Cultural influences in roleplaying

Reflecting on four decades of roleplaying I've been thinking recently about the things in the background which shaped my early gaming experiences, forged strong groups and broke weaker ones, informed our aesthetic, demanded our attention.

Because the best groups I've been part of have always shared a lot of cultural influences, and it's interesting to think about how they've shaped what I choose to run and how friends and I chose to play.

Comics in early 80s Britain meant 2000AD. I barely knew anyone that wasn't at least familiar with it. Many of the characters, as well as the alumni earning their stripes on the comic, are now famous. But at the time 2000AD was a bit edgy, a bit loud and aggressive and punk, a bit subversive. Judge Dredd was often a satire on the authoritarian leanings of the UKs conservative government. Nemesis the Warlock was fighting space fascism. ABC Warriors, Strontium Dog. These were not shiny happy people. These were outsiders, misfits and wierdos trying to find their way in dystopian societies.

A bit later we got V for Vendetta and Watchmen by Alan Moore, Doom Patrol from Grant Morrison. Again, these were not stories about your friendly neighbourhood superhero. These were stories about morally ambiguous people making the best of dubious, or downright terrible, situations. Required reading might also include Cerebus the Aardvark, Love & Rockets, Swamp Thing, Flaming Carrot.

Musically, this was all reinforced by a lot of punk, post-punk and early grunge - Clash, Bowie, Stranglers, Mudhoney, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Pixies. Major film influences amongst my group included Blade Runner, The Terminator, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Predator, Alien, Aliens, Platoon, The Deer Hunter, The Godfather, Reservoir Dogs, Akira. The films of Mike Leigh - in particular Life is Sweet and Naked - were admired.

What came out of our gaming as a result was, of course, limited by the RPG tech we had available. In fantasy, it needed to be low magic, high lethality, gritty, grungy and streetwise. We found systems which made that easy - Runequest & 1st edition WHFRP. There was a lot of low-level play in threatening situations, whether that was Pavis or Sartar or an unnamed village, where we rolled up commoners with spears and fryings pans, beset by zombies.

We played open-ended 'stay alive' type sandboxes using Twilight 2000, or Aftermath, or Pheonix Command, heavily influenced by Vietnam movies. Sometimes you'd create a character and then roll 2d6 to see how many rounds you had left for your main weapon, and go from there. You weren't any kind of hero - you were a grunt with a rifle, a few rounds, a few buddies and a bad attitude.

Vampire proved popular, partly because it jived with a lot of our shared music, film and clubland experiences - and in particular because the subject matter was morally ambiguous people making the best of dubious situations. The fact it was entirely GM led wasn't ideal, although that did at least make it relaxing to play with a beer and a smoke.

It's interesting to note that fast forwarding a couple of decades and Apocalypse World has been the best game for us for a long time - again a game of morally ambiguous people facing crises situations, although this time far more player-driven.

I think that gives enough flavour to be going on with. So the question is what are your artistic and cultural influences from film, music, art and comics, and what themes and patterns from them have you noticed in your roleplaying?
 
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payn

Legend
I've been moving out of the dungeon since I was a teen. I lean heavy on political intrigue and faction play. I want an interesting world to interact with and make a difference. For less modern takes, I look at Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, The Expanse as examples of great factions and political intrigue. For fantasy, I lean more towards Birthright setting and Game of Thrones takes where you are trying to climb the ladder of chaos.

I do hear you on morally ambiguous characters. Sometimes that can be a drag though when folks are just awful people and there is no silver lining. Though, I did have a blast turning monster of the week into a Fargo like experience. A lot depends on the group you are with. A GM that can set the stage for a great story, and players that can sow that into great instead of ok. I always want to have a John Le Carre experience, but often end up with Ian Flemming and thats ok.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I feel as though I am a good deal less interesting than you are. Not only was I a pretty stereotypical 1980s-vintage nerd, but I grew up in a pretty stereotypical 1980s American suburb, and while I did read some Fantasy in high school it was mostly the typical-ish stuff for the time (Eddings and Kurtz and Donaldson) and while I did enjoy some of that it was really King (and Straub and Bradbury and Poe) that I fell harder for.

