So on RPG.net I read a thread that said that the reason he doesn’t like Kitchen Sink settings is that they end up muddied. If Magic and Mutant Powers and Aliens yadda yadda all coexist. I certainly understand that complaint. I’ve read and created Kitchen Sink Settings that fall apart for that reason. But it seems to me that there are a couple of ways that Kitchen Sink settings can and do work sometimes.
One reason is that they can allow for very different stories to coexist in the same world, in ways that payoff in awesome ways. The best example of this kind of thing I can think of is Superhero Comics. For example I am currently reading, via trades Gail Simone’s excellent comic Secret Six. It is not a typical sort of super story being about characters that are, at best, anti-heroes. You could certainly have written a story much like Secret Six in an environment that didn’t include members of the Justice League (while some of the characters in S6 are dependent on major DC characters for their history you could get similar characters without those ties). But in the second trade Depths, Wonder Woman appears. It’s totally unexpected and it sounds like it wouldn’t work, but it does, A world that didn’t have Amazons and Banshees and Vandal Savage couldn’t have produced some of the best moments in Depths.
Unexpected crossover doesn’t always work of course. The absolute weakest scene in all of Sandman is the one that has Scott Free and the Martian Manhunter. Transitive crossovers are especially not a good idea.
Another reason for the Kitchen Sink is that sometimes you have a story with a different organizing principle. One example of this is indie comic hit Scott Pilgrim. This is a world that has Half-Ninja and Subspace and Psychics and Magic and other things. What ties the fantastic elements together however is that they all operate by Video Game logic.
What makes the Kitchen Sink succeed or fail, if you ask me is, does it have some coherence from somewhere else. This doesn’t mean it has to be a meaningful or deep story. An episode of the Justice League cartoon wasn’t typically a great work for the ages, but they don’t feel confused because it gains coherence from what could broadly be called super-hero tropes (costumes, heroism, high stakes, etc). In addition, besides the constants of the hero characters each episode would be a more focused story, it wouldn’t be Aliens AND Wizards attack Metropolis! (On a different track this might be one of the reasons that in D&D theme dungeons are so appealing)
Hmmm…There are some clearly unfinished elements in my thoughts, maybe I’ll get back to this.
When do disparate elements work together? Your Thoughts?
In All New Atom #16 the villain turns Ivy Town into the 60s as part of a plot to conquer earth. It’s pretty fucking awesome.
Also My Head is full of things to say, may actually beat “Fear my Robot Head!” as best line referring to one’s own head in a comic book.
Wonder Woman trying to deal with the awkwardness of being here to arrest the local hero’s girlfriend. All New-Atom #17
Why I love Gail Simone forever and ever reason 434.
Secret Six #9. This sequence is what I think of when I think of Bane.