GTRT Ep 23: The Meaning of Punk, Rated R Superheroes and Our Best Fake President

FandibleFeatured5 Geeks, One Roundish Table. This week in the Geeky Topics Round Table, we discuss the meaning of punk in role-playing, whether we need rated R superheroes, and our best fake presidents.

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11 comments on “GTRT Ep 23: The Meaning of Punk, Rated R Superheroes and Our Best Fake President

  1. CalmeIshma3l says:

    So listening to this GTRT the weirdest game idea occured to me: Mashup of Vampire the (pick your posion) and Shadowrun.

    As for Dungeon Punk; DnD 3.5 Eberron:

    The world is recovering from a 100 year war, tradtional race roles are on their ears (the goblinoid races had an empire that lasted a thousand years, orks are spiritualist Shaman that are the only line of defense between the world and Xorat the plane of madness, Gnomes are sneaky secret hoarding blackmail artists that happen to run the world’s most respected librarian/lawyer/accountant/bureaucrat Guild in the world, Dwarves are bankers, etc), social order is in flux, magic is the technology, Elemental powered airships dot the horizon, and everything is Pulpy Goodness!
    First system I ever played in 😀

  2. Will Johnson says:

    Rated R superhero movies:

    You guys overlooked the fact that the Daredevil TV show on Netflix would be rated R if it were released as a movie. The Jessica Jones show will also likely have content that would be rated R. Possibly due to sexuality as well as violence. The Alias storyline is really grim.

    I think they should simply stay true to the original stories. If that means R, no problem if the original story merited it.

  3. Warren says:

    I agree with Daniel on steampunk being mostly an aesthetic, rather than having a ‘punk’ (per your definition) element.

    I have thought, for a long time, that this is a bit like the ‘-gate’ suffix that is added to any kind of scandal in the US.

    Cyberpunk came out first and was what it sounded like: ‘punk’ in a future with cybernetics.

    ‘Steampunk’ seemed like a shorthand way to say that it had sci-fi technology kinda like cyberpunk’s , but it was all clunky and big because it was based on steam.

    ‘Clockpunk’ has a similar feel: “It’s an alternate history where they developed sophisticated clockwork tech in the Victorian era.”

    Seems much more about the tech than the punk sensibility.

    If we’re talking about aesthetic, then Eberron is definitely fantasypunk. If we’re talking punk, then I think Daniel nailed it with Dark Sun.

    Agreed. Publishers, learn to make a $#@%#^* index.

    “And how many dates did you take to see it?” I had to run my ears under cold water after that one.

  4. Mawdrigen says:

    Oh gods the Punk appellation…

    Right, my thoughts.

    The biggest criminal here is Steampunk. If there is no struggle with the stratified social system, if you are not rebelling against that system which is holding you down and trying to keep you in your place, you are not playing SteamPUNK you are playing Steam fantasy or Gaslight Fantasy. These are both valid choices, but it’s not PUNK.

    Unhallowed Metropolis can both be and not be PUNK. It depends entirely on how you are running it, I would say (imho) that the Fandible campaign is more Steam-horror than Steampunk-horror. The Cults game deals a lot more with the whole society problem with the nobles at the top and the underlings being held down by them (which I did entirely on purpose by flat out telling the Noble Player Mr Ed I was going to screw him over). Yes Byron maneuvers within the power structure but it still works for him. The Cult game has Lord Leigh on the receiving end of the Power structure for the most part, he’s trying to claw his way back into the power structure devoid of his money, while realising that the “underlings” are worthy people in and of themselves.. Both games are excellent (believe me I love the Fandible campaign) but it shows that you can twist a game in any direction neither is better than the other, the two campaigns just approach the subject matter from opposite ends.

    In Cyberpunk to truly earn the “punk” suffix you really should be tearing the system, in this case the Corporations, down. Shadowrun, I would argue, actually doesn’t always meet this requirement as normally you are working FOR the Corporations, but those times you aren’t… its glorious. CP2020 actually tended to do it a little better, the players weren’t expected to work for corps all the time, normally they were working for themselves messing with the corps due to idealism. One thing you could claim in Shadowrun however is the Punk really does come in when the characters are rebelling against their own bodies, using cyberware to fight their limitations.

    There is a strong line of “doing things for yourself” and “all the angry young things” in punk, seriously go listen to the Pistols, Stiff little fingers or any of the other true Punk bands and you can hear it. If you are going to play a PUNK game, then you need that anger, you need that rage against the edifice that has its boot on your throat, that you are clawing at with your last piece of strength.

    Fantasypunk, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay would be my first choice. You start as commoners but there is a strong thread of you start as dung farmers and rat catchers and instead of sitting there you choose to make your choice and force your way up the ladder. The system is also trying to screw you from both sides, the nobility and so on holding you down, and Chaos on the other side offering you the power you need to break out, but only if you are willing to sell your souls for it. Usually of course what happens is you crit fail nick your carotid and then die of dysentery but that’s just the WH system acting as the Meta system the players struggle against 😀

  5. Barsher D Barsher says:

    We’re always happy to have the Cult drop in for a listen and a comment! You have some good points in here. I am a firm believer that punk requires two middle finger in it’s response to authority!

  6. Tarnus says:

    I think what was missing in regards to the Shadowrun Cyberpunk discussion was historical context. In current editions, this is very underplayed, but originally, there was a strong assumption that Shadowrunners would be Neo-anarchists, or literal punks (if you’re interested in this, there’s a Sourcebook called Shadowbeat), you could play shadowrunning rockers.

