I was reading this and thought about the A-Team and how that concept works in just about any adventure game – a group of former spec ops soldiers loose in the world, on the run, doing good deeds through explosions and such. This led me to think about other concepts that are pretty tight. Here are 2 that come to mind. Please add more to the comments.
10 years ago, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem…if no one else can help…and if you can find them…maybe you can hire…The A- Team.
No, the group doesn’t have to build a tank every game out of spare parts during a building montage scene (unless they really want to). I mean, they could build a mech or a golem or summon a devil. It doesn’t matter, the tank-building was always about the community coming together to solve a problem, right?
A-Team metaphors? Really?
Playing soldiers back in the civilian world, having skill-sets that are used for creating chaos, regime change and/or training rebel armies is just fun. There is a structure to the old military group but now that they are on the run, its eased up a bit, making play less rigid.
Now that I think about it I wish the old A-Team show had taken it that extra mile and they had started to train trailer parks and projects as insurgent forces.
Rock & Roll Band
“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side …” -Hunter S. Thompson
More than a decade ago, when the game first came out, I was getting ready to run a Deadlands game. I wasn’t sure how to bring together all of these odd character archetypes that were in the book. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Then my buddy and gaming Qui-Gon said, “Make them all part of a traveling show.”
Holy shit it worked.
Later, other folks made characters and joined the game and they weren’t as well integrated into the show. I should have stuck with performers rather than bad-asses. If I could’ve gone back, I would have had just that one gunslinger for security, Murph and the rest would have been performers. Also, if I could go back knowing what I know now, I would have used a whole lot of the Dogs in the Vineyard town structure. As it was, I spent a whole session hiding the town and then another session unveiling the town and then another session dealing with the fall-out and player-actions. Ah well.
When I tweeted about this a few months ago, something to the tune of, “Are there any RPG’s that don’t work with the players all being in a rock band?” some folks responded with historical medieval stuff but I bet we could do some research and find the era’s equivalent.
Rock bands are just cool. They have built in reasons for oddballs to hang out, reasons to travel from bumfuck town to bumfuck town and have built-in drama among the bandmates if that is your cuppa tea.
Performers are neat gaming opportunities because they have solid reasons to make contacts in the town in a number of different ways (venue owner, rival bands, groupies, old friends, exes, scrappy opening act, etc.) and it gives the whole shebang a touch of structure because they are there to perform. Sure there is a monster/dungeon/vampire/heist/whatever at the heart of the adventure but they are there to drop mad beats or strum fine harps or bring the metals (as the kids say).
Both of these concepts are oustiders, people who wonder in front outside of town with swagger and mystique, people who are outside of the normal flow and rhythm of things. Musicians and spec ops soldiers are real people but they are real people who have lots of depictions to draw from in United States mythology. They are fun ways to bring adventurers together, giving the characters context, be it the former commanding officer or the bassist with the van.
I’ll write about two more next week, Family and Business.
This is why Sad & Miserable is going to work, I think. Stand-up comics are like nerdier rock gods (though they don’t as often travel together).
I think performance is a wonderful area to explore in game design, especially because of the potential for teaching and learning skills through an RPG.
Comedians have a mythology all their own, no doubt.
I can’t wait to read more about Sad & Miserable. Sounds neat.
We are on the same wavelength, Judd.
I’m planning an A-Team kind of game series right now (my ultimate sandbox-y dream game) — but instead of L.A. it’s South China Sea, Vietnam/Malaysia/Philippines, archipelagoes, etc. (inspired by Just Cause 2 video game and Black Lagoon anime).
I’m mentally drooling over it right now. Hope I can get it off the ground soon.
What system you building that sandbox with?
An extension of Lady Blackbird right now. Could change… we’ll see how it shapes up.
Medieval societies absolutely had traveling performers. Remember the players from Hamlet?
Absolutely! I agree entirely.