Friday, June 29, 2012

Open Friday: Homages

On one of the levels of Dwimmermount, there's the following:
44. Blue RoomDevoid of almost any contents, this room is completely tiled -- walls, floor, and ceiling -- in dark blue. In one corner can be found a small scarab-shaped brooch. The brooch is non-magical but does have some strange, curving symbols written on it that utterly elude even spells like read languages to decipher. The brooch might fetch 100 gp to a dedicated collector of the arcane.
I wrote that as a small and (I hope) unobtrusive homage, one of several scattered throughout the dungeon to people and games I like and admire. This practice is a long pedigree, with many old school products doing similar things.

So today's Open Friday question is a little more open-ended than usual: Do you like such homages in your gaming materials? If not, why not? Do you use them yourself in things you're writing or running? What are some examples of which you're particularly proud?

49 comments:

  1. I love homages, personally (though I must admit I don't recognise the one above).

    I think I put obscure references to odd things in adventures fairly frequently, though I can't think of many examples off hand. I did have my players searching for the fabled "Egg of Mantumbi" for some months (from the comedy series "The Mighty Boosh") -- none of them spotted the reference.

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  2. "The Blue Room"... The chamber in which Lord Ksarul lies trapped? And if the brooch is untranslatable, I doubt it's Tsolyani writing. One of their maps that use 3D symbols?


    Regarding homages, I like them. They're fun. :)

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  3. My Castle of the Mad Archmage first level is full of them - a stack of paintings that refer back to the racy illustrations in 1970's D&D, for example.

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  4. I assume the above is a Journey reference. I tend to like homages or cultural references if they aren't just beating me over the head with it. From the player POV I saw (in my mind) the box canyon entrance to Stonehell as a Caves of Chaos reference, which was cool. On the other hand, the Evil Dead cabin in Death Frost Doom is .... I don't know, depends on my mood, sometimes it seems clever and others it seems too obvious and removes one from the game.

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  5. I can safely so it's not a Journey reference, because I have no idea what that means :)

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  6. I wonder if it is a reference to DC's Blue Beetle. If it's not, then it's too obscure for me!

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  7. Ye gods, a Mighty Boosh-themed campaign would be amazing. Eels!

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  8. I love them. My Horror Comes to Haddonfield is a big pile of in-jokes and references, and I had Lara Croft turn up as an NPC in an Eberron game I ran.

    One of my Rogue Trader players had a Navigator whose house was descended from Michael Jackson, or "The Moonwalker" as they knew him; all of the sacred rituals were phonetic transcripts of Jackson's odd vocal tics. The player and I thought it was funny and clever, but I don't think the rest of the group picked up on it.

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  9. As a player, I can only recall one: a 3-D chessboard in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (added by the DM). It ended up serving as sort of a sight gag, because every last one of the players instantly said something like, "Oh! Like on Star Trek!"

    It didn't integrate that well, but we thought it was funny and fun at the time.

    I add things like that all the time, but mostly for my amusement. I had an NPC priest who prayed four times a day, and moved a leather band down one-fourth of his staff to remind him where he was. He named his quarterstaff "Quarter Mass", and would dig a hole in the ground every night so he could stand it upright next to him while he slept. I don't believe I ever made an overt reference to "Quarter Mass in the Pit" to describe his unusual habit, but I used that homage to remember the guy's peculiarity! I don't even remember the priest's name: the players ended up calling him Quarter Mass all the time.

    Another NPC magic-user was named Floyd Pepper and he had a proclivity for natural and magical electrical experiments. He referred to his undefined theory of "Electric Mayhem" on more than one occasion.

    To remember NPC names, I frequently would flip the first letters of the names of actual football players from the 50s and 60s (none of my players knew any of them, except maybe Nay Richkey), but that was less an homage than a mnemonic device.

    The charismatic bandit leader of a successful slave revolt was named Kunta Kinte.

    I had a spell scroll whose only legible words were "X-ing a Paragrab." Reading it caused all magical writing on the reader's person to be replaced with X's.

    I altered EX1 and EX2 to be even more absurd and less lethal, preferring instead to fill it with puzzles and traps both from Carroll and from other books and movies I liked. It included a mystery almost entirely ripped off from The Westing Game, and a puzzle that expanded on the song from Murder, He Says.

    I had a city whose sewage problems were handled by an abused captive dragon on a gold chain.

    There was an adventure where a drunken old self-styled knight was ridiculed in a tavern for his stories of epic combat against a windmill, which he barely survived. Later the part came across a large and deadly mimic in the form of a harmless abandoned windmill, seemingly filled with sacks of flour.

    Most recently, I had a street artist named Roslof feature somewhat prominently in an adventure. His sketches contained random first level spells that cast instantly upon breaking the seal, or, occasionally, by accident. Players had a lot of fun with those, but I don't think any of them made the connection to the real-life Roslof.

