Drackler
 member, 131 posts
 That is not dead
 Which eternal may lie
Fri 28 Aug 2020
at 00:06
Deconstructing Tropes in Several Genres
I've been reading about - and remembering my first exposure to - graphic novels like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Planetary and I've been doing some thinking about the way that they deconstruct and explore tropes that define genres. I love a flavorful pastiche of a genre or particular setting.

I've toyed around in the past with trying to capture what I love about a given genre, be it Swords and Sandals, Mythos Horror, Space Opera, or what-have-you. But the games never quite grasp what I'm looking for. I think this is because I'm trying to imitate an entire genre by simply using the tropes, rather than exploring what it is about the tropes that I love.

Long story short, I'm wondering if anyone else is interested in a game set in a deconstruction of several mixed genres. I'm not set on exactly which ones, but I was thinking it would be fun to explore horror, high fantasy, and a possible third added to the mix.

I have no idea of system - though I don't want to play freeform - but that could be discussed among players.

Any thoughts?

This message was last edited by a moderator, as it was against the forum rules, at 02:22, Fri 28 Aug.

tibiotarsus
 member, 189 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Fri 28 Aug 2020
at 08:31
Deconstructing Tropes in Several Genres
Thought - punk and so Iikely unpopular thought -  I think you're right about not being able to get a satisfying experience from repeating shallow tropes, but I don't think grinding what you have down and setting it out in piles, so to speak, will help you get what you need.

It's the downside of fanboyism, which is good for making friends - I say I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition, you tell me no-one does, we later cheerfully argue about the weight of a balrog and thus know we're round about the same wavelength - but conservative in its trends and so creatively infertile, because if you've got to do the same things the same way to hang with the male nerd elite there's only so much depth you can put in. I think we need to take a page from fangirlism - not the creepy pages that bring in Romance tropes and fetishise male-male relationships, but the transformative aspects - the "I love the thing, how do we make more thing?".

...which is usually by knowing why your favoured tropes work, but applying them beyond people or areas that've traditionally had the spotlight and following through. e.g. You (IC) say no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition, my NPC makes to speak but is interrupted by a bunch of the Inquisatorial Resistance's Jewish pirates bursting through the door and saying "WE DID!!" ...and so you have a renewal of the unexpected-funny of the original skit (the pirates can search the room thoroughly, declaring their presence on opening every cupboard if you like to do a bit) . You also have pirates (for an example of things I like) and the engaging joy of discovery as they're a bit different from your standard Bristolian salty mariner and if your GM is getting inspired by their research as said pirates carry off party and plot, your game will get kicked up a notch.

It's basically what Tolkien did, and why it's a tragedy people shallow-copying his stuff has left the Prof holding the buck for degraded copies of his work (e.g. "orcs bad" rather than "the souls stolen by Morgoth at the start of the world and deformed by torture desire to pass on their pain as they cannot escape their cruelty-shaped flesh, harm passing through generations"...they're more like headcrab zombies in canon, where incomprehensible trauma is the parasite. That's...horrible on a far more existential level than "evil culture/creatures" which is all kinds of dumb for all kinds of reasons). I don't know how one would do it, but for horror and high fantasy at once, a Silmarillion game that knew the setting well but stayed away from the saga'd characters would be pretty amazing. Probably way too niche to get a full table, though.

I'm sure you could do things with more popular settings in the same vein...just pick the story not told a thousand times - that village/farm that always gets burned down in The Hero's tragic backstory? Play the survivors of that whose loved ones have run off to fight a dragon or some other dumb thing - do you go catch them? Rebuild? Join the hardships of a fantasy refugee camp looking for a home in a scorched land? Already that's doing more with the setting (if it is the setting you liked and wanted to explore, to feel the breeze and immerse in a land that never was) than whatever The Hero is up to, and following Refugee Mother Who Was Supposed To Burn Down doesn't even preclude a revenge plot if that's what one's into: it's less flashy, sure, and revenge might just be staying alive and getting enough nutrition to be able to bend a bow and practice sniping, but the grit is what'll make fantastic elements shine. Just reach in and commit; my thought is that you will get something with far more heart and memorable content than an intellectually abstracted then reconstructed narrative.
zeone3000
 member, 553 posts
Fri 28 Aug 2020
at 09:15
Deconstructing Tropes in Several Genres
I'm saving this post for its very insightful for why some of my favorite games have done exactly this.  Take things I like and go beyond it.
AegisGame
 member, 41 posts
Fri 28 Aug 2020
at 16:34
Deconstructing Tropes in Several Genres
Would be very interested in this.

Have you heard of the Wolf Newton universe by Philip Jose Farmer? Itís very similar to Planetary and LoEG. Thereís some great books in there. And Farmer is great at the decon/recon switcheroo anyway.

Capturing the tropes is a solid way to get the trappings of a good genre piece, but itís just the framework (which it sounds like you know). You just have to figure out what spin you can put on it with your stamp, and thatís what will really inject some soul into the game.
tibiotarsus
 member, 191 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Thu 3 Sep 2020
at 08:15
Deconstructing Tropes in Several Genres
Second thought: if you are married to the notion of using defined tropes to guide your experience, perhaps try comedy? It takes a lot of intellectual pressure off the players and they tend to get more emotionally engaged. Genre parody is tricky, because to work properly it needs a love of the thing being parodied, or at least its potential, else it becomes shallow, empty "I'm smart because I don't care about anything" snark, but if you have a keen sense of humour, and the ability to think through how and why the characters are affected if absurdity is their normal/the entire situation they are dealing with, well...both times on here I have had players tell me I made them well up a bit (once in joy, once in grief over a monster) it's been comedy.

I have a comedy-horror idea in this vein I'd be willing to adapt for Lieber-like fantasy and give you if you like - rMail me to avoid player spoilers if desired.
Drackler
 member, 132 posts
 That is not dead
 Which eternal may lie
Fri 4 Sep 2020
at 21:12
Deconstructing Tropes in Several Genres
I appreciate the discussion on this one! Especially you, tibiotarsus. Your fanboy vs. fangirl example hits pretty close to what I'm getting at, but I think that there are more ways to explore "making more" of what we love other than just hitting parts of the content that haven't had the spotlight before.

The examples that got me thinking about this, League and Planetary both put the focus mostly on the characters and settings that have always been in the forefront - with some notable exceptions. But it explores how those familiar facets of the source material fit into a different situation. Both by exploring how they change and how they stay the same.

I may have been unclear. I don't mean to simply pick apart tropes and then recombine what I like. I mean to deconstruct tropes by examining them in their native environment and context, then explore how changing that context affects the trope.

So picking a story not told but in a familiar setting - like your example - can do just that. By exploring the familiar tropes (like the protagonist's home being destroyed by the evil overlord) but taking it from a different point of view you can explore ideas that relate to the trope without simply repeating the cliche.

As a follow-up, I find comedic versions to be very hit-and-miss. In my experience, the attempt to explore the absurdities of the genre falls flat. Every trope will fail under harsh enough scrutiny. A certain suspension of disbelief or at least a nudge-and-wink is what makes the frankly absurd tropes of many genres fun and enjoyable.