Impractical Applications (A Case of Wiggle Room)

I talked this week about licensed worlds as RPG settings, discussing premises and plots and settings and wiggle-room. Goodness knows I’ve tested the wiggle room of the settings I’ve played in at times (though in my case, most of it turned into a big load of “screw canon”). But the most interesting case I’ve seen of setting canon and wiggle room comes from that Dresden Files RPG game I’ve been in since last summer. (Yes, the one with the vampires, the pigeon, the dragon… you get the idea.)

It started, of course, with discussions of a setting, as our GM was trying to avoid anywhere anyone had actually lived. (Unfortunately, he was already in a game that featured the New Orleans children’s legends, so there went that idea.) We ended up in London, instead. The system recommends beginning by round-tabling and talking legends, so we did. In our London, swans being under Crown protection is exploited the wereswan Mafia, a cygnet ring operating out of a bar that I kept having to resist the urge to call a swan dive. We—or most specifically I—came up with an explanation for the ravens at the Tower of London, making their presence part of an agreement that kept the dragon Procopia from trying to seize power. The group itself… well, it was a nice varied group, the kind that people would expect to walk into a bar and set off a joke, but everyone had a pre-existing connection to everyone else (as encouraged by the system). Started out as five, shed two people, ended up with the core being a hippie Red Court Infected whose smoothie bar was the local Neutral Ground, a werepigeon sorcerer, and the book-aligned wizard girl who kept them out of trouble.

As for the original stories—well, it was across the Pond, so generally not our problem. They did, however, turn into something of a running joke. If the GM didn’t have his act together for one of the big-name NPCs? They were in Chicago. When Aisling limped her way in to the Council after the fiasco involving Carmilla, a Red Court hit squad and a Lord of Outer Night, and made her report, “the representative from Chicago” indulged in a little out-of-turn applause.

My GM broke from game-canon in one place, and that was by shoving our game a bit earlier in the books’ timeline than the game would imply; nobody wanted to deal with the war. This didn’t, mind you, mean that it didn’t end up being held over our heads, just that it was held over our heads a little differently. Preventing the god-thing from killing its way through the English countryside to power its trip home? Generally a good plan. Doing something completely unprecedented and probably technically impossible in order to stop it (okay, aside from getting gutted and having dead god in the bloodstream)? Kinda cool. Whole lot of vampires ticked off because you managed to seal one of their god-things, even if the lady starting an offshoot faction who set the whole mess off by being too powerful just to send a hit squad after IS taking credit for it, at least until the truth comes out? Not so nifty.

End result? We had wiggle room, and ended up with something fun, awesome, and epically sketchable.

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