    Come to think of it, perhaps DMs had a lot more homages buried than I ever realized - maybe I was just like my own players, and never picked up on the references!

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  10. Barrowmaze certainly has its share, both contemporary and historical, popular and obscure.

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  11. I believe it is a reference to Karsul, the Prince of the Blue Room from MAR Barker's Tekumel setting.

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  12. There was an adventure where a drunken old self-styled knight was ridiculed in a tavern for his stories of epic combat against a windmill, which he barely survived. Later the part came across a large and deadly mimic in the form of a harmless abandoned windmill, seemingly filled with sacks of flour.

    That's wonderful!

    It reminds me of a character from the West End Games Star Wars rpg, a drunk who claimed to be a Jedi; I don't recall if this was Don Wan Kihotay from the Marvel comics, a homage to him -- and thus a homage to a homage! -- or just a coincidence.

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  13. The Fire Giant King in my campaign is called Olaf Snurreson after G3, pretty sure none of my players will ever know, though one might, but I know and that's good enough.

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  14. I think that they're very useful and/or fun. I have included a Tavern of the Four Winds or a Four Winds Bar in just about every campaign I've run since I discovered Blue Öyster Cult. To date, no one has realized why (in the fantasy games), other than noting the homage.

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  15. Shamone!!!


    http://www.groonk.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/thriller-colours-e1319677551718.jpg

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  16. The material and presentation for the game I'm running is filled with homages. The most obvious I can think of are ghouls that sound like Fallout 3 or New Vegas. Instead of saying "here's a ghoul," having the players hear "Huuaaggh huuuuagh HUUUAAAAAAGGGGHHHHHH!!!" then the PCs see corpses with elongated, sharp fingers, and long tongues booking full speed at the party. They get the point.

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  17. Trying not to give in to my temptation to have the party encounter a lake with smoke on the water, fire in the sky.

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  18. Still trying not to give in to the urge to have the PCs in my game encounter a lake with smoke on the water, fire in the sky.


    *Beavis and Butt-Head*


    Dundundunnnnnn dundundundunnnnnnnnnn dundundunnnnn dundunnnnnnnnnnnnn!!!!

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  19. My initial, gut reaction, is it's a homage to Castle Amber, or as I like to call it, in a French accent, Chateau d'Amberville. All that's missing is the scents of saffron, ambergris, and cedar...and Scope. Okay, Scope is my addition.

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  20. I should probably explain more. In Castle Amber there's several rooms that go by the name of a color--Black, White, Red, etc., , and since we know James is fond of CA, it stands to reason the above is a small homage to that module.

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  21. I love these types of homages. The Labyrinth Lord adventure I wrote, Shadowbrook Manor, is filled with references to everything from Zork to Ghostbusters.

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  22. That's a very good observation, but, in this case, it's a reference to Tékumel. I do believe there are references to Castle Amber in Dwimmermount, though none of them come to me right at the moment.

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  23. Ksarul, Doomed Prince of the Blue Room

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  24. I stand corrected (and somewhat embarrassed).

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  25. I like them. The whole Inn of Lost Heroes adventure is a tribute to Silent Hill. In the swamp portion of Pyramid of the Dragon three of the 20 or so random encounters were giant rats, flammable gas, and sinkholes. I think i even commented on vines being handily near the sinkhole if a heroic PC decided to grab one and save an unlucky companion.

    Pete
    Small Niche Games

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  26. I like homages when they come on a respectful way. I don't enjoy when some modules make laught about old adventures or concepts (like Castle Greyhawk after Gygax departure), but I love it when they are sincere.

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  27. And the ultimate weapon in your campaign is the black blade then, eh? It keeps calling me its master, but I feel like its slave?

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  28. Oh yeah, I think it's totally appropriate, especially since D&D is essentially a giant conglomerate of homages and ideas taken from all across human fiction and mythology. That's what I love about it.

    I haven't included too much of this in my campaign yet. I'm working on an "ultimate villain" who can see into other dimensions and has fashioned a group of evil homonculi-type creatures as henchmen, each patterned after notable persons he's seen in said dimensions (read: famous characters of fantasy literature).

    We'll see if the players notice that the Gray Man resembles Gandalf and the King of Blades fights like Conan, etc.

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  29. Oh and there is a tavern in one of my cities that I drew to look like Chalmun's Cantina from Star Wars...and it's run by a bug bear named Kalmuun.

