Monday, December 12, 2016

Urban Fantasy Role-Playing And Reading Vertigo's Lucifer


About fifteen years after the fact, I am reading Mike Carey's Lucifer comic that was put out by Vertigo/DC Comics. I picked up the first book of the most recent collected version a couple of months ago. So far I have been a good read, and I will certainly continue the series once I've finished book one.

I don't actually watch the TV show based on the comic, so that wasn't my motivation.

I read Neil Gaiman's Sandman in its entirety (as pretty much every pretentious comic fan of my age group did) as it was coming out. This particular incarnation of the character of Lucifer debuted in issue four of the Sandman comic. In that issue, Dream of the Endless (lead character of the Sandman comic for those who may not have read it) went into Hell to retrieve one of the magical objects that were like the "badges" of his office as the Dream Lord. I won't go into too much detail about that story, because there may be a few readers of this blog who haven't read it yet. I will say that the story ended up with Lucifer abdicating his "job" as the Lord of Hell to become a semi-mortal being.

The Lucifer comic picked up with Lucifer living in Los Angeles and owning a nightclub called Lux.

I think that I expected that Lucifer would be more of a horror comic, like Gaiman's Sandman would often be. But instead it swings like a pendulum between the poles of a horror comic like Sandman was, and more like an Urban Fantasy in the style of Bill Willingham's Fables comic. Actually, I think that the me of now likes it better as an Urban Fantasy story more than the me of 15 years ago, who likely would have preferred it to be more of a horror story.

It is good that we change, and our tastes change with us. It must be a good thing that I am reading this now, because I am more prepared for it than I would have been when it first came out.

As a role-player, I can see this comic influencing a campaign that is in the same space as one also inspired by Gaiman's Sandman and, of course, his breakthrough novel American Gods (which I need to read again before the television show for that starts out next year). Comics are an appropriate place to explore modern mythologies in the mode of Carey's Lucifer or Gaiman's Sandman comics because comic book super-heroes are pretty much our modern American mythology.

Comics and mythology always brings me to one of my favorite songs by the Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip:


I think that the relevance of the song is on an uptick again.

The stories of comics like Lucifer and Sandman exist in our mythic American subconsciousness. This is also where I think a lot of role-playing game campaigns exist as well. These are stories of gods and monsters, the heroes that face both and the mortal beings who ultimately have to deal with all of these things.

I am trying to tie all of this together because, in the next month or so I am going to be starting up a new campaign with some people that I have gamed with for a while, and others that I have never gamed with before. They're voting on what sort of game they want me to run, and one of the choices is an Urban Fantasy game. Whenever I want to run an urban fantasy game, I pull out my old Sandman trade collections and I dig out my CD of Fully Completely by The Tragically Hip and I start to pull together a world that is inspired by the world outside of our windows, but at the same time tied into the mythic undercurrents of our world.

I know. Horribly pretentious, isn't it?

As a GM, my approach to creating a campaign is to think out what I want the world to be like. Imagine who the important characters who aren't the characters will be. Work out what some of the big stories that are going on in this world. Then we plunk the player's characters down into the middle of things, see how they react to the world and what direction we would need to take things into once the irresistible object meets the immovable force. That is where the fun of a campaign comes up for me, as a GM. I don't like to craft the stories of what I want to happen in the world, because I think that takes the choice away from the players, away from their characters, and turns the game more into a novel than the share experience of a role-playing game. Every character in a world should have a story, but those stories should never overwhelm what might happen once the characters exist.

So, hopefully, the players will pick the Urban Fantasy game. We'll see what happens, whichever campaign it ends up being, I will talk about it here over time.



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