For 2021, Pathfinder Society and Starfinder Society schedule will be handled differently. On OGRe, there will only appear beginner and intro level games to both PFS and SFS. Included in these are the 1 hour Bounty adventures and some 4 hour one shots.
You must be registered for MACE 2021 to participate.
Contact if you interested in running games.
About Pathfinder Society
Pathfinder Society Organized Play is a worldwide fantasy roleplaying campaign that puts YOU in the role of an agent of the Pathfinder Society, a legendary league of explorers, archaeologists, and adventurers dedicated to discovering and chronicling the greatest mysteries and wonders of an ancient world beset by magic and evil.
The campaign’s home base is sprawling Absalom, the so-called City at the Center of the World, that stands astride the great Inner Sea on the mountain-capped Isle of Kortos. A Pathfinder’s adventures explore the dark alleys and political intrigue of Absalom between far-flung travels to the most interesting and exotic locales in the world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
In Pathfinder Society Organized Play, you play a member of the Pathfinder Society, seeking fortune and glory all over the face of Golarion. At the same time, your character works for one of the competing factions, all with their own motivations and secret agendas.
Play is organized into Seasons, throughout which the actions and achievements of you and your fellow Pathfinders create an ongoing storyline. Each season consists of Pathfinder Society scenarios (short, 4-hour adventures) set in a variety of exotic locations across Golarion.
The Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild (SFS) is a worldwide science fantasy roleplaying campaign. Set thousands of years in Pathfinder’s future, the gods have mysteriously spirited Golarion away to an unknown location and refuse to answer questions about it. In its place, the cultures of that world have evolved and spread throughout the solar system, especially to a vast space platform called Absalom Station. Gifted access to a hyperspace dimension by an ascended AI deity, the residents of the system suddenly find themselves with the ability to travel faster than light, and the race is on to explore and colonize potentially millions of worlds. But there are horrors out there in the darkness…
The Starfinder Society recruits members of all races, alien and familiar, to join their ranks. Encouraging members to explore, report, and cooperate, the Starfinder Society sends teams into the vastness of space to explore the uncountable worlds of the universe. While on their missions, Starfinder Society agents works for sub-organizations with their own motivations agendas, earning reputation and securing favors.
Beginning this August, come join the mission, as the Starfinder Society requests YOU as their newest operative!
B-Movie Inspiration is a series of articles I write where I watch really bad movies and draw RPG inspiration from them.
Perusing my various streaming options, I stumbled on this gem of a B-movie from 1990 – The Dark Side of the Moon. No, this was not something inspired by the Pink Floyd album. This was a very very bad Alien knock-off that was really really hard to watch. It was more like a Walmart version of Event Horizon (1997). The acting was stilted and awkward, special effects and set design were low budget and because of that, the portrayal of space physics was lazy. While all that was bad, the premise was actually kind of interesting and could be a really good one shot tabletop RPG adventure in any near-future sci-fi setting.
The general plot places us in the year 2022 – where in-system space travel is not only common, but starships are big, bulky and have artificial gravity. The spaceship Spacecore 1 is on a mission to repair and retrieve nuclear-armed spy satellites and apparently one wondered around to the dark side of the moon. The best shot of Spacecore 1 I could find on the internet is shown below:
We are then briefly introduced to the crew of seven. The crew includes:
Flynn Harding (played by Robert “Starred In Every 80s show possible” Sampson), a tough, chain smoking bad-mouthed guy who is on-mission and all about the job. While he was alive in the movie, I felt the actor over played him and there was little back story that came out.
Giles Stewart (played by Will “Who?” Bledsoe), a dashing young pilot with a mullet who does not really seem to want to be there. He seems to be full of some kind of angst (it was the 90s, after all) and just mopes around until the end.
Paxton Warner (played Joe “Blade Runner’s Dr. Eldon Tyrell” Turkel, sadly his last role) is a strange science/engineering officer who always seems to have an ulterior motive.
Lesli (played Camilla “Why are you in this movie” More) is the ship’s android AI that does nothing in the movie but sit and state a few plot points. More on her later.
Philip Jennings (played by John “That other guy from Stargate the movie” Diehl) is the technician and token male chauvinist who is hitting on Alex all the time. This actor was so much better as Lieutenant Kawalsky in Stargate.
Alex McInny (played by Wendy “I’m here to show my boobs” MacDonald) is a crewman that has some engineering and tech skills, as well as some bio-med skills. However, other than a few minor over-acted scenes, she was there for one scene and one scene only (referenced in her nickname I gave her).
