? Well, here it is with different names!" Akroan Horse, Bearer of the Heavens, and Rescue from the Underworld all fit this category for me. I would have preferred a sense of a completely new mythology that was reminiscent of Greek myth instead. Still, though, they did enough unique things that I would not categorize the block as a flavor failure, the way I would Tarkir.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 4:24 pm 
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That's interesting. Is there any solid analysis of that take anywhere?
.

Not that I am aware, but the consensus feels very very divided. As it is, I don't think I'd trust the statements wizard makes given how insistent they are in maintaining a positive image. I know several people who are unhappy about it, so they certainly exist.

I think another factor is the likely large majority who simply don't care, and since the nature of it is different from Trans issues, it doesn't promote people to feel as included in the first place. Though that's largely speculation extrapolated from reactions I've personally seen.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 11:07 pm 
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Natasha, a kind person who does transcripts for Mark's Drive to Work podcast, was the most vocal one I remember.
Quote:
@nlh_rt: By maintaining the public message that Narset is a good representation of autism, WotC disrespects the community they wanted to support.

I know others agreed and there were quite a few scattered posts on the matter, but I can't immediately find any besides her own. This kind of criticism would break the "Why yes, everything is great and this answer makes us look awesome!" vibe of Doug's blog, so never expecting it to be fully addressed.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 11:46 pm 
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vronos wrote:
Natasha, a kind person who does transcripts for Mark's Drive to Work podcast, was the most vocal one I remember.
Quote:
@nlh_rt: By maintaining the public message that Narset is a good representation of autism, WotC disrespects the community they wanted to support.

I know others agreed and there were quite a few scattered posts on the matter, but I can't immediately find any besides her own. This kind of criticism would break the "Why yes, everything is great and this answer makes us look awesome!" vibe of Doug's blog, so never expecting it to be fully addressed.

Doug's always seemed to me like the kind of guy who looks at a glass and sees it filled with the overflow of another glass kind of guy.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2015 8:52 am 
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mm ok I think I see what she's getting at with respect to broadly conflating all neurodivergences with autism... Diagnosis is so slippery though, I can see it from both perspectives here, and it's making a lot of other people happy, it seems.

Oh, and I see here's a tweet from Moppi about this coming suspiciously soon after they flubbed the Elder Dragon thing :P Oh Moppi.

EDIT: Also I've got a few people claiming that she "romanticizes a serious illness" (=_=)

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2015 9:07 am 
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Did WotC ever directly link Narset to Autism? I know several asked the Tumblr people after the article came out, but I don't remember if Wizards ever actively pointed out the connection. One of my favorite parts of that story is that it didn't make any direct connection, and just showed the world through a certain perspective. That's the major reason I loved it. I didn't even realize Autism is what was implied until reading the reaction, since I saw too much of myself in her to think it was representing a neurological condition.

EDIT: Also I've got a few people claiming that she "romanticizes a serious illness" (=_=)

Actually, that's one of the points that I kind-of get. There's definitely an implication that her condition is what aids in her advancement, so I can see where they're coming from. At the same time, they also didn't shy away from showing some major negatives, so I'm not sure I fully buy that.


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