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Storytelling Part 7 “Resurrection” Resurrection can be a touchy subject but if it’s handled well it could be a huge plot twist. The problem is that certain media have kinda ruined it *cough* *cough* comics *cough*. All joking aside, it’s a legitimate issue because resurrection has been overused to death in comics to a point where death has pretty much lost all impact. Max Landis has an excellent video where he complains about this very point and discusses it in depth: The reason for the problem with resurrection is pretty obvious, money. The Big Two comic companies are now owned by large corporations and as a result their main iconic characters are too valuable to be allowed to die. They day that Superman became a brand was probably the day the future of comics was sealed because a brand is worth money and it’s really tough to let that go. In novels and TV (assuming we’re not talking about US Children’s programming) death is still pretty secure. Television has a built-in protection against resurrection which is the fact that actors are usually only willing to play a character for so long and recasting is not always the way you want to go. Novels are a bastion of integrity in that, unlike comics, you don’t have a corporate conglomerate dictating a shared universe. Novels are the product of a single creative vision and that means the life & death of characters will serve that vision. They also aren’t usually built upon decades of other people mucking up the water. The trick here, I think, is that you have a chance to set the rules in advance and as long as you stick to it the reader will be happily along for the ride. Each universe is unique and separate from those that have come before. Since this is also an RPG blog I should take the time to handle the elephant in the room at least a little. It’s a funny subject because RPG’s were the first to actually break death, long before Superman ruined it for everyone (I’m assuming you’ve watched the video link above). Dungeons & Dragons granted that ability to the Priests of their fantasy world and this somehow completely skipped becoming a trope that ruins a genre (as it almost does for comics) and went all the way to becoming just another part of the tradition of the game. In fantasy games it’s almost expected that death is little more than a revolving door (to the point where the Order of the Stick web comic depicted one at the entrance to heaven). Other RPG genres and game systems apply this concept to varying degrees (Palladium, my favorite system, does allow it but the success rate makes it a crap shoot) but for the most part death tends to be permanent outside of D&D and its offshots. It’s really weird because people just accept it as part of the landscape when playing D&D and blissfully dismiss it when playing another system. I think that the reason it’s so easily accepted is because people get a personal investment in their characters and have goals they want to realize. The death of a character could ruin your storyline and the ability to keep that going is happily embraced by many. I have said many times that you can get away with anything if you do a good job of handling it. The trick is to set it up well and play by a consistent set of rules. Death used to matter in comics and there was a day when a good death had impact & meaning and a resurrection story was a big deal but the best one I ever read is all but forgotten. TMNT used to be this awesome gritty black & white comic about a group of kick ass ninjas that weren’t afraid to kill people when it was necessary. The foot soldiers were real people and they fought the Turtles to the death. The Shredder was a really scary character and he was determined to kill the Turtles. Most people don’t know this but they actually killed him at the end of the first issue of the original comics. But when the first cartoon series was created this awesomeness became lost amongst a sea of silliness and bright colors. The original fans (those of us who were around before the cartoon series ruined everything) were still on board but eventually the comics ended because they just weren’t profitable enough and the cartoon wasn’t bringing in new readers. I also wanted to make a small side note in that one thing I really liked about the original TMNT was that they weren’t necessarily any better, in terms of skill, than the Foot. They got hurt just like everyone else. The main thing that set them apart was their body armor (the turtle shells). After a decent fight their shells looked pretty beat up but the human Foot Soldiers didn’t have armor and were defeated more easily. This was probably the only fact that allowed them to do as well as they did and it was presented that way in the comics visually. For me it gave the series a very real plausibility especially given the fact that most of the humans they faced had more years of experience & training than the Turtles did. Before the Death of Superman and his subsequent resurrection (which wasn’t even a resurrection at all when you get down to it) Mirage Studios made history with their epic resurrection story for the Shredder. It was, in my opinion, the greatest resurrection story in the history of comics. You had this character that had become integral to the story of the TMNT and yet they killed him in the first issue. I think that Eastman and Laird probably realized they should have milked that one a bit more but who could have expected the series would take off like it did (at the time I’m sure they expected the first issue might be all there was)? We have a surprise smash