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This question comes as a result of me digging out some old Everway adventures that I remember working very well when I ran them. The common thread, as can be found in most of the Everway stuff that was published, was a focus on allegorical and philosophical investigation through the adventure.

Does anyone know of any other resources for adventures of this sort - especially those in genres other than fantasy?

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5 Answers 5

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Role-playing games sources:

  • Fading Suns is a game of futuristic passion play. It is a dark medieval space fantasy setting that encourages Everyman type adventures. Some of the pre-written adventures are directly allegorical, and the rest, though more focused on social and physical action, also have a moral layer. Also, there is a short story collection, Tales of the Sinful Stars, which has good source stories.

  • Tribe 8 is a very allegorical game, with deep-rooted mysticism and religious thought. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, tribal humans, enslaved by horrors representing the four humours (mainly their flaws), are aided by 7 godly beings who represent virtues and ideals. A series of adventures have been released, which all support allegorical games.

  • Nobilis is also a good choice for allegorical games. Though it has no adventures released for it, the core book has ideas and an atmosphere that helps this style of gaming.

A collection of other sources I think are very allegorical/philosophical and may apply here:

  • A huge many of the works of E.A. Poe, Nathanial Hawthorne and Franz Kafka.

  • Weavevorld by Clive Barker.

  • The Enemy Papers by Barry B. Longyear - this is a collection of sci-fi novels with some deep mysticism, and even a future alien religious corpus, the Talman.

  • The Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons.

  • Falling Angel and some short stories by William Hjortsberg (and the movie Angel Heart based on Falling Angel)

  • Most of the movies by Terry Gilliam, I would especially recommend Twelwe Monkeys and Brazil for a sci-fi milieu.

  • The movie The Fifth Element by Luc Besson.

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Thank you - an excellent list. I'll spend a few days working through a number of those :) –  Gaxx Apr 29 '13 at 15:41
    
Note that Fading Suns and Tribe 8 are essentially Fantasy games. Tribe 8 is fantasy in the mold of Vance; the only reason you can mistake it for sci-fi is that it's officially set in the future. Fading Suns is a very similar "Dark Ages + Tech" feel to Warhammer. Exccellent games, but not ones' that came to mind for me with Allegory, tho' both are in my collection. –  aramis May 3 '13 at 19:37

Not outside fantasy, but...

Pendragon (esp. 4e or 3e with Knights Adventurous)

Pendragon supplements tend to be either setting books with a few adventures, timeline sourcebooks with lots of adventures in schematic form (Pendragon Campaign, Boy king, Great Pendragon Campaign), or adventure collections (2-4 big adventures, and a half dozen smaller ones each).

Many of the adventures have allegorical elements. Many of them are outright allegory in total.

In 3e and 4e, it's possible to have mixed religion parties. Given that the game has mechanical feedback on religious behavior, and strong benefits for playing one's religion, with different religions having different traits that are virtues, this can lead to some rather interesting philosophical explorations by players.

Thing is, Pendragon's source material is strongly allegorical, too: Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Artur, T. H. White's The Once and Future King, and the traditional Welsh Mabinogion, with a few nods to the movies as well. especially Boorman's Excalibur. It should thus be no surprise that allegorical beasts are part of the bestiary and sample adventures in the core, or that the adventures often have religious and chivalric virtues being tested?

Note also: The game setting is also a bit of an allegory, as well, at least if the timeline is used: The land flourishes as Arthur's reign does. When Arthur's reign starts to falter, so does the land, and even players' fiefs can feel the pinch.

Ars Magica

Some of the published adventures for Ars Magica often have allegory, as the game is focused on a mythic version of historic Euorpe, circa 1100-1200AD. The allegory isn't as strong, and the mechanics make limited use of allegory, mostly in the material components lists for enchanting affinities.

The various houses, however, espouse different paradigms and values, so there are hooks upon which philosophical debates can be hung.

I can't be specific as to which adventures, however, as it's been too long, and my Ars Magica books are packed away.

