What Dungeon Masters can learn from: Power Rangers

I’ve been meaning to write this up for a little while now. Having been a genuine fan of Power Rangers for a long time, its cheesy characters and silly action has influenced a lot of my life. Including how I DM.

Considering there are dozens of Power Rangers series, I should probably be clear that I’m not covering just the original series, or just a specific series at all. I’m covering entire ideas that span across the show.

But first…

What is Power Rangers?
Power Rangers is a show that started in 1993 and has since continued yearly until the present day. It follows a group of teenagers as they try to get through their lives as normal teens, but when they’re called upon by their mentor, morph into the intergalactic superhero team known as the Power Rangers. They use colorful weapons, giant robots, and the power of friendship to defend the earth from all manners of evil.

It’s mostly known for its cheese, as the actors and actresses aren’t always the best, and the way the show is filmed means that story lines are odd and even impossible to follow. The show is actually an adaptation, in a way, of a similar Japanese show, Super Sentai. Power Rangers takes all the fight footage and giant robot battles from Super Sentai and then films most of their own footage to wrap around it so they can write their own stories, but still recycle the fights.

While the first few seasons had their problems, a good portion of the show has a ton of original action, original storylines, and even plenty of original fight footage. Even with the pure weirdness and bad acting, Power Rangers has become endearing to many, and inspiring to many more.

They’re a different kind of superhero, and one that I think we desperately need nowadays. Good influences who defend before attacking, and remind us that we should be good people to others, and offer kindness, forgiveness, and respect.

Monster Inspirations
Every single episode of Power Rangers is full of good monster designs.

Take for example, Rito Revolto.
rito_revolto_gashadokuro_by_alejandr01-db5beh6.jpg

You wouldn’t get it from this picture, but he’s actually goofy as fuck, kinda bumbling, oh yeah, and single handily destroyed the second megazord. You could easily  stat him up as a beefed up skeleton with all sorts of neat powers, throw away (or keep) his personality, and run a really rough boss battle. He could also be a reoccurring villain, somebody hard to damage and more importantly hard to finish off. Sure, you can disassemble him, but he won’t stay gone for long, now will he?

Here’s another one: Pumpkin Rapper Pumpkin Rapper.PNG

In the show, he raps, which is just delightful. But in a D&D game you could easily have a demon pumpkin who goes around mind controlling civilians with his pumpkin heads, and that could lead to a nice morality puzzle. Do they just forgive themselves later and slay the people? Or do they run away and try to find out how to save them? Plant monsters are always really fun to entangle folks with, but now that civilians are in the mix, things get complicated!

How about Twin Man!
MMPR_Twin_Man.jpg

He’s cold and sinister, and looks rad as hell. He can easily morph his own soldiers, or himself, into the rangers or other folks. In D&D, you could have him use forms of Polyrmorph, or just illusions, and have him become an expert at being another person, or using their skills against them. It’s not just a doppleganger, it’s a villain with personality, and a scary skillset!

You could even have his transformations mess with the party’s confidence, questioning one another, before being back-stabbed by one of their own, who turns out to be twin man in disguise! (Also when he makes evil clones of people they have a tendency to wear sunglasses and be total narcs, so have fun with it)

If you watch any episode of Power Rangers, you will undoubtedly run into a monster who you think

A. Would have made a better monster your way.
B. Was super cool and would work great in D&D!
C. Needed just the slightest tweak, and would have been incredible.

That’s kinda the point. You should be taking inspiration, not just ripping these monsters out whole-cloth and plugging them into your game, though you really could, nobody would know. Except for me. I know. I saw what you did.

Character Conflict Resolution
The pattern of Power Rangers is infamous. The introduction of the conflict usually involves some sort of issue within the personal lives of the Power Rangers. Tommy needs a date for the dance, Adam needs to learn how to drive, Aisha needs to figure out this science project, etc. The villain then escalates this conflict by sending a monster down to complicate things. Usually, the monster is themed after the issue that ranger is having this week. Dancing monster, Driving monster, Science monster, etc. That ranger with the conflict takes the lead that episode, and their problem informs their fight with the monster, while their fight with the monster informs the solution to their problem.

This is easily transitioned into D&D with the following steps.

