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My question here is about What popular culture Easter Eggs exist in published adventures?

There was a lot of discussion in the comments already, with the overall gist that the question is not hopeless and might be tweaked to be reopened. My impression from the discussion there

  • The question could be somewhat off-topic as it is not the typical question for here, however this Stack Exchange is likely the best one to be able to answer it
  • The question has similarities to a list question, but not in a bad way and there are many other successful similar questions, so this would not be a reason to close it
  • The question could be considered opinion-based, if the proof about the pop culture reference is not conclusive / authoritative
  • The question needs details or clarity, because it might be difficult to define what counts as pop culture vs. general fantasy literature background that inspired role playing games
  • The question needs more focus, with too many modules published and therefore potential Easter Eggs.

So, did I miss any category for which questions can be closed, or did I manage to cover them all in one single question? Ah, no: it is not a duplicate. Well, can't win them all.

OK, back to the question: none of these reasons seems to be unequivocal based on the discussion. I personally would love to learn about more such cool Easter Eggs hidden in the published modules, and this is something that likely can be done best by a community, as one person may be able to make a connection where another would not, and prove it and share it. All together we may be able to find most of them.

One concern I hear is that the question will be flooded with meaningless or redundant answers, or it will take time of the moderators as people argue about if something is a valid Easter Egg or not. However, while the question remained open, nobody did venture even a single Easter Egg (granted ... that did not take too long before it was closed down). Does anyone even know of another Easter Egg similar to the example given?

What would be the most important thing(s) to fix, and how could you see it being tweaked? For example, a very simple approach would be to limit the question to a single adventure module, like Dragon Heist. How many Easter Eggs can there be in a single module? If the rest was acceptable I could then easily replicate this question separately for each module. Would this be a possible solution, or do you have other recommendations?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Another potential pop culture reference: "No one is on page 206 of the Monster Manual like Gaston". \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10 at 18:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ "If the rest was acceptable I could then easily replicate this question separately for each module." The fact that you're talking about filling the front page with sub-questions of the question you want to ask should be a great big red flag that it is not suitable for this site. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    Mar 10 at 19:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage I learned my lesson about that already. I'd not post them all together, rather once in a while add one. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10 at 19:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ A policy that says "you can't have an unbounded list" and "you can't have a bounded list because then you need to ask multiple times" is a problem. A person considering posting multiple related questions is a symptom of that problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Mar 10 at 19:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Which is the why the policy is generally just that you can't ask for a list. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    Mar 10 at 20:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage the answer on that question reads, to me, that Groody's question will become stackable once 5e is no longer in main development (read: finite answers) \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Mar 10 at 20:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage that meta tells me that unbounded lists are bad, then (as these meta's are want to do) waffles on without getting to an actual firm point. But I still read that a list question is ok if it can be defined and isn't too broad. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Mar 10 at 21:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ If the question were limited to a specific module/book, it also automatically would become finite and the list problem is solved. It would be great to get an opinion on if that would be sufficient to salvage the question, or if then other issues also need to be addressed. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10 at 21:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Potentially relevant Meta posts (for both you and others participating in the discussion): What are list questions?, and Are "list questions" on topic? – and on MSE: What is the definition of a list question?. Also, this Q&A on MSE discusses the use of the Community Wiki feature with questions that call for a comprehensive list as an answer: List questions: Community Wiki?. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Mar 10 at 23:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you able to articulate what problem you are trying to solve? \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Mar 13 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @fectin: I am curious about what other references might have been worked in. I had already tightened to focus to only one Module, Dragon Heist, and the question was then reopened, and again closed. I conclude that at least part of the audience thinks this is not the right kind of question for this site, and gave up on it, rather than investing more energy into it. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 13 at 17:25

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I think one issue is definition, what is an "Easter egg"?

One dictionary describes an Easter egg (in this sense) as a hidden feature in a commercially released product (such as software or a DVD)

That's hugely broad, and it's not clear to me that the Zardoz is an Easter egg, as much as it a literary allusion. And both of them are close to tropes or pop references.

Furthermore, somehow enumerating these things isn't about playing the games, it's a sort of literary analysis. You could change the references Zardoz is (alleged to be) based off of, and it wouldn't particularly change the game.

Also, there's a question of scale. A question or two about pop references isn't really going to change the nature of rpg.se. Churning through all the modules of 5e (and then presumably every other game) to produce reams and reams of questions and answers about pop references seems to me to shift the focus of rpg.se in a way that makes it less useful and interesting. There are lots and lots of sites and blogs dedicated to fan analysis of published content, there's only one rpg.se.

So in the end, your question seems fundamentally too-broad and off-topic to me.

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The question invites speculation.

I think my biggest concern about the question is less that it solicits a list answer or multiple unrelated answers, and more about the type of answer that it asks for. To your credit, you provide a compelling example of an Easter egg:

In Dragon Heist, the flamboyant Illuskan captain Zardoz Zord is a hidden refrence to Sean Connery. The name of the character is a reference to the cult sci-fi-fantasy movie Zardoz starring Connery in red lingerie, and Zardoz's submarine is called the Scarlet Marplenoth, a reference to Connery's submarine Red October in the movie The Hunt for Red October (scarlet is a shade of red, and Marplenoth is the month matching October in the Forgotten Realm's Calendar of Harptos).

