Monday, March 26, 2012

Dungeon Games


Like a whole lot of other people in America, I caught The Hunger Games this weekend. I’ve never read the book--I actually kind of avoided it as a young adult, Running Man/Battle Royale ripoff. Apparently, I was a little hasty in my judgement, because I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.

One of the author’s stated inspirations was the myth of Theseus. Young heroes, mazes, and monsters suggest a way that a sort of Hunger Games set-up could be adapted to a typical fantasy rpg set-up.

Sure X-Crawl does some of this, but it's set the in modern day, and seems to view its dungeoncrawlers as celebrity athletes, borrowing inspiration from Running Man to a degree. Things might go a bit differently when (Like The Hunger Games), one plays up more of a American Idol-esque reality show contest aspect. And of course, there’s the sacrifice-chosen-by-lottery part.


Say some great empire (possibly magical or even magitech) demands a tribute of youths from its conquered territories. These teens are given a bit of training then sent into the labyrinth--or dungeon. Other than perhaps multiple monsters, that's pretty much the Theseus set-up, but an empire with D&D-ish magic at its disposal can get a lot closer to the media saturated world of The Hunger Games. Maybe the empire keeps it’s citizens happy bread and circuses style with remote-viewed observation of the dungeon doings.

The set-up would raise some interesting questions. Did the decadent empire build the dungeons for this purpose (and magically create the monsters therein) or are they just exploiting them? Is there a way the young dungeon-crawlers can turn their new abilities and the skills they’ve gained to their advantage?

10 comments:

The Angry Lurker said...

Good recommendation, going to pictures tomorrow night and might change my choice to this, I haven't read the books either!

garrisonjames said...

Using mazes to tap into that 'Mythic Underworld.' The contestants might not just be sacrifices, if in fact they are selected so as to be best able to physically survive the effects of exposure to the things they might exposed to down in those depths, like lingering traces of ancient magics...

Trey said...

@Jim - Indeed. They maybe be sacrifices--but sacrifices for the sake of knowledge.

Booberry said...

I'm not super familiar with X-crawl (besides what I'm able to parse form the covers). I've read the Hunger Games though. It seems to me that the most fun part of something like that would be the reality show parts, i.e. dealing with agents and endorsements and paparazzi and facing bad PR from People for the Ethical Treatment of Monsters.

Sort of like the early issues of X-statix, but D&D-er. In fact, turning the heightened insanity of 21st century celebrity worship onto a prototypical party of D&D adventurers strikes me as a hell of a lot of fun.

Gavin said...

I haven't seen the movie but I'm about 3/4 of the way through the book. I picked it up the other day just because I was bored and needed something to read. I find it to be a total hackish and cliche ridden bit of mediocre fiction which is totally ripped off from Battle Royale and other dystopian works. There is no way that I'm going to bother with the sequels.

Bard said...

I think you're right, this idea could be adapted quite well to a fantasy/dungeon setting.

I read the book but haven't seen the movie yet, though I plan to. Since I'm not terribly familiar with dystopian lit as a genre, I didn't feel the rip-off vibe like some others do (the joy of limited experience!). However judging the books solely on their own internal merits, I enjoyed the first one, tolerated the second one, and felt a bit bored by the third one.

Joshua said...

Speaking of bread and circuses, did you notice the name of the nation in Hunger Games? It's Panem. As in panem et circenses.

I liked the movie a lot too, and I had also managed to avoid the books 'til now. My kids are big fans, though.

phf said...

Didn't Tunnels & Trolls do "Deathtrap Dungeon" - and I think the "Melee" micro-game was also similar concept(?)

Trey said...

@Booberry - I should have had you pegged as an X-Statix fan. Always a man of discriminating tastes. :)

Pierce said...

I've just read the books last week and then saw the movie. The books are definitely "young adult" level reading but I don't mean that as a knock against them. I am happy to see interesting and well thought out stories geared toward younger audiences become popular, rather than the Twilight slop of recent years. Also I think the main storyline is particularly relevant these days. "Panem et circenses" is specifically mentioned in the last book as well.