Thursday, November 6, 2014

Back Issues #7 - The Big Game(s)

Sport and the mass audience. Be it the arena in a fantasy game, a major pro sports event in a modern campaign, or some kind of futuristic sport for a science fiction game, sport has the potential to play a part in your character's background ... but first a word from our sponsors ...

Issue #7: The Big Game(s)
Sport started out as in many cases as martial exercise, both as competition for practice and to determine those most capable; the alpha (male). Over time much of the combative aspects of sports have remained. From football tackles, to the distance and accuracy of a javelin throw, and the obvious combat prowess of boxers, MMA fighters, and martial artists. In America Football is king, and with the possible exception of Hockey, is the most violent of the major professional sports. When one looks at a football stadium, at the number of people, the shape, and the activity within, that of men beating other men physically, it is easy to see the classical influence of the Roman Arena. Violent sport as entertainment for the masses.

What does any of this have to do with RPGs? To answer that we go back to fantasy RPGs and the Gladiatorial Arena.

The arena and gladiators are a possible source of character origins for fighter type characters. A slave who wins his freedom by surviving a number of matches for instance. You characters may find their way into the arena in game as well, perhaps for a crime they didn't commit (or one they did), or as a means of entertaining execution by the campaign's villain. Are you not entertained, indeed. Likewise the characters may use the chaos and crowds at a day of games to carry out the theft of a rare magic item, the assassination of a corrupt noble, or to stage the rescue of a condemned man!

In the modern age things may seem more tricky. After all, we don't have fights to the death, execution by gladiator, exotic animals being slain (or slaying unarmed comdemned criminals). We do have men who's training is as intense as any soldier's. We have boxers and mixed martial artists who are trained to disable and incapacitate their opponents. We have events watched by millions and attended by thousands of people, in the largest of venues more than 100,000 people.

The DC Comics hero Wildcat was/is a boxer. MMA and boxing, football, and rugby, all could contribute valuable combat training to a potential character. Likewise any of the potential game plots above, the theft of an item from a powerful figure, the assassination of a political or business persona, could join with such ideas as high-jacking a country or worldwide signal to use for mass mind control, a terrorist or super villain attack on the crowd, even the potential for game fixing and an effort to exploit or expose such efforts.

Extrapolating into the future allows you to put your own spin on things. What was old is new again. The Running Man and Rollerball both showed a future where televised sports were more and more violent. Deathrace (either of them) and Gamer both show futures where the collateral damage, the death and carnage of hyper-violent sports becomes the next great entertainment event. In a game set in the near or far future it is possible that with advanced medical technology and cloning that hyper-violent sports return, that duels to the death and gladiatorial combat once again becomes the sport of the masses when the damage inflicted can be repaired and healed, and those who fall in future battle sports can be revived and rebuilt.

Soldiers and cyborgs, doctors and and technicians can all be born from the forge of these new sports. Likewise giant robots and their pilots could find their origin in the new high tech extreme sports. There's a movie coming out this yeah called Real Steel about robot boxers/mma fighters. At first the idea may strike as silly but then again just a few years ago Robot Wars was on TV weekly featuring automatons beating the gears out of each other. Where the sport itself is regulated and refereed by computers and sensors the art of fixing and cheating a sporting even can enter the truly high tech. An entire campaign could be run around a hacker who is fixing games and winning an enormous amount of money for himself and his clients.

The next time you are working on a player character, an NPC, or devising the plot for your next gaming session give some thought to how sports may affect your character, your NPC, or the plot of your next session.

How have you used sports in the creation of your characters? How have sports been used in your games?