Comics and TV and movies were always ... things I knew a little about--more as I started to hang out with other nerds, later--but they were always things my parents kept a tight eye on; they let me read pretty much whatever (not-comics) I wanted to. So I read a fair amount of other fiction, and some non-fiction.

I wasn't ever drawn to Vampire or the related games, because looking through the player-facing material it was always clear to me that the PCs were going to be tools and agents and emphatically subjects of greater powers and weren't really going to be in charge of their own stories. I didn't have the knowledge and/or vocabulary then to put it that way, or to figure out what the locus of non-appeal was, but I think that was about right.

Thinking about your ending question some--presuming it is the point of your post--I gotta say there are remarkably few influences--consistently so--from authored fiction in the play I've most enjoyed. I get and appreciate and enjoy moral ambiguity, unreliable narrators, antiheroes, and all that stuff--in authored fiction; I don't care much for it in TRPGs, though. Thinking further, it's clear that things in TRPGs that lead to or point at no-win situations ... frustrate me, which turns into anger, which makes me more likely to tip into depression. Why I do not react so to them in authored fiction is probably a thing I could do with thinking about--but it's arguably beyond the scope of what belongs here.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
In thinking about it, I don't feel there's a clear and direct connection between my media consumption and my gaming. There is no obvious "I like films with these genres, or those kinds of heroes, so those are the games I play."

But then, my media tastes are pretty broad. It is hard for me to nail down any specific elements that are "my thing" so to speak.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Here are a few that I can think of off the top of my head that have informed my gaming at different points, and mostly continue to do so.

  • Uncanny X-Men- particularly the Claremont years- a great blend of action and soap opera style drama
  • Lonesome Dove- when I need a pair of NPCs, you can't go wrong with using Call and McCrae, one all cold logic and the other all fiery emotion, as inspirations- also their trip from Texas to Montana and all the adventures they get into along the way, as well as themes of age and friendship and love are all great to draw upon
  • Deadwood- whenever I need a town, I think Deadwood always informs the place and its inhabitants in some way- either the location or the vibe or the inhabitants as NPCs- there's almost always a piece of it in my games ever since it first came out
  • Stephen King- absolutely lean on his works for inspiration on NPCs- thinking of a specific character from one of his books can help me formulate how I want to play a character, whether an NPC or a PC- so when I think "this guy's like Stu Redman" it really helps guide me in depicting them
  • Aliens- the first and second movie, particularly the second, were huge influences on us- just the vibe, the isolated setting, the dwindling hope, the conflict within the group, the different goals or "sub-missions" that come up- this was and remains a huge touchstone for our group

And I can also think of one that was big for my group because of its relevance at the time that we all first got together:

- Chronicles by Weis and Hickman

That one holds a different place for us in that it was certainly formative of our early gaming- I mean it was literally a shift along the lines of "look what you can do with D&D" and we responded to that- but over time it's become something more that we want to avoid- not so much the tropey characters and interpersonal drama, but the predefined plot that went along with them

There are others, for sure, but those all came to mind immediately.
 

Aldarc

Legend
So the question is what are your artistic and cultural influences from film, music, art and comics,
  • '80s Science-Fantasy: Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, Visionaries, Thundarr, Star Wars, Nausicaa, etc.
  • Video/Computer Games: Blizzard (Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft), Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Legend of Zelda, Guild Wars 1 & 2, JRPGs
  • Anime: Vision of Escaflowne, Record of Lodoss War, Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa, Berserk, Twelve Kingdoms
  • Speculative Fiction Novels: Elric of Melniboné and the Moorcock Multiverse, The Silmarillion, Earthsea, Dune, Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Chronicles of Prydain, Lies of Locke Lamora
  • Other Fantasy: The Dark Crystal, Pirates of Dark Water

and what themes and patterns from them have you noticed in your roleplaying?
A handful that come to mind:
  • Ecology and the Land
  • Chaoskampf
  • High Seas Adventure
  • Hearth Fantasy
  • Strange, Alien Worlds
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Back when my gaming group and I were kids, we were definitely a mixed bunch. Everyone contributed something to our hodgepodge of games.
We had one person with a fixation on Vietnam and the military - that brought Recon into the mix as well as influenced his character gen choices in Villains and Vigilantes.
We had another who favored anime and got into Cyberpunk relatively early - that brought Robotech, Cyberpunk 2013, and Mekton to us.
We were all into superheroes so we dabbled in Champions and played Villains and Vigilantes extensively. I ran a lot of that one and also followed the Elementals comics as well as the various X-books, both of which influenced how I ran the game.
One of our primary DMs was a HUGE fan of Conan so his campaign was full of lust, violence, decadent empires, and corrupt nobility.
I was a big fan of the Thieves World anthology so I liked to focus on relatively mundane if squalid settings where magic wasn't necessarily rare, but it wasn't everywhere and it tended to be mysterious and dangerous.

