Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Devil's In The... Well You Know.

I'm always on the lookout for neat ideas to take and use in a game, and I've mined many a scene, plot hook, adventure or even a campaign from both TV and movies. It's a pretty common practice for most GMs, and something I strongly encourage you to do so, if you don't already.

I finally got to see I Am Legend today. This was a movie I definitely wanted to check out after seeing the first trailer. I love post-apocalyptic stories, regardless of the origination. I've never read the book, but I've heard the movie is a departure from it. That's cool. The movie made me want to read the book anyway.

Now, I'm not going to review the movie here, though I should say there was little I found lacking with it. Where the movie really shined for me was in the visuals. Not in the creatures Will Smith's character was trying to help, but in the depiction of New York City. It was obvious, and the movie went to great lengths to establish this, that the city was empty. No human, save Will Smith lived in this once great city. The grass growing up in the streets, the cars left in neat rows on the side, or traffic clogged roadways. All this and more give you the clear feeling of emptiness. In fact, a very telling long pull back shot as Smith drives his vehicle down a street show just how empty the city is of human life.

What does this have to do with gaming? Almost any adventure lives or dies by the mood, set-up or feeling put forth by the GM at the start of the adventure. I Am Legend set up the adventure perfectly for this player as I sat back in my seat, yet became immersed in where the hero was located. I was in the game.

And it's in the details, details, details. Your set-up can succeed by laying out the details when you start out. Not only will it set the stage properly, but it'll give the players something to grab on to, and then give back to you. Get your players immersed, and they will contribute to your story more than you'd ever expect. Plus as an added bonus, it may throw them off.

If you provide more description than usual for the minstrel playing by the hearth in the tavern, the players will wonder why so much attention is being given to this NPC. Why all the text to the serving girl? Their mind will race. The table of dwarves? The smell of the food? The conversation going on at the table next to us? The list can go on. One of my favorite products for this? Masterworks Maps: Inns & Taverns by Darkfuries Publishing.

Yes, it may indeed slow your game down, but are you really in a hurry?