Resources For Every GM: Settings Part 5
Today I have a bit of a different, light-hearted set of resources for you. These settings are chock full of inspirations as long as you are willing to look for them. Inspiration can be found anywhere and you might not even realize some of the ideas you might cook up for games like D&D in the most unlikely places. So today I have three settings produced by Nintendo that are generally geared to a younger and/or family friendly audience. Even your dark, emotional games can benefit from some of the crazy things these worlds have in store for you.
The Mushroom Kingdom
Let’s start with one of the oldest video game franchises out there: Mario. There are dozens and dozens of games that feature the Mario Brothers along with T.V. series once upon a time and even that horribly awesome live-action movie. Yes that is a guilty pleasure I will never stop enjoying every now and again. The longevity of the Mushroom Kingdom and its varied inhabitants might be one of the most inspirational aspects of it. To take and manipulate a world like that for game after game after game is a challenge. And yet, Nintendo has managed to not just do that but to mix up their own tropes and give us all kinds of insane, if frequently predictable, stories. Beyond the stories, though, there are plenty of other things to steal from the Mushroom Kingdom, Yoshi’s Island, Sarasaland, and all the other regions in that universe. Enemies of all kinds flourish and these enemies often have many different type and styles. Just look at all the ways a goomba or a koopa has been changed over the years. If you don’t want to draw from the wealth of adversaries and their unique and clever abilities, there are the settings themselves. From haunted houses to fortresses and scorching deserts and jungles full of tribal shy guys, you won’t run out of interesting things to steal. Now, you might not want to port a whole dessert themed land into D&D but taking queues from how the franchise does this and makes it work can really aid your own game. Of course, the Feywild could always contain some kind of dessert region…
I was going to begin this by describing how much younger the Pokemon world is compared to the Mushroom Kingdom, but it isn’t that much anymore. Every year that gap means less and less, but I still remember a time when there was one Pokemon and half a dozen Marios. That being said, this world is a wonderful fantasy setting that has helped define a genre. You may not enjoy Pokemon or you may have given it up years ago, but there is no denying the massive success of this world and its continued existence. There are just so many elements to those games and their shared world to take note from. This is a world where science and modernity exist, but there are still major aspects to the whole place that are fantastical and out of place. There are trains, roads, and construction vehicles, but then there are also machamps, geodudes, and onixes to help dig out tunnels. Whole aspects of technology seem magical and well could be. I mean some guy can make pokeballs out of fruit. That’s a bit wizardly if you ask me. More than that, the mythical Pokemon add whole aspects of mythology, other dimensions, and actual magic to the world. Whether you want to steal Pokemon moves to make new spells, take cues from their villainous organizations, or turn the inhabitants into horrible magical beasts for your adventurers to fight, there is plenty to be found in Kanto, Johto, and beyond.
The Popstar Universe
This is an old universe from an old franchise that has managed to hold on over the generations. Kirby and his world have been the subject of many video games and featured in a cartoon for a while back when I was in high school. He probably doesn’t have the up-front fame of Mario or Link and he certainly isn’t as called for as Samus and the metroids, but he still gets games and these are generally well loved. Like Nintendo’s other franchises and the universes of other successful platformers, the world of Popstar and its universe are full of diverse locals and inhabitants to draw from. The reason I included Popstar in this list is because it offers something the others don’t really do. Kirby’s whole thing is to copy abilities. As a result you get a wide range of enemies that have different powers and a wide range of categories for powers. These express themselves in different ways depending on the enemy, the game, and more. When Kirby copies them he generally has a wider usage of ability and there are sometimes ways to combine two power-sets into something new. Not only would that be a really interesting class to play or enemy to combat, but it is an interesting system that could inspire all kinds of magic-related fun. And like the other two franchises, while the stories may be relatively simple on the outside, there are tons of basic ideas and frameworks to pull from and build upon. Of course there are theories that reach beyond the game’s narrative as well.