I have never run a pop culture filled roleplaying game before. It always seemed somewhat unorthodox and like there were so many holes that needed to be filled in order to make it work. I figured I would explore the idea of a pop culture themed roleplaying adventure with all the holidays just around the corner.
Throughout my time I have seen many adventures out there that use pop culture as a reference for an adventure. But the idea always seemed absurd to me, specifically after seeing Lenard on the “The Big Bang Theory” DMing a save Santa dungeons and dragons adventure. To me fantasy is fantasy, and real life is real life. It seems out of place to cross these two realms into one.
I started actually considering the idea after I saw a rather humorous yet wonderfully done campaign based of the current YouTube hit “What does the fox say?” If you haven’t seen the video I strongly suggest watching it. The campaign took the idea of the video and turned it around making the adventure about finding a fey who was foxkin that was a witness to the murder of a feudal lord. It was cleverly done and the DM beautifully played in many of the lyrics from the song into the campaign.
So if this DM could successfully pull it off, why should I be so hesitant to try it? Well there were two things about this campaign that were different than what I had expected. First off, it only took the idea of pop culture. It was not fully revolved around the idea of what noise does a fox make, it played it deeper by making the foxes words a key plot event in finding the murderer. Second, it used humor to make the pop culture reference platonic. It didn’t actually interfere with the fantasy aspect of it but played in enough to make it friendly.
These two differences are what made it possible. Looking at “The Big Bang Theory” portrayal of a pop culture themed adventure, it made the pop culture reference too involved and by doing so threw off the entire feel of fantasy. Saving Santa, and therefore Christmas, is a cliché idea. Mattering on the setting of the campaign it also does not make sense why people of that fantasy realm would celebrate Christmas. This way of doing it takes the fantasy out of the roleplaying.
Roleplaying to me is a way to remove myself from real life to explore realms unlike the one we live in. Even though this kind of pop culture adventure irks me, it may be of interest to others. Much of it matters on the people , who you play with, and why they play. Taking this into consideration, a holiday adventure is not such a bad idea. If your adventures want a serious campaign than pop culture references may not be the way to go. If they want humor and something different, than try it and see what they think. Any adventure can be a good one if the commitment and time is put into it.