So fa/tg/entlemen what do you like more low or high fantasy and why?

So fa/tg/entlemen what do you like more low or high fantasy and why?
For me its low fantasy because when something supernatural does occur it will be more mystical and mysterious than when there are elves and dwarves all over the place.

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I prefer high fantasy because I enjoy creating interesting and strange imagery in my settings and also because it lets me easily dial any given conflict up to eleven by having higher powers be heavily involved

Low fantasy = there's a direct connection to reality as we know it. E.g. Narnia, Neverending Story.

High fantasy = the setting has no direct connection to the real world, at least not one acknowledged within the work. E.g. Earthsea, Star Wars.

Just sayin'.

usage determines meaning, they're both used commonly to refer to the amount of 'fantastical' elements in a work

I was just gonna say what this user said, but less elegantly and with more words.


Low Fantasy=fantasy grounded in reality. The traitor betrays the king for 50 silver.

High Fantasy=fantasy that is grandiose. The traitor betrays the king out of romantic jealousy.

Low fantasy will have players doing adventures for merchants, soldiers, etc. People who are necessary for the everyday running of a kingdom. The goals of these adventures will seem small in the grand scheme of things. High fantasy will have players working for a wise old king or whitebearded wizard. The goals of these adventures will decide the fate of the land.


of those two scenarios, someone betraying a fucking king for 50 silver is the LEAST believeable.

What that user means is that in low fantasy people have more down to earth motivations like monetary gain and their goals are also much smaller.

I know, dude

I like the point where magic is getting to be known by normal people, but there aren't many mages around yet.

Like the time period where schools of magic have just begun being formed, and apprentices are literally just about to "graduate" into competent mages.

Therefore I can still bring a mage here and there if the story or campaign needs it, but they also completely disappear when not needed as they are low in number.

I tend towards high fantasy, although I can enjoy both. I like the more grandiose, mythological sort of storytelling, rooted in metaphor and theme more than in any attempt to be realistic or grounded.

Do you have a citation for that?

Low Fantasy=magic is rare and powerful, everytime it's used, the world changes. Monsters are rarer, more dangerous. Gods hardly exist or work in mysterious ways.
High Fantasy=the wizard casts fireball 3 times a day. 4d4 orcs died. The god of magic dropped by to give the wizard a thumbs up.

I guess you like low fantasy more then?

Yes. I still like the second one, though, tyvm.

In the interest of not JUST being a pedantic shit, to answer your question: I like when the magical is interwoven with the mundane. Where it's not necessarily all adventure all the time but where magic and the other fantastical elements have had a marked impact on how people live their lives.

That's how Veeky Forums typically misinterprets it, but it doesn't make it so. "High-magic" versus "low-magic" or "grounded" versus "fantastic" would be more accurate.

People keep saying "beg the question" when they mean "raise the question", too.

>Magic is somewhat rare and very weak, just real-world herbalism or alchemy with a slight edge. More powerful magic does exist but is the stuff of legends.
Animals and nature are often dangerous, monstrous even, but things like fire-breathing dragons probably never even existed. Who knows if the gods are even real but there is evidence of a spirit world/ astral plane/whatever you call it.

Whatever this is


>low fantasy: Western fantasy epics
>high fantasy: Anime

High fantasy and high magic. I don't see much point in playing anything else.

It depends but generally high fantasy. The real world is a small enclosed space, it's not very flexible in general and it's a lot easier to break suspension of disbelief. Note that on matters like "are Harry Potter (set in a 'hidden' place) or Lord of the Rings (set in a distant past lost to history) high or low fantasy" I consider them high though they're technically low. They are unaffected by the rules that bind most low fantasy.

He's actually right, though. They're literary terms. His definition of low fantasy meaning "connected to the real world" is contentious (many people consider any other world to qualify as high fantasy, even if it is reached via our world, eg an alien planet or Narnia, and you'll be hard-pressed to find people who consider LotR low fantasy, though to be fair, you'll be hard-pressed to find people who know that Tolkien stated Middle Earth was just prehistoric Europe), but low fantasy means fantasy set in the real world and high fantasy means fantasy set in another world (with entirely its own rules, history, geography, etc).