However, I don't think we can expect every answer to provide such compelling examples unless you can find a way to articulate clearly what it is about your example that makes it a good example, so that we can then apply that standard to other answers.

Consider this (closed) question about a possible Easter egg from Curse of Strahd: Is this statue in Curse of Strahd an easter egg? The question describes an object found during the adventure and attempts to use some context clues to make a connection to Vecna. The accepted answer cites a cryptic tweet from Chris Perkins as possible but tenuous confirmation of the questions suspicions, but ultimately, the answer rightly concludes:

the adventure does not actually ever specify so it really is just speculation (or left for DMs to decide)

The second answer to this question highlights what I worry your question is inviting. It provides a detailed, seemingly well thought out explanation of what the statue of a faceless god may be referring to, but in the end, it is entirely speculative. There is simply no way of knowing for sure what, if anything, the statue is referring to, except possibly that the author has taken to making their intent known.

The trouble here is that your question, even when applied to one adventure, is far more broad than this one about the statue. The statue question focuses on a single object. Your question asks us to search entire adventures. Anything and everything could be an Easter egg, as long as you can search far and wide enough for coincidental associations, and there really is no good way of confirming if the association is intentional, or entirely coincidental.

In my experience, this is often the point of including Easter eggs. Sure, sometimes you get things that are too good to be merely coincidence, but oftentimes, authors insert Easter eggs in ways that are much more subtle, for precisely the purpose of causing the reader or viewer to speculate.

Ultimately, I don't think this is a good question for us to workout the calculus of how we feel about list answers, because I don't think it is the number or scope of potential answers that is really the problem. It is the type of answers that it asks for: answers that cannot be reliably verified through objective citation or meaningful experience.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is an explanation what you think is problematic. It does not answer my question for constructive suggestions on how these problems could be addressed. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10 at 22:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin I think my point is that I don’t think they can be adequately addressed. The type of question falls afoul of one of Stack Exchange’s fundamental principles, that questions inviting speculation belong on traditional discussion forums. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10 at 22:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure how asking for evidence that beyond any reasonable doubt would not be able to adress this, but I think you guys have more (painful) experiences with this than I have. I could point to the example to show what level for conclusive evidence I am looking for -- not something that might or might not be an easter egg, something like the thing in your link that once you see it is clearly an easter egg. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10 at 22:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ To be clear, @GroodytheHobgoblin, it isn’t a bad question. It is an interesting, well written inquiry. But not every question or type of question has to be posted on stack exchange. The site was designed to host certain types of Q&A, and I just don’t think your question can be fit into that. Fortunately, there are lots of places on the internet that love these types of questions, and I think you’ll have a better time exploring it on one of those traditional discussion forums. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10 at 22:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin For example, asking this question on the adventure specific subreddits would probably yield plenty of good responses. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10 at 22:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ I share this concern. What is and isn't an Easter egg is difficult to define. This chest has a bow in it, is that a Zelda reference? It's a stretch, but then we've got a question which functionally offers people points if they can come up with material for a new answer, so they're incentived to keep making those stretches. Look, one enemy also has a slingshot, that can't be a coincidence! This ”just keep adding more, you'll get points for it, there's nothing to lose” behaviour works so well it was the death knell for the entire Stack Overflow Documentation project. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 11 at 11:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Yes. And unfortunately, I think history has shown well enough that just saying “please no speculation” is a rather ineffective countermeasure against speculation. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 11 at 11:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Right, and "please no speculation" is trouble when a large number of Easter eggs are inherently speculative, as you've outlined. There's clear cut stuff like actual IP from one property showing up in another, like if Crash showed up in a photo in Uncharted, but other stuff is more “I think this is a nod to [thing] but I can't be sure.” It's sometimes a personal interpretation and that's fine. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 11 at 12:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also as an example of these concerns: find an article compiling Easter eggs. Try this Gamesradar one maybe. Go through it and see how many you respond with “that's not even an easter egg!” or “that's cool and it's something but what it is isn't an Easter egg”. I sure did that a bunch, but I'm not confident my set of responses will correlate to your set of responses, dear reader. And there's nothing to say I'm right or wrong because Easter eggs aren't really well defined beyond being a neat little surprise to discover. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 11 at 12:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ This. is exactly what I talked about in my comment to the original question. Humans are great at making connections, even if one does not purposefully exist. There are Easter Eggs, and then there are coincidences. How are we to decide which is which? \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Mar 20 at 6:35
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Questions about Easter eggs fall too closely to the bad side of to be stackable.

The one necessary feature of an Easter egg is that it was placed deliberately by its creator. As such, the only person who knows whether something is an Easter egg is its original creator.

Easter eggs don't have to be obvious, even when you know the secret. Some things stretch credibility when explained any other way, but some are more subtle. Trying to assemble an exhaustive list of Easter eggs for any product would almost always bring people pushing subtle Easter eggs backed by their own speculation, which would need the word of the original creator to confirm or deny one way or the other.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The saving grace of many designer reasons questions is that there is a solvable problem behind them that we can provide help with, even when there is no good answer to the question of design intent. “What’s the intent of this rule? I don’t know, but here is some meaningful play experience about how I ruled it and why we decided it was the best ruling.” We don’t have that here. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 11 at 0:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think needing designer quotes or explanations is inherently bad, especially with recent events. I'm just pointing out that a question that requires design intent may not be inherently close-worthy in the near future \$\endgroup\$ Mar 11 at 0:39

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