Jul 28, 2011

The Remake Method

I enjoy making and running horror-themed games and, while I have taken inspiration from movies, I have never used movies as part of the game play experience. Lately I’ve thought about ways to use video that would not detract from the mental immersion, but enrich the experience. Below I outline a few steps for building just such a combination. I even wonder if this method, when combined with a relatively simple mechanic system, couldn’t be used to introduce people to role play-style gaming. Caveat 1: While I focus on horror movies for this post, I don’t see why it couldn’t work equally well for non-horror genre. Caveat 2: I have ran horror-movie based games, but I haven’t used this method yet. It’s pure speculation at this point.

To start, scroll through a list of horror movie synopsis until you find something that you would enjoy running. There are plenty of top ten-style lists that are easy to find online. The IMDB horror section is a good place to start because they offer a huge database, concise storyline, trailers, and complete list of characters. There are, however, lots and lots of horror movie lists and they are easy to find.

The most important part comes next; you have to select a movie based not on the possibly enticing storyline, but on a combination of storyline, YouTube trailer, and playable characters. Once you’ve found an interesting selection, watch the trailer on YouTube, look at the cast of characters on IMDB and decide if it would make a good game. If so, create character sheets for each major player. I recommend that you make more characters than you have players in case there is an unfortunate death (we are talking horror movies, after all).

Next, conceptualize an exciting setting/s and have some events or plot twists ready that you can employ to spice things up. This may be especially relevant early on as the players come into their stride and learn how they want to play their character.

Finally, show the players the video trailer and play. You may want to pause at various times to help embed images of characters into each player’s memory.

A few simple suggestions for new gamers.

• Make the character information fit on an index card. It would also help to print pictures of each character and fix them to the cards.
• Let them go with the flow. When I ran a game with some new gamers, I reminded myself when they stepped into the game master’s shoes a bit to let them. With Remake, the focus is clearly placed on having a good time. Leveling up, impartiality, and other common concepts will come with time and other games later one (hopefully).
• Don’t have your gaming group watch the entire film, unless you make your game the sequel. Since this method is titled “remake” I’ll focus on either a trailer or small part of the movie.
• I suspect it’s also important that the game master select a movie that none, or at the very least, very few, of the players have seen. Otherwise, it is likely the players will simply recreate the movie’s basic storyline. If the players are horror fans, it may take some digging, both online and into your friend’s filmography, to come up with an original selection.
• Alcohol’s not a bad idea.


Storyline: Seven teens head up to a cabin on the lake for spring break. Mike has studied all horror films on video, and recognizes the signs of foreshadowing of doom. The others dismiss his concerns as the workings of a person that watches too many videos, but there really is something out there, and the teens begin experiencing an attrition problem when they start stumbling into all the cliches found in a typical teen horror film.

Setting: Small town and cabin near lake in country.

Characters: Mike, Doreen, Jim, Stacy, Nick, Janet, David, Sally, Plumber, Police Officer.

Plot Twist Ideas: Random NPC becomes possessed and attacks characters. Odd, thick mist rolls in on lake. Loud screams come from forest. Violent rednecks attack cabin. All electricity goes out.

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