American Gods and In His Majesty's Service are low fantasy, A Song of Ice and Fire and Discworld are high fantasy. You'll note that I listed a gritty, "realistic" example and a whimsical or grandiose example for each. I also avoided more iconic examples that come to mind first because they fall on that contentious middle ground of being linked, but not entirely, to our world- For example I am heavily inclined to call the Chronicles of Narnia high fantasy because they take place in another world apart from ours with its own rules, while our world remains completely mundane, but the two worlds are linked to each other with doorways between them, so it is not ENTIRELY high fantasy. If anything this just demonstrates how "high" and "low" in this case are terms for the extremes of a continuum, with individual works existing relative to each other on this. How "grandiose" or "grounded in reality" something is is another axis entirely.

Colloquial use of language is more meaningful than academic definitions. It's natural for language to evolve and change over time, and while some of it might seem distasteful it's not something anyone can really control or stop.

Using the "secondary world" point of divergence definition...

Generally high. It's simpler, oddly enough; you don't give a fuck about reality.

You're going form something that, while there is a degree of contention and subjectivity to it, nonetheless deals in hard, clear, meaningful terms, to something that is entirely "muh feelings on the matter" and almost completely meaningless. In this case the academic definition wins hands down.


It's not about feelings, it's about how it's used.

Academic definitions and the recorded meanings of words are irrelevant as soon as they're written down, because language is an evolving medium and communication relies on what a word is understood to mean, not what some book says it means.

The very fact people like you keep popping into threads like this trying to argue over definitions kinda proves my point. You can't fight the tide or bring back the past. That the words meant one thing at one point is meaningless if most people, when using them in conversation, will mean another and will understand that one another mean the same, new thing.

Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes it's downright aggravating. But it is impossible to do anything about it. Even the Academy Francais have had fuck all luck, all linguistic protectionism is doing for them is making their academic ideal of 'French' a more and more different construct to how the french language is actually spoken and used in the modern day.

Yes, and by the same token, most people use "theory" to mean "a guess" or sometimes more charitably "an educated guess" rather than how the scientific community uses it.

>It's not about feelings, it's about how it's used.
I'm saying that you're using it to mean feelings, you thick shit. "Realistic" or "grandiose" are entirely matters of opinion. Both examples you name qualify as realistic motivations, just one of them wouldn't exist in a world where everyone was a sociopath.

There is also no one colloquial definition of "high" and "low" fantasy. That's how dumb colloquialisms work, they're tangents from a usually academic definition based on the observations of individuals of low to middling intelligence finding patterns in what is labeled as one thing or another. Therefore to some people it means "how gritty character motivations are" (your definition), to others it means "how much of a role magic plays," or "whether there are 'fantastical' creatures like dragons," or even unironically what (probably sarcastically) suggested, "how hammy or cartoonish the tropes are." All these interpretations are equally valid (which is to say they are not, but a lot of dumb people certainly think they are), and most of them are equally meaningless qualifiers by which you could define pretty much anything you want as whatever you want, as it's entirely feeling-based.

>Academic definitions and the recorded meanings of words are irrelevant as soon as they're written down, because language is an evolving medium and communication relies on what a word is understood to mean
Language evolves over time, sure, but this is an almost strictly detrimental process except where words for new concepts are added (mostly related to new technology, or esoteric fields that will never be relevant to the vast majority of the populace even in a so-called "mass intelligentsia"). When you give people the idea that they have the right to define terms as they please with the excuse of "colloquialism" you end up with massive failures in communication- You cannot argue this, as the thread you are in now would stand as definitive evidence against you.

The thread where people seemed to quite easily understand what one another meant until you barged in here shouting about your academic definitions? This thread, specifically?

The problem that I have with High Fantasy is that it often doesn't know how to control itself. It's to easy to fall into "a Wizard Did it".

