Sunday, March 22, 2015

In Jokes in Published Products

So in the old TSR modules from back in the day, you'd occassionally come across a little in-joke or nod to famous folks, pop culture, or even other gaming authors. The big one that always springs to mind with me is Tower of Zagig, from Greyhawk - which I always took to be a play on Gygax. And let's face it, they might not call it a lightsaber, but that's what a Rod of Force and D&D 3.X's "Brilliant Energy" weapons are. They're lightsabers. Admit it.

"You see a lightsaber. I see a psionic spirit blade."

I've met gamers who hate this and feel it pulls them right out of the setting and adventure and others who love it. When I was doing the supplemental material for White Box Omnibus many of the citizens of the local village are named for figures in the OSR community. Why? Because it's fun and because these folks have really had an impact on me as a gamer and an author.

How do you feel about it when an author puts in jokes or pop culture in published products? Does it erk your nerves, or do you appreciate cute nods? Maybe it's somewhere in between for you - which is where I stand. I love the idea of the "Tower of Zagig," but dear god please keep your damn laser sword out of the hands of my pseudo-medieval fantasy fighter.


  1. @ James:

    You know, when I DID play 3rd edition, I never did come across a brilliant energy weapon, save in the artwork. Thinking back, I don't remember the concept bothering me terribly...and looking at it objectively, it's a bit neat to have the option if you like mixing genres at all.

    Then again, back when I was a 9 year old DM, I included a +4 "lightning sword" in my campaigns that was a fairly obvious reference to Thundarr the Barbarian's "sunsword," itself a knock-off of the lightsaber. But if you have other elemental "energy" weapons ("flame blades," "ice axes," etc.) is it really a pop-culture reference? Does it suddenly give you the ability to deflect magic missiles and death rays back at the wizards that cast them?

    RE "in-jokes" (a separate topic, in my opinion): I was never much for puns and many of the old Gygaxian jokes and anagrams fall into this category, for me. So, no...not a fan ("Indiana Gnome?" Barf). However, I'd imagine this type of cleverness is a lot funnier to the person who thinks it up.

  2. Well, Barrowmaze has Teknar's Nine Foot Pole, Dolmvay has a Tenkar's Tavern and there are a few other nods to The Tavern out there.

    I love it,so long as they leave their vibroblades home when folks down a few pints ;)

  3. Being a big Discworld fan I must say that I love this kind of stuff if it's done well.

    1. Terry Pratchett was the master of puns and fancy dress. Rest in peace.


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