Using real-world imagery in RPGs

Today, I was at work and noticed one of my co-workers had a tattoo of the triple moon.


Upon seeing the tattoo, I got to wondering, “does this person have this tattoo because they just really like the design? Or, does this person pursue a pagan spiritual path?” Because this is the kind of person I am, I started wondering if using these kinds of images in an RPG was a good idea.

On one hand it just seems to easy to insert previously existing glyphs, runes, and what not into a game. In some cases it would be even be totally appropriate. (I’m thinking specifically of the  Chronicles/World of Darkness games.) If you’re dealing with a system that directly references occult imagery, then taking time to do a bit of research on the actual images makes sense. In fact, you’d be leaving out some great stuff if you didn’t go ahead and do this.

Then again, for fantasy or sci-fi games I’m not sure it’s entirely appropriate. If you’re trying to come up with a new civilization, do you really want to rehash existing stuff? Even if it seems like it would be kind of relevant, it also seems like its kind of an escape.

I might just be too stiff on this issue. For my money though, it’s just a lot more fun to try to make up new ideas where it’s needed, rather than use stuff that already exists. I might also just be a glutton for punishment. This is also a possibility.

Clearly, there isn’t really an obvious answer here. It really is going to be a matter of personal taste. It is fun to revisit this idea from time to time. Re-use/recycle or invent? Both good options, and ultimately its the individual who must decide.






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