Monday, April 26, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon

I took the girlfriend to see How To Train Your Dragon. Thank the lords above that she was pleased with it.

But what does that have to do with your game?

1. Broad Strokes and Themes: The Vikings on one hand and the dragons on another are a solid way to get a campaign theme started. The vikings mostly speak the same, look the same, and only a few bit players here and there, in most games, this would be the player characters, stand out as different. The theme of man versus dragon is build up in the history of the vikings not only in the combat scenes, but in the books which are somewhat humorous in their "if meet, kill immediately" theme.

2. Background imagery. While this is indeed a 'toon' style movie, the backgrounds are breath taking. There are several scenic images, such as when the vikings are sailing through various rock formations that jab out of the water like broken claws or when the dragons are soaring majestically through the air, that are wonderful to behold. Such vivid descriptions can be difficult to pull off in a role playing game if the GM isn't prepared so prepare. Take a few bits where you'll know the landscape and write down what's awe inspiring about it. Maybe the players will surprise you with 'stunting' or using that environment when the old combat comes along.

3. The Enemy of My Enemy: When we are initially introduced to the dragons, they seem mindless, intent only on causing damage and stealing the very food stuff of the vikings. We latter learn however, that these various dragons, are merely doing the bidding of a much larger dragon that eats them if they fail to bring it enough food. In the old First Comic company, there was a comic about a futuristic robot fighting machine, Dynamo Joe, that fought against another race of organic aliens. Turns out at the end of that series that those aliens too were on the run from a greater foe and were merely trying to get past the people they were fighting.

4. Skill Challenges: The big bad at the end of this movie is like the Tarasque of Dungeons and Dragons fame with multiple eyes, wings, and vast fire power through its breath weapon. There is no way that the main character and his dragon should be able to beat it in terms of blow for blow exchange. However, like in video games (no, not the comparission), by completing a series of checks on the environment and turning things to his advantage, the heroes are able to win. In some ways, it's like the old Greek Myth of Talos where he has one weak spot and no matter how tough you are, if you don't hit that weak spot, you're simply not going to beat him. Make the players think things through. In older editions, this could just be that. Having the players think things through. In newer editions, make them use those skills in imaginative ways as long as they apply. Have fun with it.

How To Train your Dragon is visually entertaining and while not deep, is told well and easy to watch and the visuals are inspiring.