Friday, June 29, 2018

What is Graffiti Like in Your World?

The urge to leave our mark wherever we go is as old as humanity itself. Whether it's a poem about defecation in a bathroom, spray painting Frodo Lives on a back alley, or scratching Halvdan was here into the Hagia Sophia, graffiti is something individuals and cultures have been practicing for centuries.

So, stop a moment, and ask what kinds of graffiti you might find in your setting. Especially if that game has elves, dwarves, trolls, and all kinds of magic that could do things even modern paints never could.

Just wait... hundreds of years from now, people will think this is important.

Defacement, Art, and Everything in Between

While we might like to think that ancient peoples had deeper thoughts and keener realizations than we do today, if you translate the graffiti, you see a lot of similar messages. People saying they were here, people carving messages of love, and people talking shit. Although, in some circumstances, graffiti was also used as an advertisement. Particularly for services like brothels... if you could interpret the message, that was.

Well, according to this, there should be a tavern around here somewhere.
Graffiti can have a lot of different purposes, and fulfill a lot of different roles. For example, in urban areas, graffiti could allow someone familiar with local signs to track gang influences, and to see where the invisible turf lines have been drawn. Secret signs might also indicate where thieve's guild holdouts are, or mark certain places as neutral ground. Particularly for communities like orcs, who may need to leave clan marks indicating where safe spaces for their people are. Alternatively, graffiti might be used as a way for artists to build their reputations... especially for illusionists whose graffiti will vanish, in time.

In a dungeon, graffiti might give clues to what's happening. Marks written by ogres could warn the party of dangers, if they can read the crude language. Hobgoblin marks could leave a trail, allowing the party to piece together what happened to a previous party, and figure out the dangers they faced... or to be warned that the "treasure" is a myth, and only death lurks beyond.

Even if graffiti doesn't serve a greater purpose in your setting, it can be used as a way to add extra details to your world. After all, if the tavern tables or privvies have graffiti on them, then that speaks to the quality of the establishment. If public works are being defaced, that speaks to the climate of the city. However, if graffiti is encouraged as an art form, then that could make for a unique and colorful setup.

And it gives you a handy way to sneak in some useful information... if that's what you need to do.

That's all for this week's Fluff post. For more work from me, check out my Vocal archive, or head over to the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I help out from time to time. If you want to stay on top of all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter. Lastly, if you want to help support me, become a patron over on The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or Buy Me A Ko-Fi. Either way, my eternal gratitude and some sweet gaming swag will be yours for the asking!

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