The One Ring

As with the others I've mentioned, this is based upon a "Mythological Setting" - Tolkien's Middle Earth. It's set in and around Mirkwood Forrest, between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The adventures include some allegory, especially those in Tales from the Wood.

The use of Allegory in the adventures is almost in spite of the source - Professor Tolkien didn't intentionally use Allegory, tho' there are multiple layers of allegory found within both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. They may or may not have been intentional, but because of their constant and consistent use, Tolkien's fans can find them... and the Adventures in The one Ring are making use of it.

Likewise, the different races have clear philosophies, and when played true to setting, this creates some interesting differences of approach; mixed parties thus have philosophical arguments to make, should the party be into that kind of Roleplay.

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Thanks for the response. Ideally I'm looking for a few non-fantasy sources but fantasy sources are useful as well :) –  Gaxx Apr 29 '13 at 15:41

Lucky me, you asked for resources for adventures, not specific adventures! Well, lucky me if you count core rulebooks as resources. If not... the following are worth a mention anyway, as published adventures for these systems might give you what you're looking for. (I almost never use published adventures myself, so I can't really recommend any for them.)

Mage: The Ascension & Werewolf: The Apocalypse

Both games try to tackle rather serious philosophical themes and questions regarding the nature of reality, our world, and ourselves. (Mage the first two, mostly, whereas Werewolf the latter two.) Of course, you can play both as simple horror/pulp as well, but if you're looking for a device to investigate contrasting philosophies from around the world in an rpg, you should check these out.

In Mage, various factions of modern day wizards, most of whom are heirs to ages old traditions, are battling for the control of reality - which battle, ultimately, would also decide and define the nature of reality.

In Werewolf, it's the inner nature of Man that you get a great chance to scrutinize more thoroughly, especially if you're not afraid to use such things, for example, as the Umbra (the shadow of the Earth, a parallel reality reflecting Earth's memories, dreams, past, spirits etc), the countless spirits (including those controlling Earth's reality itself) for more than simple horror.

Note, please, that Mage: The Awakening and Werewolf: The Forsaken (newer versions of the above mentioned games, for the new World of Darkness) are also good candidates, though they're a bit more focused on the personal horror aspect, and require somewhat more effort on the Storyteller's part to turn into engines of philosophizing, in my experience.

The Call of Cthulhu

Again, a horror game on the surface. Well, truth be told, it remains a horror game even if you dig deeper into its philosophical layers, for Lovecraft's view of the world is rather bleak and disheartening... with the possible exception of certain aspects of his "Dreamlands", which can be rather majestic and even inspiring, despite all the surrounding gloom and doom. But you certainly can go all philosophical and allegoric in CoC, just mind your sanity. ;]

Here's an article that may serve as an introduction to HPL's philosophy, in case you need it.

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Thanks - not quite what I'm looking for. Ideally I'm looking for things that are more readily translatable straight into adventures. However, I'll definitely drag out my old WW and CoC stuff to have a look through :) –  Gaxx Apr 29 '13 at 15:43

FreeMarket is a transhuman, science fiction game that asks,

You don't need to worry about food or a place to sleep. You don't have a job, you don't need to work, and you can't die. What do you do with your life?

Every time or I've run or played it, the results were fascinating.

Burning Wheel is a fantasy game about fighting for what you believe in. If you write philosophical beliefs for your character, the GM is obligated to test your those beliefs. What happens if your beliefs conflict? What happens when you're forced to choose between them?

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Thanks, I'm fairly sure I have a copy of Burning Wheel on my bookshelf. I'll drag it off and take a look through :) –  Gaxx Apr 29 '13 at 15:43

I second the Pendragon recomendation, and I really like the White Wolf system for the kind of game you are talking about. But Pendragon - esp the Perilous Forrest supplement sound like they are what you want.

There is a also a strange game from the 80's caled sandman - and it has just been reprinted. It is heavy on allegory.

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