Derek is a literary theorist, theatremaker, and longtime dungeon master. He writes on adaptation, literary theory, and tackles the philosophical questions in popular texts.
Junior Contributor II
The value of prequel development
Prequels are often seen as cash-ins that don’t add much to the original text. For example, even Solo’s fans tend to admit that the movie wasn’t particularly necessary: it does not add much to the themes, ideas, or lore of Star Wars. But other prequels have offered deeper insight (or counterpoints) to the original text. For instance, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was used to deepen the apocalyptic themes of the main text.
So: what makes a valuable prequel? If a prequel isn’t adding anything to the original, then should it be "re-skinned"?
The influence of television-style character arcs on filmmaking
Even prestige television shows require something of an episodic format, and the plot must progress as a series of mini-climaxes and narratives for each episode. One of the advantages of television is the fact that the repetitive nature of the episodic structure lets us see the character in a gradient of contexts. Some recent films and "cinematic universe" projects seem to be following the television model, and place characters through iterative encounters to reveal more and more about them. The Marvel films are the most obvious example, but even series like John Wick are taking this approach. As big "intellectual properties" and sequels grow increasingly important to the success of films, is film starting to treat its characters more like television’s and less like the traditional film protagonist?
Will definitely check it out!
I actually listened to it instead of re-reading it the most recent time! It is a great audiobook and the new translation is nice. It also fixes some of the odd choices in earlier English-language translations (such as explicitly setting it in Canada).
Interesting. Do you have a link to that module?
And yes, I think the TV series would have been quite the ride.
I originally discussed the specifics of the very ends of each (such as Red being cut off at the end of RP) but decided to cut it for space. You’re very right though: we don’t know if Red’s gambit works. Given the censorship environment, it was also probably the safest way to end the story ;).
Like folsks below, I actually think the ending also works better this way because it no longer matters: Red’s willingness to sacrifice another means he’s lost, whether he gets what he wants or not.
I’m drawn to the temporal element you’ve highlighted as well (in the form of repetition). There’s almost a sense that a spatial emergence triggers a temporal regress. Very provocative!
Adaptation is interesting because there is even less of a baseline expectation than in other media. Of course, everyone has different opinions about any movie or book or song, but the framework for judgment seems a bit more standardized when its an “original” work. Some people hope for the “feel,” others the “characters,” and others still the plot is supreme. It’s quite the problem for practitioners!
As a long-time D&D player myself (15+ years of DMing!), I enjoyed the article considerably. I think your elucidation of the two fantasy genres carved out by Tolkein and Gygax is spot on. There is an interesting tension at the heart of the D&D that, as you point out, has been there since page 7 of the original DMG. Gygax’s sense of how D&D ‘should be played’ runs counter to how most players enjoy the game. In my experience, cartoons like Adventure Time capture the spirit of D&D play better than Gygax’s adventure modules do – a blend of silly antics, CYE moments with the forces of evil, weird landscapes, DM flourishes, recurring jokes, and plentiful diplomacy.
Your article has given me a lot to think about as I work on my next campaign… which intends to tackle environmental themes and make violence a costly and ugly option. Thanks!