Thursday, 6 August 2009

I Hate You, Duncan Jones!

I’ve been feeling nostalgic recently where my games are concerned but in the last couple of days there’s been another love of mine that has resurfaced - old sci-fi films.

The movie ‘Moon’ with Sam Rockwell has just been released and the director, Duncan Jones, has been talking a lot about his influences and inspirations. Mr Jones is my age, 38, and he’s where I’d love to be – he’s made a sci-fi film that harks back to the sensibilities of the 1960s, 1970s and the early 1980s. Films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running, Alien, Outland and Blade Runner. I’d even throw in Planet of the Apes, as that’s a love of mine, too. He’s writing and making the films that I grew up with, the films that I love… I hate you, Duncan Jones!*

Now, I know precisely two things about the film industry – Jack and Shit – apart from the Filmmaking For Dummies book I own. But Mr Jones (huuurk-spit!) has an obvious passion for this kind of material. That passion has rekindled my own passion for the period and, as a knock-on effect, I’ve automatically thought on how to translate the era into gaming terms. I like lasers and explosions as much as the next guy, but these movies deal with themes and ideas that honestly make you think deeply about your perceptions of the human condition and the world you live in. They were chock full of atmosphere, design, inspirational visual ideas and obvious moviemaker passion.
There’s plenty of games out there that would cover the rules – 2300AD, Traveller, the new X-plorers that I can’t seem to find anymore, even my own favourite Buck Rogers XXVc (if you dumped the imagery and the Buck Rogers background and made it generic... i.e. just used the rules) – but what I’m thinking about is the actual gameplay. How would you run a game that will have very little action and concentrate mostly on the plot? Would it work for multiple players, or would you make it more personal with maybe one or two players so that you can concentrate on the unfolding events? Could there be rules included to enhance the story and the player’s involvement in it?
One idea I had was the DAM point, DAM standing for Dramatically Appropriate Moment. The player gets to nominate one single automatic successful roll in an adventure, no matter what the circumstances (and within the realms of realism, of course – ‘I’ll snuff out the exploding star with my mineral water… what do you mean no? It’s an automatic success!’). This way they have some form of control over the outcome of the unfolding story, it could influence what they find out or if they manage to save a life or figure out a plot against them. I don’t know, I’m just musing out loud, but I’d love to run a game with the feel of the great 70s sci-fi movies.

I’m just really sad that there are apparently no cinemas near me showing ‘Moon’ as it has a limited release. I’ll probably have to DVD it.

*By hate I actually mean admire. And hate.


  1. Most of my campaign plots are about big themes. One was about human frailty. Another about dependency on technology. The recent one was where the characters played social drop outs in a society that tries not to let anyone drop out. I ran an exploratory plotline where they found a giant mechanical planet which raised hundreds of questions. Big topics. The fighting only breaks out when other NPCs get involved.

  2. It's been a long time since I've run a 'big theme' game outside of the fantasy genre. My favourite one was from years ago when the PCs found a derelict alien generation starship, hundreds of kilometres long, and because the aliens were five times the size of humans everything inside the ship made the players feel like they were tint, and there was no light, atmosphere or gravity. The game was exploration all the way with only one punch being thrown during a PvP argument. That's the kind of game I want to run again.