It’s Labor Day, and I thought about postponing till tomorrow — but nah. Let’s do some mashing up of the old pop culture; let’s dance with the memes in the pale moonlight. (Whoops, there’s one now.) Our chosen subject this week: Shogun, by James Clavell.
If I was going to boil Shogun down to a sentence of summation, I’d say it was about a man plunged into a culture he considers barbaric, and how he learns to understand it. It’s perhaps the case that the book is worthwhile not so much for the plot, but for the sincere attempt to write about Japanese culture on its own ground, which is difficult to subsume into gaming. Still, the raw plot material is probably fairly fertile ground. Have at it.
I’m going with Over the Edge as the other half of the mashup. Over the Edge is still, in my book, the best conspiracy game ever. It captured the surreality of the conspiracy genre in a way that the various games following in the wake of X-Files haven’t. The psychosurreal setting of Al Amarja is as Burroughsian as it gets, with a healthy dose of Cold War paranoia.
So I’m seeing a campaign in two parts. The first part centers around a man who’s been sensible and down to earth his whole life. He doesn’t believe in conspiracies, he knows the UN isn’t out to crush us all, and he is firmly certain that there are no such things as flying saucers.
Won’t he be surprised when he’s told that he’s the center of a massive conspiracy which is coming apart at the scenes? He’s got (let’s say) Merovingian blood, and he’s one of the last people living of that lineage, and someone’s killing the others. The conspiracy doesn’t know who — maybe double agents. His co-workers are actually members of the conspiracy, put in place to watch him long ago. They can’t be trusted any more.
But to believe in the conspiracy is to give up the comfortable double-latte life. It’s joining the guys with the tinfoil hats. It’s admitting that the world is uncontrollable.
Interesting question: is the guy a PC? Maybe not, unless there’s a really good player who wants the job. It seems like there might be more potential for conflict if he’s not a PC; rather, make the people trying to save him the PCs.
The second act is, of course, on Al Amarja, once he’s accepted his responsibilities and the danger he’s in. Plenty of ways to develop it, but in short, it’s the second half of the book — Blackthorne’s gone native and he has new duties to contend with.