Mary Poppins versus Cthulhu, a writerly parlor game

May 27th, 2009

I just attended BayCon, the San Francisco Bay area regional science fiction convention.  It was, as always, a good chance to catch up with old friends and make some new ones, attend panels, and flex the brain muscles a bit.

While there, I invented a parlor game of interest to writers and fans in general.  It was inspired by this inspired blog post about matchups between heroes and villains to decide the eternal battle of good versus evil.  However, as the game evolved, it seemed a better name was needed than simply Good versus Evil or Heroes versus Villains.  Instead, taking the name from the most warped match-up that presented itself, let me present Mary Poppins versus Cthulhu.

The rules are fairly simple: You need two players, along with any number of judges and kibitzers to decide the fate of the battle for those cases where the contestants can’t agree.  Each player thinks up a hero or villain from the pages of history or literature, then on the count of three, says the name.  It is then decided which of them would win in a battle to the death, with all their powers and resources brought to bear on the problem.  Players alternate heroes and villains each round, and it’s of interest to writers because it gets you to think about characters strengths and weaknesses and the way things will logically happen in a plot.

I played mostly with John De Cles at the dead dog party at the end of the convention.  With the case of Mary Poppins versus Cthulhu, the logic went as follows: While on the face of it, Cthulhu is an ancient evil elder god who will rise from the waves when the stars are right, if you go with the book version, there’s no contest–Mary Poppins rearranges the stars in the course of babysitting and can also summon Greco-Roman gods as a way to amuse kids on a shopping trip.  She’d banish Cthulhu without even breaking a sweat and do it in time for tea.  And even if she were limited to the powers of the Disney musical version, Cthulhu would find himself in a magical chalk painting with nothing to eat but pearly kings and penguins, and by the time he’d finished that, Mary Poppins, having the power of Julie Andrew’s perfect diction, would be able to banish him by speaking the appropriate eldritch words from the Necronomicon.  For example, “Supercalifragelisticexpialidocious,” which is of course “something quite atrocious” which fits Cthulhu to a T.  However, Cthulhu would at least get to eat Burt the chimney sweep.

In a similar match-up, Willy Wonka was able to deal with the monster from Cloverfield, since he’d previously faced snozwangers, hornswogglers, and those horrible wicked wangdoodles, not to mention vermicious knids which are certainly more than Lovecraftian enough too.  So he’d know what the Cloverfield monster was and how to deal with it, and barring that, would find a use for unsafe Wonka gum and turn it into a blueberry the size of the giant peach.

Evil however was able to take points in unexpected places.  For example, Superman, champion of good and utterly broken superhero, was taken out by the Child Snatcher from Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, who doesn’t have much in the way of power beyond a facility for disguise, a little sweet-talking, and the ability to design a good trap.  Then again, this is what everyone uses to get the better of Superman, so the Child Snatcher is well prepared.  Add a Kryptonite lollipop and Supes was toast.  Eliza from Uncle Tom’s Cabin was also taken out by Lucrecia Borgia, who had never followed her out onto the ice, but instead just poisoned her beforehand.

There were also some embarrassing deaths.  Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist commited suicide after being confronted by Casper the Friendly Ghost (who would not have tried to kill anyone despite the rules of the game, but whose constant attempts at friendship mixed with Bill’s unsuccessful attempts to kill him led to Bill taking his own life).  Lobo the bounty hunter from DC comic simply shot Pongo from 101 Dalmations.  Sauron was utterly unable to tempt Sidartha, who simply threw the One Ring into Mt. Doom without stressing out about it.  And while we were not certain of exactly what went down beforehand, Hans Brinker ended up skating to safety while Snidely Whiplash fell through the ice.

And then there were the odd ones.  Valentine Michael Smith eventually realized Mrs. Lovett was a bad person and “sent her away” but then proceeded to eat the meat pies anyway.  And while Shirley Temple was successfully assimilated by the Borg Collective, adding her uniqueness to their own led to the Borg Ship “Lollipop” and probably the strangest Borg Queen ever, absolutely ruining their street cred as villains and handing the round to Shirley.

10 Responses to “Mary Poppins versus Cthulhu, a writerly parlor game”

  1. green_knighton 27 May 2009 at 5:38 am

    Mary Poppins vs. Cthulhu

    That is such a wonderful mental image. melts

  2. Asakiyumeon 27 May 2009 at 11:05 am

    The link to the Ludic Kid set of match-ups was super, and I love the idea of a literary version. Sort of like Top Trumps.

  3. An ultimate showdown: @ Monitor Dutyon 27 May 2009 at 2:51 pm

    […] Mary Poppins vs Cthulu […]

  4. Foz Meadowson 27 May 2009 at 7:00 pm

    ‘On the Borg ship Lollipop,
    It’s a sweet trip assimilation shop
    Where Seven of Nine
    Lost her innoncence
    And Picard was fine…’

    I now have this in my head, and it is ALL YOUR FAULT.

  5. Genre Revieweron 04 Jun 2009 at 11:46 am

    *laugh* I really love the idea of the Shirley Temple and Borg Collective encounter. Sounds like a fun game.

  6. Alan Kelloggon 04 Jun 2009 at 6:10 pm

    An a related note; who’s the more manipulative bastard, Gandalf the Grey or Glinda the Good Witch of the North?

    Yes, I have read Abercrombie, why do you ask?

  7. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 06 Jun 2009 at 4:06 am

    Well, Glinda the Good Witch of the North is a creation of the movie. In the book, there’s the Good Witch of the North, as well as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South.

    Book vs. book, I’d put my money on Glinda, since she’s regularly doing that sort of stuff, and not just to save the entire world either. Sending Queen Anne Soforth of Oogaboo out to invade the world outside of Oz was just shipping Oz problems elsewhere. That’s a level of petty bitchiness well beyond Gandalf the Grey.

  8. Mercon 29 Jun 2009 at 10:05 pm

    That is so awesome.

    *is picturing a Borg musical now*

  9. Tracey Stewarton 08 Jul 2009 at 12:02 pm

    How funny – used to do exactly this (probably still does) in “The Arena”: Sauron Vs. 20th Century Fox Corporation; Gimli vs. the Seven Dwarfs; Peter Jackson’s three movie cameos pitted against each other… I’ll have the image of “probably the strangest Borg Queen ever” in my head for ages! Hilarious! Thanks!

  10. Donteatacowmanon 23 Aug 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Ahaha, YES! Awesome! Now, to find some fellow players…

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