For those of us playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons back in the early 1980s, the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks module was a big surprise. Our intrepid adventurers disovered a crashed starship and, after defeating strange monsters and robots, came out with interesting loot. During the next few adventures, it was not uncommon for a paladin to be toting a laser pistol or a fighter wearing power armor.
That notwithstanding, I’ve met many players and game masters over the years that get upset when obvious futuristic or sci-fi elements get added to fantasy campaigns. Otherworldly demons or alien Cthuloid entities are fine, but technologically-advanced aliens are taboo. For them, adding futuristic elements ruins their immersion and simply don’t belong in fantasy games.
On the other hand, I’ve met many players and game masters over the years that enjoy the occasional technological surprise added to their games. What does it matter if you’re carrying a laser pistol if the wizard’s wand of fireballs does a bit more damage? Why not have a group of Klingons that have crash-landed and are now carving out an empire in the northern wastes while the PCs receive aid from a covert Starfleet officer who’s trying to preserve the Prime Directive?
I’ve seen similar arguments in other genres. In my modern fantasy campaign, I had my occult investigators come across a possible alien encounter. When my wife offered the possibilities of the “alien’s” true nature, I offered the possibility that the “alien” actually was an alien. She laughed off the possibility as doubtful and inconsistent with the setting. I’ve also run modern detective campaigns where I know the players would get upset if the “vampire murderer” ultimately didn’t turn out to be human.
What say you? Would you add futuristic elements to your fantasy campaigns? If so, is there a line you’d draw or does anything go? Are there other campaigns or genres where you’ve debated adding a seemingly incongruent element? If you have added such elements, how well did they work?
Note: The title of this article was inspired by an installment of Aaron William’s hilarious Full Frontal Nerdity webcomic.