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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 77 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: What is a Fantasy Heartbreaker?  (Read 32613 times)
diadochi
Member

Posts: 14


« on: November 26, 2005, 07:53:04 PM »

Hi,

I'm new to the forge and wonder if someone could explain what a Fantasy Heartbreaker is? I've tried to find out for myself, but am confused. I'm not sure if it is a derogatory label stuck to traditional fantasy RPGs or has a more technical meaning? Please enlighten.....

Dave
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Trevis Martin
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Posts: 499


« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2005, 08:06:29 PM »

Hi Dave,

Specifically from the privisional glossery in the articles section.

Quote
Fantasy Heartbreaker
A published role-playing game which retains specific aesthetic assumptions from pre-3rd edition versions of Dungeons & Dragons. See Fantasy Heartbreakers and More Fantasy Heartbreakers.

The other thing to read would be the two articles about it.† Fantasy Heartbreakers and More Fantasy Heartbreakers† To see how the term should be used, or at least what is meant by it around here.† It gets bandied about rpg net and sometimes here with alarming frequency and uncertain definition.

best

Trevis
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2005, 08:35:48 PM »

Hello,

I invented the term, in those two articles. It is not derogatory.

Best,
Ron
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diadochi
Member

Posts: 14


« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2005, 06:20:52 AM »

Hi Ron,

I've just read your article More Fantasy Heartbreakers, and two questions came to mind. These are honest questions, I'm not meaning to be sarcastic.

I understand the Fantasy bit, but why were the old RPGS "heartbreakers"? They didn't break my heart.

Are you saying people shouldn't try to write any more Fantasy Heartbreakers? My only problem with this is people are by their nature creative, and saying don't create another DnD is like saying don't write any more pop songs or don't start another chain of burger bars.

David
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timfire
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« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2005, 07:11:58 AM »

As far as the definition goes, while Ron originally intended the term to refer only to DnD-related games, the term "heartbreaker" has broadened to include a number of "genres". For example, in the last couple of years a few "WoD-heartbreakers" have been released. The hobby has also seen a number of "Sci-Fi (Traveller) heartbreakers". All other aspects of the definition (labor of love, some good/bad, etc.) still apply to these non-fantasy heartbreakers.

While historically the fantasy-heartbreaker is most common, we see them much less often today, as the OGL/d20 licence diverts many would-be heartbreakers into d20 supplements. But you can still find one every now and again. While I am not an expert, it seems to me that WoD/White Wolf-inspired heartbreakers are on the rise.

Why shouldn't we make heartbreakers? The thing to remember is that a true heartbreaker always has at least one "gem", but that gem gets buried in a muck of assumptions. These assumptions include what a role-playing "is" (a dungeon crawl, etc.), and what sort of systems must be included for a "complete" game (advancement, combat, etc.). At best, these assumptions obscure the real gem; at worst, they drown it out.

It's not that people shouldn't write more games or even more fantasy dungeon crawls. The point is people should know what the "center" of their game is, and build on that. These games could be great. But instead they try to out-DnD DnD, and I'm sorry, that ain't gonna happen. This pretty much dooms the game to commercial failure or obscurity. These designers should try to find their own niche, rather than try to take over  DnD's niche. This is why it's a "heartbreaker", not because its not-fun, but because it could be so much better and more successful.

Look at Donjon or Shadow of Yesterday as shining examples of non-heartbreaker fantasy games.
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
Rob Alexander
Member

Posts: 76


« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2005, 07:29:29 AM »

Quote
I understand the Fantasy bit, but why were the old RPGS "heartbreakers"? They didn't break my heart.

The term 'heartbreaker' refers to later games, often self-published, that broke the hearts of their creators because nobody other than the creator and his friends wanted to buy it or even play it. Why was this? Various reasons, but in part because they weren't different enough from D&D to have a niche of their own, and because they didn't respond to the two decades of innovation since D&D was released.

RuneQuest, Rolemaster etc weren't heartbreakers because they published early enough to grab some market share, and because *in their time* they had some real innovations that hadn't been seen before.

If you've only read 'More Fantasy Heartbreakers', you'll want to read the first essay as well. Ron lists a number of games that he considers heartbreakers, and identifies a lot of the things that they seem to have in common.

Quote
Are you saying people shouldn't try to write any more Fantasy Heartbreakers?

