Monday, February 26, 2018

Some Thoughts from a Classic

So yesterday I saw The Dark Crystal at a theater as part of a limited re-release. The last time I watched that flick, it was on a VHS tape my parents rented from Video Station in like 1986.

Since my brain is always converting things I see or read into gaming terms, I've been picking apart The Dark Crystal for what I can put into a game. Or at least, what I can put into a game in the alternate fucking universe where I can have a stable, consistent gaming group. Ahem.

So, some thinking points:

-The OSR is pretty much all about human-centric games. Here, we have a fantasy world that has several sentient species, none of which are human. In fact, in the interviews they showed prior to the movie, they were pretty clear about the fact that humans do not exist in this world.

-'The gentle ways of natural wizards.' This is only mentioned once. I interpret it as magic being part of the natural flow of the universe, and that natural wizards work within that flow, as opposed to disrupting or subverting it.

-"The old, old magic" and "numbly rehearsing the ancient ways in a blur of forgetfulness." Magic has been around longer than the present civilization. At this point, even someone considered a wise and powerful mystic knows only a shadow of what magic once was.

-Good and Evil are intrinsically connected. The best possible world for everyone is a world where these forces are balanced instead of acting like separate entities, only one of which may emerge victorious.

-Keepers of Secrets, prophecies. Nobody really knows what's going on. Not even the one who witnessed the last Conjunction is certain as to what is going to happen. The elder mystic isn't one hundred percent certain what's going on with the shard. Jen finds the ruins left behind by his people and seems to know virtually nothing of their history.

Definitely some appealing ideas for my next game. The world is old, and nobody really knows what's going on. Even the wisest only have a faint grasp on the real nature of things.


  1. It runs even deeper if you check out "The World of the Dark Crystal" by Brian Froud. My copy is more of a folio of loose pages now, as I studied that book with the intensity only a fascinated 10 year old can bring to a subject that catches their attention. I probably could still name all the UrRu and Skeksis and their titles if I concentrated hard enough.

    Good stuff, and definitely worth picking thru to fold into a campaign.

  2. If you want a real trip, watch Labyrinth and Dark Crystal, then watch the Farscape episodes "That Old Black Magic", "Out of their Minds", and "Scratch 'n' Sniff". Wacky Henson puppet shenanigans galore (and very inspirational for gonzo science-fantasy).

  3. I read the novelization of The Dark Crystal before seeing the movie in full, and I realized that it explains or hints at a lot of things that the movie just glosses over completely. (Big example: Someone watching the movie would have no idea why the name "urSkek" is so significant, because the Mystics are never referred to as the urRu in the film itself.) It's definitely food for imagination.

  4. My favorite part of the movie is the short scene before Jen meets Kira, illustrating the weird ecosystem of the world. THAT short bit of world building in the film has a lot to teach DMs, imo.

  5. I've had very similar thoughts in the past...I LOVE the Dark Crystal (apologies to Bowie, but it's probably my favorite Henson production of all time). However I ran into a lot of problems when considering it as material for development of an RPG. Certainly, you can use the themes found within it (it's pretty much post-apocalyptic fantasy), but the story is better as a standalone than as an ongoing campaign setting.

    Still, I'll be very happy to read anything you come up with.
    ; )