Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A to Z VG RPG Inspiration - B is for Blood


B is for Blood


In the film Sin City, Marv utters the line "I love hitmen. No matter what you do to them, you don't feel bad." Replace "hitmen" with "cultists," especially of the Cthulhu-worshiping variety, and suddenly you're speaking MY LANGUAGE. Want to give your Call of Cthulhu players something they can actually maybe kinda-sorta kick the ass of in actual head-to-head combat, but without making the monsters less dangerous, and with fun legal complications if they get caught? Cultists! Need some individually weak but numerous and highly-motivated minions for your party of brave adventurers to slash to ribbons, but you're tired of the old standbys like goblins and orcs? Cultists! Run out of hamburger patties for the BBQ? Cultists! It's not unjustified religious oppression if they're actually pure evil, right? Okay, not a realistic trope, but it doesn't have to be.

The great thing about Blood is that it's gleeful. Just because the subject matter is morbid, macabre, or Gothic doesn't mean you can't be cheerful about it. Not everything has to be about serious drama or realism or weighty themes. Sometimes you just want to kick a zombie's head around like a soccer ball. It's okay to play that kind of game if you want. If the DM and the players are all on board, sometimes (I would even say often) it's okay to play that kind of game even in an otherwise serious campaign. Tabletop games are often episodic in nature, so you can explore different tones and themes and styles within the same "story" over the course of different episodes if you want to, right? Episodes can be like miniature, self-contained stories within a larger framework. Variation is an advantage of episodic storytelling.

And hey, would you look at that, Blood is divided into different episodes, like a lot of shareware-era games, and those episodes are divided into levels, of course. Blood will have you shooting up a funeral home full of zombies and cultists one level, then a train full of 'em in another level, and then a twisted carnival featuring Jojo the Idiot Circus Boy in another. (WE WANT JOJO! JOJO! JOJO!) Blood has got an Overlook Hotel replica, a Camp Crystal Lake replica, and demonic mountaintop monasteries above the clouds. Blood has the entire extended family of Ash's killer hand from Evil Dead II, zombies with kickable heads (as mentioned previously), cultists that scream real nice when they're on fire, legions of gargoyles, and some kind of screaming ghost or something. Blood has awesome improvised weapons like a pitchfork, a flare gun, and the ol' hairspray-and-lighter combo. Blood has a Tesla cannon, napalm, sonic electronic ball breakers. It's got voodoo dolls, dark magic, sharp sticks. My point is, Blood has two things that go a LONG way when trying to run a good game, video or tabletop, two things that should at least help ensure that a game is memorable: variety and enthusiasm.

Blood has plenty of individually gameable ideas too, of course. A demon-god who suddenly betrays its loyal lieutenants, prompting one of them to seek revenge on the former object of his worship. An undead cowboy with a charming voice and a matching personality. A setting that is basically the real world, except haunted by monsters and set in a vaguely early-20th Century time period, carelessly anachronistic in an endearing way. A special language just for cultists. Fun with improvised weapons. Fun with weaponized voodoo. Fun with fire. Show tunes. "Real world" architecture with illogical, maze-like layouts and secret areas galore. Cerberus, but with a head missing for some reason, with puppies. An obscure and intriguing (though sadly unexplored) reference to Slavic mythology.

But perhaps most importantly, Blood has a mixture of all of the above. It wears its references and inspirations on its sleeve. It's the remix as its own art form. It's greater than the sum of its warm, gore-soaked, still-twitching parts. If you're getting stressed over trying to come up with a complex, original campaign, maybe consider taking a break from that and unwinding for a little while with the Blood approach. Take some shit that sounds fun, scramble it all together, and serve it with a smile. "Let's boogie, Boogeyman."

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