  7. FandibleDave says:

    These are all great points. I’ll speak specifically to the issue of Shadowrun.

    I posit that Shadowrun is “Punk” in a few senses, namely the adoption of Cyberpunk narrative setting (the breakdown of social order and the use of cyber technology) and the antagonistic-yet-symbiotic relationship between Corporations and Shadowrunners. It is true in earlier releases of Shadowrun that ‘Runners were more rebels-for-hire, getting paid by one system to tear down another and then go rock-the-frag out at a ‘Runner bar. Even now Shadowrunners are a strange mix of mercenary meets secret society, having to buck the most basic system of identity (in this case a S.I.N.) to join it’s ranks. They may have cut their hair and gotten jobs, but they still get paid to be rebels.

    Aesthetically, Shadowrun is pretty punk, from the unique sense of personal dress (in the Dragonfall videogame you at one point tell that a person is a Shadowrunner based on his weird clothes) to the mess of wires and tech that are used for nefarious purposes, contrasting the sleek look of the commercial goods sold to the general populace.

    As for the self-reliance of the classic Punk scene, it’s hard-wired into the structure of the game itself, necessitated by the ever-shifting landscape of corporate, political and social conflict. No one should sit down to play Shadowrun and think anything other than “how long before my character has to shoot their way out of a goddamn nightmare?” Friends are great, but an escape plan is better, and from magic to cyberware to the Edge attribute, players are guided in a direction to be so good at something(s) it’s criminal.

    Finally, I see Shadowrun as a giant mosh pit or Wall of Death. It’s a chaotic mess of violence and community, unspoken rules and a genuine distain for how things work in The System. Shadowrunners are always on their own side, flipping off everything they see in whatever way they can before diving back into the dystopian tempest where they thrive.

  8. mrm1138 says:

    Re: Hunger Games (specifically Mockingjay), when Angela made the comment that she didn’t understand how someone fighting for her right to get married and have children could be seen as progressive, I was rather surprised no one pointed out the irony of her statement. Unless this episode was recorded, it was at least released the same week that a government employee was in national headlines for refusing to issue marriage certificates to people based on who they were.

    Apart from that, I don’t get the rage over the final book. I thought it was a fantastic cap that followed through on the themes of the series in a fairly mature way. I really enjoyed the fact that it didn’t pander to what the mass audience would have wanted to see but instead made the readers face some tough issues. (My only complaint was the way it kind of played to the conspiracy theorist crowd, but I’ll let that one go.)

  9. Angela says:

    @mrm1138 Thanks for bringing this up! I forget whether Kim Davis was making headlines yet when we recorded this, but I see an important difference. Davis was trying to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. Katniss faced many romantic prospects throughout the series, but it was always with someone of the opposite sex. Also, specifically the aspect of having kids was important in HG. Katniss didn’t want to marry because that meant she would have to have kids (apparently the child free movement doesn’t survive whatever global catastrophe led to the creation of Panem). Kim Davis’ objections to same-sex marriage don’t really bring kids into it (she’s anti-equality because her religion tells her to be).

  10. mrm1138 says:

    Thanks for replying, Angela!

    Kim Davis’s objections in particular might not bring kids into it, but there are several same-sex marriage opponents who claim that the purpose of marriage is the creation and raising of children and therefore, since same-sex couples are unable to procreate with each other, they shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

    Anyway, I agreed more with the response that Katniss’s fight had more to do with her and any prospective children being able to live their lives as more than just an expendable cog in a machine.

    Also, it’s possible that Katniss comes across as a more progressive feminist role model because of the fact that The Hunger Games came out more or less around the same time as Twilight.

  11. Thanak Drahz says:

    @mrm1138 I definitely agree with your last point on Katniss’ feminist role model status stemming a lot from context. This is probably more about my personal beliefs and experiences but I always thought Katniss’ character was informed much more by her upbringing than the fact she was female.
    Being chief breadwinner and designated grown up for her family from a young age taught Katniss that life is hard and wishing for things to be better doesn’t achieve anything. Throughout the books Katniss’ chief talents are all about taking action and doing what needs to be done to protect herself and the people she cares about. It is made painfully and repeatedly obvious that she is not so good with the talking or dealing with/influencing opinions, at least not on purpose.
    I didn’t have a problem with the ending because it seemed to be perfectly in line with the character as I understood her. Getting married and having children wasn’t a happy ending; it was surviving. Katniss had lost everything that had given her purpose and lacked the skills or philosophy to invent herself a new reason to go on. Peeta, who grew up with two competent parents and whose main identified skill was in making things seem like other things, came along with his story about how he would like the world to be and Katniss’ place in it. I read the epilogue as Katniss making the totally pragmatic choice to take on this new reason to live rather than just withering away and dying. Inside her own head katniss calls her children “the girl” and “the boy”, it always seemed to me that they were just replacement goldfish she was using so she could continue providing for and protecting a family the way she always had.
    I now feel the need to point out that my own home life is perfectly fine, why do you ask?
    I would also like to agree that Tally Youngblood from Uglies is a great character. Unlike so many other protagonists she acts and thinks like someone who actually grew up in the story’s setting rather than a 21st century Westerner who just happened to be dropped into that world.

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