hit comic and the main villain needs to come back for a final showdown but he’s dead so what do you do? First off, the Shredder was very dead and the end of the first issue. I mean, dead dead. Nobody was walking away from that (sorry but I’m not going to spoil what actually happened, you’re just going to have to go read it) so the Turtles thought the matter was settled. Splinter sent them to get revenge against a guy they never actually met before because he was too old to do it himself. It’s shitty but that’s what happened. Now as a result the rest of the Foot Clan start dogging the Turtles and several battles occur without the Shredder. The Turtles just assumed they are out for revenge and manage to kill most everyone they fight. They are now involved in a war that they didn’t necessarily want but have no choice but to fight because the Foot aren’t going to let it go. Eventually the Shredder shows up in one of the most amazing two-parters that I’ve ever seen. You had this story that showed Leo in this awesome running fight through the city on Christmas while the rest of the team busied themselves with the holiday. The climax of the story had Leo come face to face with the Shredder but we don’t find out if he’s real of just a guy in the suit. At the beginning of part 2 we find that Leo is beat within an inch of his life and the building where the Turtles live (with April) is now under siege. Everyone has to fight their way to freedom and the Shredder is blocking the door. But he’s dead so how is this possible? First off we never actually see the face of this new guy so it could just be someone else wearing the armor but the Turtles don’t assume that and Leo is pretty much convinced he’s the real deal. We can probably assume that he has the same fighting style and that the Turtles recognized his voice from the last time they fought. What made this story even more amazing was that the Turtles were forced to flee New York. With Leo critically injured and their home destroyed (it was burned to the ground) they had no way to effectively fight back. Everyone went to an old farm that Casey Jones inherited (and yes, Casey was also treated like a real person) and lived there for a year while Leo healed. There were some pretty awesome stories during that time but it hit a climax when Raph got stir crazy and went off on his own to confront the Shredder. The rest of the guys go after him and it ends up becoming a mission to storm the Foot headquarters and take out the Shredder. This was the epic Return to New York storyline in Issues 19 through 21. In my opinion this is probably where the series should have ended. There were some cool stories after this but for the most part it turned into a cavalcade of guest creators and random “out of continuity” stories. The first 21 issues formed a cohesive story with a solid beginning, middle & end and formed the core of what the Turtles actually were. It ended with a resolution of the core plot of the series and still holds up to this day. Back to the Shredder storyline and, just to warn you, there will be spoilers after this point. So the Shredder is back and in issue 21 Leo comes face to face with him. He removes his armor and we find that it is actually him; Oroku Saki is alive. The kicker is that downstairs the rest of the Turtles are fighting three crazy mutant monsters that are also dressed in Shredder armor. This is a funny scenario because it didn’t have to be the original (anyone could have been in the armor) but if it was anyone else the war probably would never have ended. If someone else cared enough to don the armor then his death would have meant another person would also come looking for revenge. They needed to end it and that meant the original Shredder had to come back. So how did they do it? The Shredder explained that the foot knew many ancient techniques and one was a type of worm that could eat a dead person and form into a colony that regrows a version of his old body & consciousness. Presumably the three monsters were early experiments to make sure it worked before feeding on the Shredder. It would be safe to assume that they would probably have made a successful test before risking everything on what little remained of the Shredder from the first issue. There probably was another resurrected person somewhere but it is never addressed (and what a missed opportunity). Anyhow, that is what happened and in the context of the story, when you were along for the ride, it was just amazing. I’ve gone back to reread it several times over the years and it still holds up every time (even at the age of 41 I still enjoy it as much as I did when I was 15). The story is great, it is presented well and it’s very believable within the context of the universe. They set up some rules for their series and stick to them to the end. When the battle is over in Issue 21 Leo has the Shredder’s body and they burn it so there is no way the Foot can ever bring him back. The war is over, at least as far as the Shredder is concerned. In my opinion the death and resurrection of the Shredder is the single greatest resurrection story in the history of comics and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It happened before death was ruined in comics and stands as one of the few times a resurrection story contributed to the mythology of the comic rather than harmed it. It looks like I’ve delivered an epic blog today (at least in length) and violated my 2 page rule. This one really couldn’t be divided up into two parts so easily so I just ran with it. Let’s see how I do next week. Woody