>the thread where people have been arguing about the definition of two terms with half the people stating the academic definition or ignoring the argument altogether and actually answering the OP on the basis of the academic definition, and the other half arguing several conflicting colloquial definitions, plus one guy, strangely enough, arguing that colloquial definitions are superior
yeah, that one

you fucking retard

not in the context of RPGs desu

i think however a pattern is emerging by which most gamers consider low fantasy a fantasy world with comparatively few fantastical elements (magic, monsters, etc.) and a high fantasy world one with fantastical elements in abundance. pretty sure that this is getting prevalent. and surely it's a more useful distinction than others proposed.

>Low fantasy, is closer to realistic fiction than to myth. Low fantasy stories focus on people’s daily lives and practical goals; magic provides a way to achieve those goals, and makes it interesting. A low fantasy campaign asks what it’s like to live in a world of monsters, magic, and demigods. Most low fantasy magic is evenly distributed in the world, not sharply focused in certain places. Its effects are predictable and knowable. Low fantasy magic is less a source of wonder than a toolkit. Characters in low fantasy are more concerned with practical goals, less with great passions. A high fantasy traitor might be motivated by passionate jealousy, tempted by the devil, or perversely sympathetic to the other side; a low fantasy traitor wants 30 pieces of silver. Merchants and criminals are minor figures, or entirely absent, in most high fantasy. In low fantasy, they are not only prevalent, they may be the heroes.
>GURPS Fantasy page 6

Pretty simple to understand.

Generally I prefer low fantasy like Conan and Dark Sun and LoTR. I think the world is more interesting when magic is rarer and more mysterious, when it can't be used as a brute force to solve any problem, and when simply casting spells draws a reaction from onlookers and there are stigmas and superstitions involved in the arcane.

That said, High fantasy is cool too. It's just that some of the rules and the setting have to be very well defined, because powerful or common magics can drastically change what is possible and thus create plotholes and serious inconsistencies in the setting unless a GM has figured out exactly what is and isn't possible, and the logical conclusions of how certain magic has permeated the world and what the possible long term effects are.

I'm gonna be that guy and say medium fantasy.

I was going to say that too!
Medium for life!

> low fantasy

>plotholes and serious inconsistencies

Pretty much this.
Any setting with commonplace light, food, healing, flight, teleportation, mindcontrol, resurrection, gates, massmurder, undead, etc. is one which is so far removed from medieval or dark ages Europe as to be completely unrelatable.

Low if it's combat or politics focused.

High if ya gettin' REALLY fuckin' wierd wit it

Honestly for me I love high fantasy politics. Like doing things such as arguing with a clan of dragons on the current political-social positioning of their old allies and things like that is amazingly fun.


My setting is based mostly off of old European folklore. Magic exists, but "casting" magic is incredibly rare and isn't like shooting fireballs out of your hands. Kingdoms of Elves exist, but they have more subtle magics like in LOTR, and generally keep to themselves, on the fringes of the known world. Mythical beasts exist, but are also extremely rare and exist more in old stories and legends.

Most of my aesthetic comes from Late Antiquity/Migration period Europe, a time when magic was a part of daily life, in things like superstitions, prayers, curses, and talismans for good luck.

LOTR is meant to be more like a mythology than anything

There's no magic in LotR

Go back and read Tolkien's letters. The crafts of the Enemy are sometimes called magic, and so is what the elves can do, but they do not call it magic as to not be associated with Melkor/Sauron.

If low fantasy means more grounded and less magic then LotR is low fantasy

You can argue all day about what low fantasy and high fantasy mean, and I don't have any specific definitions, but what does "grounded" even mean in a setting where gods interact with the world and magic (yes, MAGIC) rings of power cause insatiable lust for domination in people? If you mean what said, that is a really terrible metric because people could act for either reason in either setting.

They aren't magic rings of power. They're just so wonderfully constructed that people have their personalities consumed by their desire to posess them.

And how do you justify the turning invisible part?

Tolkien explicitly stated the true power of the ring was that it caused the wearer to develop a desire for power, not only a desire for the ring itself. The fact that it enhances a person's capabilities is secondary. That's why when Sam carried the ring, he saw a vision of himself becoming a benevolent lord, and turning Mordor into a garden. Magic is specifically the craft of Melkor, and his desire to have control and order over all things.

