I’ve Got Your Science Fantasy Right Here

I was inspired to watch Ralph Bakshi’s “Wizards” for a few reasons. First, my wife and I are systematically going through some of the classic films of which she is ignorant; we’ve done “Bridge On The River Kwai”, the original “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, “The Madness of King George”, “Gandhi”, and “This Island Earth”. More to come (a viewing of “Alien” with the lights out is in the immediate future, and “Patton” is in the queue).

Second, over at Grognardia, James recently posted about science fantasy and D&D, and this struck me as quintessentially capturing that milieu. The ancient civilization of technology dimly remembered by the magical civilization now inhabiting the Earth.

A brief bit of background; I first encountered “Wizards” in college, years after I had seen Bakshi’s (IMNSHO) lame effort at “Lord of the Rings”, and I was struck by its idiosyncratic approach that seemed so much freer than that which he was forced to take with Tolkien (although– listen carefully to the voice-over on that trailer, and you’ll hear that it takes place in a “Tolkienian world”). Tolkien was never like this, unless Galadriel was half-naked with perpetual high-beams and I never noticed.


My point in bringing this up is that it is a great set-up for a science fantasy campaign, one might even say that it is quintessentially so. A nuclear war has occurred millions of years in the past, and regions of radioactivity still persist. Elves and sprites eschew now-forbidden technology, while the mutants of the wastes embrace it. Swords vs. rifles. It’s only the lack of organization and coherence of the mutants that prevents them from overrunning the “good” lands. But it’s still out there to be found, as Blackwolf finds the Nazi propaganda films and turns them to his advantage. He could easily have found a couple of hydrogen bombs; let the players deal with THAT. A stirring setting for gaming, all told, and a pretty nifty movie even now (even if the soundtrack is, to be merciful, somewhat dated).

But ye gods! Eleanor is still hawt, even 20 years later. As I kept saying to my wife at every instance of raunchiness, “It is a Ralph Bakshi movie, after all.”

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Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

4 thoughts on “I’ve Got Your Science Fantasy Right Here

  1. You’re not the only one to think so…a Wizards RPG was made in the 90s and had one or two sourcebooks on the realms of the games.

    I haven’t since the movie since I talked my father into taking me to see it when it came out…I was all of 10 or 11…

  2. Have you read Ken Scholl's new novel "Lamentation"? It explores a post-apocalyptic fantasy world concept too. Neat stuff.
    Also, the early D&D writers were never afraid to dip their fingers in this sort of thing. Check out Dave Arneson's "Temple of the Frog" in the BLACKMOOR supplement: frog men! Aliens!

  3. “They killed Fritz!”

    I saw Wizards at a very early age, and it was one of the first things outside of comics that I was a fanboy about. I was nuts for Necron-99. When I ran Gamma World in the 80’s, I was hard-pressed not to put fantasy elements into it.

    I’d have loved to have seen that RPG.

    I’m thinking of doing a Wizard’s inspired “fantasy comes back after the apocolype” game using the hero system.

    Don’t be too harsh on Bakshi’s LOTR. Clean-cut Strider, and overly retarded Samwise aside, a lot of it was a damn good attempt to adapt. A lot of it was used as a storyboard for Jackson’s first film in the trilogy.

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