Cultural influences in roleplaying


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Interesting. My parents introduced my brother and I to both sci-fi and fantasy. Growing up in the 80s, it seemed like both were everywhere.

I wasn't actually much of a fantasy fan before I started playing D&D. An SF fan, yes, but if West Coast D&D fandom didn't have a fair bit of SF seeping into it, I'm not 100% sure it'd have caught me (though I was always interested in mythology and monsters, so it had that going for it).

Ah Excalibur. That soundtrack, the gleaming armor, the bombast! It wasn't until I watched it in middle school with my D&D group that I realized that the version I'd grown up watching was a TV edit. That was an eye-opener.

Obligatory mention of Boorman's Excalibur. My high school D&D group got together to watch it. Not that it actually inspired our game, which was thoroughly dungeon-crawly until I bought a few of the published modules, which landed like a wet towel with the group.
 





I love the aesthetic of The Seven Samurai, and also Yojimbo. But I don't think I've ever successfully incorporated it into RPGing.
We found this a general frustration of the era. Several of us had Bushido, by FGU, but despite its wonderfully written setting and background and evocative skill list, playing it didn't produce Kurosawa. We had Cyberpunk, but it's play didn't produce Gibson.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
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.
Now I want to write a D&D scenario based on Desolation Row.
 

MGibster

Legend
We found this a general frustration of the era. Several of us had Bushido, by FGU, but despite its wonderfully written setting and background and evocative skill list, playing it didn't produce Kurosawa. We had Cyberpunk, but it's play didn't produce Gibson.
While I played a lot of Cyberpunk back in the day, I didn't read Gibson's work until I was in my early thirties. It wasn't until then that I discovered just how different the Cyberpunk RPG was from Gibson's work. Mollie Millions hardly has any cyberware compared to what Cyberpunk characters typically possessed. But then D&D is radically different from almost any fantasy book I ever read (not counting books influenced by or set in D&D worlds).
 


