What Is Animal Fantasy?

The annals of legend and literature are full of talking animals.  Aesop's Fables. Stone Age shamanic tales.  The Jungle Book.  Watership Down. The  Lion King.  In many such tales, animals are the human hero's companion, guardian, or mentor.  In others, they take center stage as the heroes themselves.

Some of these tales -- like Walter Wangerin Jr.s' The Book Of The Dun Cow or Tad Williams' Tailchaser's Song -- feature magic and monsters that would be familiar to any old-school gamer.  In most, however -- like the iconic Watership Down by Richard Adams, or Firebringer by David Clement-Davies -- the fantasy elements are more subtle, taking the form of visions and dreams.

The Great & Small roleplaying game seeks to capture the spirit of these grand stories, giving you rules for creating and playing animal characters in an OSR, or "old-school," style reminiscent of the first fantasy RPGs.

However, it's important to distinguish exactly what this game is about, for there are many wonderful fantasy stories with animal characters which nonetheless don't fall under the G&S definition of "animal fantasy."   Perhaps the most famous example is Brian Jacques' Redwall series, featuring anthropomorphic mice and other animals who behave more or less like humans do: constructing buildings, making complex tools, sailing ships, wielding weapons.

As wonderful as those stories are, they are not the kind of animal fantasy that Great & Small seeks to evoke.

G&S concerns itself with "real" animals as fantasy characters.  That is to say, the animal heroes of a Great & Small campaign have more or less the same anatomy and habits as their real-world counterparts.  They do not wear armor or carry swords, or walk upright.  Like the heroes of Watership Down or The Guardians Of Ga'Hoole, they would look to human eyes like typical members of their species.  Until they started talking...

That's not to say that anthropomorphic animal fantasy can't be the basis of a great RPG campaign.   It's just not what Great & Small is designed to focus on.  That's why you will not find lists of armor, equipment, and weapons in the Quick Start Rules, or in the planned expanded core rules.  The animal characters here come with built-in "equipment," in the form of their natural weaponry and abilities.

There are still rewards to be won, and benefits to be gained, in these animal quests.  But  if it's thumbs you're looking for, then stay tuned for the game stats on monkeys and apes.  Almost no one else will be in the club.

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