These days a big influence is Critical Role - not necessarily for the stories or style of the stories, but for doing a stronger job of portraying our characters and their priorities/foibles and working them into the story of the campaign.
 

We had another who favored anime and got into Cyberpunk relatively early - that brought Robotech, Cyberpunk 2013, and Mekton to us.
I forgot to mention cyberpunk - but it also chimed with a lot of my group. I did include Blade Runner and Akira as films in the OP, but the Sprawl trilogy by Gibson was a major influence on myself and several friends, and the cyberpunk attitude fit with the general ethos of politically subversive, brash, punk outsiders that informed a lot of our gaming. The original Talsorian Games Cyberpunk was, in my recollection, nicely written but quite poorly designed. We found enjoyment in it nonetheless.
 
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hawkeyefan

Legend
Giving this a little more thouht....

I think the moral ambiguity thing is something that was there with us in our earliest games... like we were more mercenaries than heroes, though we did wind up being the "good guys" more often than not. But still... fortune and glory were the goals (which also reminds me of Indiana Jones as a big influence).

Conan the Barbarian also huge for our group. Selfish mercenary types who happen to be up against something far worse. That was a common element early on.

Then Chronicles kind of shifted things to the bad of reluctant heroes who wind up being the only hope. Which suited us at the time.

Then after that for a few years, the moral ambiguity began to kind of make it's way back in. Not outright villainy or anything, but just less "we're going to save the world" stuff and more focused on smaller goals. Personal goals. I think that's been a key element as we've continued playing over the years.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Conan the Barbarian, He-Man and MotU, Mighty Mightor, The Smurfs
Star Wars, Krull, Clash of the Titans, Grizzly Adams, Beastmaster, Disney, The Dark Crystal, Dragonheart, Shoguns Executioner, Yellowbeard, The Corsican Brothers…
 


Thomas Shey

Legend
Its really hard to say exactly which cultural influences set my expectations, because I'm kind of a cultural vacuum (though with a nerdy bias), and grew up in the 60's. Can't say I lean much into the genuinely dark, though I can appreciate good people trying to do their best in a bad situation, and flawed people who listen to their better angels when it really matters.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Reflecting on what I’ve run over the years, I think there’s a through line of cynicism. I’m not a big fan of heroes or presuming that the PCs are necessarily the good guys. In my first D&D campaign, I played with and subverted alignment at times because I thought the way my first group handled it was silly. Follow up campaigns naturally featured unscrupulous adventurers guilds and the like. I think I’ve mellowed out a bit on that as I’ve gotten older, but there are still elements of that reflected in the setting of my homebrew system.

My homebrew system’s setting has gone through several iterations (and will probably go through one more). One aspect of influence is D&D itself. I don’t like the humanocentric aspect that’s assumed (particularly in older D&D), and so my setting started from an explicit rejection of that. There are still humans (called yuma to avoid clashes with tags in PF2), but they’re meant to be just another kind of monster.

JRPGs are a big influence, and Final Fantasy XIV in particular. I really like the idea of fantasy as pastiche rather than presuming the setting must be medieval (also some fantasy anime here). There are also a handful of kemonomimi ancestries entirely because they’re there in FFXIV. If you were to ask me what the aesthetic I have in mind, it’s definitely JRPGs like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. In particular, Juhyeong Kim’s Final Fantasy commisions.

Literature has had a more subtle influence. I really like how Sanderson does magic in the Cosmere. In particular, I liked his commentary in Warbreaker where he discussed how certain scenes played out a certain way because that’s what the magic system implied. I’d like to call my setting hard sci-fi because I try to build from the implications, but I’ve not done the math beyond trying to determine how big the disk would need to be.

