Folklore has a lot of meaning in RolePlaying Games.
The strongest common feature of both Folk stories the RPGs is oral tradition. Stories of yore become folklore, passed down from one storyteller to the next. For example, my father told a story about a ghost raccoon that seemingly vanished into thin air in roughly the same place every time hunters got close. That story has passed down for three, maybe four generations now for certain.
The main difference is in RPGs, is we have oral tradition and storytelling, but purely based on fictional events that we create ourselves. Which is not to say the stories we create will never be passed on. Any time a gamer starts a story with “This one time in ____ game, we ran into …”
Every major RPG celeb I’ve ever met always starts the conversation with, “I don’t want to hear about your character.”
Let’s face it, every gamer has a favorite character that they usually default to talking about. I have campaign stories I love to tell, but I kinda read the room first. But I know game designers and TTRPG writers have heard a lot of stories and have tons of their own.
The Internet has kinda spoiled us.
Cell phones, laptops, social media, and search engines have sort of modified modern folklore. It’s not as much an oral tradition any more. The stories of everyday life throughout spreads and short videos have replaced longer oration and gatherings around the campfire. Prior to the Internet, it was TV and Radio.
Our #TTRPG stories still show up on blogs from time to time. I use many of them for two things. I create tons of folklore when I’m worldbuilding my fantasy campaign. I also do research on local history/folklore for Monster of the Week RPG to base various bizarre events upon.
Fantasy RPGs come alive with mythical folklore.
I know a lot of worldbuilding advice tells campaign creators, “Don’t go bonkers with pages upon pages of backstory.” However, I don’t believe that is totally correct. Even if I jot down one or two lines about a town or a landmark as my group encounters it, I still come up with some kind of local lore for it. In the real world, everything has a story behind it. Some are just more exciting than others.
Modern Horror games benefit from some research.
Almost every horror movie makes mention or even creates a story about some kind of Urban Legend. Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Jigsaw, and so on all have stories surrounding them, their creation and their misdeeds. Halloween is the best time of year for local folklore because a lot of people have stories about the haunted house up the block or that thing they saw in the woods.
Even better is this lovely folklore-esque invention of Creepypasta. I know it’s a big thing on YouTube and elsewhere. People love scary stories. That’s why I love games such as Monster of the Week and SCP. They give us an excuse to pull out the scary stories in a way that doesn’t make people poop themselves and stay awake all night while camping. RPGs also don’t require a massive special effects budget and stunt actors the way horror films do. Creepypasta stories come to life in RPGs. I haven’t even mentioned Call of Cthulhu.
If I were to ever use Randonautica, I would be doing a lot of research on where this thing was taking me. A lot of freaky things are usually discovered at the end of a Randonautica adventure and I don’t like being caught completely off guard. I hear Rando is pretty much the next Ouija board, something else I don’t want to randomly fool around with. (*And advise everyone to use their own discernment as to whether or not Randonautica and/or Ouija are safe.)
Folklore stories are super useful in RPGs. I totally recommend looking up history and lore in your own area. Sometimes it’s very enlightening outside of TTRPG contexts. I also recommend checking out some creepypasta stories on YouTube or other video app for inspiration and shivers.
I hadn’t intended for this to become an entire article, but it’s an interesting subject. Folklore and story hooks/prompts go hand in hand. Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate it. Have a great week.