One of the central points of tension...okay, maybe not tension, but disagreement...that I see occasionally in the RPG hobby is the mixing of science fiction and fantasy. Is it ridiculous to mix the two? Can it make for amazing settings?
Well, obviously, the answer is YES.
There are limits, though.
A couple of years ago, Malcadon mused on the incompatibility of these styles on his EPIC FAIL! blog. (He also put forward rat-eater fiction as a general term for Mad Max-styled post-apocalyptic stories...perhaps a reference to 2019: After the Fall of New York, and a descriptor which I rather like.) Actually, what Malcadon wrote on was the incompatibility of Mad Max and Gamma World...basically that one is built on grit and the other on magic mushrooms, so mixing the two almost inevitably compromises what's great about one or the other.
Now, I am a big proponent of genre-mixing and gonzo high concepts. But the more I think about Malcodon's thesis, the more I think he might be right. There's something about those two that I just don't want to mix.
I'm not sure that it even comes down to the subject matter. I think I'd be fine with throwing orcs and elves and crazy shamans into a Mad Max-style RPG setting. Or in Mutant Future...why not have a campaign focused on scraping by and eating rats and getting fuel? I even really like stuff like The Blood of Heroes, which doesn't really fit all that neatly into either category, and After the Bomb, which packs some pretty gonzo shit into a rat-eater shell.
But in my mind, I can't help but make...or at least try to make...some sort of distinction: Is this Mad Max or Gamma World? Battletruck or Planet of the Apes? Hex or Kamandi?
Maybe it just comes down to this: When did the world blow up? Ten years ago, or a thousand years ago?
And maybe someday I'll just learn to stop worrying and love the bomb, no matter when it drops.