Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Stan "the Man" Lee has been awarded the National Medal of Arts!

I can't really say too much about Mr. Lee himself. He's combined some maybe shady business practices with some sometimes shady writing, but given us incredible characters who, like Isis and Osiris, Odysseus and Penelope, and Quetzalcoatl and Tetzcatlipoca, have a pretty good chance of being remembered and loved long after our civilization has collapsed into dust.

I have no idea how much of this was Mr. Lee's influence, but I've had an on-again, off-again love affair with Marvel comics for a long time. When I was a kid, I wasn't a regular reader because comics were far too juvenile for me. It wasn't until I got to college that I put away the fear of childish things and discovered the joys of Excaliber, mostly through back-issues. (Fans of Planetary Romance would do themselves a favor to track down the justly famous but painfully too short issues 16 and 17. The cover for 16, I think, says all that needs to be said.)

The thing that struck me about Excalibur was that my favorite issues didn't revolve around really cool villains or the "death" of a team member or anything like that. They were most likely to be the more "quiet" issues, where the team never got into costume, but wore their civies and dealt with slightly more mundane issues, like Kitty's birthday or the destruction of the only bathroom (sorry, water closet) in their lighthouse.

And that informed my DMing. Yeah, you knew I was gonna drag this around to RPGs eventually, right? Because it taught me that the most powerful events in the lives of our PCs were not going to be when they won the vorpal blade or defeated the archlich. It was going to be the quiet moments, often those times the players created between themselves, where I just sat and watched, holding the inevitable ninja attack back a few more moments. Because, honestly, if the players are having fun, I'm usually having fun, and if they can entertain themselves with romances and rivalries and jealousy and longing, then heck, I can sit back and enjoy the ride a little bit.

So we had entire sessions where I had little to nothing of any serious consequence planned. Some were given over to parties, often to commemorate recent victories. The players would plan the parties, write up menus and guest-lists, and then we'd play through conversations and events. There might be a drunken fistfight or two, someone would invariably attempt to play match-maker, and usually at least one couple (or trio) would end up disappearing into the bushes. I usually, but not always, dropped in something relating to the next section of the vaguely planned campaign arc.

And everyone had a great time. Granted, you need a special sort of player to pull this off and make it work, and the group needs to be pretty comfortable in their characters and the world. Tying this sort of thing into the customs and rituals of the locals also helps to make the world they live in feel more like a real place, somewhere they can invest emotional and creative energies.

And once they've done that, well, that's when the real magic starts, right?

'Nuff said!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is awesome. I still have those issues, albeit, boxed in the house somewhere with a bunch of other sacred nostalgia.

Excalibur was my favorite Marvel title back in 8th grade. Aw, memories of the Cross-Time Capers. Good stuff...then I seem to recall Excalibur jumping the shark for some reason.

Nevertheless, I can't wait to share these old comics with the kids someday.