Unusual Terms Hi, My name is Woody Arnold. I like to write comics and play RPG's. People tend to write about what they know and so I am writing a Blog about RPG's (specifically how to run them) and how those storytelling techniques apply to other things. With almost 30 years under my belt I think I might have something valuable to say on the subject "but" people who aren't familiar with RPG's may not know what I'm talking about. For the uninitiated you can find an ever expanding glossary of terms below (terms in Bold have definitions elsewhere in the Glossary): aI: Artificial Intelligence; This is a term for extremely complex computer programs that possess the ability to think and reason like people "or" are sufficiently well programmed to make it look like they can. They aren't necessarily considered to be alive though that depends on the genre and setting you are using. Big Two: This refers to Marvel and DC, the two largest comics companies on the planet. Boss Fight: Also known as the Boss battle, it is uncertain if this term originated with video games (likely) or ported in from RPG's. This refers to an Encounter where the Players are taking on a major villain, an extremely powerful enemy/monster or the main leader. In video games the main bad guy is usually way more powerful than the characters however in RPG's he is often comparable in power or just a little higher (possibly benefiting from better gear). The main threat can come from traps, some aspect of the environment or more henchmen/soldiers. Campaign: This would be a series of sessions of a Role Playing game that are played in sequence and form ongoing chapters in a continuing story. I can be anything from two session to five years worth of play (or more if you're really dedicated). Character: In RPG's, this is the identity that is assumed by the Player. It is a specific individual that is created using exact rules, recorded on a character sheet and usually created using several dice rolls (for randomity). Characters are distinguished by such things as Basic Attributes (Strength, Endurance, Intelligence, etc.), Race, Skills and Special Abilities. Different types of gear can be equipped on the character as well (sometimes granting additional special abilities). The pan difference between Pen & Paper RPG's as opposed to video games is that RPG's grant about a million times more control over customization and character selection. Cyberpunk: Named after a Role Playing Game by the same name, the Cyberpunk genre usually takes place in a near future with significant advances in technology including cybernetics (often available to the average citizen), advanced weaponry, virtual reality internet (see Decker below) and oppressive governments or corporations. It is usually presented as a dark future setting though this is not always the case. Psychic powers or magic may be elements of this genre. The Shadowrun RPG and Ghost in the Shell would probably be the two most famous examples of Cyberpunk. Decker: In the Shadowrun RPG a DEcker is a person who uses a Cyberdeck to become a super hacker. A Cyberdeck is a powerful piece of computer hardware that allows for full immersion VIrtual REality and includes powerful programs to assist in the process of hacking. This sort of thing is common in SciFi stories, especially those taking place in the near future. the best example of this process can be found in Ghost in the Shell: Stand along complex. Fantasy: This is the Genre made popular by such novel series as Conan and Lord of the Rings. The first Role Playing Game (Dungeons & Dragons) was exclusively a fantasy game. The Fantasy Genre commonly includes magic (with great variability in how common it is), medieval european tropes (though other cultures are often substituted or included), fantasy races such as Elves & Dwarves, classic monsters such as Orcs & Goblins and fantastic creatures such as Dragons. Castles, epic quests and magic artifacts are frequent tropes of this genre. Encounter: This is a RPG term that refers any battle or dramatic social situation that can occur in the game. Encounters don't necessarily have to be deadly but are expected to be challenging (or just entertaining). A general rule of thumb is that if the GM instigates the encounter it is either dangerous or moves the plot forward in some way. If the Players instigate the encounter they probably expect to win and at least think they have the advantage. Boss Fights are not generally referred to as encounters. Game Engine: Also known as a "system," this term refers to a specific rules set that is used to run a RPG. It covers all the specific rules that are used to run the game and address specific situations. Frequently a particular game will have rules that are specific to itself however it is not uncommon for a company to use the same set of rules for multiple games it publishes (or to license a popular rules set to another company). See also, Game Mechanics. Game mechanics: This term refers to the rules of a RPG however it also covers, more specifically, how they are arranged (compared to other games) and what is specifically done to address certain in-game issues. It covers such things as how combat is handled, damage, skills, character creation, etc. Think of it as being similar to the programming that runs a video game except that a flesh and blood person had to do all the computing as opposed to a machine. Game Time: This is the amount of time that occurs during the course of the story, which is going to be very different from the amount of time your Player's experience. Game Time is very fluid in that you could skip forward hours, days or even years (glossing over what ocured in