Friday, October 15, 2010

Open Friday: Shameful Inspirations

I talk a lot on this blog about the literary inspirations of the early hobby, as well as my own inspirations in pulp fantasy writers, but, of course, not everything that inspires us comes from books and indeed many of our inspirations are decidedly un-literary. And sometimes our non-literary inspirations are downright embarrassing, such as the time I ripped off the plot of Shaft for a Star Wars RPG adventure set on the Wookiee homeworld.

So, what's your most shameful, non-literary inspiration for something you used in a roleplaying game?

74 comments:

  1. The MOST shameful,now that's a tall order. I did have a section of a dungeon filled with slowly-shambling, net-wielding sleestacks ala Land of the Lost. But that seems almost respectable these days.

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  2. @ ckutalik

    Respectable? That's downright genius :)

    Mine would have to be using Legend of the Seeker to inspire my last, abortive attempt to run 4e. I actually hate the show, so I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking.

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  3. Using the cheesy animu "Cybercity Oedo 808" as the basis for a Cyberpunk game.

    *has teh shaem*

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  4. Copacabana Lyrics by Barry Manilow. Still one of the best sessions I ever ran and the look on the players face when they realized what loop they were trapped in was simply priceless ......

    The following three hours as they tried to figure out their way out of there was entertaining to the extreme.

    It's what happens when listening to the oldies station on the way to the session when you've no idea what to that night.

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  5. A cursed scroll that led to a demi-plane that consisted of nothing but a moose in a room. A moose... eating... walnuts.

    Fans of "Invader Zim" will get it.

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  6. Big Trouble in Little China.
    It was a superhero rpg I ran, using plots from many genres. Jack Burton, Batman, and Wolverine versus Lo Pan. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a surprise for everyone.

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  7. Considering how little "literature" I read, I think most of my inspirations would be "shameful" by this logic.

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  8. I've used material from my daughter's Care Bears cartoons and I am completely unrepentant. If there's room for shame in this sort of thing (a debatable point in my opinion) it's in using way too much stuff gleaned from places like Appendix N. Everybody should develop their own list of dubious source materials they like to rip off.

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  9. I ran an adventure inspired by the "was she / wasn't she" kidnapping of Patty Hearst. Also, the adventure's femme fatale's name was a mixed up version of Patty's name, in true Gygaxing fashion. Silly, but it worked :0

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  10. I don't know if I'm necessarily ashamed of it, but in a d20 Future game based on the Aliens franchise, I had a space station populated with a gambler named Kenneth Rogers, a pair of agents for Weyland-Yutani named T.T. Logan and B.S. Preston (although I did change them to females for some reason), and nearly ever other NPC in the place had a name ripped off from some movie or other.

    The players only picked up on the Kenny Rogers one, though...

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  11. That Chewbacca is one, bad mutha- Shut yo mouth!- I'm just talkin' 'bout Chewbacca.

    I used 'Scooby Doo on Zombie Island' as the basis for a horror adventure.

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  12. Shameful? Where's the shame in borrowing from Dr. Who, Bugsbunny and Star Wars (before there was a star wars RPG)? Gangsters in greyhawk, Rooster Cogburn and multiple Kurt Russel characters tromping about Gamma World, why not? The Dirty Dozen in ancient greek armor, molder and skully as church inquisitors couldn't possibly be anything to be embarrassed about. Heck I'm proud of lifting toadie from the gummi bears and rewriting his name-tag to fit my campaign years back.
    In my experience an unabashedly omnivorous GM is one with long running campaigns.

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  13. The most shameful? Zardoz.

    If you count NPC names, I usually pull those from whatever TV show I last watched. Which means South Park, Family Guy, and other foolishness gets mixed in there.

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  14. I made Regis Philbin in his role as host of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" into an avatar of Nyarlathotep in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer game.

    ...and actually, the girl who played the Slayer said I gave her nightmares for weeks after that, so I guess it worked.

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  15. "Kurt Russel characters tromping around Gamma World..."

    You're my hero.

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  16. Adam and the Ants as NPC pirates on the Isle of Dread.

    I can't believe I just admitted that. In my defense, I was thirteen!

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  17. Lost in Space for Alternity. Not the old one either, the one with the dude from Friends.

    Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

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  18. Recent influences: Thundercats, Swordsman (1990 Hong Kong movie), Komodo (1999 movie scores 3.8 on imdb!), The Gruffalo, True Blood, Don Giovanni, Whisky Galore, and the frog that made its lair in my back garden. Some naff stuff and some ok stuff in there. I find some truly awful movies provide great material to use in games.

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  19. Thundar the Barbarian and the Herculoids. And any movie with Lee Van Cleef.

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  20. I created a one-off afternoon adventure based on XTC's lyrics for "Senses Working Overtime". I remember giving the two players the lyrics and saying the key to they mystery was in the lyrics. It had something to do with an a assassin who had abilities defying what they'd expect. I can't remember beyond that what the adventure was about. I remember they liked it, because it was mind bending. But reading the lyrics again after 22 years, they're complete gibberish.

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  21. The only 2 inspirations that I think I would be too ashamed to use:

    1) At the end of the adventure, everyone figures out that they are (drumroll) already dead!

    2) At the end of the adventure, the DM announces, "It was only a dream!"

    I've had lots of ideas inspired by lowbrow or no-brow sources, but have not been able to put many of them into practice. I wanted to have an adventure based loosely on "Killer Clowns from Outer Space." I also had a cleric who rode around in a gilded carriage and fleeced his flock for all the gold he could get who had been a pastry chef before he "heard the call" and was married to an elf woman with heavy eye makeup named "Tammi the Fey." He was "Reverend Jim the(former)Baker."
    I made a character for a friend's game based on 'Shaggy' from Scooby Doo. He was a cowardly ghost hunter with an eating disorder and a fondness for the schwag. Later he came down with multiple personality disorder and left the group in the company of a midget general to seek treatment.
    I once had a djinni named "Mister Clean" who lived in a bottle of cleaning solution... only because the guy on the label reminded me of the djinni illustration in the monster manual.

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  22. I ran an AD&D adventure based on the Beatles movie, Help!.

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  23. I am not the least bit ashamed of any of my inspirations, literary or otherwise. At.All.

    Land of the Lost, Akira, Nausica, Thundarr and Kirby Comics of all stripes and vintages (especially Kamandi, the Fantastic four, New Gods, Captain America and The Falcon, and Thor) are all in the stew.

    These days though, I'd have to say my biggest inspiration comes from Richard Corben's comics, especially the stuff he did for Heavy Metal, but lots of his other stuff does it for me too. His work has captivated me since the first time I saw it.

    Really, nothing says adventure like big, naked boobs.

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  24. One bit from Hammers of the God was ripped off from The Patty Duke Show.

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  25. I had been playing Gauntlet in the arcade and Rogue on the home PC for years already by the time I first read D&D. Just guess what my early adventures ran like.

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  26. Running a game with semi-improvised mechanics called "City Crime" where you rolled up your character's criminal specialty, anything from car thief to serial killer, and the whole lot went on a rampage across New York. Shameful influences: the book Bloodletters and Badmen, Dog Day Afternoon, Bonnie and Clyde, various works of Slick Rick and Kool G Rap.

    Yeah, no way to pass it off as some urbane comment on "Dungeons and Dragons characters are really homicidal kleptomaniacs" or the like. But it was the most fun I had with an RPG in my first 40 years of life.

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  27. The movie "Zombie Strippers" was at least as important an influence on my recent game Nasocorn as its own source, Ionesco's "Rhinoceros". I am slightly ashamed of this.

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  28. In my youth, I put the party on trial and populated the courtroom with the cast of Night Court.

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  29. I once had a Shadowrun character who was based on Garfield. The cat.

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  30. I created an elven alchemist NPC in Rolemaster based on Santa Claus.

    Oh, and Limpey, back in the 1980s in high school a friend of mine DID pull the "it was all a dream" thing on us at the end of an overnight session. I don't even remember the plot or even which game but that almost resulted in violence from the players.

