A double installment for Twelve RPG Prompts for Twelfth Month today.
This is a thing that’s been going around G+, based off of RPGaDAY. You can check out yesterday’s post about this writing exercise, including the full list of prompts.
Which genre tropes that come up in an RPG game of your choice do you love and never get tired of? Why do you love them?
- In my Shadowrun/near-future cyberpunk games, assassins-for-hire always come from Quebec. The first time I ran Shadowrun, we had an assassin from there show up in Fort Worth-Dallas. A few game sessions later, another hitwoman appeared and I had in my notes that she was Quebec. Once I realized both killers were from Quebec, all killers had to come from Quebec. It’s like one of those Director Trademark entries you can find in the trivia section of some movies at IMDB.1
- Someone or something always threatens a thing the players’ characters care about. In our D&D game (Princes of the Apocalypse), the villains destroyed Summit Hall, which the heroes *loved*; nearly destroyed Westbridge, a town the heroes had many friends at; and are currently threatening Red Larch, a town they’ve seen grow and change over the campaign. In our Shadowrun game, the owner of their favorite bar got in deep with a mob family. Stuff like that shows the players are invested in the setting and story.
- Everyone knows who the heroes are. This is a bit of a thing where the players get rewarded for being awesome and the people in the setting take notice. It’s also a challenge for me in games where we’re all playing criminals2 and the players are damn good at covering their tracks.
You’re building a fantasy setting for the RPG of your choice. Which ingredients do you put in? Which standard fantasy elements would you choose to leave out?
First, screw gnomes. They’re out. The only reason I can think they’re in the fantasy landscape is one of Gary Gygax’s friends really couldn’t decide if he3 wanted to play a dwarf or hobbit, so they just smushed those together so Gary could get on with it.
Secondly, if there’s a dragon threatening the countryside, I can see the local leaders summoning the greatest warrior they can find, a powerful wizard, and maybe Bilbo the burglar-for-hire. You know who nobody calls for? “..and bring me a guy with a lute!”
Anyway, let’s just get on with what I’d really do:
Let me tell you about my AD&D 2e campaign. It was brilliant. It had all the standard fantasy adventure tropes from a bog-standard Tolkien ripoff. Everyone knows that the evil races were simply evil — you know the stories they tell about the drow, those dark elves that fought against the good elves and were banished to the sightless dark belowmountain? You know the stories: they have slaves, they worship a demonic spider-queen, they poison each other in a macabre political oneupmanship. They even take babies and other pathetic things and eat them.
All lies, all propaganda meant to distract (meta)humanity from the real threat: the Illithid. Those “mind flayers” control every kingdom, every nation, every enclave. They work behind the men and women in power, distracting them with a common enemy: the creatures of the underdark. Who would threaten these secret masters? Powerful warriors, wizards, burglar-for-hires, and lutists. What better way to cull the herd than pitting these “heroes” against the evil races of the world?
And so it goes, the greatest threats to their rule, sent off to clear out orks — and when they come back, something more difficult. And when they come back from that, the king or queen has them go save the city from a series of titans, or a tarrasque, or something that for sure would kill them this time.
But the drow? They’re free. They’re immune to the Illithid. They know the truth, but nobody will listen to them. Because everyone knows that the drow are evil.
After all, they murdered and ate all the gnomes centuries ago.