Tuesday, August 5, 2014

More Burroughs in Your RPGs

I visited an amazing bookstore today after work where I picked up a bunch of paperbacks (F. Lieber, Gene Wolfe, even the Dungeon of Dread DnD CYOA book).  But before that, I had a thread going with some of the guys about Burroughs - not E.R. the other one, William.  We always think it's E.R., though, don't we?  Anyways, on the way home I was lost in a creative fugue and missed my exit off the highway, and was worried after I would miss it again and nothing seemed right on the highway like WHERE THE FUCK AM I THIS DOES NOT SEEM FAMILIAR TO ME


I can't find an image of Burroughs using dice
Me and +Evan Lindsey and +Alex Chalk and +Darien Mason and +Dave Younce played a game set loosely in Burrough's Cairo Interzone from Naked Lunch a couple of months back.  There I go, name-dropping again. Anyways, it goes hand in hand with the idea that all these possible realities crashed together after our initial Transylvanian Adventures game, in which super-science and occultism from a heretical Christian cult opened the doors of reality real real wide.  At the end James' Simon and Darien's Dr. Prometheus killed a couple of mutated cultists and ran afoul of The Abbot in a way so bad that blessed unconsciousness came for them and seared local reality into oblivion.  We haven't figured out what happened to Simon, but he was a character with promise.

"Okay, man, what does this have to do with games, man?" you ask.  Well, it got me thinking about Burroughs' cut and paste thing.  How could we stick a narrative version of cut n' paste writing into a game?  It would take a huge mid-narrative context shift and would need to be jarring for the players, I mean, that's kind of the point.  You can see how changes in the referential level work and how when they are not resolved they cause discomfort - check out the bit in Hoffstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.  So, how do we go for this kind of discomfort in an RPG setting?  It does seem not easy - I think I saw James Raggi pull it off in the summon spell from LoTFP.  High level failures require a complete change in the milieu of the game and a switch of the DM/Judge/GM/Whatever.  I think this is brilliant and could be done with some good cooperation from a willing group of players, but it'd be hard to do outside of face-to-face...


So?  One way I propose such is to blow the lid of the genre conventions in the game abruptly and without warning, but in a way that fits tidily into the narrative established beforehand.  There're a couple of easily suggested ways depending upon your genre, but luckily when players put faith in fantasy tropes anything's possible.

I'm not going to give it away just yet, but my experiment ought to be complete quite soon.  Instead, here's a related but not entirely complete random list of terrible stereotypical accents I could maybe pull off in a pinch:

A picture of Mel Blanc.  It's pertinent, trust me.
d20 Terrible NPC Accents by Noah during a game

1) Bad Cockney/Limey/East Ender (although I know full well there are many fine gradations of "Brit")
2) Bad German
3) Decent Yaley/Harvard Bastard (Ivy League Fucker)
4) Scotty from Star Trek
5) Orky
6) Western US/Country
7) Hillbilly (interestingly different from the Country one)
8) Terrible but hilarious Cold War Russian (not quite as good as +James Jeffers ' elf in Keep on the Borderlands)
9) Any kind of Hispanic accent from the Western Hemisphere (including awful terrible cartoon stereotypes)
10) Aussie Dingo Dundee
11) East Indie
12) Rasta Guy
13) Surfer Dude
14) Valley Girl
15) New Yorker
16) Philly/Jersey Pete (but I can't control it well and it drifts into 17, below)
17) Boston Southy
18) Shogunese (but to do the accent properly I have to do only nonsensical gibberish like a Samurai in full-on death mode)
19) South Africaner (Afrikaans English - also terrible)
20) Frenchie the Baguette Skunk

Table of Misdirection d16 +/- Luck Modifier:

1) Western (Boot Hill)
2) Future Perfect
3) Post Apockyclipse Mutant Hell
4) Paranoia/Logan's Run Dystopia
5) Court Intrigue
6) Horror History/Pulp
7) Horror Fantasy (Ye Olde Grimme Worlde)
8) Robot Fight GO!
9) Bubblegum Kaiju Tentacules
10) Hat-zulu
11) Saturday Morning Cloak and Dagger
12) Sparkly the Masquerade of Blood
13) Werewolf: The Sparkly Masquerade of Blood Vampires of Grey
14) Gangbusters of Capone Island
15) Barnstormers and Bullets
16) Star Tracks

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