Guardians of the Roleplay

By | August 23, 2014

Sometimes you cannot help but think about movie scenes in terms of RPG rules and tropes. That sort of insight has given us DM of the Rings and Darths & Droids, along with a host of memes and online jokes.

So for fun this week, let’s take a look at Guardians of the Galaxy and how some of the scenes line up with the mechanics in Forthright Open Roleplay. There are spoilers for the movie below, so if you’re waiting to watch at home this is your last chance to stop reading. Come back next week for more about the game!

Still here? Good!  Let’s start with coming back from the dead.

There are at least three points in the film where a main character is presumed dead:

  • Drax the Destroyer is beaten to death and thrown into a vat of Celestial spinal fluid by Ronan the Accuser.
  • Ronan is hit with a Ravager ship, and within moments suffers the crash landing of his own spaceship.
  • Groot protects his friends from the crash of the Dark Aster with his own body, which is reduced to smoldering twigs.

There are various ways RPGs deal with situations like this – usually revolving around the idea that the player cheated death with powerful magic, science or luck. Forthright Open Roleplay has a mechanic that can work in any genre without needing a “healer” class: the Revive Check.

A character in Forthright Open Roleplay can be slain once damage reduces the character to 0 Resolve. A Deathblow requires no rolls – a victim with 0 Resolve simply dies when the Deathblow is made. Once the scene is over, the player can choose to make a Revive Check against Difficulty 20. The player rolls 1d20 and adds their Fighting Style Proficiency Bonus. This number ranges from +0 for commoners to +6 for the most trained combatants.

If a player succeeds on the roll, the character recovers from his or her brush with death without any lasting effects much like Drax and Ronan. Those characters who fail the Revive check can choose to come back with lingering harm.

Players roll 1d4 to determine how many Wounds the character suffers. The Guide determines the nature of the wounds based on the manner of death, such as a broken leg from a fatal fall. Wounds fade away over time, with one disappearing for each Achievement the character earns for reaching a long-term goal in game.

Players who roll a 4 on the die can instead take an Injury – a permanent wound that always limits a character but also offers a benefit. A classic example is losing an eye – the character’s long distance vision is cut in half but the character also gains additional Fame.

As for how this relates to Guardians, the scene toward the end with a certain dancing potted plant shows what it’s like to fail a Revive Check and end up with a large number of wounds. Groot will recover, but it will take a long time.

Now, on to invoking relationships!

Peter Quill, AKA Star-Lord, loves to talk before he tries to fight. He calms would-be killers and makes allies out of enemies fairly often. But his biggest successes when talking hinge on figuring out what matters most to his conversational partner.

Quill convinces Drax to spare Gamora’s life because she has betrayed Ronan the Accuser. Since Drax wants to kill Ronan, waiting near Gamora is a good way to catch up with the galactic terrorist. Forthright Open Roleplay handles this through Renowns and the Persona role.

Whenever someone invokes a character’s Renown while making a Speech Roll, a successful result can generate more Influence on the target. So lying to someone about that special part you really need is extra-believable if you happen to be a Trickster.

This can be easier with Friends and harder with Enemies because you start a conversation with a positive amount of Influence with Friends and a negative amount with Enemies. So when Quill is trying to convince the other Ravagers that fighting Ronan will lead to a big score, he’s banking on not just the Influence earned for a successful Speech check but also the Influence built up over their years of working together.

And remember when everyone in the Kyln seemed to know who Gamora was, and what she was to Ronan?  That is a perfect illustration of the Fame system’s interaction with Renowns.  If a character becomes famous enough, other characters know his Renowns, and that gives them some idea of who a character is and what that character’s done even when they’ve never previously met that character.

Now, it’s time for the dance off!

At the end of the film, Star-Lord is desperate to stop Ronan from unleashing an attack strong enough to destroy an entire planet. He latches onto the first thing he can think of – dancing to his old mix tape to distract the villain while his friends cobble together one last attack.

Many systems already have rules for deception and distraction, which most groups would have no problem using in this case. But the rules usually require a check against either a specific statistic (such as Charisma to hold someone’s attention) or a specific skill (such as Bluff) to get a specific effect (in this case, causing a distraction).

Forthright Open Roleplay encourages players to come up with their own reasons why something could work and then roll to see if it does. That’s why our Stunt system allows a character to use any skill to provide benefits to allies and hindrances to enemies. The roll is open-ended, so higher results allow a player to provide multiple buffs and debuffs at the same time.

In the case of Star-Lord, this could be a simple Perform Skill Check. After seeing the result, the player would announce that he is providing a Bolster to his ally’s attack roll (allowing a reroll after the die is cast but before the result is described) by being a distraction to Ronan.

Stunts can also provide cover, Hinder enemy attacks (forcing the enemy to reroll and take the lowest result), boost movement and a variety of other effects. Since the player can assign the effects as he wishes, it comes down to the descriptions of the players and the Guide as to what happens in the game.

So, what scenes reminded you of rules from an RPG system? Leave your comments below, and take some time to check out the gaming webcomics I mentioned earlier. See you next week!