Gamer Lit: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,


I recently completed The Strange Case of Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde. Let me start by saying, it was far from what I had expected. This was my first read of the novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, who also wrote the much loved Treasure Island. My exceptions were formed, not from anything I had heard about the book, but rather from film and pop culture. I had seen Jekel and Hide portrayed in films (usually bad ones like LXG and Van Helsing) in a way that was far removed from the way Stevenson portrayed them in his original story. It is worth noting that this story was one of the major influences for Stan Lee's Hulk character from the popular Marvel Comic. The Hulk has in turn influenced modern portrayals, especially of Hyde who is always a hulking, massive, muscular creature. In the story, though he is vicious, Hyde is noticeably shorter in stature than Jekel and not described as overly muscular.

Neither Jekel nor Hyde are the protagonist or the story. Rather the narrator follows Mr. Utterson, Jekel's attorney and friend. Utterson is the one who investigates the dealings of Jekel after the appearence of the much maligned Hyde. Utterson at first believes that Jekel has come under Hyde's power through some type of blackmail, and doesn't learn the dark truth until the end.

The story begins slow and isn't all that engaging, to be honest. The core of the tale, however, of the dual nature of mankind is timeless. Stevenson asserts that within each of us is a dark side that we keep hidden, and explores the notion of a tonic that can bring that side to the surface. It is for that reason that the book is a classic that has survived as long as it has. It is an interesting idea, and one that translates well into an RPG.

Gaming Inspiration

With magic available one doesn't need a scientific tonic like the one used by Jekel to bring Hyde out. Curses of a variety of types would certainly do the trick. One in particular is perfectly suited for the situation, Lycanthropy. The curse that turns a normal man, maybe even a good man into a howling beast is a timless tale for RPGs. The lesson learned from the story though is that, just as the beast is terrible, so to should you make the man a good man. Early in the game this will throw off the scent and deflect suspision elsewhere. When the PCs finally do realize the truth they should have a difficult decision to make. They cannot destroy the beast without destroying the man. You can make the decision even more difficult by having the man be a relative, close friend, business associate, local hero, or gifted healer who alleviates the suffering of the local population. Some GMs are even able to work with one of their players and make THEM the Lycanthrope. This is very difficult to do, but works to amazing effect if done well.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 30, 2009 at Thursday, July 30, 2009 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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