Role-playing reviews

Reviews related to role-playing games, with a focus on Gods & Monsters, and a bit of superhero gaming.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Cowboys, aliens, and the expectations of role-players

Jerry Stratton, August 6, 2011

I just saw Cowboys & Aliens on Wednesday night. It was a fun movie, and a good one, though towards the end it devolved into standard Hollywood formula. It was still fun for that; Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig chew up the screen in most of the right ways. The priest, interestingly enough, is a fighting healer. You can pretty much take his role directly from a D&D party.

And except for the ending, it would make a great role-playing world. Cowboys, mysterious lights in the sky, people disappearing. You horrendously outmatched searching for the weapons that will help you defeat the invaders…

That last part wasn’t in the movie. I’m not going to tell you the ending or the story beyond what’s already in the trailer, but it’s unfortunately not likely to be a surprise that the movie suffers from that chronic Hollywood illness, don’t-pick-up-the-gun-itis.

Pretty much every objection to “picking up the gun” has been countered by previous scenes in the movie. They’re plentiful, easy to use, powerful, and obviously desirable and desired.

I’m a fan of genre-gaming: I enjoy giving a nod to Lovecraft’s “players” when playing characters in a Lovecraftian world, or emulating the initial naivety of the main characters in horror movies. But I draw the line at playing unrealistically stupid1 characters, and watching them in a movie detracts from the movie.

I know the credits go on too long nowadays2, but I’m proposing a new technical advisor: the role-playing advisor. They have nothing to do with turning the movie into a game; their job is to make the characters smarter when it comes to picking up the damn gun, or similar things that movie writers and directors overlook but that people in that situation are unlikely to overlook. It’s not always about picking up the weapon, it’s about reacting to what’s already been established, often in blood and fear, ensuring they’re not easily forgotten.

I’m ready for my closing credit, Mr. DeMille.

  1. It’s not even stupid characters, but stupid is real. It’s more willful blindness on the part of the writer, because in most of these cases even stupid people would “pick up the gun”.

  2. Think about how long scenes actually last in movies nowadays, and compare that to the length of the closing credits. There are multiple scenes that need to get tossed because of the credits.

  1. <- iPad gaming library
  2. Cluedunnit ->