Apropos of Nothing: Babylon 5 and Awesomeness

I was reminded by a friend’s facebook post about putting socks and shoes on about the dialog between Sinclair and Garibaldi in Season 1 of Babylon 5. Due to sheer greatness, I’ll post the entire bit of dialog from WikiQuotes:

Garibaldi: This is the part I hate most: the waiting.
Sinclair:Hmm. (There’s a moment of silence.)
Garibaldi: Mind if I ask you a question?
Sinclair: Sure.
Garibaldi: Okay, it’s morning, you’re getting ready for work, you pull on your pants –do you fasten and zip, or zip and then fasten?
Sinclair: What kind of question is that?
Garibaldi: Well, look, we’ve got two hours to kill —
Sinclair: Forget it.
Garibaldi: Just a question.
Sinclair: Why do you want to know?
Garibaldi: Why do I want to know? Because I think about these things sometimes. I was getting dressed this morning, I couldn’t remember how I did it, and I started thinking about it. Does everyone do it the same way? Is it a left-handed/right-handed thing –?
Sinclair: (incredulous) You think about this stuff a lot?
Garibaldi: Yeah. Look, okay, I’m sorry I asked. You’re always so serious all the time. Not every conversation has to be the end of the world as we know it.
Sinclair: I didn’t mean to —
Garibaldi: Never mind. It’s okay. I’ll just — watch my console. Don’t worry about it. (After a long pause, Sinclair sighs.)
Sinclair: Fasten, then zip. You?
Garibaldi: Fasten zip. (Sinclair chuckles.)
Sinclair: How much longer?
Garibaldi: One hour, fifty seven minutes. (pause) Want to talk socks?
Sinclair: No.
Garibaldi: Just a question.
Sinclair: I’m not having this conversation.

Why is this even a tiny bit relevant?

Let me get back to you on that.

Still, I was reminded that the plotting style of Babylon 5 was my model of a successful roleplaying campaign for years, and it was easy to understand why it served that purpose.

  • Each season of the TV show had a pretty defined “ooo!” major arc that was revealed slowly over 20+ episodes. 
  • Each episode of the show had a defined story that would be exposed and mostly closed – some sort of climax or mini-climax reached – during that one hour
  • It had a key group of characters that each got notable screen time and impacted the plot in a significant way; even “minor” characters who weren’t featured every time had major impact (G’Kar, I’m looking at you!)
  • “NPCs” were occasionally promoted (Zack Allen)
  • It had a whole host of bad-ass villains, all of whom had a rational reason for being “the bad guy.” Even the Shadows.

Even now, in my dreams when I have time and a group to actually run a game again one day, I aspire to that level of integration, from character to macro story, in my campaigns. The above wasn’t any particular campaign, but B5 served as a checklist of how to try and think of how plot arcs fit together.

10 thoughts on “Apropos of Nothing: Babylon 5 and Awesomeness

  1. This is my ideal campaign and my ideal TV show. One of my current faves, Person of Interest, does this. Each episode has some SSN that needs saving, plus there are story arcs with Reese's former CIA partner. Carter and Lionel have been promoted to PCs, and Carter went from nemesis to good guy. Elias also went from NPC to major villain. And villains have reasons they are bad.

  2. A commenter on one of the Google+ communities steered me towards Robin Laws' new system, which is apparently designed to mimic TV shows. I also have need to really get into the FATE new edition, which I got after donating to Kickstarter, but I'm still in the middle of my Pathfinder read-through so it's on hold.

    I have to think that if I were to do TV-style stuff in GURPS, I'd really want to gravitate to a GURPS:Action! model rather than the full-on detail. Maybe the current Dungeon Fantasy game I play in would be a good guide. But heavy on plot, big use of Wildcard skills, and a lot of roll and shout.

    I was thinking about tech details vs plot importance on the way to work. There's something to be said about that at another time.

    1. Hillfolk is perfect for TV shows because it is focused on Dramatic roleplaying with very little randomness that is caused by dice rolling. I really, really want to play it but have the PDF and the hardcover books will come eventually.

      Re: Fate, I know nothing, but 10 bucks for all the PDFs seemed like a steal to check it out. Plus Kenneth Hite got involved and I have a bad habit of helping him out to pay his bills by buying his stuff.

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