aramis erak

Legend
My media influences are many and varied; there are notable gaps. Many things have had ;ittle impact, too - those are also not included
Note that I separate Disney franchises from other movies, stage, and literary works.
  • Fantasy: by franchise, unlike the rest...
    1. Watched Rankin Bass Tolkien adaptations and read Hobbit and LOTR. Tried and hated Silmarillion.
      Have since watched the PJ versions... Meh. Not a fan.
    2. Earthsea: all the novels (Tehanu was a slog), the Anime (Not good), the SyFy miniseries (which is a good set of flims, but misses/mangles all the major themes)
    3. Read a couple stormbringer novels. Played both the AH boardgame and the Chaosium RPG. Games better than novels.
    4. Watched the Conan films; Much later read the original novels. Somewhere in between read a few of the comics and one each of Carter and one other secondary author - the tones are very different in each group. I disliked the Lin Carter conan novel immensely. Had GURPS:Conan - was stolen during a move. GURPS not a good fit. Have the 2d20, but haven't run it.
    5. Monty Python - I've seen the movies and some of the series... Life of Brian and Holy Grail have influenced my fantasy gaming strongly. Meaning of Life somewhat less so, but
    6. Kipling's Jungle Book
    7. Disney's Jungle Book
    8. The Once & Future King TH White - This is very much a negative assocation for me. How not to do Fantasy.
    9. D&D - almost all editions of D&D Brand RPGs, a few novels, the Cartoon. Has affected other, non-D&D, game choices
    10. Star Wars (As much effect upon non-D&D fantasy campaigns as D&D has)
    11. L5R - I don't have 4th, but have the others... love the setting,
      hate the recent D&D 5E adaptation... totally clear the authors are not well versed in the lore of the setting.
    12. Negative association: Mountains of Madness - HP Lovecraft (I hated the writing style by page 50), A Game of Thrones GRRM (too many characters to follow).
  • Various mythology stories collections -
    1. Greek, Roman - presented as stories and as histories of their development, since age 5.
    2. Egyptian - Translations of the various pre-Christian funerary and mythological texts recovered
    3. Christian - lives of the saints, child-aimed representations of OT stories, the complete text of the Catholic canon bible, both heard and read, The Orthodox bible in English & the non-Catholic inclusions in Russian. Numerous church-composted prayers and hymns - Roman and Byzantine traditions, in English, Latin, Church Slavonic, Ukrainian.
  • Arthuriana
    1. Disney's Sword in the Stone is my first memorable Arthurian.
    2. Stage: Camelot (musical), the Princess and the Pea¹, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring Cycle by Wagner)², Tristan & Iseult
    3. Movies: Camelot (L&L - adaptation of the stage musical), Excalibur, Tristan & Isolde (2006 - widely panned, but actually quite authentic period piece - divorced of its arthurian adaptation tho'), First Knight,
    4. literature: Le Morte d'Artur (Earth 20th c Engl. Tr.), White's Once and Future King (freaking bizarrely anachronistic), The Mabinogion (Engl. Tr.)
    5. Games: King Arthur Pendragon (G. Stafford), I, Mordred (Avalanche Press), Shadows over Camelot (Days of Wonder).
    6. Notably Absent, despite availability: Prince Valiant, Mists of Avalon, Lawhead's series (student book reports scared me off)
  • Robinalia
    1. Disney's Robin Hood (1973 animated anthropomorphics) and related books
    2. Movies: Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Robin & Marion, Costner's Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, half a dozen of the B&W era Theatrical English films
    3. Non-fiction books - 4 different ones, titles unremembered, discussing the histories of the legend.
    4. Non-fiction TV - several (4 or 5) different documentaries on the legend
  • Space Opera
    1. Childhood TV, in rough order: ST:TAS, Space Academy, Jason of Star Command, ST:TOS (reruns), old BSG, IU, Buck Rogers (1979), Robotech
    2. Movies: The Black Hole, Manhunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, Buck Rogers serials, Flash Gordon serials & 1980's Movie, Enemy Mine, The Last Starfighter, Battle Beyond the Stars
    3. Novels: Cole & Bunch's Sten series, Bujold's Vorkosiverse, Anne McCaffrey's whole corpus (except Acorna - never found a copy), Armageddon 2419 (the original Buck Rogers novel), The Trigan Empire (graphic novel), Gundam Trillogy, NIven's RIngworld, Niven & Pournelle's Codominion series, Man-Kzin Wars Anthologies, John Ringo's Bubble series
    4. Games: Asimov's Star Traders (SJG), All the Traveller ones, Slag!, FGU Space Opera, Starships & Spacemen, Star Fleet Battles/Prime Directive 1E, Space 1889, Mekton series, Mechanoids Series
    5. TV (excluding franchises): Space Precinct (Gerry Anderson), Space:1999⁴,
    6. Franchises: Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5. Starship Troopers, Old BSG, Robotech, Traveller, Stargate, Battletech, WH40K, Barsoom, Firefly, Starfire, Albedo, ALIEN, Dune⁶
  • Science Fiction (excluding Space Opera) - note the heavy Cyberpunk influences
    1. Franchises: 2001 series, Planet of the Apes, Six-million Dollar Man (toys and shows), Blade Runner,
    2. Movies: A Clockwork Orange, Judge Dredd (both Stallone and Urban versipns), The Martian, The Time Machine, Disney's 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Megaforce, Robocop (1-3), Wargames, The Terminator, Tron, Total Recall
    3. Novels: Hardwired (Walter Jon Williams), Neuromancer (William Gibson), Heads, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Mark Twain), Armor (J. Steakley), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (PK Dick), Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology,
    4. TV: Twilight Zone. Hawaii Five-O³, Person of Interest. CSI, CSI:NY, CSI:M, CSILV, Dinotopia, Almost Human (US, with K. Urban).
    5. Games: Twighlight: 2000(Editions 1,2,4), Morrow Project, Cyberpunk 2013 & 2020, Shadowrun 1E, Car Wars (pre-5). GW's Judge Dredd,
    6. Notably negative: Dr Who reruns (rainbow scarf doctor era).
  • Super Heroes
    1. TV: sat morning cartoons, DC and Marvel, 1973 to about 1988. DCCU Arrow, FLash, and Legends of Tomorrow. Live Action Wonder Woman, Misfits (BBC), Six-million Dollar Man, 1960's Batman (for my, the definitive Bat), TMNT Cartoons
    2. Comics: late 1970's Green Arrow, Watchmen, X-Men, Spider Man
    3. Movies: 1970's to 2018 MCU, the DC Superman and Batman films in that same time frame. Watchmen, TMNT Movies
    4. Literature: Wild Cards anthologies to vol 5,
    5. Games: Champions, MSH/AMSH, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, Sentinel Comics, TMNT RPG (Palladium)
    6. Negative associations: Champions New Millenium. GURPS: Wild Cards, GURPS: Supers.
Again, note that a lot of sources are not listed as they weren't impactful upon my mindset and gaming, and I'm leaving out the majority of historical documentary influences - mostly because there are too many of them. (My undergrad was in History, with a focus on Russia & Russian Alaska - so there are a HUGE raft of influences just there - and I've been in the SCA most of my life, so continued historical reading & Documentary watching has been a bit of a hobby/obsession.) I've also only listed the genres in which I know I enjoy running or playing RPGs.