I think he's suggesting that everyone (game creators themselves and game players looking for new games) would be better off if game creators created games that weren't so derivative. After all, there's always the chance that through luck or insight they might manage something new and exciting.



yours,
rob
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Judd
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« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2005, 07:36:40 AM »

Are you saying people shouldn't try to write any more Fantasy Heartbreakers?

From the article, More Fantasy Heartbreakers by Ron Edwards:

Quote
An interesting proposal
Mike Holmes once suggested that "Everyone should write a Heartbreaker." What does he mean?

Notice, he says, "write," not "publish." The benefit, as far as I can tell, is as a form of personal therapy. People apparently have issues that arise from their play of D&D fantasy games, and from their grappling with broken Social Contracts and mismatched GNS stuff. A lot of the time, game design seems to be a form of coping with these issues. If I'm understanding Mike correctly, writing one's own Fantasy Heartbreaker constitutes working through a phase of development as a role-player - in some cases, it might remove the need to design games further, in favor of settling down actually to enjoy play, and in other cases, it might open the door to ground-up genuinely-innovative designs.


I'd re-read those articles.  They aren't slamming these games in the slightest and they are addressing them as indie RPG ancestors that should be played and thought about with their publishing lessons learned right along with the game design nuggets buried within.  These articles (like everything on this site) are often mis-quoted and abused but the truth is there is real affection and reverence at the heart of them that are often over-looked.
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diadochi
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Posts: 14


« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2005, 08:24:29 AM »

Hi all,

I've read both the articles and I thank people for their responses.

It seems to me that a heartbreaker is a term for derivative and old-fashioned.

While not Ronís intention the term does appear to be used as a put-down.

Possibly the term has some snobbery involved by those who dislike old-style games.

The term 'heartbreaker' refers to later games, often self-published, that broke the hearts of their creators because nobody other than the creator and his friends wanted to buy it or even play it. Why was this? Various reasons, but in part because they weren't different enough from D&D to have a niche of their own, and because they didn't respond to the two decades of innovation since D&D was released.

Robís statement made most sense to me, especially touching my own personal experience of trying to improve upon Runequest without abandoning all its features and finding it a struggle.

So for me, Fantasy Heartbreaker means DnD, RQ, or Rolemaster clone, with possibly a few nice ideas, but never going to go anywhere as DnD 3.5 owns the (gam-sim) fantasy slot.

David
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Judd
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« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2005, 08:44:16 AM »

It seems to me that a heartbreaker is a term for derivative and old-fashioned.

While not Ronís intention the term does appear to be used as a put-down.

Possibly the term has some snobbery involved by those who dislike old-style games.

David, I am going to disagree with you here and disagree strongly; it ain't personal, just bidness.  It seems to me that you came to these articles with a definition in mind and you mentally highlighted the sentences that backed up your thesis going in.

I didn't read a dislike of old-style games but a fascination with the process that created them.  Because what those game designers went through, many game designers here go through but those folks did their game designing in isolation.  They had no community to back them up and push them farther.  The article talks about the glimmers of brilliance in each of those games and it asks the reader to play them and write about the experience.

I don't see snobbery, I see reverence for the game designers who came before us. 

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diadochi
Member

Posts: 14


« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2005, 08:52:18 AM »

Hiya,

David, I am going to disagree with you here and disagree strongly; it ain't personal, just bidness.

Thats cool, but then I'm still no nearer to understanding what a fantasy heartbreaker is........

David
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Jasper
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« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2005, 09:37:45 AM »

The answer's right in front of you. Just ditch the derogatory part.

A heartbreaker is a game that breaks your heart. Not because it's derivative -- if it were just that, you wouldn't care about it at all, and there'd be no heartbreak. Instead, it's a game that aspired to a lot, that had some really cool ideas in it, and that you know took huge amounts of sweat and tears...and yet you see that it could have been so much more. Why? Because haggard old, derivative material snuck in without analysis and is holding the rest of the game back.  You want to say to the designer,  "If only you'd seen such-and-such a game, and seenwhat else was possible." Heartbreakers are not things we revile: theyr'e things we love, or have some feeling for, but which pain us all the same.
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
John Kim
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« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2005, 10:56:01 AM »


Look, if you're going to express judgement like this, then you have to accept actually being called on your opinions.† I would say the straight definition of "fantasy heartbreaker" itself isn't derogatory -- i.e. the three-point definition, which I reproduce in TheoryTopicsWiki: Fantasy Heartbreaker.† There are twelve games listed, and as far as I can tell from the descriptions, they fit the three-point definition Ron gives.†