Seriously. Read Tolkien's letters, and come back when you know what you're talking about.

It was so artfully crafted that when worn it causes light to reflect off it in a way that makes its wearer invisible.

That's not magic though. That's just the nature of evil. Things that are "magic" in LotR are just things that are normal but made by beings from a super ordinant category so they're extra.

>Things that are "magic" in LotR are just things that are normal but made by beings from a super ordinant category so they're extra.
What about when Gandalf lights his staff in Moria?

His staff isn't just a piece of wood but a carefully crafted mobility device. Helping an old man to navigate in the dark is a natural function of his mobility device.

How about the trolls turning to stone?

For me its low, just because I legitimately don't know how to both do high fantasy and make something coherent in which players have a meaningful role.

>[Melkor] will rebel against the laws of the Creator - especially against mortality. Both of these (alone or together) will lead to the desire for Power, for making the will more effective, - and so the Machine (or Magic). By the last I intend all use of external plans or devices (apparatus) instead of developments of the inherent powers or talents - or even the use of these talents with the corrupted motive of dominating: bulldozing the real world, or coercing other wills. The Machine is our more obvious modern form though more closely related to Magic than is usually recognized.

>I have not used 'magic' consistently...[Elven] 'magic' is Art, delivered from many of its human limitations...and its object is Art not Power.

J. R. R. Tolkien

now please stop posting

You're being unnecessarily obtuse. The standard definition of low vs high fantasy is very clear; one is more like reality in than other. If a setting treats magic like technology, it's low fantasy. If demigods acts like real rulers, it's low fantasy. If all the undesirable but realistic aspects of society are fully apparent in the setting (racism, slavery, everyday crime), it's low fantasy. If the setting glosses over all of this in favor of epic quests and characters, it's high fantasy. High fantasy is just another way of saying myth. I hate to quote the burger-meister but does Tolkein explain what Aragorn's tax policy is? That's because the Lord of the Rings is high fantasy. Tolkien doesn't care about describing what it's like to live in Middle-Earth. All he cares about is writing a detailed mythology.

Also, you ever hear the saying reality is unrealistic? It's because we expect the motivations behind people to be simple because in most cases they are. So you could say, yeah the traitor could realistically be jealous. However, what is he jealous of? His opponents beauty? Why? Because it let's his opponent succeed where he can't? A low fantasy setting would explore these motivations while a high fantasy one wouldn't because that detracts from the story.

Of course, neither is mutually exclusive. The burger-meister might describe in horrid detailed the qualities of a nobleman's feast or the details of his next political gambit but he'll skip over the day to day business of a running a fiefdom. After all, you have to write to an audience. This becomes even more apparent in pnp rpg campaigns. The players and GM might be attracted to a setting because of it's low fantasy qualities but ultimately desire to run a high fantasy campaign within the low fantasy setting. Or the low fantasy campaign might morph into a high fantasy one. Or vice versa. Campaigns can be chaotic that way.

I dunno, you could call it mezzo-fantasy. I like realisticall stuff with magical things being known, but nothing like DnD with fireball totting wizards, more like prayers, talismans than work for specific things, curses, mythical beings than live in your house doing little pranks, evil beasties to slay, spirits than can be banished with salt, prayers and holy water... Euro myths made real in a whole.

Trolls were created (or corrupted) by Melkor (a super ordinant being)

Because Melkor can't truly create life and because he was already evil with his desire for dominion when he created them they must be evil as well, which means they are wretched and hate the light (hating/fearing the light is a natural property of being evil) And because he made them from stone in the first place they turn back into stone.

That's what I'm saying. How do you think that letter is an argument against me?

Well first off, I never claimed LOTR was low fantasy.

But you're using one definition of high vs low. You can easily frame it another way. Take the Elder Scrolls series (the lore, anyways). It may describe the Empire's tax policy in detail, or give the exact functions and duties of the arms of Morrowind's Tribunal government, but you've still got magic everywhere, wizards in every town, and anthropomorphic lizard people running around. That makes it high fantasy to me, even though it often concerns itself with the mundane.

