Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why Do All My Dreams End in Death?

My friend Boomer said awhile back that his campaigns tend to lean towards the cheekier side, that despite his efforts to do otherwise, his games inevitably end up being "over-the-top, slightly comedic, rollicking action-adventure games. I have fun with that though, and I think I have to just go with the flow."

If we look thematically at the games I do best, the stuff I tend to lean towards, it turns into horror. I certainly have done plenty of non-horror in the past, Firefly campaign chief amongst them, but my favorite games, the ones I'm good at and enjoy the most, are games of terror. tremulus. Call of Cthulhu. My zombie apocalypse horror RPG World Gone Mad. My mind lives in a dark space with grey spots. This even extends beyond my gaming and into my own media consumption. Diablo III. Breaking Bad. Batman. 

Ironically, I'm not really a dark dude by nature. I'm a bit of a joker, really. My wife is always mad at me because I think "everything is a joke." I can be a real goofball, I admit. But my stories? My games? They're dark, full of death, madness, bitter struggles to survive, and backstabbing. A professor once told me that our dreams are often our subconsciousness' way of exercising thoughts and emotions it doesn't get to do in real life. Thus people with content, happy lives tend to have stressful, angry dreams. Is this what's going on with me? I have a pretty simple, relatively peaceful life, so my hobbies are a chance to exercise a darker side?

I see this often when my mind turns to the superhero genre. I really want to try out a supers game, but every time I get to brainstorming about it, my head goes into dark places, and suddenly a cheerful, four-color, Golden Age comicbook adventure becomes an homage to The Watchmen.

It happens in fantasy, too. If I think about doing an adventure with swords and knights and wizards, when I think about their villians, I don't tend to go to the dragons, goblins, or orcs. I go to zombies, vampires, and liches. When I think about fantasy worlds I want to run adventures in, I immediately go to Ravenloft, and have little interest in going elsewhere. I think this might be why all attempts at a fantasy campaign with me have fizzled. There just isn't enough death to keep me interested!

I think this is also why I don't get much inspiration to run sci-fi games, either. Space operas full of laser guns and freaky aliens and hot rod-like spaceships do nothing at all for me. Abandoned freighters where the entire crew has been savagely murdered, the onboard AI has gone insane, and something is trying to beat down the blast doors in the infirmary? NOW we're getting somewhere!

This whole notion is unsettling to me for two reasons: one, obviously, I'm afraid I'm quite disturbed; but two, I pride myself on being a diverse GM who can work in any genre. Yet left to my own devices, I wander over to what's comfortable: horror. Though I do officially and chemically struggle with depression, I don't really consider myself an "emo" guy at all. And yet that's exactly where I go when it comes time to run a game of my own choosing. Is this who I am as a gamer? Or is this just a real dark period I'm going through right now?

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