Monday, July 30, 2007

Cool in Retrograde

Cue music: a slow dirge of notes played on a low stringed instrument

Voice-over upon a black screen:
"It was a darker time... our shadows stretched across the mortal world, and the humans shuddered at our influence. Their money was becoming useless, their resources scarce. They reproduced at unprecedented rates, spreading disease with abandon while the greatest of plagues incubated in its dark womb, waiting to decimate the population of continents. Class fought class and race fought race, and all the while great nations sent their young men to die in futile struggles. It was the heyday of Hell...."

Second voice:
"The Dark Ages? The Inquisition?"

First Voice:
"Nineteen Seventy-Seven."

Music speeds up to become the opening bass riff of "Stayin' Alive"

"Well you can tell by the way I use my walk I'm a womans' man..."

Fade in to Logo: Welcome to the world of Gothic Funk.
I must confess a strange nostalgic attraction for the 70s. I remember very little of that decade, having been born in 1973, but its culture has affected and shaped me in a thousand different ways, and my recent delving into Electric Company videos has wakened these memories.

For me, the late 1970s will always be extremely cool to me because that was the era of my brother, Shane, whom I idolized. Anything associated with him was cool, and anything he did was to be emulated. (Fun fact: because he was into Dungeons and Dragons, I was into D&D. He was my first Dungeon Master. Oddly, he outgrew it a few years later, and I've never stopped playing with toys and polyhedral dice.) Shane is seven years older than I am, and while I'm a child of the 80s, Shane was (at least to my starry eyes) completely 70s groovalicious, baby.

Shane was cool. Shane was a teenager in the late 1970s. Thus, the late 1970s were (and still are) cool. QED.

If you seek further proof, look at Quentin Tarantino's films. He seems to be making a career out of all the goofy-fun tropes of that time.

So one day, not too long ago, I was considering role-playing games, and thought: I like Vampires. And I like Goth. Vampires and Goths go together like satin and lace. But sometimes, too much Goth spoils the Vampirism. I wonder, would it be possible to combine Vampires with something else I think is cool, but isn't horribly over-wrought?

Then three thoughts occurred to me, in rapid succession:

Satin and polyester.

Vampires and the 1970s.


Sheer brilliance, as far as I'm concerned: Vampires and muscle cars. Big afros, big fangs. Who's the private dick that bites all the chicks? It's Drac, baby. Can you dig it?

It's the perfect blend of camp and angst, and best of all, I can get rid of so many modern conveniences that can rip huge holes in plots:
  • Cell phones
  • ATM machines
  • 24-hour stores
  • the Internet
I am positively drooling at the thought of this concept. But I'm not quite sure where to begin preparing. Has anyone run a game set in the 1970s? Are there any gaming resources for this era? (What, no GURPS: Disco?)

In short, how could I make the World of Gothic Funk into a complete polyester experience for my hapless players?

I welcome all feedback!


  1. Interesting idea. Off the top of my head, almost no RPGs cover the 70s. They seem to jump from Medieval/Fantasy up to WWI and WWII, then other than some Golden Age comics settings, they jump right into the 80s. Though I do recall a Spy RPG, I only played it once, prolly around '85, but I seem to recall it being set before that time period.

    I shudder at the thought of disco vampires. Though I think you could make even them cool =)

    Personally there's very little I like about the 70s, though I'm a year older than you (Feb '72).
    Unlike you, I am the eldest, so had nobody to look up to or idolize as you have.

    I'm very much a child of the 80s and proud of it =)

  2. Now if you wanted to work on a Big Hair, Spandex Wearing, Neon Colored, Techno Pop, Shallow and 'Me' oriented game, I'd be all over that =)

  3. You know, the 70s might be the perfect setting for a Vampire game. absolute genius.

    Like Mike says, I can't think of a single game set during the decade, which really strikes me as a bit wierd.

  4. One title - "Kolchak - The Night Stalker" you want 70's weird, look no further.

  5. There were a lot of games that came out, mostly dominated by TSR - Metamorphisis Alpha, Gamma World, original D&D, another that came out along those times were Dave Arneson's Dungeon Quest book series - Arduin Grimoire. D&D's original world was based on an Avalon Hill game "Wilderness Survival". Scattergunning, yes I know, but the "Kolchak" reference really got the old gears turning.

