Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What The Fast & Furious Franchise Can Teach You About Group Composition

First off, I apologize for this post being late. I forgot that I had promised a good friend I'd go see Furious Seven with them last night, and while a good time was had when I got back home I was tired and not up for writing a blog post. I should have written it earlier in the day, but work was busier than normal too so that was a no go.

Apologies out of the way, I'm a pretty big fan of the Fast and Furious franchise. Originally the movies weren't good, but since four or five they've really hit their stride. Even better though, is that if you watch the movies with a critical eye you can learn lessons about how to make a group for your table top game.

It's All About Family
Over the course of the F&F movies the protagonists (and there are a good number of them really) have changed a lot because they've gone through a lot. Brian and Dom are not the same people in seven that they were in one. Even Roman Pierce and Tej aren't the people they were in two. The characters have grown, but they've also grown together.

This is something you ideally want for most of your campaigns. Yes, a lot can be said for games where everyone doesn't trust each other and if that is your cup of tea then great. However, the best games I've ever been in have been one where the PCs all gelled, came together, and were as loyal to each other as they were to anything else in their lives. Groups like that also help make the characters who may have one higher loyalty stand out even better - which is what everyone wants when they bring that trope into play - so even their it works out.

Similar Strengths Can Be A Good Thing
This seems counter intuitive, but when the PCs all have an area that they are at least decent in it can help the game out a lot. Why? Because that area where every PC is strong works as a cohesive element. It doesn't always have to be the primary area, but it gives the PCs common ground to start from and something to help the GM bring folks together. For most of the characters in the F&F franchise this is driving, and more specifically racing. With the exception of Hobbes and Giselle every character on the team in F&F is a street racer, and a damn good one at that. Because of this, even Hobbes and Giselle are capable of driving because with that being the group's shared focus being able to drive fast is mysteriously a big part of all the plans.

The shared strength also gives the GM hooks for bringing the PCs into other adventures. For example, F&F six features Hobbes recruiting the team because he needs high level drivers with diversified skills to take down the bad guy. And if you don't want to take this trope working just on F&F's say so, Michael Stackpole uses a similar concept in both his Rogue Squadron and Wraith Squadron books all of which feature a group with diverse talents and the shared skill area of being fighter pilots.

Diverse Weaknesses & Strengths
So you have the shared strength, but now you need the more unique areas of focus and lack of focus. This is the easy one to see, and what most gaming advice will tell you to have. This helps shape the game so that every player gets their time in the spotlight, and so the GM can custom craft certain challenges to showcase certain PCs.

In the Fast and the Furious movies Brian and Dominic are the best drivers in the group, but they also have other areas. Dominic is a better leader. Brian is a better fighter/marksman. Tej is the best mechanic/tech guy in the group. Roman is the best at distractoins and being sociable. Han is the best at gathering information and resources. Giselle is pretty much the party rogue. Letty fills an all rounder position where she can back up any other person in the group without slowing them down, but then can also handle the most things on her own if need be.

This is also one of the areas where players tend to balk. No one likes feeling helpless in a situation, but as this is a game for a group, most players will go along with this. The idea is to showcase everyone's strengths, and to let the group cover for the individual where someone is weak.

Bringing It Together
Bringing it together, and the various needs make a case for building the PCs as a group in the first session. This allows people to communicate and agree on what they want to do, who they want to be, and what roles they want to fill. Once that is done, it's up to the GM to deliver on that game. Good luck! Oh, and if you haven't seen them, go watch the Fast and the Furios movies. Even if you only watch 4-7 you'll get a good time with a nice sequential story that builds off the previous installment.

1 comment:

  1. While I haven't watched the movie(s) this is a very good point about role playing. Not every movie or book does a good job of showing that a good group works well together. These movies, the Oceans movies, some of the better military movies demonstrate that there needs to be diversity but if the group works together it all works. LoTR and to some extent the Hobbit do the same thing.