Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Period Peace

The next few posts are about some things that have been on my mind lately.

They are not meant to be deep or philosophical, although if you find them so be my guest. The posts are not necessarily my opinion, though some may be or my include my open.

More accurately, they contain things that have crossed my mind and which I felt would be fun or intriguing to consider, whether I agree with them or not.

Please feel free to discern for yourselves what you think on these subjects and what I think on the subjects if you so fancy such an exercise.

My maternal grandfather's birthday was today. Or possibly this past Sunday. He came to America from a small village in Prussia (the border of Russia and Poland) and as he told it, they really didn't keep good records.

My grandfather, who preferred we called him 'Poppy' or 'Pop', was a man, of a time.

He was there for the 'Golden Age of Radio' and it's death at the hands of television. He worked in vaudeville theatres before they were turned into movie theatres and then he worked for those. He eventually became a theatre manager, and opened many of the most well known movie theatres in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and a few in the other boroughs.

He was a manager of theatres when that was a very different job. He did well because he understood people, he understood movies, and which people liked what films. I'll never forget when he ran the Nostrand Theatre on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn. The theatre wasn't far from a school, right near a Police Precinct and close to a lot of restaurants. Pop figured out the perfect trinity. He said...

"I show three kinds of films here. Crime dramas, Disney Movies and Romantic Comedies. The boys in blue come for Dirty Harry, the kids will come for Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and a dinner and a movie will end with Bananas."

In those days, if the film did well the theatre manager received a bonus, a big one, almost a cut of the proceeds. Why? They choose which films would end up in their theatres. My Pop had a sixth sense of what would work in the neighborhood he was in, and what wouldn't.

When 20th Century Fox came in to a meeting of various managers with a new Science Fiction film called 'Star Wars', most everyone in the room passed on it. Sci-Fi is dead they thought, the best of it now on television. Only my grandfather took the film by young upstart director George Lucas.

"I have two grandsons (myself and my cousin) and they love this kind of stuff. They'll tell their friends at school. It'll do alright."

Heh. Classic. Guess who got nearly ever major Star Wars figure, and toy that Hanukkah? You bet your sweet Menorah I did.

It was thanks to my grandfather that I developed a love of history, of the past, of the old and of 'period'. He fought in World War II. He was a tank driver in the Battle of the Bulge. He received the Purple Heart when injured by shrapnel to the leg as German forces disabled his tank, and then gunned down the crew as they abandoned it. He was thought killed, and left for dead.
When I watched films like Midway, The Guns of Navarone, or A Bridge Too Far, I understood them in a way kids my age could not. My Pop explained them. Not only from a soldier's point of view, but from a film point of view.
I was raised on comedy before my time, comic books that had long since past, and stories of a New York I had never seen.
He had seen it of course, first hand. He was, as I said, of a time.


I never realized how much I loved this Earth of ours as a setting for gaming until recently. Doing research for my most recent campaign helped me notice that the only two Fantasy RPGs I really like are Ars Magica, and Pendragon, two fantasies set in the mythic past of our real world.
It got me thinking of why, although I do like Star Wars a great deal, I actually prefer Traveller and Star Trek. Partially it's because the Earth is out there. The Earth may not be the focus, and they may be so far from the PCs' activities that they never visit the birthplace of Humanity, but it's there. The Humans of these settings are not arbitrary Humans from some made up place. They are us, in the future. I like to think of Traveller especially as a period piece set in a period that has yet to occur.
This, combined with memories of my Pop, has me contemplating my next campaign, and I can assure you, it will be set in a time and place that is indivisible from a genre. That is the key. To set the genre by setting the era, the age, the time period. A game where my approach is that the two things are one and the same.
What periods are like that? Let's think...
Western style stories can be taken to other times and places but when you think Western you think American West/South West, late 19th Century. I can add fantastic elements as long as it doesn't stop being that time and place and atmosphere.
World War II
I have always wanted to run a Golden Age Superheroes game set during The Big One. A war story set in this period with a imaginative twist would be extremely fun as well. Imagine the Predator film as a period piece set in the jungles of Malaysia in 1942.
UFO Scare
My obsession with UFOs and aliens doesn't stop at wanting to create and run a game where the PCs are the E.T.s piloting the Flying Saucers. I wouldn't mind a sort of 1950s or 60s Project Blue Book meets Men In Black campaign. That would rock I think. MIB 3 had the right idea but the wrong delivery (though I didn't think it was as bad a movie as some people did).
Other eras and ideas:
Psychodelic/hippie superhero adventures using Champions or Mutants & Masterminds ala the 1966 Batman TV Series.
A Victorian era campaign set in a Dickensian London combining Oliver Twist and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Perhaps with a touch of Little Orphan Annie. See the free RPG Doom & Cookies.
A late 70's to early 80s style campaign set in the world of Smokey and The Bandit, Cannonball Run and other films and TV series of that era. Like if Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds starred in a 1979 The Fast and The Furious. With a chimpanzee sidekick. Use Cars Wars or something for this. That's a big 10-4 good buddy!
Anyone see those Ruffles commericals with Ruff McThickridge? Bomb Diffusing Sloth. Yeah.
Well, that's all the time I have for time.
Miss you Pop,
Barking Alien



  1. This is a really good post BA. Starting out with real, personal, history and ending up with an idea for Cannonball Run the RPG - I really liked it.

  2. I'm really glad you did Blacksteel.

    It is kind of personal and to be honest, I don't really know if I did my Pop or the concepts I was trying to convey any justice. This post has been up since last Tuesday and not one comment until yours today. Even views have been low. Sometimes I have this awesome idea in my head and somehow it loses something when it hits the blog page.

    I honestly think some of the campaign ideas listed above are pretty great but I must remind myself, I am an eclectic individual and most gamers just want to know when more D&D is coming out.