Friday, July 21, 2017

Worst Case Scenario #14 - 'All Along the Watchtower' - A Scenario for 'Top Billing' A Pulp Game of The Golden Age of Cinema


Several years ago I created a set of simple skirmish rules to reflect the madcap stunts and off-the-cuff storytelling experienced behind the scenes of a movie set during the Golden Age of Cinema.


The first edition of the rules were titled 'Leading Man', but over time I've settled on a somewhat more gender neutral title of 'Top Billing'.

I dusted the rules off a few weeks ago, tarted them up a bit, and put on a game for The Friday Night Raconteurs.


Here is the scenario which I read to the players at the start of the game:


All Along the Watchtower

June 15th, 60 A.D. Watchtower XII, Camulodunum, Britannia

Messengers arrived last week, informing you that Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was extending his time away, campaigning on the island on Anglesey. You along with other elements of Legio IX Hispania would remain around Camulodunum, watching over the growing settlement of discharged Legionnaires located there.

Two Roman citizens, a pair of beautiful of sisters, have emerged from the forest several hours ago, road weary and terrified. They say they are family acquaintances of Paulinus himself, and frantically describe a Barbarian ambush of their villa. During the melee they were cut off from their house slaves and managed to slip away.

While they are clearly distraught, you believe it was a small localized attack, and not worthy of mobilizing the Legion reserve, near Londinium. Wanting to make your guests as safe and comfortable as possible, you have provided quarters for them in the local watchtower.

This small excitement aside, you and your fellow centurions from Legio IX are enjoying the tradition of the monthly dice game by the campfire.  You all gamble and drink until the early morning hours when you and your comrades hear the whinnying of horses, the stifled shouts of alarm, and the braying of warhorns…

___________________________________________________________

This is the story, BUT it is not reality.

The reality is that it’s 1968 and you are all on a film set. It is the last scene of an epic Swords & Sandals movie, directed by the notorious and tempestuous impresario David Mean and his genius cinematographer Fredrico Fellacio .

‘The British are Revolting’ (working title) is to be one of the last studio blockbusters to be jam-packed with top-tier actors. Each one of you is a YUUGE Hollywood star, and as such you are unaccustomed to sharing the spotlight. To add a fly into the ointment, the film has gone way over budget and the studio executives are arriving later today to shut down production. With this being the case, the David Mean is shooting as much film as he can manage and is allowing the actors to improvise and impress him with their skills. 

So, the stage is set, the Director is mad, the budget is through the roof, egos are raging, the script is unfinished and each of you is determined to have Top Billing!

David Mean on set capturing the ignominious retreat of one of the actors from the barbarians, er, extras.

The game focuses on the players attaining ‘Top Billing’ status by either having the most Fame Points by the end of shooting or being the last character to 'survive' on-set. The stars with the top three scores will have Top Billing on the movie playbill and be able to bask in the cinematic glory. 

But here's the rub, in the effort to gain as much Fame by the end of the movie, the actors will be forced to use their Fame to gain the Director's attention and foil the plans of any competing actors. 

An actor single-handedly attacking a group of barbarians with the camera capturing the action for maximum Fame Points. 

With this, the actors have to strike a balance between protecting their Fame while also seizing the moment to burnish their reputations. For example, any actor can interrupt the action of another by suggesting (read: demanding) a screen re-write. These re-writes can range from choreographing a complex stunt, making another actor look the fool or seizing the camera unit to get a closeup as they give a plithy line of dialogue. These 're-writes' are entirely up to the imaginations of the players and always create a huge amount of good-natured fun. In addition each screen re-write can be challenged by another star sparking an 'Ego Trip' where the conflicting stars try to convince the Director (GM) why their approach to the scene should be favoured.

One of the actors, striding by and taking a pose for the camera. 

Boudicca made her entry, ran over a few actors and later became a love interest(!)

At the start of the game I provided the players a wide selection of 1960s movie stars to select as their character. I played around with the actors' names and provided each with a special ability, unique to their cinema personality. Most of the actors' names and abilities I can't repeat here due to the joyous, puerile and prurient fun I had creating them. But as a tame example, Marlin Brando became Snarlin' Mango whose special ability was being able to confuse all actors and extras within 12" with his improvised lines and impenetrable speech (which the owning player had to exhibit during the game). Suffice it to say, some of the special abilities were pretty rude...
Boudicca's daughters causing a bit of mayhem in the watchtower.

I won't go into any detail on the game itself, but to say that the guys seemed to have a lot of fun with the madcap chaos set out by the scenario. Many ego-trips were had and the story-line was in complete tatters by time the studio executives arrived on-set to shut down production.


As the guys were such good sports, I awarded each with an Academy Award for their work on the film. 


The 3D printer comes through once again.

'I'd like to thank all the little people who made this possible...'

I'll tweak the rules a bit and perhaps roll out with another blockbuster this winter.

Next Up: More tall and pointy things for the Italian Wars


34 comments:

  1. Fantastic - i love the concept

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    1. Is there a role in the script for Professot Akbar?

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    2. Thanks Miles! Professor Akbar is a little out-of-period but I'm sure we can find a spot for him in the next blockbuster. :)

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  2. What a fantastic idea. I'm really keen to play 7TV from crooked dice which is based on TV shows, but this takes it to another level!

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    1. Thanks Jamie! Yes, I purposefully designed these so they could be used for any period/genre - the sky's the limit.

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  3. Hehe, Frederico Fellacio... don't want to know what you were thinking when making up the character ;-p
    Excellent idea my friend!

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    1. Thanks Adam! Yes, I was having a prurient stretch when dreaming-up a few of the characters.

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  4. What an absolute joy Curt, bravo Sir.

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  5. Well done guys - I recall playing "Leading Man" on Fawcett Avenue, and it was a unique and very enjoyable gaming experience. Glad to see the tradition continuing!

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    1. Thanks Greg, it was a blast dusting off the rules and giving the guys here a taste of them.

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  6. Very clever Curt and well done!

    Christopher

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  7. Magnificent! That looks like loads of fun mate.

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    1. Thanks Millsy - It's a game in which the players have to 'buy-in' completely, or it falls flat. The guys really did it proud.

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  8. It was an epic with a cast of thousands! Thanks for putting it on Curt!

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    1. Thanks Pete - Thanks for making it such a hoot.

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  9. Hah, sounds like great madcap fun of an evening!

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    1. It was a bit bonkers but good fun.

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  10. What a great idea for a game. Bravo, bravo!

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  11. What a great idea for a game. Bravo, bravo!

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  12. This does look like a lot of fun, beer and pretzel game pur sang!

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    1. Completely! Many bottles were imbibed over the evening to be sure. :)

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  13. Looks like a great fun game and nice watchtower!
    Best Iain

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    1. Thanks Iain! The watchtower is probably near 20 years old now - yikes!

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  14. Looks like it was lots of fun. Detailed and immersive game at it's best. cheers

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    1. Thank Brendon. It was a hoot. Made possible with excellent company and a bit of booze to help ease into the night.

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