Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Universes

...and the mixing thereof

This post was inspired by L.G. Smith's post on Shakespeare over at Bards and Prophets.

From TechEBlog

I have always had a compulsive need to categorize and compare characters across genres and fictional universes. What does this mean? Well, for example, in college I entertained the idea of casting various Shakespearean characters in the roles of high school archetypes:
  • Romeo and Juliet as the uber-horny rich kids who got together to piss off their parents and who constantly suck face in the hall. 
  • Henry the V and really most of the Shakespearean kings as the jocks 
  • Hamlet as the brooding kid and budding conspiracy theorist in the trench coat

Whenever I run across a group of characters either in real life, in a movie, book or video game, chances are that I will try to mentally fit them into an alternate universe belonging to another group of similar characters. I'm not sure why I do it, but I find it enjoyable (that sounds potentially dirty out of context!), and often this sort of cross-genre comparison just works away in my subconscious without any direct control. -did I mention I didn't miss a single analogy question on my SATs? It's fueled by the same thing.

When I was in high school, I went rollerblading with my uncle in Golden Gate park where we ran into a bunch of his friends. My first thought was, "these guys would make a really interesting super-hero team!"

  • My uncle, a hyperactive technophile and gadget guy
  • The super athletic couple as the burly fighting heart of the team
  • The contemplative friend who we ran into sitting cross-legged in the grass, wearing old-school quad skates and a broad-brimmed hat would obviously be the Professor X-style mentalist.

These things just come to me!

Even my reading habits tend to gravitate towards subjects that fulfill this need. For example, my favorite comic books are those that mash up worlds (e.g. G.I. Joe vs. Transformers) or transplant their characters into an alternate genre/reality (e.g. Marvel 1602).

Lately, the comparison genre of choice is, as you might have guessed, D&D. Perhaps it is because I am currently engaged with the material in a major way, or perhaps because the character construction rules for D&D are highly compartmentalized in and of themselves.

Anyway, after reading the post on Shakespeare at Bards and Prophets, I started thinking about how I would create a D&D adventure group out of Shakespearean characters. This is what I came up with:

  • Prospero from the Tempest as a human wizard specializing in charm and conjuration spells
  • Puck from Midsummer as a tiefling or halfling rogue
  • Feste, Touchstone or one of the other fools as a bard
  • MacDuff from MacBeth as a fighter or Barbarian
Now, I feel the need to address one of the problems I always run into when trying to use D&D as part of my comparison... The archetypal D&D group consists of a fighting type (fighter, barbarian or paladin) a sneaky type (usually a rogue), spell slinger (wizard or sorcerer) and a healer (usually a cleric, but perhaps a paladin or ranger instead)

The trouble is, most other genres do not involve a dedicated healer class. The healer as an archetype seems almost exclusively restricted to D&D and its numerous direct and indirect video game derivatives. I would be lying, if I said this didn't cause a moment of internal frustration each time I hit this sticky patch.

Anyway, does anybody else find themselves doing this, or is it just me?


  1. I think you're going to write an epic fantasy novel some day. The seed has been planted. :)

    And I LOVE the picture of Spock.

  2. Hmm... I do. Although I do it automatically. I actually started my book because I thought Narnia needed a badass, so I mashed it with LOTR to give me an idea of the feel I wanted.

    Incidentally, my book DOES have healers. ^_^

  3. Man, are you in for a treat when you plug "Clone High" into an Amazon search window.

  4. Oh man, my head just exploded! That reminds me of my idea for a Street Fighter style fighting game, but with historical figures as the combatants. (e.g. Gandhi as a Dhalsim-style yoga fighter... just the thought of Gandhi in a fighting game makes me giggle... is that bad?)

    Of course, I also wanted to do a Tony Hawk-style skateboarding game because Abe Lincoln doing rail slides would be hilarious and awesome! George Washington's board could have a painting of Valley Forge on the bottom!


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