Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Four (Movie)

Based on the recommendation of +Gareth Skarka , I fired up the old Netflix to watch The Four. In short, if you enjoy Wuxia style films and always wondered what it would be like if the X-Men were in Ancient China, this movie is right up your alley. Indeed, there are elements of the plot that could easily be filed off and run as a whole adventure.

I'll be discussing some specifics below so if you'd rather avoid spoilers, read no further.

1. Source Material: When I did a quick search for the Four after watching the movie, I found manga but didn't see the novels. In addition, there is a television show. One piece of source material may lead to many different interpretations. Unless you're doing something strictly by one portion or interpretation steal as much as you can.

2. Mixing Genres: While I'm only half way kidding when I speak of X-Men in Ancient China, the main characters are essentially super heroes in terms of their powers. What if they were in the Wild West though or Victorian England? In such cases, how do you adjust the setting to account not only for the existence of such individuals, but their role in society? One of the things I enjoyed about The Four is that there isn't a lot of time spent on why and how of each person's special abilities. It's almost a "gimmie" in that "This person is trained and has mastery of X and is therefore quite powerful."

3. Main Foes Becoming Minions: I've mentioned this before, and some games like Mutants and Masterminds allow you to do so but having a foe that is almost unstoppable and then shows up in large numbers? Well, looking at the X-Men, we see that happen with things like the Sentinels all the time. Here it's a special type of zombie that can really only be stopped by a powerful blow to the skull. If your game system has rules to simulate the different stats for monsters you can make a creature into a minion just by changing it's type. Otherwise provide it a huge damage penalty to it's 'soft spot'.

4. Legal Immunity: There are two organizations here that seek to discover the villain in the show. While the rivalry does have it's potential problems, the political levels involved showcase how difficult it can be to take down someone whose in a favored position. This is probably more true in today's modern society with catch phrases such as "Too big to Jail" and "Too big to fail" tossed around. Think about it. Billions of dollars gone from the economy in a heartbeat and no one goes to jail for it? Think about how slow things move in terms of corruption cases as corporations go back and forth and laws themselves are changed around it. Depending on the nature of the game, you can tweak the players a bit by having their opponent so high up the food chain that unless all of their is are dotted and their ts crossed, or their can force their opponent into doing something  clearly illegal, that their efforts will require a lot of preplanning.

5. Rivals. There are several rivalries that move throughout the story. One is of the love interest and another on the group level. The interesting thing here, is the writer's didn't go for making one group bad and this makes it more difficult to have any permanent resolution in terms of just pulling the swords out and finishing off the other group. When two people are trying to do the same job, it can create extra levels of stress, especially if the rewards for success or failure, are high.

6. Subterfuge. While rivals are seeking to outdo each other and high placed merchants have their way, there are also double agents involved. While one of these double agents is essentially known from the start, there are others who are not. Having motivations that are below the surface for characters below your games can provide another layer of game play as the players seek to understand who is with them and who is against them. Depending on the ruthlessness of the opposition, their enemies may be willing to sacrifice those spies they have in order to show the surviving spies are 'really' on the character's side.

7. Multiple Motivations. In the original Star Wars trilogy, Darth Vader's ultimate motivations or drives aren't fully known until push comes to shove and instead of ruling the galaxy by the Emperor's side, he decides to essentially kill himself and save his son. His motivation to rule the galaxy, to serve, and to have his son at his side were all in conflict. Using a flow chart, you can map out several motivations for the non-player characters and draw their personal conflict into the game in such a fashion. In Dragonball Z, Piccolo is out to destroy Goku but when they discover there are bigger fish to fry, put aside their hostilities towards one another. During that time, while Piccolo and Goku don't necessarily become best friends, Piccolo's loyalty to Goku's son, Gohan does, which provides Piccolo a different set of motivations then he had previously. Character growth occurs when multiple desires come into conflict with one another.