Sunday, January 3, 2010

I Am Spartacus!

So while sick for the New Year's, I noticed an abysmal amount of reruns, unscripted live shows, game shows and other horrid things that my mind seeks to purge in a fit of medicinal use.

To help ease the congestion of my illness, I put on the Criterion Collection of Spartacus.

But how can this be of use to a role playing game?

1. The player might not be the important part of the campaign setting. While this attitude and opinion may not be popular, in Spartacus, the main character's final fate and indeed, his whole movement is little more than the political power players of Rome making their moves back and forth on a massive chessboard that includes not only Spartacus and his army, but various alliances with fellow senators, future leaders, and pirates. If the players remain ignorant of the wider world despite knowing of it and that comes back and crushes them in the face... well, they too may suffer the final fate of Spartacus, which from a legend standpoint, probably isn't bad but from a gaming standpoint...

2. The players have interesting things happen to them. Consider it fate, but when first introduced to his new life style, that of being a gladiator, Spartacus has been condemned to die. Why doesn't he die there? Does he spend an action point and someone shows up and goes, "Hey, I'll buy that slave!" or is it merely background story? What about later during his initial fight to the death? Spartacus loses that fight but doesn't die. Why? Perhaps because the other gladiator isn't a player character? But note what happens immediately after. The setting changes. The gladiator school falls. And it falls at the hands of the player.

3. I Am Spartacus: One of the main character's greatest abilities, isn't his fighting ability. He realizes that he's going to lose early on in the film. He realizes that in many ways, he's an ignorant man. He admits he can't even read. But he has a powerful believe and he knows the power of words, of poetry, or touching the human spirit and striving for equality for all. When his comrades and co-gladiators are given a chance to turn him in, to return to a live of slavery or die a brutal death of crucifiction, a fate they can avoid if only they will turn Spartacus in, one by one, they stand and each proclaims, "I am Spartacus!" If the players can engage the Non-Player characters of the setting, if they can prove by deeds, words, and a legacy, that they are worthy of such loyalty, give it to them.

4. Unintended Consequences: When the film starts, there appear to be certain characters that are going one way and at the end of the film, they are in nearly opposite stances. Take a young Ceaser in this moive. His initial apperance would not put him where he ends up at the end, nor where he will be placed in history later on. Indeed, it could be argued that the events of Spartacus' rebellion and how the Senators of Rome try to handle it mold the political power of Rome not by the act of rebellion, but by how the various factions within it wish it handled. Some hold onto old traditions, others act in a way that will end things quickest. Those that wish for the best of both worlds find that they can't have it. When the players engage vile sorcerers for spell components, when they work for cruel warlords, even if it's merely removing goblins or orc raiders, have those actions have consequences. The sorcerer can now afford the components necessary for his master summoning, the warlord, unhindered by humanoid raiders, is ready for a full scale invasion. It shouldnt' be something that hits the players out of the blue, but doesn't necessarily have to be a "ignore the man behind the curtain" moment either.

Give the player a background in which they can influence events and be epics in and of themselves and even if meet with failure and death, their efforts will have changed the campaign world and make them eager for another go around.