As so often, I ask myself the question, which crass idea I am really after. I mean, clearly I want to get away from standard fantasy. I mean, it’s obvious anyway. Dwarves, elves, evil lords and blond heroes with swords and prophecies are absolutely dull and boring.
I don’t want any silly nonsense either. No mad, nonsensical and absurd adventures in which you can neither immerse yourself nor lose yourself.
In any case, I want something new. Something exciting. Preferably something I’ve never heard of.
And there seems to be plenty of that left. At least, that’s how it seems to me. Lately I have to put some effort into finding more of this crazy, weird genre that has been inspiring me for years, but there is still new material coming along.
Video games were basically the simplest medium that fascinated me then. That’s where I found most of “it” in the first place.
My very first experience with this theme was probably Bastion. An action game in which you play a mute boy who has to fight his way through a broken world floating in the void, with the aim of reconstructing it in the end. The mystery is held in front of your nose from the very beginning. Background story and trivia to characters and world is skillfully woven into the environment and everything drips with personality and originality.
Next came Cave Story. A robot boy who has to shoot his way through a half-futuristic world, rescue rabbits and protect eggs. Same as before. Everything is so well thought out and crazy and lovingly tinkered together.
Hollow Knight. A small beetle, armed with needle and cape, explores the ancient remains of a gigantic underground city. Every detail has been carefully incorporated into the game world and everything together tells the whole story of a glorious civilization. It seems strangely familiar to steer this beetle through the underground on an ever escalating quest. In the process you defeat the lords of the praying mantis, babble with a huge white “Wyrm” about the beginning of time and sometimes ride the subway. (Which is honestly the best part. Period.)
Sunless Sea was the highlight for me. Basically, you go from A to B by ship, make sure that you don’t run out of fuel and enjoy your, mostly short life. The game consists mainly of waiting while navigating and text adventures in the ports of an underground sea. Along with squid men, living drowned people and a mechanical sun, you will come across a city in which one rebels against physics, a dreamland and literal monkeys who want to buy your soul.
And I think that’s fucking great.
If I read through it all again like this, I can see some similarities.
– An unclear mystery that is at the root of all the events and that underlies all the past and future incidents.
– Unconventional and often at the beginning a bit strange characters, places and situations. At first you have to furrow your brow, but in the end you should find it pleasant.
– Story and information should be made clear through environment and wordless storytelling. No exposition or lengthy quibbling.
– Unusual circumstances with ordinary people. Nobody needs a radiant hero or a powerful sorceress. Instead, the usual should be put in an unusual situation. Although I’ll probably drop that point at this very moment. If everything around you is strange, then you should be a little strange as well. That would only be fair.
– Logic and clear structure – Despite the odd genre everything must still be proper and follow conventional logic. Once rules for environment, characters and physics have been established, they can no longer be broken or circumvented. After all, the plot should follow each other conclusively and also be comprehensible.
In the RPG area I already found what I was looking for in terms of “Weirdness”. Only less incisive.
For me Patrick Stuart stands out here above all. Of course only in combination with Scrap Princess.
I love practically everything he writes. Ingenious stuff that is not susceptible to the given characteristics of the RPG landscape. Full of abstruseness and wonder and horror and disgust. But that’s part of it in this case.
Actually, practically a large part of the OSR Movement (Old School Renaissance) is imbued with this drive for the new and exciting. And I’m glad to be a part of it soon with SotE and my future adventures and settings.
I especially want to write things that are not boring. Which surprise even me. Above all something that I want to play myself. Which of course doesn’t mean that others would want to play it as well. But I just hope that they will.
Strange things. Unconventional things. With big mouths and hairy bellies. Which are unpleasant, but fascinating at the same time.
That sort of thing.
Only how, huh?
But I’ll eventually figure it out. Fortunately, I have a lot of inspiration.