However, saying that they are held back by ignorance is derogatory.† If you want to say that, have some backbone and stand by your judgement.† It is a judgement, and in your judgement the games are found wanting.† That's derogatory.† It may also be true.† I can't speak specifically, because I'm not personally familiar with any of the twelve games which Ron lists.† For example, I'll stand by my gumption and say that Decipher's Lord of the Rings RPG is a derivative, slap-dash production.† It is in some sense a heartbreaker to me because I think that there could easily have been a good LOTR game.† It has a handful of useful material in it, but for the most part I find it wanting.† The authors can and should feel derided by this.†

The point is people should know what the "center" of their game is, and build on that. These games could be great. But instead they try to out-DnD DnD, and I'm sorry, that ain't gonna happen. This pretty much dooms the game to commercial failure or obscurity. These designers should try to find their own niche, rather than try to take over† DnD's niche. This is why it's a "heartbreaker", not because its not-fun, but because it could be so much better and more successful.

Look at Donjon or Shadow of Yesterday as shining examples of non-heartbreaker fantasy games.

Well, first of all, I'll grant that these games are commercial failures in the larger sense.† However, is that really a proper criteria?† It seems quite possible to me that Darkurthe Legends sold more copies than Donjon.† Do we have any information to suggest otherwise?† It seems to me that staying relatively close to D&D may be more commercially successful than diverging too far from it.† Certainly more recent non-indie efforts like Iron Heroes and True20 have been successful, much moreso than Donjon or TSOY.†

The answer's right in front of you. Just ditch the derogatory part.

A heartbreaker is a game that breaks your heart. Not because it's derivative -- if it were just that, you wouldn't care about it at all, and there'd be no heartbreak. Instead, it's a game that aspired to a lot, that had some really cool ideas in it, and that you know took huge amounts of sweat and tears...and yet you see that it could have been so much more. Why? Because haggard old, derivative material snuck in without analysis and is holding the rest of the game back.

Well, I would certainly feel derided by someone saying this about my game.† How would you feel if someone said similar about Trials of the Grail?† The judgement might be accurate, but it is still derogatory.†

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- John
Halzebier
Member

Posts: 216


« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2005, 12:43:21 PM »

It is a judgement, and in your judgement the games are found wanting. That's derogatory.

I disagree.

The term "derogatory" implies a lack of respect, but I can find something seriously wanting and still respect it.

(I'm a teacher. In judging students' work, I find myself in that situation all the time.)

Note that this may well mean that I'm sympathizing with the author to some extent. That's still not derogatory, though.

However, an author may well resent me for it. Sometimes, you just don't want or can't bear another person's sympathy.

Regards,

Hal
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Jasper
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« Reply #13 on: November 27, 2005, 12:48:14 PM »

Heartbreaker isn't a "good" term. No one wants his game to be labeled a heartbreaker. But I think that's different from it being out and out derisive. That depends a lot on how it's used. "Dude, I wouldn't pay 10 cents for your stupid heartbreaker!" is a lot different from "This game breaks my heart. Here's why..."
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2005, 06:39:35 PM »

Hey folks,

It so happens that I cannot help it if anyone wants to interpret my term as insulting or derogatory.

I tend to agree strongly with Hal that even identifying something as fatally "wanting" is not derogatory, if the standards being used are fair and understandable.

So, I think, David, that there isn't a lot more to be said. You've read the essays, and so your initial question is answered. I have told you the term isn't an insult or a put-down - and you can also see for yourself that it is a criticizing term, identifying a problem or a trend which is a problem.

If you or Jasper can't reconcile "not insulting" and "does have a clear, understandable problem," then I'm OK with that. I don't have to convince anyone otherwise. Jasper, it really doesn't matter how the term makes you or anyone feel. That's irrelevant in every imaginable way.

John, it might be worth considering the negative-judgment side of the picture to be a personal option that someone can exercise, toward a game that falls in the Fantasy Heartbreaker category, or toward whatever else. Decipher's LOTR can't be a Fantasy Heartbreaker by definition, so we have to get hypothetical ... let's say you read and played Forge: Out of Chaos and really freakin' hated it. Maybe some of its FH features contributed to that. I wouldn't say, "Oh, John, it's a Fantasy Heartbreaker so you're not allowed to dislike it." Of course you could. But the fact you disliked it wouldn't peg it as a Fantasy Heartbreaker either.

Best,
Ron
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