Saturday, August 25, 2012

Rules of Wonderland

"Wife is now fooling around on the tablet I bought so I have email access when traveling. It has the Alice in Wonderland books preloaded on it and she is amazed. Me, I'm suddenly struck by the idea of putting a young blonde in a blue dress on the cover of an adventure I'd call "Eat Me," said James Edward Raggi IV.

"I will write you that adventure," I said, "for a modest advance."

And so it was decided.

So I am re-reading the first proper book I ever read.

The principle challenge will be making Wonderland and the Looking Glass world metal enough to be the kind of D&D adventure I'd like to actually run, while avoiding all the Horror Alice cliches we've seen since the '90s.

Today's notes:

Rules of Wonderland (So Far)

1. Minor actions have major consequences.

2. (Perhaps due to awareness of this literary rue): Wonderland creatures seek to persist in a continuous, ordered and repetitive state.

3. They become agitated when that state is disrupted.

4. Offense taken is inversely proportional to offense meant.

5. (Corollary of 4) Real violence, oppression, and injustice are ignored or purposefully misunderstood. Minor, accidental or imagined breaches of etiquette are met with violence, oppression, and injustice.

6. In all situations (including trials), tangents are more important than the purported purpose of the conversation

7. While physical space and causality are often ignored or distorted, the division between interior and exterior is observed. You have to go through a door or other threshold to get into a building or out of one.

8. Exterior spaces are like gardens.

9. Interior spaces are like homes.

10. Food makes you shrink or grow, the opposite of whatever you just did. Exception: Mushrooms.

11. Size changes are relative until you cross a threshold.

12. Everyone is difficult.

13. No-one is unalterably hostile.

14. No-one can be made to understand anything.

15. Objects are immutable, lifeforms aren't.


Anonymous said...

Nice, sounds good. I take it will be a lot different from Gary Gygax's Dungeonland and The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror modules. Because people are going to make the comparison.

Zak Sabbath said...

It will be very very different. In Dungeonland pretty much everything is a fight. This is going to be more complicated...

Adam Thornton said...

Have you looked at JAGS: Wonderland?
and the companion volume, "The Book Of Knots"

Ignore all the JAGS stuff, which makes GURPS look like a diceless storygame.

I would be surprised to learn that the author had not been intimately familiar with the inside of the American mental health system either at first- or second-hand. It's probably more Jungian and overtly surreal than you're planning to go, but the concept is fairly awesome.

There are, of course, also the two Gygax modules to consider as inputs. Perhaps not very hard.

Please don't forget to look at the non-Tenniel illustrations as well: I like Mervyn Peake's character sketches (his Walrus and Carpenter are my favorites of that pair) and Ralph Steadman's March Hare. The Dali Alice illustrations seem to me like Dali doing William Blake doing Alice.

Chris Goodwin said...

5. (Corollary of 4) Real violence, oppression, and injustice are ignored or purposefully misunderstood. Minor, accidental or imagined breaches of etiquette are met with violence, oppression, and injustice.

In other words, just like the real world.

Chris Goodwin said...

In all seriousness, as I recall Through the Looking Glass is a reversal of the journey in Alice's Adventures.

The first one is a drug trip; the second a fever dream.

Tim Knight said...

"avoiding all the Horror Alice cliches we've seen since the '90s."

This is all I ask of you - otherwise I have the utmost faith in you and James! Already adding "Eat Me!" to my shopping list.

Unknown said...

Zak, I think you are wonderful but are you qualified to write this module? Is there a little bit of Alice in you?

Rafu said...

Nice list. An adventure module I'd seriously consider buying (which is decidedly unusual these days, considering my current gaming habits).

Unknown said...
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Zak Sabbath said...

The forms of conflict will be more varied.

Unknown said...
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Zak Sabbath said...

I will, as always, make the thing I would like to (and intend to) use. If I use it, it's a success.
If, after publishing it, someone who likes it is inspired to make something else I can use because of it, it is a double success.
The rest is cake.

