Sunday, March 21, 2010

Common Movie Elements

With the ability of Netflix to stream movies instantly, I watched a few movies over the weekend. One of those was a Stallone vehicle called Eye See You.

Stallone plays a federal agent whose wife is victimized by a serial killer and turns to the bottle. In order to detoix, he goes to a specialist who was a former member of the law and meets up with others members in need of detoxing. Unfortunately for them, one of them is the serial killer in disguise.

1. Isolation. In order to keep away from society and the temptations it offers, the detox place is located in the far reaches of the wilderness during a cold and snowy winter. This bit offers the chance to prevent the main character from calling from back up or from easily escaping the situation. Other horror and suspense movies do the same thing. For example, in the b-Horror movie Mimic, the characters get stuck in the subway where the cell phones are useless and they have to find a way past the big bugs. In a fantasy role playing game, that can be something as simple as the wilderness or as exotic as a demi-prison plane where the players are forced to fight for survival. Another movie I watched, Dead Space, does it by keeping the characters trapped on a ship. Here the characters have no method of escape, especially after one of the few straight thinking people isolates the crew further by ejecting all of the life pods to insure that what's on the ship doesn't escape into space.

2. Suspicion. When the bodies start turning up, the characters start turning against one another. In the traditional RPG, this is hard to pull off unless playing a game where its expected behavior. With few exceptions, such as throwing the old dopplengager in the game and telling the player well ahead of time and not as the actual gaming table, most players in my experience are either too quick to trust the other players or too slow and everyone goes their own way. The way you want the group to go may not actually be the way they go so know your group ahead of time and either make sure all the players have solid alibis for trusting either other or that all the players are ready to kill each other at the drop of a hat. In Dead Space, the characters are even worse off as the longer they stay aboard the ship, the greater the chances are that another member will go mad and transform into some alien entity with an insatiable appetite for death.

3. Seperation: Similiar to suspicion, but seperating the character often doesn't work that well in a standard game because now the GM has to focus his attention on several different players at a time. If the GM has a short list of brief encounters that he can quickly run each group though and get the core group back together again, that might work well. Another method would be to have the group, when they seperate, seperate into groups with other people so that the other players take the role of different NPCs until they meet up again. In Dead Space for example, there are scenes on the officer's deck as well as various scenes througout the shoot of those fighting off the alien scourge. In Eye See You, the characters break up into small teams with the smallest one man teams of course not having a good go of it.

Keeping the common movie elements in mind while realizing that the needs of some role playing games are different allows the Game Master to draw inspiration from movies of the far future and other genres without skipping a beat.