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Super Cereal

Hey, It’s-a me Never Say Dice! We’ve gathered here once again to celebrate the flimsy excuse of a corporate holiday: March 10, otherwise known as Mar10 (or Mario) Day. Last year, after making a few suggestions on how you might celebrate the holiday, we discussed how details can serve as the Power-Up Mushroom for Your Narrative. We talked about what a person’s intro to Mario might have been, the story behind the "original" Super Mario Bros. on the NES, and what it could mean to us in our tabletop stories and elsewhere. Certainly, your first experience with Mario may have been a media cash grab like the one linked above. You could also have come to meet Mario later in life as part of an Olympic, Kart racing game, party game, or any number of other titles Nintendo inserted the character into. (Mario Tennis in 3D on the Virtual Boy, maybe? Anyone? Hopefully the first time you met Mario it was at least less headache inducing.) Perhaps your first introduction to the plumber in blue and red was through cereal. Cereal? Yes, there is even a Super Mario Cereal. That wasn’t the cereal about which I was waxing nostalgic before I wrote this post, though.

In 1988, Ralston Cereals, in association with Nintendo of America, put out a short-lived breakfast cereal called the Nintendo Cereal System. It featured two separate cereal bags, one containing pieces matching the iconography of The Legend of Zelda's Link, and the other portraying items from (you guessed it) Super Mario Bros. For some reason, they decided both cereals should be fake fruit and berry-flavored sugar bombs. Though I tend to hate fake fruit flavors, I feel almost certain I begged my mom for a box until she caved (or at least so she didn’t have to hear my incessant whining). Likely, I ate two bites and then pretended all of the little sugary Marios and Links were going on adventures together. I suppose if I got some enjoyment out of them, it wasn’t a wasted purchase, even if that enjoyment was an adventure and not as part of a balanced breakfast. That's actually the crux of this post. While bringing Mario and Link into so many different things can be seen as just a capitalist cash grab, it also can bring inspiration to our tabletops.

Mario, at least in the original Super Mario Bros. game for NES, transcends genre in a way. I realize that, in one sense, its genre is "side-scrolling platformer," but, once again,  I want to get into the story behind the game. In conferring with Bugsy, he was of the opinion that it's like a classical fairy tale-inspired fantasy. If you’re more a fan of one of the other Mario video game entries, the live action series, the comics, or something else, you may interpret the genre as something entirely different. That's probably part of what makes it so easy to slot Mario into other things. Tennis? Olympics? Kart Racing? An RPG? Math puzzles? The character can fit into anything, as long as you tweak his stats a bit. The same can be said for tabletop games. Are you interested in playing a character with some Jedi flair? It can be done! Bringing a bard into Paranoia? It may take some work, but you can do that too. It is just like how Mario can go from breaking bricks to breaking records.

This isn’t to say that I recommend using any one system as a catch-all. If you and your crew want to play as the crew from Mario, there are certainly better systems to do it in than Dungeons and Dragons. Just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it's the easiest or best path to having fun. For instance, if you want to fight Vampire Hitler and his Zombie SS with magic and allies from beyond Alpha Centauri, I don’t really feel Dungeons and Dragons is your best bet. I could be wrong though. Certainly with D&D having the market share, there is an ease of access and transition that can make it easier to bring in other characters. If you’re going to get that zany though, you might as well include Mario, too. Maybe he can hit Vampire Hitler in the face with a fireball. That sounds like fun to me at least.

If you do celebrate Mario this year, and after two years of writing these posts I must want you to, please join me in enjoying the way he spans so many things. Remember that you can bring that idea into your own games, both digitally and at the tabletop. One of the points of these games is to have fun with that flexibility, and if bringing something from a different genre or story can help you achieve that, then go for it! Like with anything else, make sure that's what your compatriots are interested in doing, as well. After all, we’re telling all these stories together, even when they don’t always make sense to anyone outside of our tabletops. Until next week friends, enjoy your tables - get out there and break some bricks dice!

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