Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Where the Streets Have No Name: Using Song Lyrics as Gaming Inspiration

I'm a big believer in that inspiration for your game can come from anywhere and anything. Some time ago Boing Boing posted a link to this map, where all the streets were the names of famous (and not so famous) place name songs. Examples include 56th Street Bride Song, Highway 61 Revisited, Highway to Hell, etc. As I was looking at the map, inspiration struck. What if you based plot and adventure hooks for an urban based campaign from the lyrics of the songs? Alternatively, what if you came up with fairy tale names for the streets and then based plots on those, but without telling the players the names of the streets?



This is a map of part of London. Highway 61 Revisited is actually Hackney Road and 'A' Bomb on Wardour Street Old Street.

Highway 61 Revisited
Oh, God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe says, "Man you must be puttin' me on"
God says, "No", Abe say "What?"
God say "You can do what you want Abe but
The next time you see me comin' you better run"

Well Abe said, "Where do you want this killin' done?"
God say, "Out on Highway 61"

Well Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose
Welfare department they wouldn't give him no clothes
He asked poor Howard, "Where can I go?"
Howard said, "There's only one place I know"
Sam said, "Tell me quick man and I got to run"

Old howard just pointed with his gun
And said, "That way down Highway 61"

Well Mack the finger said to Louie the King
"I got forty red white and blue shoe strings
And a thousand telephones that don't ring
Do you know where I can get rid of these things?"
And Louie the King said, "Let me think for a minute son"

And he said, "Yes I think it can be easily done
Just take everything down to Highway 61"

Now the fifth daughter on the twelfth night
Told the first father that things weren't right
My complexion she says is much too white
He said, "Come here and step into the light"
He says, "Hmm you're right
Let me tell the second mother this has been done"

But the second mother was with the seventh son
And they were both out on Highway 61

Now the Rovin' gambler he was very bored
He was tryin' to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said, "I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it can be very easily done"

We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61

There are some great NPC possibilities there. The Rovin' Gambler who has a game set up on a different corner every day, or the shopkeeper with a thousand telephones who is able to communicate with anyone, anywhere. 

What about plots? The PCs are approached by a man who is part of a secret organization. The head of this organization wants the man to give over his son to be raised up in the organization/trained/sent on a suicide mission/etc. The man doesn't want to sacrifice his son, so asks the PCs to step in and stop the thing from happening. 

Let's do another one for fun.

'A' Bomb in Wardour Street
Where the streets are paved with blood,
with cataclysmic overtones,
Fear and hate linger in the air,
A strictly no-go deadly zone.
I don't know what I'm doing here
'cause it's not my scene at all
There's an 'A' bomb in Wardour Street
They've called in the Army, they've called in the police to.

I'm stranded on the vortex floor,
My head's been kicked in and blood's started to pour
Through the haze I can see my girl
15 geezers got her pinned to the door
I try to reach her but fall back to the floor
'A' bomb in Wardour Street
It's blown up the West End, now it's spreading throughout the City,

'A' bomb in Wardour Street, it's blown up the City
Now it's spreading through the country.

Law and order take a turn for the worst,
In the shape of a size 10 boot.
Rape and murder throughout the land,
and they tell you that you're still a free man.
If this is freedom I don't understand
'cause it seems like madness to me.
'A' bomb in Wardour Street, Hate Bomb,
Hate Bomb, Hate Bomb, Hate Bomb.

A Phillistine nation, of degredation,
And hate and war. There must be more
It's Doctor Martin's A,P,O,C,A,L,Y,P,S,E,
Apocalypse!

All sorts of plot options here. Maybe the PCs learn about something that's going to blow up and cause mass destruction and mayhem. They have to beat the clock to get the "bomb" defused. (I put quotation marks around the word bomb because this could really be anything at all.) Maybe a bomb was found, and someone the PCs know is blamed for it, but the person in jail is innocent and the PCs need to prove that before the real bomb goes off. 

If you want to listen to the songs the staff at Boing Boing has put together a Spotify play list for your listening pleasure. 

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