Step 1: Nail down the insecurities and fears of each of the characters.
This will help you plan ahead. Try not to ask the players, but if you can’t figure it out, feel free to do so. Perhaps ask the other characters through NPCs.
Example: “What’s his deal?” “Oh he’s…”

Step 2: Stoke these issues. Remind everybody of them. Let them grow as problems. 
Give the character situations, small ones, where that fear or insecurity will shine and distract. Let them flounder a bit and think about working to change.

Step 3: Give the character a decision. Adapt or Fail. 
Put them into a major situation where if they can’t solve their own problem, they will hurt somebody they care about, or make the entire party fail. Guilt is a fantastic motivator. This will also possibly lead to an intervention in-game.

Step 4: Create a monster that will represent the character’s issues.
I’m serious. Fear of spiders? Spider monster. Fear of commitment? Love monster. Lack of empathy? Monster that attacks what they care about. This can lead to fun visual metaphors, and strikes at the true nature of literally defeating your character’s fears and insecurities.

Step 5: Watch them grow. 
Let the changes happen, or not happen. This will inform the story, but not be the entire story. Don’t force the other players to play through this one character’s therapy session. Merely insert these conflicts into a greater plot. Hopefully, multiple at once. Sometimes these conflicts can be handled with the major plot, and that’s awesome, otherwise, try your best to include them wherever  possible.

Villainous Personality
The very best villains in Power Rangers are the ones with the most personality, full stop. There is nothing more hated than a boring villain in Power Rangers. Rita Repulsa with her headaches and screaming, Lord Zedd with his skinless muscles and chrome armor plating. These characters look great, sound great, and have a ridiculous amount of characterization. They’re basically the second half of the cast, and get just a bit less screen time than the rangers.

Rita_Repulsa_(TV_version_9)
Rita Repulsa was the first in a long line of Ranger Villains. A witch with several cruel spells, and a clay-forming monster maker, who would turn her ideas into horrid creatures. She also had a huge cast of minions who were goofy enough to make even her look scary.

Zedd2
Lord Zedd, eventual husband of Rita, was the Emperor of Evil and a Commander of Cruelty. His diabolical plans usually didn’t end as well as he would have liked, and he and Rita usually worked better together.

Now in D&D, it’s hard to have the villains show up the same amount as the players without spoiling the game, but having their presence known is important. Making sure your players know the villain is behind an attack isn’t even always the way to do this, though it is the easiest. Even the sneaky villains deserve some personality and tactics.

curse_of_strahd_by_daarken-d9rvuc5.jpg

For instance, in Curse of Strahd you are always well aware that Strahd Von Zerovich is the villain of this story. The people speak of him with terrified whispers, the hills echo his very name, and his minions lay in wait all across the country. This is an incredible presence and personality. He runs the fucking show and you know it. That’s why it’s so scary when you first meet him, whenever that ends up being. Because he’s been the villain all along, and if he can do all that from the safety of his castle, what happens up close?

3474846-xanathar-waterdeep&the_north.jpg

You could also run a villain like the Xanathar. Very clearly not interested in being known about or noticed, he sends his minions and assassins out with nothing but a well paid bill. This too can represent the personality of the villain. His connections, his mystery, and his willingness to pay  huge sums to anyone who can help him. That gives enough clues and personality to the villain for the players to realize it must be a well connected character with a good amount of riches. This starts them investigating the Lords of Waterdeep, and ends with a bit of information leading them to the Thieves Guild.

Conclusion
The TV shows, Movies, Comics, Video Games, and Books that we love can inspire entire facets of our lives.

Playing Fallout 4? I think of cool weapons and enemies for my next RPG.

Reading a Marvel comic? I think of giving the Infinity Gauntlet stats in 5e.

Watching old Godzilla movies? I want to send my players against a Terrasque.

Hell, I couldn’t get through DOOM (2016) without creating stat blocks for a good amount of the enemies! It’s just in my blood I guess.

But when I watch Power Rangers, and listen to podcasts about the episodes, I just constantly think about what I would do with the monster designs, the villain plans, and the hero weapons and vehicles. It inspires me, and when you watch your favorite movie or TV Show again, think about what it could do for your DMing.

I've been a huge fan of RPGs for the longest time now. Dungeons & Dragons has become my favorite hobby, and connected me with all sorts of people all over the world.

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