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  30. A short story I had published in 2010. Can anyone spot the old-school reference?
    http://www.onthepremises.com/issue_11/story_11_h1.html

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  31. Zenopus ArchivesJune 29, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    That's a great guess, even if not what James' intended. The Blue Beetle article on Wikipedia says: "In Dan Garret's revised origin, he was an archaeologist who found a magical Egyptian artifact, resembling a scarab, which he used to fight crime ... the Blue Beetle would use his signature scarab symbol to bedevil criminals, leaving it to be easily found"

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  32. I used Captain Ron from the 90's movie of the same name as an NPC once - and not in a subtle way! More like Kurt Russel sailed into a gate and wound up in my campaign with references to things and places the heroes didn't understand... The players thought it was funny... Their characters thought he was mad!

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  33. I have based multiple campaigns on BOC's music. Particularly the Veterans of the Psychic Wars is on the biggest influence.

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  34. I love them. I overuse them, sometimes to the point of pastiche. They give me something amusing to think about when I read or write the, even if the players don't make the connection. They could be self-referential from other parts of the campaign, such as Am Bushes,* or stolen wholesale from other campaigns and adventures (there is a nice bulk homage supplier on the corner of Barton and Fink).

    Then again my favourite Greyhawk novels are Paul Kidd's Justicar series because he pays homage to several great Old School modules (White Plume Mountain, Descent into the Underearth, and Queen of the Demonweb Pits), although he turns them on their head in the nicest possible way.

    [* A player was always looking for ambushes when he went through rocky terrain, so he started finding them when he changed campaign regions. Waxy green leaves, purple berries with a high stimulant content, often chewed by travellers on this continent (although the seeds gave you diarrhoea if you didn't spit them out on the side of the road). And in well drained terrain (hills) they tended to sprout. Evolutionary advantage: Am Bush (and if you didn't spit out the seed it got extra fertilizer to help it grow).]

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  35. I think it's the only way I name things:

    Crowther Cave, Cosgrove Castle, etc...

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  36. Ha! I had a captain Ron too, but it was in west end games star wars d6. Great game!

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  37. I ran a campaign where travelers on a particular stretch of road risked being stopped by The Dandy Highwaymen. Marco, Merrick, Terry Lee, Gary Tibbs and their leader, Adam.

    "It's your money that we want and your money we shall have!" Adam would cry.

    (As would any fans of 80's new wave...)

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  38. I loved doing this kind of thing in my games. Back in 1991, I was running a Traveller campaign. The characters signed on as crew of a ship. The ship's owner/captain was "Christina Amphlett".
    No one ever caught the name even though the Divinyls' song was hugely popular at the time.

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  39. I've had hirelings for the PCs to hire with surnames from various
    old-school settings like Nathaniel Blackmoor the Ranger or Sir Thomas
    Greyhawk the Paladin... can't remember the rest right now, but names
    like Lankhmar, Mystara and Kalamar showed up at some point and many others like it... And for some reason I love to put a woodelf realm named Alfheim somewhere in the setting I use, no matter if the players ever get to see it or not.



    And Chtulhu references are always a hit.

    I've had references to the glow from Fallout 1, namely the holodiscs left behind telling the story of what happened, bit by bit. But other Fallout (1 and 2) references have crept in from time to time, though it's mostly only my brother who gets them, like Gecko-on-a-stick...

    Man I need to play fallout again :D

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  40. I always thought dropping obscure references was one of the better-known generic geek traits.


    On the other side of the two-cultures divide, writers are always making allusions, so it's not that unusual.


    It's a nice private joke between the author and reader--I know you know even if nobody else does.

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  41. Wowsers - I highly approve!


    (I assume that Annabella was lurking nearby?)

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  42. I imagine she was going wild (going wild!) in the country, yes.

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  43. The 80s arena-rock band Journey used a scarab as a recurring motif on their album covers. I believe they even had a Journey video game for Atari or Intellivision that had them flying around space in a scarab ship. Or driving a scarab car around San Francisco.

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  44. I use too many homages to even keep track of! They range the gamut from real life to pop culture to D&D in nature. Given your love for Holmes, my mega dungeon has a split 4th level and a hidden city like the skull mountain side view from the Holmes Basic book.

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  45. I wonder if Gecko-on-a-stick in Fallout is itself an homage to the Rat-on-a-Stick dungeon by Judge's Guild...

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  46. More likely a reference to Conan the Barbarian (the Ah-nuld version).

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  47. This one is rather crude, but one of my recurring jokes/homages was based on the classic film Revenge of the Nerds 2: Nerds in Paradise. It was a sailing (and later Spelljamming) vessel named the Coral Essex. Now, on the ship's name-plate, the "C" in Coral and the first "E" and "S" in Essex were all extremely faded...

    The captain of the Coral Essex was named Frank (my go to NPC name back in the 2nd edition game). He and his ship would usually show up when there was some great journey to take which I didn't want to deal with or detail.

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  48. Oh, BOC is great :) I even did a homage to the Psychic Wars recently :D.
    http://prekomorec.blogspot.nl/2012/06/edge-of-limbo.html

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