He literally equates elven art as magic, and if you're too dense to see that I don't know what more I can say to you.

How about this - if the ring's invisibility is just a "trick of the light" how does it let one see wraiths? And what definition of magic are you even using, that is making you deny it so hard in this setting? You're simply being either asinine or pedantic.

I can appreciate both, but high fantasy needs to be really high for me to get into it. Like whatever is going on in that pic is still far too grounded for me to appreciate it as high fantasy, even though it's also far too out there for me to appreciate it as low fanatsy.

I'd say ES is pretty clear cut example of low fantasy according to the GURPS Fantasy definition.

I have a question for you all...

I'm making my own fantasy world and each race is tied to a specific culture, per usual. I just realized that my cultures are all Eurasia focused and there's no room for an Aztec/Mayan culture/race. Is it okay not to have an Aztec themed area or is it basically considered mandatory in fantasy world making? How would you feel about playing/running a game that didn't have one?

High Fantasy High Magic: D&D
High Fantasy Low Magic: LotR, Conan, Shrek
Low Fantasy High Magic: GoT, Mortal Kombat
Low Fantasy Low Magic: Asterix, Dune


Make aztecs underwater. Aztec fishmen.

Go Atlantis. Basically cheat as Atlantis is "every proto race"

i guess what i'm asking is that should i swap a cultural theme for aztecs? i want a certain amount of races and a culture to match them. right now they're all Eurasian, so i feel like the aztec race might seem out of place. that, and i like the cultures i have right now.

but if more people like aztecs than i originally thought then i might have to reconsider

My brother. Medium fantasy, with low-medium magic

I prefer High Fantasy, partially because Low Fantasy is extremely overdone these days in comparison

So what is high fantasy anyway

Anyone got a definition somewhere?

Yeah, what calls "high fantasy" is called worldbuilding by most

>Dark Sun
>low fatnasy
Psionics is so common in fucking Dark Sun, you're a weirdo for NOT having some kind of Psionic power.

Be creative, don't just make everybody "not!Japan" or "not!Rome"

A major faith holds that one of the followers of their messiah gave up his leader to death for 20 silver pieces or so, is it really that unbelievable?

I haven't seen any formal definition that matches up with what you're suggesting. That's problematic because your definition really fails at being useful for categorizing settings. I suspect that's why you're failing at finding any concrete examples, not because of any ambiguity in the subject area itself.

Considering the rest of the unbelievable stuff in that particular myth, maybe?

Why going the usual way?

Also, it's fucking fantasy. You can have a not! Tibet in the middle of a "germanic" area if you do it with a pinch of salt.

Who cares? Make sure your world is interesting on its own merits and spend less time worrying about which cultures you steal from.

>using GURPS as an authority on anything

>dissing SJG
I honestly couldn't care less about the system. However, the books are very well written and have good citations, which are sadly a rarity in rpg books these days. The latter stems from the fact the people who write for GURPS actually have degrees in what they're writing about. Most of them are also old hands, having written rpg books for decades (not just for SJG). So yeah, for many rpg subjects, GURPS is an authority.

>High Fantasy
Almost nailed it.

Yes. "King of the jews" notwithstanding, Jesus and his crew were dirt poor. You'd better believe the Duke of York isn't going to turn on the King of England for the annual income of a modest tradesman.

Conan is high fantasy.

I'll let you in on a secret: you can absolutely have both in the one setting. Sometimes the game of the day is about settling inheritance issues among a couple of noble families or finding a bookseller who'll bind your occult texts without outing you as a heretic, other days you're hunting down griffons for spell components and acting as a go-between for negotiations between the fairy courts of night and day.

Arguing over definitions is pointless because when people start using a word wrong, it is corrupted forever and starts to truly mean its incorrect definition unless you jump on the defilers right away and execute them in the court of public opinion.