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  31. The inspirations may not have been too terribly shameful, but my appropriation of other folks ideas certainly had me a little ashamed: I ran a one-off game inspired by the movies "Straight to Hell" and "Pulp Fiction," with liberal use of elements inspired by songs from The Cramps, Reverend Horton Heat, George Thoroughgood, and others. (The PC's were all petty thugs who'd just pulled a botched bank job - their first big crime - and landed in a podunk town in the southwest, running from the law. They ran into an Elvis impersonator who offered them hard cash to transport a bottle of tequila - "Agua del Diablo," complete with a really ugly worm - to somewhere in Death Valley. Along the way, they ran into the Holy Rollers of the Church of Jimbo ("You've got a friend in Jimbo!"), an army of Elvis impersonators, the Devil in a red suit with snake-skin boots and a cobra necktie, and many other colorful characters. Of course, the PC's had actually been killed fleeing the heist and were in Limbo, and the tequila was the Devil's urine in which was suspended an infernal embryo... it may have been a shameful borrowing of elements from all over, but it made for a fun game. :D)

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  32. I can't believe someone beat me to the Copacabana punch. My players seemed to enjoy the mystery session "Who Shot Who?" that it led to though. I will have to go with Wes Craven's New Nightmare then. I ripped it off shamelessly for a Masterbook: Bloodshadows game. Player's liked that one too. No accounting for taste

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  33. E.T.Smith said...

    I had been playing Gauntlet in the arcade and Rogue on the home PC for years already by the time I first read D&D. Just guess what my early adventures ran like.
    October 15, 2010 11:58 AM


    I used to be so good at imitating the voice of the villain in Gauntlet that I could make other players react to it. For example, I could say:

    "Warrior...

    is about to die!"

    At which point the player would start frantically looking for food or a potion.

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  34. I created a joke dungeon level based on pop songs; for example, there was a Chain of Ghouls (instead of Chain of Fools) and some characters ended up Blinded By The Wight... The puns were awful but the dungeon was actually a reasonable challenge.

    My most egregious activity of this sort was actually a Traveller adventure, though. The characters were escorting an alien named Furmit; initially that was all they knew about him. Much later, they learned that his race was called the Krogg (you may see where this is going by now...). After further complications, they had to make liaison with someone named Boswell Fehr. All of this was done so I could have the kingpin-type character who was manipulating the situation make reference to Furmit the Krogg and Bozzy Fehr, at which the players pelted me with Cheetos. Again, though, it was a straightforward adventure with a really bad pun.

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  35. Everything I do is classy and sophisticated. I don't know what the f*** you other guys are doing.

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  36. I would definitely enjoy a whole rpg based on Blaxploitation movies. Imagine a showdown between a 10th level pimp with charisma 18 and an army of karate hookers vs. a 12th level corrupt cop.

    I think the most shameful use of inspiration is not where you get ideas but how they're used. I remember in the 90's there would be campaigns where there were 4 Drizzt Do'Urden clones in a single party, as if the entire male drow population had abandoned their evil sisters for a life on the surface.

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  37. Ripping off A-Team episodes for Traveller adventures.

    Alternatively, using video game plots for V&V.

    I'm not sure which is worse.

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  38. If it makes for a good game, there should be no shame.
    I've built game scenarios around things I've heard bums say, pictures on food packaging, a shoe discarded on the side of the road, a well abused blow up doll I also saw discarded on the side of the road, my toaster oven catching fire, mental hospital/jail/nursing home rants, signs that seem to serve no purpose, contents of dumpsters, you name it.
    If everyone at the table has a good time, whether it be from intellectual stimulation, humor, terror, whatever, you shouldn't worry about where the idea comes from.

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  39. Used Aliens and Predator way too many times in our Traveller games. Oh, and Blade Runner, too.

    Based my Top Secret SI character off of a Rutgar Hauer character in one of his 80's movies (can't even remember which one now).

    Jack Burton made frequent appearances in all of our games, but especially Top Secret.

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  40. I ran a Chill campaign based on "Count Yorga, Vampire", but even though it was a B-Movie I still like it!

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  41. I had a rival group of adventurers that were based on The Monkees. In a plot lifted from The Van Buren Boys episode of Seinfeld, their manager wanted to buy the stories of the PCs adventures off them and claim them for their own. In that campaign there were a lot of Seinfeld references, but that was the plot most blatantly stolen from a specific episode.

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  42. I have no shame.