Dreyfuss Steiner (played by Alan “I’ve seen this guy before somewhere” Blumenfeld) is the ship’s doctor and one of the pivotal characters in the overall story in a very subtle way. In a rare creative moment, this character creates a very creepy scene.
In their search for a rogue nuclear sat on the dark side of the moon, the Spacecore 1 suffers inexplicable power failure and begins to tumble towards the Moon – specifically a point on the Moon called Centris B40. Due to the various failures, the crew realize that they have only 24 hours air and heat left. This is a strong bonus point for me because I like when they emphasize the dangers of space – lack of oxygen and frigid temperatures. The real nightmare however starts when an old space shuttle (Discovery 18) mysteriously appears and docks with them, bringing on board a mysterious malevolent entity that threatens them all.
Over time, the core plot is revealed linking the dark side of the moon, the Bermuda Triangle and the Devil himself. The first clue that it’s going in this direction is Centris B40 – the point on the dark side of the moon they are drifting towards. It’s shaped like a triangle on all the displays on the ship. (see below)
When the shuttle appears out of the shadows of the Moon, it is portrayed like a haunted ghost ship. They find one of the crew dead (body fully preserved, somehow) who turns out to be the source of the evil that haunts the shuttle. The evil entity somehow travels from one person to another, causing a triangular shaped gut wound in some of its victims. Anyone possessed ends up dead eventually. The entity – who reveals himself as the Devil – was trapped on the shuttle and was looking for a way back to Earth.
This movie is a real slow burn with some of the worst script writing I have ever heard. Everyone seemed to emphasize the wrong words or the wrong expressions, long pauses at awkward moments and just a general feeling that there was more story in each character then they were letting us know about. The set design was extremely low budget – I have seen better designs in old Doctor Who. The ship set design did not make any sense and the shuttle set made even less sense. Even though there was two ships from two different eras of space travel, I did not feel like there was any difference between the two. And even though they clearly showed the shuttle as a classic 1980s design, the set designer obviously had no clue what a real space shuttle interior looked like. I realize with a limited budget, there was not much they could do. However, I think the movie could have benefited from the sense of familiarity and difference between the two ships.
Interesting touches in the movie include the shuttle interior being cover in liquid water inside and in fact, there is a cargo bay that is full of water. It is implied that the water is from the Bermuda Triangle because this shuttle was lost over it during an emergency landing attempt in 1992. It kept from freezing by supernatural heat within the shuttle. We learn this because as they board it, they find the interior temperature was 106 degrees after 30 years dead in space. The shuttle serves two purpose. The creepiness factor as well as a last hope for our heroes to replenish energy and air. However, the one question I had was never answered – why does the shuttle have artificial gravity? I know. Low-budget. Zero G simulation is either done cheesy or really really expensive.
The characters were just awful. You would get better character development in a RPG one shot game. The captain is a card board cut out of a character who dies fairly early in the movie. Giles is the typical late 80s/early 90s hero character – the guy with the best hair is the hero. Paxton was just weird. Early on, he was doing weird stuff to make you think he was a betrayer or had some kind of plot behind him but it never manifested. Wasted opportunity. Jennings was probably one of the better characters but there was just something wrong with the way the actor was portraying him – he just seemed off. Alex spends most of the movie in a coma and only wakes up long enough to have a topless scene and then she is done. I really feel like that was a wasted character as well. Steiner was also one of the better characters and the one that reveals to the audience that the crew has been “infected” by the entity to the hero.
Finally there is Lesli. This character made absolute no sense to have. You could have just had a disembodied voice for the ship’s computer and be done with it. But no, the director thought it was a good idea to have a pretty lady in tight leather as the ship’s AI sit in a chair the entire movie and spout out plot points. STUPID!!! Who is this girl? The director’s girlfriend or something? Save yourself a little money by hiring one less actor, let one of the other female actor do the ship’s computer voice for a small fee. Then spend what you saved on better set designs! Again, it was another wasted opportunity.
This movie is like many movies – great idea that was poorly executed. What can you expect from Hollywood? Anyway, there is a lot an RPG GM can draw from this. The entire movie itself is a RPG one shot waiting to happen.
Dark Side of the Triangle
You can easily see the entire plot of this movie playing out in a RPG one shot. Sometime in the near future, a crew recovering lost military satellites finds itself wondering into the dark side of the moon where they begin to experience unexplained equipment failures. I would make the ship tangible with maps or picture or both and really emphasize the isolation and dangers of space. I prefer realism in my sci-fi. Space is damn scary by itself.
The ship would be something different from the one in the movie – something more practical and tangible (like from The Expanse ). Give it character, always having problems, giving the players something to work with at first when systems begin to fail. At first, it may seem like “ol’ Bessy” acting up again, but then too many things begin to happen at once, giving the crew a clue that something is really wrong.