Speaking of disks, the system is set on an Alderson disk traveling at relativistic speeds where the universe has died, but that information has not caught up with the disk completely yet (but the stars are gone, so it’s only a matter of time). This idea of exploring life after the universe has died comes from from The World at the End of Time by Frederik Pohl, but there’s also some vance. I probably need to do another iteration of the setting to make sure the implications are properly foregrounded.

I also use Richard Joyce’s ideas on fictionalism to explain how clerics can cast spells in a setting where the deities don’t exist (and entities that do exist that are worshiped don’t actually grant spells). Even if they know the truth of the setting, as long as clerics behave as if their (false) beliefs were true, they can continue using their magic. I’ll also add another game influence: clerics are portrayed more like watchdogs from Dogs in the Vineyard. I find that provides for more interesting potential than the typical treatment of clerics in popular fantasy RPGs.

Actually, DitV influenced some of the dice mechanics too. It’s a bit silly, but somehow “large and high quality” became a meme in my group. In DitV, your things have better dice if they’re big or excellent. I’m not even sure how it turned into “large and high quality” …. Anyway, when you give up something in my system to improve your odds, you make the roll at +1d6. You can gain additional dice if it’s large (+1d6), high quality (+1d6), or both (+2d6). 😅
 

payn

Legend
I have a love for duplicitous characters, but find they are too difficult to play. However, they are very easy to play as a GM. So, I try and get that out of my system when I am running a game.

Some of my influences are;
  • Little Finger - GoT
  • Tony Soprano - The Sopranos
  • Elam Garrik - DS9
  • Alfred Bester - B5
  • Claes Ashford - The Expanse
  • Long John Silver - Black Sails
  • Chuck Rhoades - Billions
  • Mickey Donovan - Ray Donovan
 

Teo Twawki

Coffee ruminator
I grew up (ages 10-17) as a Southern Slav foreigner in Soviet Poland.

The biggest culture influence on my gaming is the eternal battle of authenticity over artifice. And characters who, in modern settings at least, invariably don't trust talking about anything secret while inside any building or vehicles or even SCIFs because someone may be recording. In Soviet Poland, some walls really did have ears... as opposed to, say, John Prine's delightful paranoia over the ways and means of his "Illegal Smile".

Although some things always rise above others (Pat Cadigan's short story "The Power and The Passion" indelibly shaped our Delta Green universe), as a photographer, writer, and artist--if not just as invested gamer--literally nothing is without its influence. I am an ideological omnivore. Gluttonous in that respect, too.
 

pemerton

Legend
So the question is what are your artistic and cultural influences from film, music, art and comics, and what themes and patterns from them have you noticed in your roleplaying?
Interesting question!

I think one of the biggest influences, for me, would be Claremont X-Man. It's my ideal of reconciling team-oriented character expression and development with fisticuffs as the main domain of action. It also has wild supernatural (sorry - super-scientific) phenomena, dangerous places (I know Madripoor better than I know Lankhmar), and personalities (= NPCs) that can turn on a dime as needed to drive the action.

When I RPG it's mostly fantasy (with a bit of MHRP and Traveller in recent years). My fantasy tropes come from D&D itself (Gygax's AD&D, and to a lesser extent 4e), from REH's Conan and Kull (and also the 70s and 80s comic versions of these), from Earthsea, from JRRT, and from film: Excalibur, and a host of 90s-ish Wuxia films with Ashes of Time and Hero as my peak for bitter-romantic and redemptive-romantic fantasy respectively. I like to incorporate these tropes into my RPGing, and sometimes succeed. They've vulnerable to being steamrolled by the Claremont X-Man vibe.

I don't think of music as having influenced my RPGing that much - my identity-forming artists included The Church, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, The Smiths and Depeche Mode, but while I might think of Under the Milky Way or Metropolis while putting together a scenario, the only time I can think of actually using a song to inspire a RPG idea was Dylan's Isis, and especially the line "We came to the pyramids, all embedded in ice": I've used pyramids embedded in ice twice. In Rolemaster it was a bit of a fizzer for various reasons, but in Classic Traveller it was a lot of fun.

