Media Influences

I haven’t yet done a meme on this blog, but that’s just because there haven’t been any good RPG-related ones making the rounds while it’s been up. This changes now, with Jim_LotFP’s Media Influences (via Monsters and Manuals).

The concept is to name five influences on the campaigns and adventures that you run and to tell the how and why of it.

Babylon 5

To me, the science fiction TV series Babylon 5, created by J. Michael Straczynski, is the father of the continuous story arc. When I first watched B5 as a kid, it was pretty mind-blowing. They referred to stuff that’d happened previously in the series! Everything wasn’t reset to status quo! I know this isn’t exactly his invention, but he did popularise it in television and unlike most of the stuff that was on back then, Babylon 5 was actually good. Though B5 is largely responsible for how I think of longer campaigns, I would never write out one from start to finish unless the intention was to publish it. Player characters have a strange way of picking up on trifling things and hunting them to the ends of the earth, and of derailing the most carefully laid plots.

Ed Greenwood

Regardless of what you think of the Forgotten Realms or the Elminster novels, Greenwood is a master at world creation. While Tolkien or the game designer Greg Stolze might also be good fit, it was with Greenwood’s work that I first realised that it’s a big world and even if the characters walk off the path the DM has laid for them, they don’t run into the matte painting backdrop but into a new place, with its own adventures, peoples, cultures, languages, and local customs. Greenwood’s FR writings have always involved that sense of a living, breathing world, which I strive to bring to my games – though that’s probably as much because of FaerunMUD, which was a living, breathing world based on the Forgotten Realms. I’ve spoken of it before. It’s also a major cause for my fondness of Living Greyhawk. To me, Greenwood also taught the craft of the sandbox campaign.

H.P. Lovecraft

The neurotic pulp writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft created the Cthulhu Mythos and, some 70 years before Creative Commons licences, made it available for other writers to develop and add to, to create a large mythology of horror, of elder things that no mortal mind can comprehend, and purple prose. Thus the prevalence of tentacled, amorphous masses in our fiction. I like to trot out his stuff or stuff inspired by his stuff, regardless of the game. I’ve done it in Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play, I’ve done it in Dungeons & Dragons, I very nearly did it in Godlike. When I (rarely) run horror, I tend to take my pointers from Lovecraft, even when the party faces more traditional adversaries like vampires or werewolves.

Alan Moore

A comic book writer, and the mind behind Watchmen, From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta, among other things. Moore’s work instilled in me a fondness for Victoriana and steampunk, and his descriptions of society and politics tend to be close to how I do things. Moore is at least partially responsible for that, too. The allusion-happiness of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was also contagious, and I’ve even based a one-shot game on it (it ran off something I kitbashed from D20 Modern).

Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson is the author of Cryptonomicon, The Baroque Cycle, the cyberpunk classic Snow Crash and Hugo Award winning The Diamond Age. Though I can only wish I could craft a plot half as well as he does, his works have had a significant influence on how I write (mostly in straight-up fiction, but also in adventure modules). There’s also a similar allusion-happiness thing that Alan Moore has got, though Stephenson takes it even further, as demonstrated here.

Well, there you go.

Were I to make a longer list, it’d probably also feature J.R.R. Tolkien, Peter Jackson, China Miéville, Robert E. Howard, Iron Maiden, Teräsbetoni, the musical Les Misérables and so forth. I also realize this all makes the games I run seem far more literary than they actually are. Oh, well.

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