Monday, June 23, 2014

Lessons From Other Mediums

I'm a sucker for trailers. I love them. A well done trailer, in my opinion, can be better than a game or movie. Not all the time, but I've known at least several games and movies that had better trailers than the game or movie itself was. More to the point though, by watching trailers you can get a good sense of what a game or movie is about, and what it is trying to deliver. And that, that can be relevant for our table top games. How? Well, I'/m glad you ask.

The Trailer...
Take a moment and watch this trailer. If you can't use sound feel free to skip and read on, but it is a well cut trailer so it is totally worth watching later on. Also, as a note, for the purpose of this post I am ignoring the social controversy this trailer launched. My focus for this post is elsewhere.

Where Is The Focus?
The focus I am taking from this trailer is the fluidity of the action sequences. Now this is a cinematic, sure, and videogames have a huge advantage over table top games when it comes to this but there is more to it than that.

As a whole cultural thing action is becoming faster and more fluid. The featuring of things like Parkour and just the increase in technology, knowledge, and the desire to one up what has come before has moved us from action sequences that mostly consisted of two guys punching each other while holding the other's shirt, or shooting from stationary locations to events like the Matrix lobby scene with lots of movement and finesse while combat happens.

Yeah, So What?
This may not mater to you. For me though, I like the cinematic approach. Also, there is a level of vitality and energy that gets injected into a scene when you find a way to let your PCs run around while doing things. Now, obviously there is some back and forth. Even this trailer shows a couple of sequences of what would be "normal combat" with the assassin's just standing still and fighting in a crowd, but for the most part their is movement.

Strangely though, as games and movies move towards this some RPGs (namely L5R and Dark Heresy) seem to take steps in the opposite direction making it harder to move while participating in combat. That, however, is where a GM comes in.

The Point Then?
The point then is that, at least for myself, effort needs to be made to make action sequences dynamic and memorable. Let the players dash through hitting one person here, another there, and move on losing the person in the crowd. Let the players save each other from attacks that are sure to hit just from the sheer number of threats in the area..

Do it right and the game can only benefit, right?


  1. I completely agree. The attention span of the entire world has shrunk considerably due to the internet, smart phones, and the general gush of information that technology makes available to us. That means that every medium has to strive to flow faster, if you want to be able to keep people's attention. With table top the rules, while helpful for creating realistic outcomes, can also be a hindrance to the action and fun of the game. That's not to say that all rules are bad, just that some should be emphasized over others, depending on the mood of the crowd in the room playing the game.

    It's interesting that you chose to highlight this with a trailer. I once ran a whole campaign that was inspired by images I saw in a CoD trailer.

  2. I wasn't kidding when I said I have a love affair with good trailers. My housemates joke about it all the time, and Ubi (at least for Assassin's Creed) makes really fun trailers. A lot of times, they're even better than the game/movie, especially when it comes to inspiration for adventures.

    I talk about it a bit here: