Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Shining by Stephen King

My mom has owned the Shining for decades. Yesterday I finally got around to reading it. Mind you I've seen the movie adaptation with Jack Nicolas and parts of the television version but never read the book.

Recently Stephen King decided to write a sequel to this book, a new novel called Doctor Sleep. That prompted my mom to get the Kindle edition while it was on sale and I figured I'd get the Kindle version of the Shining while it was on sale.

Wow. What a great book. I'll would say I'm throwing spoilers out left and right but there wasn't that much I'd take from the novel to a game in terms of the characters. There are some bits that are fantastic, but really it's the strength of King's writing to get us inside the heads of the characters, in a very small cast, that carries the novel forward. Now I'll be very curious to see how the sequel is. When we write things decades apart, they may not have the same flow, tone, or 'voice'. I'll be curious to see how Danny compares now to how Stephen first wrote him.

But there are some things I like about the novel that would make for great bits.

For example, how about the hedge monsters? In the hotel, there are several hedge animals, lions, dogs, and others, that at times seem to move, to encircle the watcher, to advance only when they are not watched. At the end of the novel, they are definitely on the attack and there is no assumption that the character in question is hallucinating.

The Overlook, the hotel that in and of itself is a character in the Shining, has a few parts that make great role playing tools or at least the inspiration for them.

For example, the hotel feeds on psychic energy. For most people, it's just a normal hotel. But when Danny, a powerful psychic enters it, the hotel comes to life and does things its never done before. This can be anything from say, having a user of arcane magic enter the hotel, to any type of energy, like a psionic or a divine spell user enter it.

The GM could also just pull a Castle Amber or the Vanishing Tower, where the Overlook only comes into contact with the real world at certain points and certain times and that those who enter rarely leave.

In addition, the hotel is able to pull things from the entirety of its history. It does this without problem with Jack is losing his mind and does so in such a powerful way, that Wendy and Danny are aware of what's happening. These ghosts are even able to influence the real world such as freeing Jack from the temporary location his wife has placed him.

Imagine that the characters need a clue, a bit of information from another time. They've spoken with the elves, dwarves, and other long lived races but the bit they need is said to be known only to a particular sadist who died in your version of the Overlook. Imagine that there are those who might have their own agendas that may wish to escape from the Overlook and offer assistance to the players in exchange for such assistance?

The GM may have to determine if these are just ghosts, echoes of the real people or if they are actually able to escape. Or perhaps there is a mix? Previous adventurers who have become trapped in the overlook, some of them gone mad and others desperate to escape from the insanity?

The Shining was well written. It allowed the reader to delve deep into the characters heads. If your players give you enough back ground information that you can tweak them, give them 'alternative' versions of the history they wrote down, things seen as they might be from a twisted point of view, you'll be able to get them shaking their fist at the evil GM in no time.