Wednesday, 26 August 2015

#RPGaDay 2015: Day 26 - Take a Look Around

Prompt: Favourite inspiration for your game

In a word, everything. Literally anything can be a source of inspiration: fairy tales, other people's fiction, anthropology, folklore, history, oh my, history.

Not to be a broken record, but you'll find better words on using the real world and history as inspiration on James Holloway's video for today and the same Ken Hite interview I linked yesterday. In particular, James talks about the denseness of stuff that only comes from reality, and Hite about exploiting the alternate history fictioneer's greatest natural resource, the instinctive human propensity for pattern recognition, the faculty that lets us see a man in the moon, gods in rock formations, and Illuminati in the White House.

As a specific aside, I submitted an entry to the RPG Geek GUMSHOE One-Sheet contest that was inspired by the real world and which really exemplifies the sort of thing Hite discussed in the interview. I started with the Pech Merle caves in France, which are full of monstrous - eerily Cthuloid - paintings and rock formations, and as I was writing it discovered that a) Pech Merle is down the road from the 'Chateau du Diablo', and b) the timing of the discovery and excavation of the caves matched almost perfectly with the dates for events in 'The Call of Cthulhu'.

Anyway, as stealing from real life has been done, I'm going to talk about stealing other people's fictional ideas instead. It's a cheap trick - although sometimes a profitable Dan Brown - but so long as I'm just writing stuff for me and my friends to enjoy, I don't feel any real shame in giving my Geist game a creepy fenland district that mashes up Silent Hill, Ravensholm from Half Life 2 and a creepy fenland village from James Holloway's Unknown Armies game. If I were writing it as a novel I intended to publish I imagine I would be rather more coy, but these are games and not for publication.

Did I say Dan Brown*? I meant 'practice'.

I do feel that it behooves me to make enough changes that the original is hard to discern. It's one thing for someone to look back and be all 'oh; like in...', but if they're thinking that from the get go, then they're more likely to be thinking about the original than your version while they approach that plot and at that point you might as well just sit down and watch the movie, because easily recognisable borrowings never come on their own. You can't take one thing and leave the rest; once identified it brings with it a lot of other expectations, themes and atmosphere. If you have a blue guy who teleports, you'd better be prepared for your players to expect the X-Men and to act accordingly. If on the other hand you borrow the Quartet for the Dusk of Man from Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slicked Precipice of Darkness, change the words and scribble down your own cosmology and god names, you've basically just got a moody piece of verse to pass down and the loose framework for a game, and the players probably won't be anticipating fruit fuckers or Gabe showing up to punch a god in the face.

And again, while it would be cheeky to use that plot and that altered verse in something I was publishing for money, I don't feel too bad using it to entertain my friends for a few evenings a month.

Tomorrow is day 27 and mutant hybrid games. See you then.

* The irony is that the fiction he cribs from tends to be derived from the methods employed by Holloway and Hite. There's that pattern matching again.