Down the Role-Playing Rabbit Hole to Wonderland

"One, two! One, two! and through and through / The vorpal blade went snicker-snack." Art by John Tenniel.

Carnage’s theme this year comes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. With a literary starting point like that, the role-playing GM is veritably besieged by ideas to borrow, spindle and mutilate to their desire. Beyond visiting the book itself for inspiration — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass are both available to read online for free, thanks to websites like Project Gutenberg — you can see how Alice’s adventures inspired future authors. The Looking Glass Wars books by Frank Beddor reinvent Carroll’s books as distortions of the true history of an alternate universe. Jack Chalker’s Wonderland Gambit trilogy draws on imagery as part of a reality-bending tale. An episode of Warehouse 13 pitted agents against the mind-swapping properties of Lewis Carroll’s mirror.

Variations on Alice and her Wonderland companions have shown up in plenty of role-playing games, too. Dungeons & Dragonsvorpal sword comes from Through the Looking-Glass, in the poem “Jabberwocky.” Alice, Queen of Hearts is one of the most notorious villains of Empire City in the super hero game Silver Age Sentinels. Wonderland is a setting of surreal horror in which characters plumb the depths of layers of reality — or fight back against incursions from below. In the world of WitchCraft, the sleeping Red King dreams of the realm of Hod, sephiroth of dreams; if he woke up, the whole sephiroth would vanish.

One can also easily imagine a slapstick Toon caper through Wonderland, a cyberpunk thriller in which the Red Queen is a malevolent AI preying on deckers talented enough to enter her domain and a fantasy dungeon crawl through underground warrens to rescue the king’s youngest daughter from the avatars of primeval chaos.

Do you know of any other references or homages to Alice in Wonderland in role-playing games? Tell us in the comments section.