Unknown said...
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Zak Sabbath said...

It is, Kent, profoundly characteristic of you to associate "pretentious" with "thoughtful".
And now that you have gone through the usual stages of:
1. Setting up a pseudonym.
2. Trying to skirt the edges of rationality in the (false) hope that you won't be recognized for the fuckwad you are.
3. Pushing the conversation to a point where you are emotionally unable to restrain your profound stupidity.

You may now resume your accustomed position as blocked troll. I free you from the responsibility of pretending to want to extract useful information about RPGs from the internet. Fly, little bird.

Rusty said...

Will you also be illustrating the book? do you imagine a similar physical volume to Vornheim?

Zak Sabbath said...

I will do at least some of the pictures, and I am very excited about my possible co-illustrators.
And I imagine it will be, physically, like Vornheim

Zak Sabbath said...

Kent, there are rules to conversations outside Wonderland--ones actually meant to accomplish things. Here are a few right off the top of my head:
1. Tell the truth.
2. Answer all questions honestly put to you.
3. If you think you disagree with someone, ask questions before attacking.
4. Never assume.
5. Talk to people with the intention to learn and build on what people say rather than continually announce and re-announce your own ideas.
6. Admit when you are wrong and apologize.
You have broken all of them many times. You are not useful to discussions meant to help people exchange information that might be extend their enjoyment of pen-and-paper RPGs and--more tediously--you do not want to be.
The path back to anyone smart talking to you about anything interesting is through a gauntlet of apologies you will never make.

Doctor Checkmate said...

Y'all know that gif of Orson Welles clapping forever? Yeah. That.

Man, I am truly looking forward to this.

Will it be for LotFP or more generic? Ignore my question if you have already answered it in further comments. Thank you!

Roger G-S said...

Roleplaying setting rules as literary analysis. Another example, Robin Laws et al.'s Dying Earth RPG with its adventure elements: "casual cruelty," "crafty swindles," "foppish apparel" &c.

Zak Sabbath said...

LOTFP is already pretty generic, but this will be even moreso. Either for all D&D and clones or all D&Ds + modern + sci fi. Depending on how it shakes out.

You have confused your hobby:
Talking shit ABOUT people on-line
With ours:
talking in order to find new ways to enjoy our actual hobby.

Talking shit in bars has a purpose: it kills time til people you want to sleep with walk in
Your hobby has no purpose.
I understand you enjoy it in itself: but since you're not smart, funny, or useful, nobody smart does.
You haven't, in short, produced enough entertainment for anyone else to justify the degree to which you slow down actual conversation.

Doctor Checkmate said...

Danke, sir. Carry on.

Doctor Checkmate said...

See also, Wonderland No More.

Geoffrey McKinney said...

I'm looking forward to this module, both the text and the D&D Alice art you will do, Zak.

scrap princess said...

4 and 5 are solid gold advice for running interesting npcs in all settings

AndreasDavour said...


The list alone makes me want to both take a hit of acid and read the Alice books, while gaming...

iemcd said...

I look forward to this.

"11. Size changes are relative until you cross a threshold."
Not sure I understand this one. When you cross a threshold, is everything the right size again?

Favorite version of Alice: Jan Svankmajer's Neco z Alenky. I highly recommend it.

smiler said...

I'm new to RPGs and having to GM my first games and wanted to thank you for sharing your ideas on this blog, it's been very inspirational.

After reading through the archives and been amazed at some of your ideas and the ingenious use of tables so I've had to order Vornheim, looking forward to getting it.

And now more good news!

Alec Semicognito said...

Definitely the right path to focus on absurd and frustrating parlor conversation rather than boring Sexy Alice with a Knife and Cheshire Cat with Huge Fangs. Everyplace is a parlor and everything a semi-sequitur.

Munin said...

Looks like a great project.

Will there be a call for playtesting similar to Vornheim? Our group had a blast running through that.