I also love Wagner's Ring Cycle, including the key conceit that Wotan can only resolve his predicament by way of a hero who does what he (Wotan) wishes but is entirely free, and in no sense Wotan's agent. (One could see this as a curious intersection of REH's and JRRT's conceptions of their respective heroes.) This idea has informed my thinking about the PCs and cosmology in two campaigns: a different RM one, and 4e D&D.

The other thing that affects my RPGing is my interest (both personal and professional) in history, sociology, politics, philosophy, etc. When I was a younger GM and still under the spell of worldbuilding, I would conceive of histories and religious movements and theologies that reconciled published material that I liked (GH, OA) with real-world philosophical and historical tendencies. Today I tend to treat these things as a well to draw from for images, tropes, vignettes, and possibilities. I like to think that I've become intellectually more mature!
 

Oh damn I thought of another big one. The Wire. Especially useful for stuff related to crime and/or law enforcement.

I love The Wire. Stunning characters, great integrity and observations in the writing, wonderful and subtle performances. But I think I'm the only one in my group who is (was) into it, so there wasn't that shared overlap with friends. And it's almost too good, too sophisticated, to aim for in an RPG! So in that sense we used Firefly more as a template - nowhere near as great as a show (in my opinion), but a viable template for 'troupe' type play and something everyone had seen.

The OP was particularly around formative influences as well - it's not comprehensive and there was a lot of stuff I was individually into - but I was trying to think about shared music, film, graphic novels - and the attitudes in them - that helped glue my groups together. For me the timescale was a time between, say, 1982 and 1992, although it's purely illustrative to get to the question.
 

pemerton

Legend
The OP was particularly around formative influences as well - it's not comprehensive and there was a lot of stuff I was individually into - but I was trying to think about shared music, film, graphic novels - and the attitudes in them - that helped glue my groups together. For me the timescale was a time between, say, 1982 and 1992, although it's purely illustrative to get to the question.
When I think about it this way, what did we have in common? We'd all watched The Goodies, Kenny Everett's Video Show, the Young Ones and Black Adder. And had read LotR. Beyond that we were a bit more diverse - mostly science/tech guys, but one a nerd, one a musician, one a hiker who now lives in Alaska and runs marathons and does volunteer snow rescue. And me, the perennial GM and only humanities-oriented guy.

I love The Wire. Stunning characters, great integrity and observations in the writing, wonderful and subtle performances. But I think I'm the only one in my group who is (was) into it, so there wasn't that shared overlap with friends. And it's almost too good, too sophisticated, to aim for in an RPG! So in that sense we used Firefly more as a template - nowhere near as great as a show (in my opinion), but a viable template for 'troupe' type play and something everyone had seen.
I really like this point.

The group I play with now - a successor to my university club group from 30 years ago - has as its mainstays me (humanities/social science academic), another humanities/social science academic, a financial adviser/fund manager, and a labourer. From time to time there are also two IT guys. We've all got work, families, even other hobbies! There's a limit to how much artistic ambition we're going to pull off every second or third Sunday afternoon.
 

  • '80s Science-Fantasy: Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, Visionaries, Thundarr, Star Wars, Nausicaa, etc.
  • Video/Computer Games: Blizzard (Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft), Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Legend of Zelda, Guild Wars 1 & 2, JRPGs
  • Anime: Vision of Escaflowne, Record of Lodoss War, Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa, Berserk, Twelve Kingdoms
  • Speculative Fiction Novels: Elric of Melniboné and the Moorcock Multiverse, The Silmarillion, Earthsea, Dune, Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Chronicles of Prydain, Lies of Locke Lamora
  • Other Fantasy: The Dark Crystal, Pirates of Dark Water

I found this list interesting, both its inclusions (computer games) and omissions (music, graphic novels). I don't know much of what's here - certainly none of the Anime. Would you care to unpick how these interact together to lead to your themes? I'm not even sure I understand ChaosKampf as a concept!
 

Aldarc

Legend
I found this list interesting, both its inclusions (computer games) and omissions (music, graphic novels).
I listen to a lot of music, but I'm not sure if I could diagnose how my musical tastes have influenced my gaming. In terms of graphic novels or manga, that would also include Berserk and Nausicaa. I do enjoy superhero comics and other media, but I do not find myself looking back at them for inspiration. And at times as of late, I feel so supersaturated by superhero media that I don't really feel inspired them. Instead, it's an almost claustrophobic feeling.

