Every generation, as kids get into new things their parents don’ understand, the older generation comes up with terrifying stories about these new influences, like the classic Jack Chick “Dark Dungeons” tract. When Beyonce flashed her husband’s label’s symbol (coincidentally (??????) Illuminati-esque) hand sign at the Super Bowl, she sparked new fears that the Illuminati were corrupting our children—through their music. Is America threatened by these Illuminateens?
What could this mean for gaming if it were true?
For the 2000s
Well, to start off, what if the Illuminati have thoroughly corrupted the hip-hop scene? What if they’re putting out subliminal messages through new albums? There are multiple ways a GM could approach this. Should a counter-message be put out through a new album? Are the singers actually under the control of a sinister cabal? How could such an influence be broken? Plug it into a modern system like Fate and release your players.
For the 1990s
Suppose that it’s the 90s and vampires are seducing the youth through a new role-playing game (*shock*) called Vampire: the Masquerade. What if your team in Night’s Black Agents were to be taking on a vampire conspiracy to find prey through vampire-themed role-playing games and meetups?
For the 1980s
Metallica sang about “The Thing That Should Not Be”…what if your Cthulhu-game investigators were tracking down mysterious disappearances following a series of popular 80s metal concerts. Is the Eastern-seaboard tour actually summoning Deep Ones or other evils? Or did a band like Darkness of the Hillside Thickets accidentally sing a spell to open a portal and release Yog-Sothoth?
For the 1970s
Suppose your sword & sorcery group is hired by a group of concerned villages whose youth have all been corrupted by a recently-arrived wizard and his game “Dungeons & Dragons.” It all started out as a game until Black Leaf died. This could be a straight up “Fight the wizard” game or something a bit more complicated.
For the 1960s
When the Beatles visited India in 1968, many were concerned about the “corrupting” Eastern influence on their music. What if they hadn’t visited your average guru but someone far more sinister? It could be anything from a classic evil sorcerer to a Lovecraftian villain to…well, anything.
These just begin to cover the music and gaming panics of the past 55 years. Your job as a GM isn’t to laugh off these parental panics but to say “Yes, and…”
(Image by PaddyD90 CC by attribution licensed.)