    I once wrote a tournament module where the Princess Beauty had been kidnapped and all the players discovered at the end of the adventure was a giant statue of a beholder made of brass with crystal eyes. [The bad-guys were a cult that worshipped beholders.] It was amusing to observe the number of groups playing the module (under time pressure) who couldn't find the Princess.

    I had a space campaign that not only used the unaltered rules for Privateers & Gentlemen but also the actual historical events, and got away with it without the players having the least clue of what was going on (history being something that was under-taught in Oz at the time). They were amazed by the intricate details of that campaign.

    I want to run a convention game that has the blurb: "There are two kinds of folks who sit around thinking about how to kill people: psychopaths and mystery writers. I'm the kind that has more fun..."

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  43. And sometimes our non-literary inspirations are downright embarrassing, such as the time I ripped off the plot of Shaft for a Star Wars RPG adventure set on the Wookiee homeworld.

    By 'embarrassing', you clearly mean 'awesome'.

    As for myself, I once had my players, while seeking shelter at a castle during a stormy night, encounter the cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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  44. The Brady Bunch Hawaii episode. Party realizes that an item from a ruined castle is cursed, and must return it to it's proper resting place to lift the curse. Which of course was a volcano, and home to an ancient red dragon who really preferred that the cursed items he kept sending out stay out there.

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  45. I don't feel ashamed, but maybe I should. The Iron Sky teaser trailer on you tube inspired me to make a superhero campaign centered around space nazis invading from the moon. The hellboy comics inspired the fact that they were lead by Hitler's brain in a jar stuck on top of a robot.

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  46. @Gordon Cooper:

    I would've thought you'd be too scared to mention them :)

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  47. Do people who play Rifts reluctantly admit that they once ran a campaign based on To Kill A Mockingbird?

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  48. I once based each adventure of an entire campaign to the song titles from Synchronicity, by The Police. 'Synchronicity II' and 'King of Pain' worked out well, but 'Mother' and 'Miss Gradenko' was a bit of a stretch.

    Now that I think of it, I never told the players. Probably for the best.

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  49. If it makes for a good game, I don't think anything is shameful. Personally I respect the people who can recognise and extract good ideas out of bad sources.

    On the subject of non-literary inspirations, I started collecting ideas from art, science, architecture and history over at http://theresagameinthat.blogspot.com/.

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  50. The first Monkey Island videogame in Rolemaster, from the circus scene onward.
    Three headed monkey included, of course.


    And DSM-IV for a Mechwarrior game, but that was more serious than shameful (I call it "documenting"), at least until a player started basing his character in the Bad Liutenant (the Harvey Keitel one).

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  51. I have some "Gor" related thing in my game. None of the sex related ones but some specialized technology, some of the city state ideas (which are actually cool) and some of the Greek inspired 'some people are natural slaves" as bad guy ideology.

    This is hardly new though, the "1st Fantasy Campaign" has Tarns (giant riding birds) right out of Norman.

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  52. I created an adventure for Rifts in high school that was straight-up The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The players giant robot vehicle breaks down outside a spooky mansion and there's this crazy transvestite Rogue Scientist, etc. etc.

    1990..yay!

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  53. @tedopon: You've run a lot of Unknown Armies, haven't you?

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  54. One of my middle school's rivals had a horse silhouette as its emblem. Said horse had a suggestive forelock. Being mature we had a number of unicorn variations with rigidity problems and crass names.

    Chocobos, Stalfos, Octoroks, Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Castlevania everything, and flying toasters all made it into our games. One of our DM's had a minor fixation on the obscure Nintendo game "Defenders of Dynatron City" and used all the characters.

    The "thing in the crate" and the "super moss" from the movie Creepshow also got used.

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  55. When I ran Marvel I would use story ideas from GI Joe, and Marvel comic storylines. My players read only DC so they thought I was all original for the longest time.

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  56. I was using disney land and the urban legend of frozen walt disney for a gamma world adventure.

    Lazarus Lupin
    http://strangespanner.blogspot.com/
    art and review

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  57. It's not the inspiration: it's what you do with it.

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  58. I'm sorry, Jim -- I don't understand your question. What is "shame"?

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  59. @SAM
    "DSM-IV for a Mechwarrior game, but that was more serious than shameful (I call it "documenting"), at least until a player started basing his character in the Bad Liutenant (the Harvey Keitel one). "

    oh, you mean you ran an evangelon game.....

