B-Movie Inspiration: The Warrior And The Sorceress (1984)
Once again, we delve into the dark and weird world of Roger Corman (although he was uncredited as the executive producer). His work during the 80s was priceless in many ways, while at the same time mind-numbing. This time, he took a page from Lucas’s book. He takes a classic Akira Kurosawa film, called Yojimbo, and re-imagines it in a science fantasy setting, in it’s own “galaxy far far away,” on a planet called Ura. It is an interesting cheesy mixture of fantasy and sci-fi with bad acting, a woman that is topless just about the whole movie (actress Maria Socas), a telepathic (and very poorly conceived) monitor lizard, a dance by a woman with four breasts (beat that Total Recall) and kung fu from the venerable David Carridine.
It is interesting to note that Yojimbo was also re-imagined into a Western called A Fistful of Dollars with Clint Eastwood. Eastwood’s series of spaghetti westerns were some of my favorites.
The planet Ura is apparently a direct rip off of Tattooine – a desert world with two suns, the people struggling to find water any way they can. A stranger “dark warrior” with no name (David Carradine) comes into a town of Yamatar (spelling?) that is controlled by two rival factions. The most valuable commodity on this world is (of course) water, and the two factions vie for power and fight over the local water well in the center of town, the only source of water.
This stranger is apparently some kind of cleric from some lost order, as the script implies, of a forgone age where his kind served a religious order. This order is symbolized by a sigil that makes up his sword and is also found in a burned out temple he comes across. There are several other minor hints throughout the movie about this order but eventually it gets lost in the story. It’s hard to tell if this is a post apocalyptic world or just a fantasy world, as there are hints of both throughout.
The “dark one” (as they call stranger) plays both sides, fighting for one and then the other, meanwhile causing havoc within each. Eventually, this game he plays brings him across a “sorceress” of his old order that he tries to save. The only hint that she is a sorceress is that something called the Sword of Ura, which she apparently has the power to make or bless. This leads to events that don’t go well for him, and eventually a battle for the well ensues. Both factions fight against each other, then against villagers who attempt to take the well. A third “outside” faction of alien-looking slavers (introduced earlier in the film) join the melee as well. Eventually all that is left is the ruthless slavers intent on (of course) enslaving what is left.
Meanwhile, the dark one is recovering from his injuries from being tortured after being discovered playing both sides and freeing the sorceress. He is now armed with this Sword of Ura, thanks to the sorceress. The sword, apparently a re-worked version of the sword he was carrying from the beginning, can cut through a stone anvil. Wielding this great sword, the stranger returns with a force of armed villagers and the (still topless) sorceress to fight off the evil slavers and win freedom for the town.
Overall, the movie is fairly entertaining despite the very poor acting, the deplorable and clichéd script, and lazy fight scenes that are not well choreographed. Being based on a classic didn’t hurt. It does create a fairly inspiring world with fantasy as well as sci-fi elements, with an interesting (if not well explored) background.
From an RPG game master point of view, there is a good bit that can be drawn from this movie.
Torn between two factions & playing both sides: The two factions in this story were not all that well fleshed out. One was lead by an overweight guy reminiscent of Jabba the Hutt, while the other was lead by a ruthless guy who reminded me of Dennis Hopper. However, the factions of The Warrior And The Sorceress are just mirror images of each other. They just mutually hate each other because the script says so. In an RPG adventure, the GM needs to flesh out the factions, creating deep backgrounds and motivations. In doing this, it creates more opportunity and deeper motivation behind the actions of playing both sides.
A Fistful of Dollars, from what I can remember of it, did the “playing both sides” a little better than this movie did. The fun in a RPG adventure with this as its central theme would be seeing the plans and schemes played out in detail, and the results clearly apparent to the characters. The story that can come out of this kind of plotline can be really rewarding.
At the same time, however, the GM needs to avoid contriving everything. Don’t railroad the players into certain actions when playing both sides. Let them figure out various ways to do it. This is where a detailed background and motivation for each faction is important. Lay down the foundation for ways to play off both sides but let the players figure out their own ways of doing it.
Forgotten ways & lost orders: Can anyone say Jedi? This is always a good winner. Use a pre-built order that may be buried in the setting somewhere or an original one. But like everything else, it needs to be fleshed out really well and the insertion to the adventure needs to make sense. I have used ancient orders of Jedis in my Star Wars, as well as ancient cults in my Fading Suns. They can be something the players can strive to join or a secret organization behind the scenes with questionable motivations.
The artifact that only one person can make or activate: Though a minor part of the movie and obviously placed in there to give a more fantasy feel, the aspect of a sword that only a certain sorceress can make through a certain blessing was interesting. This can easily be worked into an adventure. Someone powerful keeping this certain sorceress prisoner can be the center of an adventure.