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The "tone" of AFF

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 10:53 am
by John.F
In another thread, Torus wrote:
Anyway I still feel that D&D isn't the best source of material for AFF, merely the most abundant. Something cartoonish about it, kobolds and paladins and gelatinous cubes and such, it just seems wrong in the same way the US covers for FF books were so wrong.
That made me wonder if there is a generally-accepted or traditional "tone" to the AFF gaming experience that differentiates it from D&D. What is this "wrongness" of which Torus speaks?

I'm new to the game and to Titan. And I'm in the US. Educate the Yank.

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 11:35 am
by skathros
That IS, indeed, a good question John.

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 11:35 am
by spaceLem
Good question. D&D has had many different styles over the years, and it certainly influenced Fighting Fantasy early on, so it might be difficult to disentangle the two games completely.

One main difference, I suppose, is that FF is British, and therefore has a generally darker tone, albeit with an underlying humour (early D&D was full of jokes, so that's hardly a major difference). I think the evil is often more human, with thieves and madmen, or enchanted innocents, and the more humanoid creatures still have a role in civilisation, whereas D&D has evil priests, necromancers and liches before heading into stranger territory. That's not a hard rule though, and a lot has to do with setting -- D&D has lots of those, whereas FF tries to include everything into a single world.

Another difference is that D&D covers a much larger power range, whereas your lone FF hero starts great, but doesn't advance a great deal. There's far less world changing magic, and warriors and wizards are on much more even terms.

Time for someone else who understands it all better to give their opinion I think!

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 11:40 am
by skathros
It might just be me, but I don't really see the "darker tone" often alluded to (not just by you, spaceLem, but the same has been said by other posters and on blogs). Warhammer? Yes! Dragon Age? Yes! But FF/AFF? I don't know, but I just dont see it.

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:09 pm
by torus
It's a very interesting question. Need to think about it a bit. My first thoughts are along the lines of what SpaceLem said, but I'd probably use the word 'grittier' rather than 'darker'.

Also I'm not sure it's entirely a transatlantic thing, because a) clearly there is a lot of D&D influence on FF, and b) Americans are perfectly capable and very good at doing gritty versions of things, eg. in cinema, loads of 1970s movies, or more recently the Bourne identity, or sci fi like Alien and Blade Runner, and lots of modern westerns. Maybe not so much for fantasy though.. Can anyone think of some examples?

Possibly it just comes down to an element of realism and roughness which European fantasy tends to incorporate, whereas with D&D things seem smoother, shinier and perhaps as a result more surreal.

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:32 pm
by torus
Also I should add that most of the tone we're talking about is derived from the gamebooks, not the AFF system itself.

Regarding the covers, compare the US and UK versions here:
or here
It's not just that there's a kid on the US covers, it's that he's wearing shiny armour and tights.

A really simple way of putting it:
  • D&D = Erol Otus & Larry Elmore
    FF = John Blanche & Russ Nicholson

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 5:11 pm
by spaceLem
I've got nothing whatsoever against Erol Otus, or Larry Elmore -- I love their work! But I get what you're saying.

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 6:21 pm
by torus
spaceLem wrote:I've got nothing whatsoever against Erol Otus, or Larry Elmore -- I love their work! But I get what you're saying.
No indeed, I didn't mean to say one side was better than the other. Lots of people like those artists, and lots of people like D&D! Although I'll admit my own preference is definitely for the FF side.

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 6:54 pm
by Skyrock
A certain Britishness/Europeanness is indeed one of the distinguishing features of FF, although mostly in detail (such as lattice houses or cider).

Power distribution in FF is very different to D&D.
A beginning hero is capable of single-handly slaying a troll, giant or hydra (or a dragon for that matter). But he will hardly ever arrive at a level where he can slay demigods, or casually sweep through a horde of angry commoners.

The fantasy level of Titan is certainly different to D&D. There isn't much truly outlandish stuff, like demons, angels or multiple planes.
On the other hand, humanoids are not only extremely common place. They are also met in wildly mixed batches, unlike D&D, where most dungeons seem to have a dominating monster race with a few exceptions mixed inbetween. (Just look at the illustration for entry 339 in Citadel of Chaos - one of my favourite FF illus, by the way.)

Another very distinguishing feature for me:
Loot in FF is always a mixed bag. It is very common to find multiple magical/special items, only to learn that half of them is cursed, explodes at touch or does other bad stuff to you. (Like the scorpion brooches in City of Thieves, the chalices in Citadel of Chaos or the content of the puddle casket in Island of the Lizard King.)
spaceLem wrote:D&D has evil priests, necromancers and liches before heading into stranger territory.
It's not like FF has any shortage of through and through evil magical BBEGs, beginning with the titular Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Balthus Dire? Check. Archmage of Mampang? Check. Grimslade? Check. Hell, depending on how you interpret his description, there is a very lich with Zanbar Bone right in one of the first FF books.

There is also some stranger stuff, as the Dai-Oni and his three henchmen in Sword of the Samurai or the Hell Demon in House of Hell. (Although they are relatively exceptional.)

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 10:08 pm
by bottg
I think some of the darkness can be found in the setting. The war against chaos, Blacksand, Khare etc are all fairly grim, but with a streak of humour mixed in as with WFRP.

As has been mentioned above, many of the gamebooks are also grimdark

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 10:31 pm
by torus
There is a sense of impending doom and hopelessness all across Titan, even where civilisation seems strongest, the Old World, darkness and chaos is never far.

I prefer Titan to the Warhammer world. In Titan, as has been remarked, all the races and peoples are mixed up. Witness the Troll city guards in Blacksand, the Dwarfs in Firetop Mountain, or Balthus Dire's army. Although many of the gamebook quests are portrayed as good v. evil, one gets the sense that it's not so straightforward.

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:41 am
by John.F
Very, very good! Thanks to all! I'm definitely getting a stronger sense of the feel of the game as an environment.

Posted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 4:43 pm
by Nuvole!
I'm not American, nor British (although I'm European...) and I can see a "kind" of dark, gritty tone in FF, with characters never really becoming "superheroes" or overpowered compared to the world around them, with, basically, no resurrections, or super powerful spells, while in D&D you can literally become a deity.

However, while FF has "almost" a single tone, D&D has plenty! For example the D&D campaigns / worlds where Gygax had more influence turned out to be more "high fantasy" and "heroic", with fairitale, spotless heroes of good that regularly triumph over the baddies, while Arneson-inspired worlds campaigns are grittier, with not as much magic and more difficult "moral" choices and less dualism good/bad. At least this is my superficial impression.

FF is positioned slightly different, as it is quite gritty, with relatively low power magic, with heroes that on occasion can become thieves and assassins, but at the end you can see that on occasion almost everybody couls wake up in the morning and singlehandedly save the world.

Then we have some specific, "signature" creatures, that are arguably the Gelatinous Cubes for D&D and the Rhinomen for FF... do you have any other example?

Posted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 8:09 pm
by MountainPeak11
Well there is a spell in AFF called Resurrect where you can bring someone back to life... And the main two species I can think of besides Rhinomen who don't appear in D&D are Garks and Wheelies.