Monday, June 25, 2012

How Sammy Davis Jr. Inspired "Gonzo"

I'm loathe to link to VICE, but there's a method to my madness here.

The idea to make "Gonzo" arose from one conversation. My wife and I were sitting around one night, drinking. I mentioned that Sammy Davis Jr. was a Satanist. She refused to believe me. I think she still does.

So I went looking for all the proof, which isn't conclusive but it's enough that I want to believe that Sammy was running around at devil orgies and high-fiving Anton LaVey. I showed it to her, we kept drinking, and she still didn't believe me. 

But this got me thinking: let's just take it at face value. Sammy Davis Jr. was, 100%, no doubts, a Satanist. Just the prospect of this being a real thing sounds like a B-movie from the time. It's so improbably weird, one of those moments when reality and fiction are both too close in tone and style. And I thought, "I want to play a game in that world." The world where fact and fiction are both so bizarre that you can't really tell which is which. So a session might be finding out if Sammy Davis Jr. is actually a Satanist (with my wife playing the protagonist so that way there is never, ever any more doubt in her mind about this), seeing he is, and then having to run away because he is and he doesn't want Frank to find out so he's trying to kill you. But who would do that as a job? Oh, gonzo journalists. Something like Hunter Thompson with a slice of Scooby Doo tossed in.

I started laughing and laughing about what a rad game that would be.

Anyway, that's kind of the underpinning. We toy with what's real and what's not. Then we toy with what's true and what's untrue, which isn't the same thing. This is actually a subtle but steady theme running through Thompson's works, so it works here since you're playing gonzo journalists. There's a lot of thematic overlap in subject matter between the two, and we delve into that, but mostly Bret and I understand that people want to eat (pretend) pills, hallucinate David Cassidy (this actually happened in playtest), and then fight cannibal rednecks riding giant alligators.

And that's cool! But the themes are important and, hearteningly, seem to come out in actual play without anyone screaming THIS ISN'T ACTUALLY ABOUT CULTS AND KILLER PIRANHAS IT'S ABOUT AMERICA. Which is pretty awesome.

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