For example, the word "literally" now officially also means "figuratively"

For a more niche example "Roguelike" a word that used to mean a close derivation of a genre and style of the game Rogue and successors, now means "anything with a lazy attempt at procedural generation and permadeath".

Does it matter that the marketeers were completely wrong when they misused "Roguelike"?

Does it matter that teenage white girls were absolutely, hilariously wrong when they misused the word "literally"?


According to the insufferable faggots who defend the new definitions, all that matters is that people understand what you mean when you say it.

Prior to looking at this thread, when someone said to me "I want to run a low fantasy setting" that meant to me that there was little magic, the lowly Sword +1 was a rare and amazing thing that had a full name and proud history, and therefore it was more realistic and gritty and closer representative of middle ages.

So if that's not what the term is supposed to mean, I am sorry to say but I think you're fucked and as a Roguelike fan, believe me it never gets any easier to hear people mangle your word, particularly when you start getting people who don't even know the original meaning at all and act like YOU'RE the one who is wrong. The worst feeling of all is realizing those retarded newbies are actually right...

high fantasy is when the fate of the world is at stake and the characters journey is to save it. In low fantasy the characters journey is more personal and doesn't affect the fate of the world

If an entire street believes something wrong, it's still wrong.

Literally does not mean figuratively, you are a retard and a pedophile if you think otherwise.

You see, in a perfect world, you'd be right.

But this isn't a perfect world, and as such you are wrong and this is the definition of "literally"

And you can yell and scream about how literally, almost by definition, doesn't mean figuratively. And at the end of the day, you'd be wrong. And that, my friend, was my point.

Believe me it makes me mad too. But no amount of screaming and ranting will ever unrape the word "roguelike".

>king of dragon's pass
brb, gonna reinstall it.

thank goodness they patched it and put it on steam, it works perfectly

Except that, in this case, their definitions do not fit the same definitions that are used for literary works. Maybe high and low fantasy mean "lots of magic" and "not so much magic" in RPG terms, but when judging something that isn't a tabletop RPG, those terms mean something entirely different.

Frankly, they strike me as a bunch of incompetents muddling the meaning of terms explicitly used to define genre fiction, and misapplying them to PnP roleplaying games.

> those retarded newbies are actually right...
No they're wrong because their definition fails on a fundamental level; it fails to be a useful definition. You can't easily organize books or settings based Low and High Magic, that is too subjective.

In the end, really, this isn't redefinition of the terms "low and high fantasy" but a story on how little rpg players know about genres. Because outside of communities of rpg players, the definition is pretty clear and has been so decades.

The traditional rpg definition on differs from the literary one in that it simplifies the distinction; realism vs myth. In the literary definition, its much more about how similar the fantasy world is to our own and how emphasized traditional fantasy elements are. Which roughly boils down to the same thing but with one difference; the rpg definition says mythic stories in our own world are high fantasy.

Of course, both the literary and rpg definitions are not perfect; both high and low fantasy diverged into multiple subgenres long ago. And some sub-genres like Dark Fantasy and Sword and Sorcery use elements from both quite readily.

Find a teacher, professor, editor, or boss that will accept the new definitions. Few to none will. Slang comes and goes but formal language survives because it is useful especially when communicating across cultural and generational boundaries.

Actually their definitions boil down to the same thing with a few exceptions. You would expect this given writing a novel and rpg setting are very different tasks.

>Frankly, they strike me as a bunch of incompetents muddling the meaning of terms explicitly used to define genre fiction, and misapplying them to PnP roleplaying games.

Wow, aren't you full of yourself. Please, post your qualifications so we may judge your definition of competent. Make sure to wipe the shit off of them because surely you're going to pull them out of your ass.

>appeal to authority
>ad hominem

GURPsfags everyone.

i thought high fantasy was more JRR Tolkien and the like while low fantasy would be something like Robert Howard

Or High Fantasy more magic and fantastic stuff while Low Fantasy is more grounded in reality with magic being either rare or low key/difficult -so High would have wizards, elves, demons, and dragons going right, left and centre while in Low they'd be rare or unique

I think its more that magic is leaving/leaking away from the Land making everything more mundane