Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Dreamfast With Me

At the time I am writing this, my last post on this subject netted only an average to good number of views and no comments.

I find this disappointing but not unforeseen. As popular and successful as The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Netflix Series has been, it may not resonate with the RPG gaming community or at the very least, the portion of it that visits this blog. 

Hmmm. That actually makes very little sense. People coming to this blog can't be surprised I watched and loved Age of Resistance. They would certainly have to assume that if I liked it, which I really, really did, I'd want to talk about gaming it.

This makes me think I am alone in my interest in running a Dark Crystal RPG. That's a shame if true. As I've noted in the past, I see a lot of potential in a campaign set on the weird and wonderful world of Thra. Perhaps you'll read on and change your mind. 

Writing has that power. As the Gelflings say, writing is 'Words that stay'.

As noted in the previous entry, I've always been impressed and inspired by the original Dark Crystal film but I've also felt that the concepts in it, the world setting of Thra, was far more amazing than what we actually got to see. I've always wanted to see a deeper exploration of this milieu and get to know its people, places, and history better. 

Enter the Netflix streaming series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

Mother Aughra warns of possible spoilers. Impossible ones as well. 

First I want to say that I absolutely loved every minute of this series. Everything from the story to the design and artistry to the combination of traditional puppetry to the modern special effects were breathtaking and inspiring. If you haven't watched it do yourself a favor and go do so. Don't worry, this post will still be here when you return. Go, enjoy!

Among the incredible feats achieved by this series was the positively perfect merging of character development and world-building. 

The audience got to know many of the characters on a personal level, making them not only people you are interested in seeing the exploits of, but also giving the events weight and meaning. You care about what is happening because it is happening to characters you either like or despise. 

For every cheer and chuckle thrown Hup and Deet's way, there is a boo and a hiss for SkekSil the Chamberlain or SkekVar the General. These are heroes you love to root for and villains you love to hate. Sounds perfect for an RPG doesn't it? More on that later...

As for the world-building, Age of Resistance delivered in spades by taking us on a journey across the Skarith Region of Thra right alongside the characters. Each episode added a little more detail and piece by piece the world of The Dark Crystal truly came to life.

From the Caves of Grot to the coast of the Silver Sea, the Crystal Sea's Circle of the Suns to Stone-in-the-Wood, I can clearly see Thra in my mind's eye. I want to explore it so badly! I want to go to a Podling tavern and learn more about those grounded (literally), salt of the earth (again literally) people. What secrets lie within The Castle of Crystal that we haven't yet seen? I am also eager to see more of Thra's creatures, from the 'swimmers' in the Black River to whatever beast SkekMal the Hunter made his skull mask from. 

The Netflix series intertwines in a most interesting way with the series of young adult novels by J.M. Lee that finished with its fourth volume around the same time Age of Resistance began streaming.

Although not identical tales, it seems that the main characters in the novels are seen as secondary and background characters on the Netflix show. It is almost as if two different, though definitely related, parties of adventurers were going on related missions through the same world setting.The Netflix series focuses on one group consisting of Brea of the Vapra Clan, Rian of the Stonewood Clan, and Deet of the Grottan, while the books follow Naia of the Drenchan, Kylan of the Spriton, and Tavra, a Vapra Gelfling who happens to be Brea's sister. In addition, Naia's brother Gurjin is a major supporting character in Age of Resistance. The two teams cross paths at various points in each series. 

That is all for now. My next Dark Crystal related post will more specifically address setting up a Dark Crystal RPG campaign and why I think it would be absolutely awesome. Though I am none to dislike Dungeons & Dragons style fantasy, the mystical yet alien nature of Thra and its inhabitants deeply intrigues me. 

See you when single shines the triple suns, what was sundered and undone, shall be made whole, the two made one. 

Until then...

Barking Alien


  1. I don't think you're alone at all. A number of folk Tweeted their desire for an RPG (official or otherwise) when the series first aired and I was amongst them. My initial thought was to use Fate Accelerated but I'm not so sure now. Several folks have written up the Gelflings and other species for D&D 5E over on the D&D Beyond resource. I wouldn't be surprised if someone announces an official RPG in the next few months, especially if it gets a second season.