    Most of the television shows I remember were sci-fi mostly, but "Dark Shadows" lasted way into the 70's and I enjoyed the heck out of the show.


  6. Disco + Vampires = Blacula, sadly.

  7. What a groovy concept - I'd love to play a leisure suit & platform shoe wearing "pimp daddy" with his band of vamped out brothel babes. I'm doing the BBQ things with a bunch of RPG artists and R&D folks this week-end. I'll see if they have any suggestions for resource materials.

  8. And what's wrong with Blacula, Bittercupjoe?

  9. I don't know how much vampires would go with actual settings in the 70s, but I could definitely see them as a flourishing hidden underclass during such an era. The humans were in their said stereotypical afros and such, and the vampires saw this as the perfect time to strike.

    The game/story would be weird if it were about vampires actually mingling with humans in the decade at all times.

  10. Ya know, the inquisition would in all liklihood be bad for vampires as well as everyone else. Highly pararanoid and powerful quasi government groups with weapons that torture and kill you tends to have negative effects on societys in general.

    The 70s however...
    That's a REALLY good idea.

  11. Ahh...

    Disco + Vampires does not always = Blacula.

    Sometimes, just sometimes, it equals old-school Blade the Vampire Hunter.

    I direct you to the link below:

    Like Luke Cage, nee Powerman, but with fangs.

  12. Timeless Ticker, your standard White Wolf vampire society should absolutely thrive during the 1970s. The boom in drugs, sex, and nightclub culture alone guarantees a healthy diet and plenty of pliable wills to be tempted into joining some Lick's self-gratifying cult du jour. And expectation for bizarre dress/behavior is just a license for vamps to walk around that scene like rock stars.

    And best of all, no Bauhaus.

  13. Damnation Decade: 70s dystopian / disaster movie roleplaying. d20, but looks easy enough to port over, and it's well written. I'm chewing my way through the recommended films as we speak.


  14. So just curious, was this something you're actually considering or more of a 'lets get a discussion' thing? Even though I said the 70s are not my favorite decade, I'd be interested in seeing/hearing/reading what you've got in mind and perhaps even lending some of my meager roleplaying skills to the effort =)

  15. I actually have a Vampire gaming character, and Erin you'd be proud of him. He's about the most pretentious-free character you can imagine, and to keep me creative, he's got absolutely nul point in combat.

    Have to keep things difficult for the storytellers, you know?

  16. Somewhere between the two, Allura-Mike: while I'm not actively thinking about it, I've set the idea to simmering on the back burner of my mind so that my unconscious can fiddle with it, make connections, etc.

    I'm also researching some of the recommendations here, as well as trying to find VH1's "I Love the 70s" compilation.

    So yes, any and all discussion is helpful, and while I promise nothing, I may have something to present to the group at some point.
    Some times it takes years for back-burner ideas to finally come to a boil.

  17. I hear you. I've been working on my own RPG for over 10 years now and it's still not to the point where I'm even willing to share it with friends/family.
    Fantasy, skills and combat like Rune Quest (Avalon Hill), but no hit locations.
    Magic system based off either the Elements or Divine. Every sentient in the world has at least some magic.
    And much more still to be worked on.

  18. I just want to second the recommendation for Damnation Decade.

  19. I'm currently running a Lovecraftian investigation game in GURPS, set in San Francisco, three years after flower power wilted. Assembling the world mechanics, as in all things GURPS, has been a matter of sifting through $300 worth of books to extract about fifty bucks of material. The real fun has been the thematic research, drawing on Hammer horror films, Kolchak the Night Stalker, and the old Karl Malden/Michael Douglas show Streets of San Francisco while I read up on the real occult history of the Bay Area. If I were you, I'd just throw George and Bootsy on the hi-fi, watch Blackula and Studio 54 a couple of hundred times and read Hunter Thompson's crazed, disgusted chronicling of the Nixon era. It'll all come together in your inner spaces, you dig?


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