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Eating Fake Bacon

A few days ago I was preparing to nuke some fake (veggie) bacon for my daughter when the writing on the box caused me to smirk; it promised the smoky taste of real bacon. While this is no issue for my daughter (she likes real bacon), the reason that she got into the fake stuff was because her primarily-vegetarian Mommy eats it. As her Mommy can’t stand the smell of real bacon, I can’t imagine why she’d want to eat something that tasted and smelled like it. (For the record, I’m being a bit hypocritical here, since I’ve never tasted fake bacon and love the real thing).

There’s a lesson here for gaming; if you want to run something that your players don’t particularly enjoy, there’s a chance that they might love a “reskinned” version.

A good example of this is the American Western. For some reason, straight-up Westerns don’t resonate with a lot of gamers, at least in my circles. That said, most “western” plots work well when reskinned as a fantasy border town or post-apocalyptic settlement. Maybe your players don’t want to save a Mexican frontier town from a local bandit gang, but they wouldn’t mind saving a walled village from the raids of the goblin king or mutant marauders.

Another example is the pulp lost world setting. Can’t get your players interested in playing early 20th century explorers? No problem! Dump their fantasy characters into a strange immense underground cavern filled with dinosaurs and lost civilizations. Substitute magic for science and you’re good to go.

A final example is the dungeon crawl. You may love the variety of challenges you can create with dungeon settings, but your players may not. Reskin it! While some players hate the idea of creating a few LOTR knock-off PCs into the latest Dungeon of Doom, they may not mind being deep space explorers that discover an ancient wrecked starship of unknown origin floating through space. Or they may not mind being modern mercenaries in some remote jungle that stumble upon a temple ruin that supposedly contains a treasure guarded by demons, especially if another team is working against them.

Those are a few examples that I’ve actually used. How about you? Have you ever reskinned something that your players were against and discovered that they actually enjoyed it?

16 Comments (Open | Close)

16 Comments To "Eating Fake Bacon"

#1 Comment By Havukin On July 7, 2009 @ 3:44 am

I think in practise this idea is quite close to stealing a plot from a book or a movie and disguising it by changing the setting. Reasons for the reskinning, of course, are different. Anyway it’s an application I hadn’t thought of and will probably try some time.

#2 Comment By tman On July 7, 2009 @ 7:39 am

As another example, my favorite ‘western’ is a little TV show called Firefly.

#3 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On July 7, 2009 @ 8:03 am

@tman – Firefly is good, but it’s no Marshal Bravestarr 😉

#4 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On July 7, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

Must… resist… bacon… comments…

Crap; a natural one.

How can you not like the smell of bacon? Heck, how can you not like bacon? It’s meat candy!

This is why vegetarians are hypocrites; do you ever see meat masquerading as vegetables? Me neither, but I see tofurkey (blarg), facon, and gardenburgers all the time. Secretly, vegetarians crave meaty goodness.

Whew; finally made my save against recurring ranting.

Yes, I reskin all the time. A Drow antogonist was based on Adolf Hitler with more megalomania (and made bigger strategic blunders). A running fight to save the Crown Prince was based almost entirely on “Road Warrior”, including the fake prince. My current 4E character (Elf Ranger-Archer) has many of the same attitudes that I had when I wore a uniform, even the not-so-admirable ones.

But then again, Hollywood reskins all the time, too. Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name (A Fistful of Dollars, etc) was originally based on Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. The Magnificent Seven is a direct remake of Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai. And Kurosawa’s Ran and Throne of Blood are based on Shakespeare’s King Lear and MacBeth respectively. (Can you tell I’m a fan of Kurosawa?)

#5 Comment By tman On July 7, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

@ Kurt – Dude! I love Kurosawa. His movies are just so incredibly well made and paced! I only wish some of my games could turn out like that!

@Walt – True, true, but really, what could be? 🙂

#6 Comment By Scott Martin On July 7, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

My reskinning is often unconscious, but it’s probably very clear in the aftermath. If there’s a format or story that excites you, see if it’ll go in whatever you’re running. It’s rare that the game is too finicky to take it.

#7 Comment By Tony Graham On July 7, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

Isn’t bacon a food group in the nutrition pyramid?

Anyway – re-skinning stories is a time honored tradition as Kurt points out. Kurosawa had a well-documented love of John Ford & his westerns which makes The Seven Samurai to Magnificent Seven evolution even more incestuous.

Movies, comics, television, books (and, yes, even some RPGs) all take the same basic stories & scenarios and re-skin them on a continually evolving basis. GMs should never hesitate to steal… er, pay homage to stories they love, no matter what they believe to be the origin (Homer was around before The Simpsons, really!) of the tale.

