Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Can We Retire 'Fantasy Heartbreaker' Now?

A friend of mine recently called a game of his a "Fantasy Heartbreaker." Having lived through the stupid rpg internet arguments of the '90, my first thought was to gripe and groan. But, I held my tongue and imagined for a moment, that after 15+ years, maybe this term had taken on a new meaning. Perhaps, like Randal in Clerks 2, we were "taking it back."

As it turns out (much like Randal in Clerks 2) we're not taking it back. It is still sprinkled with condescension, a touch of derision and just a dash of wrongheaded agenda. It is still out there in posts and discussions. Indeed, the top article in a Google search is the Wikia definition:
fantasy heartbreaker is, essentially, a Dungeons & Dragons knock-off. Ron Edwards coined the term to describe a species of games published in the RPG boom of the 1990s, long after their purported innovations could be considered original. The term usefully describes games which are mired in preconceptions arising from the D&D paradigm. A criticism of the term is that it implies dismissal of the idea you can make "D&D, but better," which might be a desirable goal for some designers.
After 15+ years, do I care anymore? Eh... obviously enough to spend 15 minutes internet ranting about it, so yeah, a little.

My issue with the term Fantasy Heartbreaker is the same issue I had the old days -- it denies one of the main joys of the hobby, which is that strong element of homebrew, do it yourself tweaking. So, it bothers me when I see someone post, "I had this game idea, but decided to scrap it because the world does not need another fantasy heartbreaker."

The only correct answer to that is "Hell yeah we need it!" Look... it's 2015. The top selling rpg of the past year was a D&D knock-off. The entire OSR movement is full of fantasy heartbreakers. Tell me exactly whose heart is being broken... by all of these games people are writing, playing, and enjoying? What used to be a crappy term has become a meaningless one. Maybe it's time to retire it?