I hadn't realized just how focused upon Space Opera and Cyberpunk my tastes run.

Footnotes
  1. PatP isn't properly Arthurian, but it's an influence in that sphere
  2. ibid.
  3. Seriously. The original is filled with supertech. Some of which was predictive,, some still doesn't exist.
  4. While there is a franchise, I only have impacts from 1 toy (3" figure scale Eagle) and the 1st half of the first season, not the books nor other swag.
  5. Like H5O, the tech onscreen is ahead of reality throughout the franchise. Less so than H5O, mostly it's in development, but CSI:M pushes further than the others.
  6. Worth noting: I entered the Dune franchise via the AH boardgame, then read the first 80 pages of the novel, then saw the DeLaurentis/Lynch movie, then the other FH novels, then, later, the prequels and sequels. I like both movies, but not so much the SyFy miniseries, tho' I have watched it multiple times... I sold off my LUG DUNE RPG, and regret doing so... I think the 2d20 is superior, but still prefer the setting presentation of the LUG one.
 

We found this a general frustration of the era. Several of us had Bushido, by FGU, but despite its wonderfully written setting and background and evocative skill list, playing it didn't produce Kurosawa. We had Cyberpunk, but it's play didn't produce Gibson.
A game is not a book. Your DM didn't have the fine control over your characters' actions a screenwriter, director or author would. If you had fun, that's the most you can hope for. (I mean, there are cases where published replays of people's games have kicked off whole games or anime subgenres (in Japan), but we don't have that in our culture.) You got together to tell a story and have fun, and that's what you aimed for. Nobody's doing this to make art, let alone genre-defining art by a master.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
A game is not a book. Your DM didn't have the fine control over your characters' actions a screenwriter, director or author would. If you had fun, that's the most you can hope for. (I mean, there are cases where published replays of people's games have kicked off whole games or anime subgenres (in Japan), but we don't have that in our culture.) You got together to tell a story and have fun, and that's what you aimed for. Nobody's doing this to make art, let alone genre-defining art by a master.

Or a way I put it is "medium matters". Look at even the difference between movies and books.
 

pemerton

Legend
A game is not a book. Your DM didn't have the fine control over your characters' actions a screenwriter, director or author would. If you had fun, that's the most you can hope for.

<snip>

You got together to tell a story and have fun, and that's what you aimed for. Nobody's doing this to make art, let alone genre-defining art by a master.
I don't think that @chaochou is expecting replicate Kurosawa per se - see his post upthread about Firefly vs The Wire.

But that doesn't mean that we can't have RPGing that is more like Kurosawa than Bushido would be. System can do a huge amount of heavy lifting here.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Of course there are differences in medium. The experiences will be different. What makes for a good GM or a good player of a specific RPG are different qualities than what makes for the best writer or actor. That does not mean we cannot strive to experience the same sort of thematic heft or visceral emotional experiences we get from a well written novel or well performed movie. Specifically when it comes to visceral emotional experiences tabletop RPGs actually have a leg up because the characters, the setting and the situation are so intimately personally to the audience because they had a hand in their creation and we get to experience genuine tension and uncertainty in a way that a written narrative is incapable of.

It certainly does not mean that roleplaying games are incapable of things like ensemble dramas.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Of course there are differences in medium. The experiences will be different. What makes for a good GM or a good player of a specific RPG are different qualities than what makes for the best writer or actor. That does not mean we cannot strive to experience the same sort of thematic heft or visceral emotional experiences we get from a well written novel or well performed movie. Specifically when it comes to visceral emotional experiences tabletop RPGs actually have a leg up because the characters, the setting and the situation are so intimately personally to the audience because they had a hand in their creation and we get to experience genuine tension and uncertainty in a way that a written narrative is incapable of.

It certainly does not mean that roleplaying games are incapable of things like ensemble dramas.

It does, however, require everyone to be onboard producing that sort of experience, which is not true with a novel and far less true with movies or television shows. This is often why a lot of RPG campaigns don't get into these things in the same degree of intensity as the other media; because either the designers of the game assume that's more intensity than the end users will want, it is more intensity than they'll want, or both.
 

Iosue

Hero
I love the aesthetic of The Seven Samurai, and also Yojimbo. But I don't think I've ever successfully incorporated it into RPGing.
See, I find the aesthetic of Seven Samurai and Yojimbo to be completely different. If I were to put in Northrop Frye's terms, Seven Samurai is low-mimetic (heroes are not superior in degree or environment) with flashes towards high-mimesis, while Yojimbo is high-mimetic (heroes are superior in degree but not in environment) with flashes towards romance. Sanjuro is a flat out romance (heroes are superior in degree and environment).
 

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