    1. As someone who runs a lot of IP/Franchise based games, I've noticed that the two most common approaches people take in light of an official RPG are...

      #1) Take the game you like the most and/or are most familiar with and write-up the IP elements in that system. This is how you get the youtubers trying to stat up Batman for D&D 5E and such.

      #2) Think carefully about the Franchise and what makes it special and then try to find or build a game that emulates that IP. So for example, if you love the Transformers and realize Mekton can do all the stuff you seen in that IP but it might require a little tweaking, you go with Mekton even though you might be more familiar with D&D. Dungeons & Dragons just isn't built to run The Transformers. Mekton is with only a wee bit of effort.

      I am wholly in the second camp. I love Star Wars D6 and I could certainly use it to build practically anything from anywhere but IMHO not everything show be written up in the WEG D6 System.

      Hero System 4th Edition is the same thing. I could write up Captain Ed Mercer, the Krill, and the rest of The Orville universe in Hero but it wouldn't feel right. Star Trek Adventures would feel way more appropriate.

      What works best for The Dark Crystal? Still thinking about it. I definitely have some ideas.

  2. I absolutely concur. I am a huge fan of systems built to reflect the flavour of a setting, even if I don't like the system particularly I am always impressed by the ways in which it adds setting flavour.
    I'll be very interested to see which system you feel works best. I'm seriously considering running an Age of Resistance one-shot at a convention in the UK next year and I'm still up in the air as to which system to use.
    I think Fate Acc would work for me but that's because its Aspects are designed to be tailored around the feel of the setting and I think it's ideal for an existing IP as no setting book is required, just watch the show and write some aspects. On the other hand, it's not everyone's cup of tea, so it can be hard to generate interest and find players even if they're into the IP and for many roleplayers it's so light it practically floats off in the breeze.
    D&D5 will get you players and I think it might work for Dark Crystal but its rules are built around an implied setting and so require varying degrees of work to remove that flavour.
    I wonder if Green Ronin's AGE system might be a good fit.

    1. For me, the one system I wouldn't use is any version of D&D. I am not a fan and just don't feel that game does a good job of any setting or genre, especially Medieval Fantasy. I am glad others enjoy it but for my money it's just not intuitive or flexible enough.

      I'm not really into FATE either, though I don't necessarily dislike like it either. It just doesn't do anything special for me. Granted I've never run it and only played it once or twice at Cons.

      That all aside, if you do end up running it, with or without my ideas or advice, please share it. I would love to hear how it goes. We help each other by bouncing concepts and experiences back and forth and I'm sure I would learn a lot from your outing even if you use a system I might not go with.

  3. I was interested to see read in your previous post (Forgive me. I missed that one or I would have commented), that we are of a similar mind regarding the graphic novels. Since watching the series, I've started working my way through the comics on Comixology. I really enjoyed Creation Myths. It had the feel of a story distorted by time and retelling and was an interesting way of explaining how the great divergence of the UrSkeks came about. Raunip isn't a villain but a very interesting character with complex motivations and his mother's feelings toward him are equally complex.
    Sadly, Power of the Dark Crystal read like what it was: a movie script that was desperately trying to tick boxes. I felt the reason and method of bringing back the Skekses and Mystics was contrived and largely pointless except to include them in the movie as they ultimately served very little purpose.
    The idea of fire Gelflings was interesting but ultimately didn't work for me. It's made me disinterested in reading the sequel 'Beneath the Dark Crystal'.
    Also, where did all these Gelflings come from? It's been a hundred years but surely not Gen and Kira! Are we to believe that remnants of the tribes managed to hide from the Garthim?
    You mention that the YA novels are worth a read (and I probably will tackle them instead) and your description of them makes them sound like they tie in closely to the Age of Rebellion and I can't help feeling that, like you, I find that era more enticing to set a game in.

  4. My 10 year old son and I really enjoyed the series.