Let’s talk about wonderflonium and its importance in fiction for a bit. The term wonderflonium is from a great little movie called “Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog” and is the key piece of technology that Dr. Horrible needed to make a device to kill the super hero constantly plaguing him. I love it so much because it is the perfect term to cover all pieces of wonderflonium in most fiction. The T-virus in Resident Evil, the force in Star Wars, the literal UNOBTAINIUM in Avatar (c’mon really?), the rings in Lord of The Rings. Goodness there’s so many things. That being said, wonderflonium is the most on the nose term so I’ll be using it throughout this article and if you haven’t seen the aforementioned movie I suggest you check it out.
So what exactly is wonderflonium and how do I use it in my campaigns or stories? Well that is easy. Wonderflonium is one, something I have typed enough now for it to be an autocorrected word on my computer and b, the key item in a piece of fiction that makes the setting unique and is often the cornerstone of the unbelievable elements of any fiction setting. If it is not the cornerstone then it is surely the thing that makes your world unique and it can also be more than one element or object if you want, but that is rare and you may be using the topic too broadly. For instance star flight or laser swords can be an element of wonderflonium in Star Wars, but they most certainly are not. They have the same things in Dune basically, but the difference between the two is spice in Dune and the force in Star Wars. They are not the only two things that make the two settings different for sure, but they are very key differences.
Lets try it out. We have dune. A young man separated from everything he loves because it was destroyed by a near totalitarian authority that the young man rebels against with a ragtag group of underestimated rebels. Eventually he overthrows that power and establishes a new form of government that is better for all sentient life. Let’s try Star Wars now. A young man separated from everything that he loves by a near totalitarian authority. He then joins up with a ragtag group of underestimated rebels. He eventually overthrows the government and improves life for all sentient creatures in the galaxy.
Look I’m not making fun of either of these things. I love Dune and Star Wars very much, and a lot has to be said for the tone and backgrounds of these settings, but if you look at it there are a lot of similarities. This is the exact reason why Joseph Campbell gets so much traction in western literature. A lot of these stories are very similar and if you don’t take the time to look past western cultural influence odds are whatever your GMing or writing is going to look pretty similar. That’s not a bad thing either necessarily as long as you are being reasonable and sensible. The whole reason I’m even bringing this example up is because a good piece of wonderflonium can really make a setting pop and set apart your work from others.
Now that I think I have established how important wonderflonium is and why its distinction is so important let’s move on to how to make it. I want this to be one hundred percent clear; Magic is not good wonderflonium. Space travel isn’t good wonderflonium. These things are assumed in a setting just to allow it to exist. Now a superbeing that exists in multiple dimensions and whose very existence can be utilized to create limitless energy that makes it necessary for human kind to subjugate them and consequently war over them? That is some good stuff. It’s also a big spoiler for Trigun if you must know, but that show is about 20 or so years old so don’t blame me if you haven’t seen it yet. So don’t cop out on your wonderflonium. Make it important and necessary. Make it cause tension or be morally questionable or even reprehensible. Of course always make sure you aren’t triggering your players. It’s always important to consider your players feelings. If you want to find your wonderflonium and you already have a lot of the rules of your setting set up then go ahead and ask yourself “why”. I mean it too. Ask yourself “why” like you’re a part of that old tired bit where five year olds annoy adults until they lose their patience. Eventually you’ll either go crazy and it won’t be a problem anymore, or you’ll cut down to the very essence of why your world is not like the real world. Once you find the lynchpin of why your world does not make sense then throw in some good ol’ wonderflonium. The more aspects to society that it ties into the better. Try to make it unique as well and always make it hard for the layman to put their finger on. What I mean is try to make it rare or mysterious. The rings in lord of the rings were only used by about thirty people in all including the extended lore. The spice in Dune is crazy expensive and no one could manipulate it or remake it. The force in Star Wars is rare and almost religious. I don’t want to talk about too many examples because I’m afraid of spoilers, but that’s exactly the point. You should be the only holder of what exactly wonderflonium is in your world. You don’t even have to reveal it to anyone by the time you’re done. It serves a point though and it’s vital.
One thing that I love about DnD, and this is just my opinion, is that there is no inherent wonderflonium in their core rulebooks. Sure everything makes sense and has a reason, but if you hop on the “why” train and ride it to the end you’ll probably find out that YOU are the person with the final answer. That of course relies on you not playing their campaign books. The reason why people hold onto it so well is because they’ve been accidentally making wonderflonium for years and it is really fun to own something like that. Try it out the next time you play a paper RPG though. Any game you play put the wonderflonium in and see what it does to your setting. It’s like putting a paint wash on your minis. I guarantee it will make your story POP.
What are some of your favorite examples of wonderflonium? How have you used wonderflonium in your campaigns? Let me know in the comments here or even on my socials at Facebook and Twitter. If you are a little more into video games maybe check out my friends Matt and Cole on Youtube and Twitch respectively. They have asked me to be in some of their videos and I think they are both pretty cool to watch. Next week I’ll be doing something a little different! I’ll have a book review up so be sure to look for that next Thursday. Thanks for reading again and as always,