Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pop Princesses and D&D

My Thursday night RPG group would probably be so disappointed in me to find out that all my planning for tonight's Hunter: the Reckoning game was done while cranking 1 2 Step by Ciara.  On repeat.  For three hours.  The disappointment would be tempered by them just saying "well, it's Dave..." in a condescending way that makes it completely obvious that they have no clue why I listen to the music I do, but hey, they'll probably love the session.  A GM's gotta do what a GM's gotta do.  Nothing puts me in the mood to write great stories like a pop princess, a fat beat, and a rap breakdown.

Lady Gaga has inspired more random RPG shit than I feel comfortable admitting.  Also, she is a unicorn centaur in this picture.  I'm jealous.
A lot can be said for music inspiring games.  Most of the kids I played with in high school and college listened to metal and hard rock for inspiration (Dragonforce was a common inspiration).  Film and video game soundtracks provided quite a nice base for many of the games I've participated in, and one group I played with had a soundtrack for our games and played music in the background of every session.  It worked extremely well for that group, but it's fallen flat every other time I've tried it.  I dunno, it must have been the group.  We did use a soundboard to simulate rain and thunder in a recent game session with (I thought) very cool dramatic effect, but we haven't bothered since then.  I may have to try that again.  it made the environment much more realistic.  There was also the time we played Ram Jam's "Black Betty" on repeat for a whole combat.  It worked just that once.

But back to my probably horrible taste in music influencing my games.  I'm one of those people that is always humming or singing or whistling something or at least feeling a beat and half dancing in my chair.  My car is a full on karaoke studio.  So is the shower.  It is natural that music inspires my games.  Some days it's Audiomachine, some days its Nicki Minaj.  When people find out that Britney Spears was the prime inspiration for the combat they almost died in, they're generally shocked.  What most of my gamer friends don't realize though is that if they actually bothered to watch the music videos to songs like Bad Romance or Beyonce's Girls, there is just as much of a fantasy landscape to be found in those than some sweaty metal video or an Enya song.  

The other reason I use those videos for inspiration for my games is the sex.  No matter what I run, I work in elements of horror, mostly because I love horror movies above all other kinds of movie, but also because eliciting an emotional reaction from players is a key way to drag them in, and fear is an easy emotion for me to drag out of them.  Sex is horrifying if used correctly.  Now, I'm not saying have monsters rape your players' characters (don't do that; it gets awkward).  Make something terrifying and primal and overtly sexual and monstrous and watch your players squirm.  One of the recurring characters in my Hunter: the Reckoning game is a demoness with gold skin, no body hair, six breasts, and claws and fangs who is the physical incarnation of the sexual attraction of a lioness. Not something that most people are comfortable having sexual thoughts about, but something that most heterosexual males (aka most of my group) would have awkward sexy thoughts about.  Being horrified at yourself because of something the game is making you think about is a fun GM trick I like employing regularly.  The male characters in my group get very antsy around her, and the players start acting the same way.  I'd have never thought her up without Christina Aguilera's music video for Dirrty.
Don't even get me started on Die Antwoord...  You're fucked if I say this session was inspired by them.
 Rap music brings an animal passion and violence that I find easy to channel into more hateful or warlike cultures, sessions, and characters.  If I'm invoking Tech N9ne this session, there will be unrelenting violence.  If Lady Sovereign gets involved, there's gonna be some attitude problems and major hurdles the group will have to overcome.  I've started listening to more of this music, because I've occasionally (and not recently) been accused of being too lax a GM.  In my Enya and Chronicles of Narnia soundtrack phase, I just wanted lush New Zealand landscapes and pretty cultures and didn't focus on combat or NPCs.  The more personal the music, the more personalized, gritty, and emotionally involved I make the game.  There's something about the intrinsic ego in pop and rap that makes the game come to a personal level when I start using it as background noise during session planning.

So yeah, tonight's session is brought to you by Ciara, the letter B, and the number 7.  Hopefully it goes well.

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