It is common practice for writers and game designers to put Easter eggs into their work. They are often targeted at super fans, whose deep knowledge of the topic at hand lets them get the joke. I did this somewhat frequently in my early days as a freelance writer, except I put in things simply to amuse myself. In particular, I put punk references into my game writing with the full knowledge that few, if any, readers would get it.
“We Are 138” is a case in point. In 1996 I wrote an scenario for the Feng Shui RPG (and no, non-gaming friends, this was not a game about furniture arrangement, but Hong Kong action movies) that appeared in the book Marked for Death*. In the adventure the PCs go to the dystopian future controlled by the Architects of the Flesh and visit a town called Pride 138. They witness a legion of school children in matching uniforms marching down the street chanting, “We are 138! We are 138!” The adventure explains the town’s curious name:
“If anyone asks about the origin of Pride 138’s name, Footen tells them it’s a product of one of the Buro’s less successful campaigns. They sought to increase civic pride by naming new towns in rural areas Pride; needless to say, by the time they hit the 138th town named Pride, the campaign lost its novelty.”
“We Are 138” is, of course, a song by The Misfits, possibly inspired by the movie THX 1138. The old Misfits tunes are pretty well-known these days, but even so I never had anyone tell me they got the reference in that adventure. Same for most of my Easter Eggs, with the notable exception of the cloud giant pimp named Dolemite I put in the AD&D supplement Vortex of Madness. No one ever figured out that Krokus Behemoth, the ormyrr watch captain in the City of Glass from that same book, was a reference to the early stage name (Crocus Behemoth) of Dave Thomas of Rocket from the Tombs and Pere Ubu.
The funny thing about Marked for Death now is that I can’t actually remember which came first, the idea of using the song in an adventure or the idea of the Buro naming hundreds of towns Pride. Since the ill-conceived propaganda campaign works whether you get the reference or not, I suppose it doesn’t even matter. 16 years later I am still amused.
* I pulled down Marked for Death when writing this to get the proper quote. I hadn’t looked at for ages and thought, “Damn, that’s a sweet cover. I checked the credits, only to discover that the art was done by my Krab Jab studio mate, Mark Tedin. Funny!