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  60. Well, let's see. In my OPDC entry for 2009 I had my tombs, which contained, hmm, Wightsnake, Wighty Ford, Wight Zombie, Great Wight, and Barry Wight.

    I borrowed heavily from the collected works of Ron Jeremy for Tomb of Whores, which was an inventive reinterpretation of a dungeon we all know and love, in which the players, accompanied by a film crew and ladies and gentlemen of negotiable affection, attempted to penetrate the resting place of Ass-crack the Jimmy-lich. Turns out that Ass-crack was secretly bankrolling the whole production too. Also that he was the Choad of Vecna, but I bet you saw that coming.

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  61. I masterized once a D&Dish "Snow White". When the PCs were seraching a way to fight the Witch-queen, and they met seven Dwarves in a inn who asked them to save Snow White, they allmost fall form their chair. Thye never suspected I could do such a thing.

    I also masterized Tintin, the famous begian comics - everybody know him in France - with a scenario inspired by the late Tintin and the picaros.

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  62. The creators of the game probably would have had Super Mario and Transformers in there if they were familiar with them instead of with Conan and Star Trek.

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  63. I've unrepentantly ripped off The Pirates of Dark Water on three separate occasions. The shamefulness is that no one has called me out on it...

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  64. I once ran a mutated Hansel and Gretal. I am not all that ashamed of it though. My players loved transporting the Hit Hobbits back for the reward.

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  65. once my PC of a CI-FI campaing become bodyguards of a pop band called new kids on the block, revived from his cryogenic state 2 hundred years before.

    anything more asheming?

    (sorry for my english)

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  66. When I was in Edinburgh Scotland, I took a guided tour of the catacombs beneath the city and learned from the tour guide that medical students would often rob graves in order to procure cadavers on which to do their studies.

    This theme has surfaced in several of my campaigns In one game the PC's were hired by the Church of the Death God to find out who was stealing the bodies from the cemeteries and gallows around the town (turned out to be med students And a pack of ghouls. In another seedier campaign the PC's were hired by a group of wealthy med students to get cadavers for them. The PC's had to deal with rival students and also a pack of ghouls.

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  67. Hmm, it could be a long list. The Leather Men from Barbarella. A magical stand in for a dalek in my recent L5R adventure. The Doctor showing up in both Shadowrun and L5R campaigns. Adventure ideas cribbed from cartoons, comic books, movies, TV shows . . .

    But, as most of them worked out pretty well in play. I cannot truly say that I am ashamed about any of them.

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  68. Back towards the end of my schooldays, I got a little bit engrossed in Resident Evil 2, resulting in a Conspiracy X scenario which lifted the entire plot of the game, only with aliens behind the zombie plague.

    A recent issue of Fight On! printed an adventure of mine which was full of awful puns, including a trio of planets named after the Supremes.

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  69. I recently ran a game of octaNe in which several of the NPCs were figures from Black Sabbath album covers. The main villain's henchmen were the evil, treacherous street gang from the movie The Warriors.

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  70. "@SAM
    "DSM-IV for a Mechwarrior game, but that was more serious than shameful (I call it "documenting"), at least until a player started basing his character in the Bad Liutenant (the Harvey Keitel one). "

    oh, you mean you ran an evangelon game..... "

    I couldn't stand a single Evangelion episode, so I wouldn't know how to do it. :-P

    And since they never got inside a mech, not even when a liver-eating psichotic clan elemental scaped the police blockade... ;-)

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  71. I would say the most recent shameful thing would have to be my last game I played. I play the Dawn of War games which take place in the Warhammer 40k universe. I found myself talking like the orks from the game when trying to play out an Orc encounter in D&D. I would have gotten away with it too but one of the guys at the table plays Warhammer and called me on it lol.

    I've had run ins with Drizzit wanna bes to. It's funny to hear them explain that it has nothing to do with R. A. Salvatore's books. LOLZ.

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  72. Hey! One of my most successful one-shots ended with the players figuring out they were...dun-dun-DUN!... already dead. It's by far the setting I get the most requests to return to. I think what made it work is the players really had no idea until the denouement, and they figured it out for themselves rather than me needing to do a big reveal.

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