Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mister Rogers, Evil, and the Games of Make Believe

In a world of social media and 24-hour news cycles, it's not a surprise that the world was overwhelmed with the tragedy in Paris.  To see dozens of innocent people gunned down in cold blood, many with absolutely no chance to escape their faith,  

Everytime I see one of the  scores of "experts"  pontificate as to how this tragedy could be avoided, my eyes glaze over.  I'm not an evil person, but I'm much more interested in how much worse the terror attacks could be.

Since I'm not a member of the CIA, Al-Queda, or ISIL, I may be a game master. 

As a longtime GM with a background in history, I've spent considerable time going beyond the the flavor text and board game aspect that we all started with and more researching the "bad guys" to make them more effective than villain of week or boss monsters. 

Back during 9/11 I was stunned by the events just like everyone (15 hour days at the newspaper would guarantee it if it weren't so horrific to begin with.) By Friday, I had taken a half-day to have lunch with my friends who were still at college.  For a bitter, sarcastic bunch, they were simply abhorred by the end of the meal, as I went on a rant about how ill-thought out the attack was, the complete lack of contingencies, attacking a site on a holiday (Election Day in NYC), a devolving into a "if I were a terrorist I would do XYZ..." that involved six more conspirators, a completely different action, and would create a far greater panic in the Heartland.

Luckily I was not picked up by the FBI or other law enforcement for my rather tacky outburst, but the fact of the matter was I could think coldly and logically about such horrific things that allowed my friends to come to two conclusions:  (A) Don't make Eric angry and (B) Sometimes I may pull some punches when GMing with my friends, but most of the time, WATCH OUT!

Even the most "serious" role-players run their villains as a Scooby Doo monster of the week with some magic powers.  Heck, at best, they have the brilliance of some wild plan Cobra Commander or Skeletor devised on after-school TV, only to have it fall apart at the first glance of the heroes.   Greed and hate usually results in bank robberies and localized tragedies.  When we're playing in a world of drow elves, dragons, and liches living for for hundreds of years or more, shouldn't true evil show their faces in (horrific) competence?   Institutionalized evil is far more frightening than some raging bugbear barbarian terrorizing a hapless village.   The installed system could do far more damage to the PCs than the crazed machinations of the local doppelganger pretending to be a merchant.

Seriously guys, research some of the crazy atrocities committed by historical figures through the years.  It will add to your GMing style (and possibly land you on a terror list, but it's a small price to pay.)

To offset that talk about evil, I present a picture of Mister Rogers:

Roll for Initiative, Neighbor!
This has been floating around social media for awhile, with plenty of chuckles, but all of us know 1st Edition AD&D is much too violent for our favorite neighbor to run.   

What would Mister Rogers run at the table?  

In the show, he demonstrates a strong need for his neighbors to understand the difference between right and wrong and as much as the his stories can be railroaded (trollied?), it's more a device to get between one scene or another.   Most importantly, he would stress creativity and imagination.  He would certainly have a sandbox style often (C'mon he literally played in a sandbox in his backyard.)  
He would definitely run some of the more new-wave, independent games out there.   The Fates, the Fudges, and many a fast game of Risus.  I think he would like my attempt at making a game for the Disney Jr shows (with the serial numbers filed off, did you hear the stories about him going to prison, Vietnam, being a Navy SEAL?  All true! Honest!)     People would still get hurt, only killed in the most serious situations and when those traumatic situations occurred, he'd specifically look to award the helpers of the innocent.    Perhaps a game like Village on a Hill would be more his forte.  

Suggestions and ideas on either topic are welcome!

No comments:

Post a Comment