We've had a thread about actual knowledge ruining a game
. This is kinda the other side of the coin.
A few of Jason Morningstar's recent bite-sized APs have included references to really cool obscure stuff I'm very much into, such as Project Cybersyn
, but they also included references to certain other historical events and subtleties that I wasn't aware of and had to check up. So I'm wondering how I would fare myself in that game...would I get all of the potential overtones, implications, inside jokes? How well does Jason's group groove on all that (shared I suppose) knowledge?
I made a thread on Praxis recently, where I dumped a ton of media titles and asked people to tell me what associations popped into their heads when they read them. To me, all those texts and movies and books were strong influences on a game I'm making, one way or another. But I need to learn how to communicate that monstrous amalgamation of references, that hypertext, through my rules etc. In my head, there's a picture where all these things come together. How do I share that without making you read hundreds upon hundreds of pages?
Sometimes I'm struck by a bolt of inspiration and I want to announce in excitement that my next D&D game is going to be "Like a cross between Simplicius Simplicissimus and Gargantua & Pantagruel, you know, with a dash of Vance and maybe Baudolino! Isn't that cool? It's sooo cool." But then I imagine the vast majority of gamers that I know of and play with would just look at me like "What?".
So to have games that are so tight and rocking on actual knowledge and cultural context as Jasons', do you just have to be lucky and have players that are into those exact same things?
I remember reading some A Taste For Murder play reports where lack of knowledge of the source material was a definitive problem. I wrote a little Agatha Christie story game myself and it was pretty fun for me and my girlfriend, but I can't imagine how it would fare with people that aren't as well-versed in the Three Act murder mystery structure, all the tropes and counter tropes...Once you've seen and read all the Poirots and Marples it becomes second nature and then the game flows, but otherwise...
How many games require some degree of familiarity with source material? How many game/setting pitches suggest that it's like media X crossed with media Y and if you don't know those, what then?
This is tangential to large published settings like Faerun, Ptolus etc. where knowing the setting in depth can really enhance (or poison) play. But I'd like to avoid that side of the discussion for now.
When do we leave the point where you missed my reference and we just breeze on and get to the point where the differences in our cultural subtext and knowledge break our play?
Food for thought.