Adventure Time and Portrayal of Female Friendship in Fiction

I’m now regretting giving up on Adventure Time for so long after season 4.  It really did rebound a good bit with season 5, even though some of ‘morals’ struck me as strange and inappropriate (such as children not needing their father).  It’s still fairly clear that it has given up on being a kids’ show, but the storytelling was a good bit better, and, going into it as an underground comics style gonzo horror fantasy instead of a weird wacky kids show, it’s pretty good for what it is.

What miffs me, though – and this position is one that may court controversy (shocking, I know!) – is the direction that the comics have taken with Princess Bubblegum and Marceline.  There’s always been fanon and shippers who see these characters as OTP, but I found the heavy implication that they get together as a couple somewhat annoying.  No, I don’t hate gays or lesbians, real or fictional; what I hate is the tendency for whenever you see a deep friendship between two female characters people want to make them a couple. There’s always the Peter Griffin slowly popping up from behind the bush going “C’mon… start makin’ out… that’s it…”

Throwing Flame Princess into the mix along with repeatedly showing that PB is a romantic dead end for Finn and flash-forwards showing Finn and FP married pretty much leaves both PB and Marceline single and without suitor.  There’s a desire in fandoms that all characters be paired off romantically; unfortunately that leaves characters like PB and Marcie, who’ve been shown to have a complex friendship with ups and downs, to have their friendship turned into “oh, they’re an item”.

So, I guess what I’m getting at is when nuanced portrayals of female friendships are uncommon in works with as wide a demographic an appeal as Adventure Time, it seems kind of obnoxiously reductive to say ‘it’s cuz they’re a couple and they’re in love’.  It’s like girls in fiction can’t have best friends without people wanting them to get it on, and the Adventure Time comics seem to want to cater to those who fantasize about best girlfriends doing it, cuz that’s secretly what they do, right?

I will note that the implication is significantly less in the show than in the comics; the implication itself smacks of retroactive continuity, as it was something not present at all in earlier seasons.  As it is, the whole thing comes off as being shaped by a fandom that wants to see Peebs xxx Marcie.  Also, yeah, I know I’m like a year and a half late on this controversy.  Whateves.

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Crown of Ice

Awhile back, I wrote a little something about Adventure Time as a setting, and got to thinking about what a powerful evil artifact the Ice King’s crown must be. It grants tremendous powers, but strips the wearer of his sanity and his past. Horrific indeed!

Here’s an idea for an evil ice crown. Feel free to borrow!

Crown of Ice:

After being in possession of the crown for 24 hours, the owner will find his or herself unnaturally reluctant to part with it (saving throw vs magic). After possessing the Crown for a week or more, the owner will be unable to resist wearing the crown at least once per day.

Every time the owner puts on the crown, he or she must make a saving throw vs magic, with a -1 penalty for each month the crown has been in the character’s possession. Each failed saving throw will shift the character’s alignment one towards chaos/evil. A chaotic/evil character need not make this saving throw. Chaotic/evil character in possession of the crown will be unwilling to part with it except via force or magical means and will wear the crown whenever possible. Chaotic/evil characters in possession of the crown will, over the course of 4d12 months, lose all but trace memories of their former life. Additionally, characters in possession of the Crown of Ice must make a save vs magic or permanently lose 1 point of charisma each year they have the crown.

The Crown of Ice grants its wearers the following powers:
-Unlimited Flight(as a free action). Standard movement rates apply.
-Ice Armor(once per day). The wearer is encapsulated with a thick cast of ice. Wearer moves at half normal rate. Ice Armor grants the wearer 20 additional HP; when this HP is lost, the Armor is considered shattered. Fire attacks deal 2x damage while Ice Armor is in effect. While Ice Armor is in effect, the wearer cannot cast spells or use normal weapons, however the Armor’s fists do 2d12 damage.
-Rays of Snow (unlimited). Shoots a light blue bolt with a range of 30 ft. deals 1d3 cold damage to any targets in its path. Additionally, snow will fall on or from any targets struck for 1d4 rounds.
-Ice Beam (8 per day) – Shoots a dark blue bolt with a range of 20 ft. deals 2d6 cold damage. 2-7 damage, targets must save vs Paralysis or be partially trapped in ice. 8-12 damage, targets must save vs Paralysis or be completely encased in ice.

Anyway, Happy Gaming and Happy Thanksgiving!

Can a setting like Adventure Time work in a Tabletop RPG?

I’ll admit, I’ve done some brainstorming on how Adventure Time could work, either as a board game or tabletop rpg. Nothing serious, just some flights of fancy that never go very far.

The difficulty that Adventure Time, or ANY truly fantastical setting where anything is possible, poses is that rules exist to limit the infinite possibilities of fantasy. Most systems would ground a setting where nothing is grounded.

Let’s take a look at some characters-
Finn is essentially a powerless (or rather “unpowered”) character* whose problem solving abilities, luck, attitude and status as protagonist renders him invincible in what is actually an incredibly deadly and dangerous fantasy setting full of magical monsters and near unstoppable horrors.

Jake, on the other hand, has almost limitless powers as a magic dog with near infinite shape shifting and virtual invulnerability but, unless he has Finn helping him,  is pretty easily defeated due to his many character flaws (greed, egocentrism, laziness).

Ice King is a deranged, megalomaniacal wizard hellbent on kidnapping women. In Adventure Time, he’s a creepy joke, but in a more serious gaming setting, he’d be a pretty threatening high level wizard, armed to the teeth with cold and paralyzing magic.

Assorted monsters in Ooo are often either deceptively cute squamous horrors or squamous horrors thru-and-thru. One of the things they often have in common are some very specific weakness or blind spot that must be taken advantage of. Also present are every sort of evil undead imaginable.

All magic in Adventure Time follows rules, but in a self contained manner (i.e. each spell or artifact is subject to the rules that govern that specific spell/artifact, but variety of spells and accompanying rules is pretty boundless). If you can magic it, anything goes, unless someone can outmagic you, either through power or cleverness (like the strategic use of Cantrips in Wizard Battle). Also, magic powers are either inborn or artifact given, though people who’ve acquired them through either means can be wizards; there does not seem to be any distinction.

A diceless system that relied entirely on problem solving would be the best way to accommodate a setting like Ooo. Riddles, puzzle monsters, and negotiations for players to wind their way through would replace typical rolling for searches/traps/actions and punch-face tit-for-tat battling. Capture & imprisonment other than death, go back to start, do not collect 200 gold.

But is this really a “system”? How does one convey the danger, horror and hostility of Ooo, which rivals Carcosa? How does one deal with the threat of PC death in a tabletop RPG that is more Neverhood than Neverwinter? Can play be balanced? Should it? It’s the sort of thing that would only appeal to certain kinds of players, but could be a fun diversion from your typical dungeon crawl. Players and DMs would have to be ready for any possibilities and contingencies within the story and exploration.

*:I’m reminded of reading an article somewhere that went to the effect of “If a group of 1st-5th level characters somehow defeat a Lich, it doesn’t mean they outsmarted the Lich, it means the DM played the Lich wrong.”