March 23, 2022

What If The Lion King Was A Tabletop RPG?

This week’s If It Were A TTRPG post re-imagines the scene in the Lion King where Mufasa’s spirit is able to impart sage advice onto the newly grown-up Simba. As always, spoilers ahead!

After Scar is able to convince a child Simba that he’s responsible for his father Mufasa’s death, Simba runs away, wracked with guilt and shame. Eventually rescued by Timon and Pumbaa, Simba is able to grow into a fine adult, albeit one isolated from his pride. And with Nala’s help, he’s able to realize that the pride is in trouble and needs his help. But his guilt and shame over his father’s death – something he still very much considers his fault – keeps him away from returning home and claiming the kingdom.

At this crucial moment in Simba’s life, the sage baboon Rafiki approaches Simba, hinting that he knows Simba’s father. Being dead, this statement gets Simba’s attention rather quickly. The resulting scene is one of the most poignant moments in the whole film and is the subject of this week’s #ifitwereaTTRPG re-imagining as a group of people playing a tabletop roleplaying game.

Father And Son Reunited

There are two players at the table, one playing Simba and the other playing Rafiki, and a GM on the other side.

The Simba player looks to the Rafiki player and asks: “You knew my father?”

The Rafiki player looks to the GM: “I sit in a zen-like meditation and respond.” They look to the Simba player: “Correction, I know your father.”

The Simba player looks sad and contemplative. “I hate to tell you this but he died…a long time ago.”

“Nope! Wrong again!” says the Rafiki player as they burst into laughter. The Simba player looks to the Rafiki player, confused, as they continue to laugh. The GM just shrugs their shoulders.

“He’s alive! And I’ll show him to you…you follow old Rafiki there…he knows the way!” continues the Rafiki player who has become super animated. “I lead Simba to the nearby jungle thicket and jump inside” they say.

“I guess I follow him,” says the Simba player.

“Alrighty then,” says the GM. “You scamper over the hills and arrive at the dense, dark jungle thicket where you see Rafiki jump inside. You approach the entrance: it’s truly dark and scary inside. Roll to see if you have the courage to jump inside.”

The Simba player, almost offended that their character wouldn’t have the courage needed, rolls: two 5s, for a total of 10. A great roll!

“You dive into the underbrush and begin to scamper after Rafiki through the dense, dark thicket,” says the GM.

“I keep my distance but ensure that he’s able to follow by yelling “Don’t doddle, hurry up!” says the Rafiki player.

“You hear Rafiki off in the distance yell those words to you – but you’re losing him,” says the GM.

“I yell out: Wait, wait!” says the Simba player.

“C’mon…c’mon!” replies the Rafiki player in their character’s voice.

“Would ya slow down!?” answers back the Simba player in their own character’s voice.

“The chase is on, through the thicket, with you, Simba, tracking Rafiki. Eventually though, you see the end of the jungle’s path.”

A Poignant Reflection

The Rafiki player looks to the GM. “Right as Simba reaches the end of the path,” says the Rafiki player, “I put my hand in his way and yell “Stop!”

The Simba player looks confused. “I stop. And frankly, wonder what the heck is going on,” they say.

“I whisper: “Shh! Look down there…”” says the Rafiki player who motions at an unseen table yonder.

“Honestly, I’m a bit scared and a little skeptical,” says the Simba player. “But I approach Rafiki and see what he’s pointing at.”

“You move through the brush and descend down to find yourself at the edge of a moonlit stream,” says the GM. “Your reflection stares back at you from the water.”

The Simba player looks and sounds incredibly disappointed. “That’s not my father, that’s just my reflection.”

“Ohhhh, look harder…” offers the Rafiki player.

“I look down at the water again,” says the Simba player.

“Again, you’re greeting by your own reflection,” says the GM.

“You see?” interjects the Rafiki player, “He lives in YOU.”

“As you’re staring into the water, your reflection changes to your father, Mufasa,” says the GM.

A great sadness enters the Simba player’s eyes.

And in the distance, you hear a voice: “Simba…” says the GM.

“Father?” replies a reinvigorated Simba player.

Hard Truths We Need To Hear

“A magnificent sapphire cloud appears in front of you,” says the GM. “A shadow, in the shape of Mufasa, floats among its resplendent blue. Mufasa’s voice rains down from the cloud: “Simba, you have forgotten me.”

“No, how could I!?” earnestly replies the Simba player.

“You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me,” says the GM in their best Mufasa voice. “Look inside yourself Simba: you are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the circle of life.”

“How can I go back? I’m not who I used to be,” says the Simba player, forlorn.

“The sapphire cloud shifts to a golden halo around Mufasa’s spirit,” says the GM. “Remember who you are. You are my son. And the one true king.”

There’s a long pause at the table. The Simba player is staring off into space in awe, their eyes filled with powerful emotion.

“As Mufasa’s shadowy silhouette disappears into the clouds, he says: Remember who you are!”

The Simba player’s face flashes concern. “No! Please, don’t leave me!” they yell. “I…run after the shadow.”

“You hear “Remember!” echo off the gusts of wind as the cloud, halo, and Mufasa’s spirit rejoin the sky,” says the GM.

The Simba player feels a deep sadness. “Don’t leave me…”

“A last “Remember…” is offered by the sky which then returns to normal.

Lessons Learned

“What was dat!?” interjects the Rafiki player. “The weather, very peculiar don’t you think?”

Another long pause at the table as the Simba player reflects. “Yeah, looks like the winds are changing.”

“Ahh, change is good,” replies the Rafiki player.

“Yeah, but it’s not easy,” says the Simba player. “I know what I have to do, but, going back means I’ll have to face my past. I’ve been running from it for so long.”

“Can I smack Simba on the head with my stick?” asks the Rafiki player to the GM.

“Um, sure. Go ahead and roll for Combat,” replies the GM as the Simba player looks on, half confused, half annoyed.

The Rafiki player rolls a 6 and a 5 for a total of 11. A great roll!

“You give Simba a good smack on the head with your walking stick. Ow!” says the GM.

“Jeez! What was that for!?” says the Simba player as both themselves and their character.

“It doesn’t matter! It’s in the past!” says the Rafiki player who bursts into laughter.

“Yeah, but it still hurt,” says the Simba player who reflexively rubs their own head.

“Oh yes the past can hurt but the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it,” says the Rafiki player, keeping up their excellent Rafiki voice.

“I take another swing at Simba,” says the Rafiki player. Before the GM can respond, the Simba player interjects: “I’m rolling to dodge!”

Both of the players roll: a 3 and a 4 for Rafiki for a total of 7 vs. a 4 and a 5 for Simba for a total of 9.

“Rafiki, you take another swing again at Simba who dodges with ease.”

“Ah! You see!” says the Rafiki player. “So what are you going to do?”

“First, I’m going to take your stick,” replies the Simba player. “I try and steal his stick,” says the Simba player to the GM.

The GM laughs. “No problem, go ahead and roll for Steal,” they say.

The Simba player happily rolls: a 5 and 4 for another total of 9.

“You’re able to swipe the stick from Rafiki and toss it away,” says the GM.

“Not the stick!” yells the Rafiki player, beaming.

“I’m outta here,” says the Simba player. “I run for the homeland.”

“Hey! where are you going?” asks the Rafiki player.

“I’m going back!” answers the Simba player, as if they’re a half-mile apart by now.

“Good! Go on! Get out of here!” replies the Rafiki player who begins to laugh and cheer like all get out.