#8 Comment By Patrick Benson On July 7, 2009 @ 1:31 pm

I eat less meat as I get older because I don’t want to die of a massive heart attack (my father has had several heart problems beginning early in life, and half my genes came from him). That said, while I do eat the veggie bacon and other veggie substitutes often I don’t fool myself into thinking that they are what they pretend to be. And when I’m at a party and there is bacon wrapped anything available I suck it down like the sweet nectar of life that it is. Bacon wrapped shrimp, bacon wrapped chicken, bacon wrapped steak, bacon wrapped bacon, etc. Its all good!

And while on vacation there is no such thing as a diet.

The funny thing is that while veggie bacon is a mere attempt at being bacon that fails miserably no matter how “good” it is, what Walt points out is something a little bit different in that the re-skinning often does create a new and worthy substitute. Yeah, Firefly is not a Western like Stagecoach is or sci-fi like Star Trek is, but damn if isn’t a unique and wonderful mix of the two that can stand on its own.

So veggie bacon is a mere tease that fails to deliver the goods when the chips are down, real bacon delivers the goods but will eventually break your heart (literally), and something like a good turkey bacon may not be exactly like bacon but if done well will satisfy your cravings without the drastic consequences.

Where the hell was I going with this one?

#9 Comment By Rafe On July 7, 2009 @ 2:51 pm

I’m not sure if this is reskinning, per se, but I’ve recently thought about using Dogs In the Vineyard for a wuxia setting, or a Seven Samurai style setting. With Traits being totally open (same for Relationships and Belongings), it’d be easy to do, I think.

#10 Comment By Airk On July 7, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

Ugh. Going to have to step up here a minute to explain something to all the “meat-heads”:

99% of vegetarians are not vegetarian because they don’t like meat. If you imply otherwise, you are being deliberately obtuse, because you know better.

That said, as an analogy for re-skinning games, it’s a little questionable too. Still, the underlying premise here is a strong one – and a valuable creative tool. Got an idea for a game in a system that’s not appropriate to the one you’re running? Odds are you can make it appropriate with far less work than you might think.

#11 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On July 7, 2009 @ 2:57 pm


“Telas the Deliberately Obtuse”

I like it! 😉

#12 Comment By masterzora On July 7, 2009 @ 3:16 pm

Don’t forget that Star Trek was pitched as “Wagon Train to the Stars”. Proves that reskinning really does work wonders.

#13 Comment By Sewicked On July 10, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

Funny bit: in our group ‘bacon’ is a codename for boxed text in modules (the kind that you can’t avoid. So fake bacon would be boxed text that you can avoid/interrupt?

Anyway, as has been said, reskinning is a long, valued tradition in gaming. One GM got a whole adventure from the song Lucy in the Sky (set in a fairy realm, naturally).

#14 Comment By peter On July 19, 2009 @ 5:05 pm

bacon from tempeh is supergood.

and I don’t see why not eating meat because it is the dead decaying body of an animal makes me a hypocrite.

I actually think meateaters are hypocrites for not eating their dog, cat, or other pet when I dies.

about the reskinning: I have played dozens of western ideas in other settings (star wars, d&d) just because I don’t seem to find a decent wild west game

#15 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On July 20, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

It more or less depends on your personal reasoning, but my personal gripes are:
-Because least harm studies, assuming all animal life equal (and if you don’t, than why shouldn’t people eat animals?), prove that a diet based mainly on grazing ruminants (ie: cows and the like) causes far less animal pain and death than a vegitarian diet due to slaughter of massive numbers of field dwelling creatures during harvest
-Because credible dieticians claim that not only is there no good reason for a vegitarian diet but that some essential protiens cannot be found in plants and that a vegetarian diet is actually harmful or deadly to certain segments of the population such as the very young
-Because most campaigns for vegetarianism are based entirely on emotional pleas not on reasoning of any kind
-Because most vegetarians are selective about which animals are equal and which are not. If you weren’t you would never treat your dog for parasites. The thousands of fleas and ticks that will die over the lifetime of your dog by being poisoned by his parasite treatment are more valuable than your dog.

Regarding not eating our dogs, we don’t because of the following good reasons:
-They died of disease or failure of some sort so it’s likely they harbor unusually high levels of bacteria or toxins
-They weren’t killed in sanitary conditions or immediately prepped for consumption, so the lapse in time between death and consumption compunds the problem of bacteria
-It’s illegal where most of us live which, for the record, is completely untenable and based on emotional, not rational reasons

Those are the most coherant reasonable arguements I’ve seen or read. Frankly, as long as you don’t give me crap about enjoying the flesh of other animals, I won’t give you crap about enjoying the flesh of vegetables.

#16 Comment By Kolbold Minion On August 20, 2009 @ 3:37 pm

I reskin monsters with notable weaknes/powers so my players who read the monster manual backwards and forwards cant single in on the weakness.