I don't know much of what's here - certainly none of the Anime.
  • Vision of Escaflowne: Romantic Fantasy and Planetary Romance where a girl gets taken to a magical world with steampunk mechas and New Age mysticism (e.g., tarot cards, fortune/destiny/fate, crystals, alchemy, etc.).
  • Twelve Kingdoms: Also Romantic Fantasy with a girl who finds herself in a fantasy world inspired by China where the socio-political metaphysics of the "will of the heavens" is real, immortal nobles and bureaucrats, talking beasts/monsters, and "unicorns" who pick monarchs.
  • Record of Lodoss War: It's D&D or Sword to be more precise. Strong Dragonlance influences here.
  • Berserk: Dark, graphic European Medieval fantasy. More in the vein of Zweihänder and Shadow of the Demon Lord.
  • Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa: Studio Ghibli films. The former involves a cursed exiled prince who finds himself in the middle of a conflict between the forest gods/spirits (and the titular girl who was raised by wolves) and a human town that mines and produces steel. The latter is a post-apocalyptic world of ruined nuclear mechanized giants, poisoned forests, and gigantic bugs inspired by the art of Moebius.*

* Moebius was also a Miyazaki fan, and he even named his daughter Nausicaa.

I'm not even sure I understand ChaosKampf as a concept!
Essentially "Order vs. Chaos." The concept refers to a motif found in a number of ancient religions and mythologies, particularly the Ancient Near East and even Indo-European cultures, that essentially involves gods representing order defeating forces of chaos, often preceding the creation or ordering of the world: e.g., Olympians defeating the Titans, Marduk defeating Tiamat, Baal defeating Yam, Horus vs. Set, etc. Chaoskampf is also an incredibly common motif in Biblical literature, where it is at times subverted (e.g., a non-violent creation and ordering of primordial chaos by the deity in Genesis 1).

The Chaoskampf motif is a massive component of the 4e World Axis framework: i.e., the Dawn War between the Gods and the Primordials. This is also exemplarly in 4e's use of alignment, which sees moral goodness as a something that promotes or leads to order in creation (i.e., Lawful Good) and moral wickedness as something that corrupts and degrades creation towards chaos (i.e., Chaotic Evil).

Would you care to unpick how these interact together to lead to your themes?
It might take awhile to unpack these influences. In some cases, the themes are an underlying part of my influences. In other cases, these works have drawn me towards certain RPGs or even the sort of characters I like to make. I will unpack one theme for now: Ecology and the Land.

In hindsight, there was something of an ecological motif in a lot of influential media for me, but also as a kid I also consumed A LOT of information about biology, zoology, ecology, paleontology, etc. I loved looking through illustrations that depicted how all these different prehistoric animals looked. I loved nature documentaries. So I suspect that my brain was pretty receptive to both weird, alien worlds with strange beasts (e.g., Pirates of Dark Water, Dark Crystal, Nausicaa, etc.) as well as works that had strong ecological themes.

In the Pirates of Dark Water, the alien world of Mer is being devoured by the Dark Water (or rather, the Dark Dweller). It was a pretty transparent narrative about pollution and global warming, but with high seas adventure.

Likewise, the land and world is out of balance in the Dark Crystal, and the land itself is something of a character in its own right. Tons of strange creatures and plants, the Skeksis and ur-Ru, gelflings, etc. This ecological gets picked up and expanded greatly in the recent prequel series Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. The imbalance in the Dark Crystal is more Daoist, with the land manifesting signs of that cosmic imbalance, but in DC:AoR, it's more ecological and clearly about global warming. Emperor SkekSo, as we find out, is even a public denier of "the Darkening," but who secretly not only knows about it, but is directly contributing to it.

Likewise, the world is out-of-balance in Earthsea, mainly in The Farthest Shore. In the case of Earthsea there is also an explictly Daoist element to Ursula K. LeGuin's works. Magic is something that is meant to be in accordance with the world, but we also find out that the world is fundamentally out-of-balance because human wizards feared death so much that they literally created an artificial place to go when they die: i.e., the Dry Land.

There is also a strong ecological component to both Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa. And in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, fantasy world of "the Land" is a basically one giant metaphor for a living body dealing with cancer, with magic being a natural part of the Land.
 

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