the interim) while a 2 minute battle could take more than 3 hours to play out. Gamer: This term refers to anyone who plays games of any sort on a regular basis as a hobby (and occasionally a profession) however it is often taken to assume that a person primarily plays Video Games. See Pen & Paper below. Genre: This would be simply defined as a particular style of world setting which includes such things as styles of clothing, tech level, the presence of psychic abilities or magic, specific races and other specific things that are usually associated with that genre. Every genre has certain things (sometimes uniqute to that specific setting) that fans have come to expect. GM: Game Master. This is the guy who runs a Role Playing Game. also known as a DM (Dungeon Master), referee and all manner of other clever things. Megacorporation: These would be corporations that are so big and powerful that they can stand toe to toe with national governments. They are truly global conglomerates with holdings in every continent and participate in a wide variety of business ventures (frequently being so diversified that they are also completely self-sufficient). Megacorps are commonly depicted as being completely separate from national government and not bound by their laws even when operating on their soil (corporate land is considered to be sovereign territory). Megacorps are a key part of the shadowrun RPG and are a common element of various sciFi settings. Pen & Paper: Pencil & Paper would probably be more accurate, but this term is generally applied to the tabletop rPG genre to distinguish it from the video game RPG Genre. Historically speaking, Pen & Paper came first however the video game industry stole the term to describe the video games (such as Final Fantasy) that were being created based on this style of game. As a result of the massive jump in popularity of the Video GAme Genre in the 80's & 90's, video games overtook their predecessors and the terms RPG & Gamer came to be applied more to people who played video games. As a result it became necessary to clarify and redefine the type of game when one refers to himself as a Gamer to avoid any confusion. Player: These are the people in a Role Playing Gamer that are actually playing. Usually they only get to control one character at a time. RPG: Role Playing Game; It's a lot like improv acting with rules. A Game Master sets up the scenario and the Players (who have fully fleshed out characters with all kinds of cool special abilities) get to go on an adventure. It's very similar to games like Final FAntasy however the storyline is usually waaaay more free form & flexible. Session: this is a single session of a Role Playing Game, usually running about 4 to 6 hours depending on the group. setting: For Role Playing Games, the term "Setting" refers to a particular game world that the characters exist in. This is a technical term separate from (though similar to) the usual dictionary definition. A Setting in an RPG would usually fall under a specific Genre but have qualities and characteristics that set it apart from other world settings. Differences could include such things as higher or lower levels of technology, the presence of magic (to greater or lesser degrees) and unique countries & histories. Space Opera: This is a sub-category within the SciFi genre that usually focuses on faster than light space travel, encounters with alien races, interstellar wars and space exploration. Good examples of this would be Farscape, Star Trek and Star WArs. Super Heroes: This term is jointly owned by Marvel & DC (or more correctly Disney and Warner Bros now) but is also used to describe the Genre these companies created. The Super hero Genre is usually contemporary and focuses on exceptional individuals with special powers, skills and/or training that set them apart from normal people and allow them to accomplish superhuman feats. Characters in this setting are either Super Heroes, Super Villains or some sort of secret organization (or government) that is involved with or opposed by either group. The Heroes are usually champions of the average citizen while the villains tend to be focused on using their abilities to make money, get revenge on a hero or dominate the world. Epic battles between heroes and villains are common. Space travel and contact with alien races is a common Trope of this Genre. In this Genre the world usually looks the same as the current time period however the average tech level will be a few grades higher and specific people may possess technology that is centuries ahead of the average. The comics published by Marvel & DC are great examples of this Genre as are the films produced by those companies. Table Top: Though technically it could refer to RPG's This term generally refers to board games and occasionally card games as they must be played on a flat table top. This term was recently popularized on Will Wheaton's show on GEek & Sundry. TPK: Total Party Kill; This is a scenario where all of the characters are wiped out in a single evening without being able to bring in replacement characters. This is frequently the end of the story whether it was planned or not. Trope: websters defines a Trope as "a common or overused theme or device." BAsically a Trope is a common element you will see in a particular Genre and forms part of the flavor of it. Tropes are not necessarily good or bad but are instead just what is usually done and the quality or effectiveness of it depends a lot on who is telling the story and the interest level of the person experiencing it.

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