You flesh out the crew better than this movie did and give each one a clear function. Allow the android to walk about and have a purpose. The Captain is a rough and tumble guy, perhaps former military that got dishonorably discharged because of a drinking problem. The pilot is a hot shot pilot hired by the company after his stint in prison for smuggling and illegal orbital racing. The scientists is new to the crew , volunteering to join this mission because of his secret agenda. He has theories about the dark side of the moon and wishes to gather evidence. Continue to flesh out each character and relate them to each other, giving them back story and agendas. There can be a betrayer if you want, but it has to make sense.
Then they stumble across a space shuttle. Today, this would have more impact in the story then in 1990, since they ceased the program. You can make up a shuttle or use one of the real ones. Perhaps the shuttle was actually lost towards the end of the program and this fact was covered up. Either way, give it a good back and haunting backgrounds. Unlike the movie, use the real floor plans and give it a realistic feel.
Other plot points from the movie:
At some point, they showed the shuttle cargo bay full of moon rock from Centris B40. While they did not make a direct link the supernatural story line, there could be. This could be another route to take so you don’t have to end up where the movie did.
The movie implied that there was a connection between the Triangle and the dark side of the moon. Was it some kind of supernatural star gate? Wormhole? Or a prison for the evil entity? There are many possibilities.
For the entity possession, I would remove the idea of the triangular gut wound, and keep it hidden. While they did that with some of the characters, I would make it more consistent.
Dark Side of the Moon for me was a very hard movie to watch but inspiring at the same time. Much of the inspiration came from what they did not do with their inspired idea and less from what they did, but still, it was a cool idea for an tabletop RPG adventure.
I was browsing social media when I ran across a picture posted to a group dedicated to the old sci-fi media magazine Starlog.
It was a creature from some old movie that resembled a bulbous starfish with a single tentacle jutting out is front. Immediately drawing me in, I had to do some research to find out where it came from. This creature was a Silicate from a movie called Island of Terror, a 1966 British horror film starring Peter Cushing, Edward Judd, and Carole Gray. I am a huge fan of Peter Cushing movies and this was a good example of an imaginative gem that probably flew under the radar for many.
Most of the movie takes place on a remote island called Petrie’s Island, off the east coast of Ireland. We learn in the first act that the island does not have phones to the mainland and limited means to reach it via boat. It is a very isolated community of farmers and fisherman. We first observe some scientists lead by oncology researcher Dr. Lawrence Phillips as they work on a cure for cancer in a secluded castle laboratory on the island. It is during their conversations, these scientists mention their other co-workers in Japan – a plot plant for later. Something catastrophic happens in the lab and it fades to black. Later on the island, bodies begin to turn up. They seemed to have died horrifically as every bone in their bodies was liquified. The island’s physician – Dr Reginald Landers (Eddie Byrne) – ends up recruiting two London scientists – Dr Brian Stanley (Cushing) and Dr. David West (Judd) to help solve the mystery. Along with them is the wealthy jetsetter Toni Merrill (Carole Gray).
Once back at Petrie’s Island, the helicopter used to reach the island must return to the mainland for plot reasons, leaving the group effectively stranded on Petrie until the helicopter or a boat can return. West and Stanley learn of Dr. Phillips work, paying a visit to his lab. This reveals that Dr. Phillips and his colleagues are dead and boneless as the other bodies. From Dr. Phillips’ research notes, the protagonists learn that in his quest to cure cancer, they may have accidentally created a new silicate based lifeform.
The creature now obliquely revealed, we begin to see more and more islanders killed. In each case, we hear a strange alien sound and see a tentacle take out each. Eventually dubbed silicates by the heroes, we learn that they kill their victims by injecting a bone-dissolving enzyme into their bodies as part of their feeding process. The silicates are very resilient and incredibly difficult to kill. Landers fails to kill one at the castle with an axe when they first encounter them and later try to kill them as they approach the village, with bullets, gasoline bombs and dynamite with no effect. Additionally, these creatures divide like cells every few hours and the heroes determine there could be thousands or more on the island before too long.
In the scenes that follow, we see the creatures in the forests and in the fields, slowly crawling towards to the village seeking food. These scenes were pretty good considering the period, but I could imagine what they could do today with something like this. In these shots, they may have been 4 or 5 on screen at one time but to really get the horror, I wanted to see dozens moving frantically seeking food. As you can imagine for the period, they were like little slugs crawling along the ground at a very slow pace. However, there were some cool moments as they revealed the creatures could climb trees and drop down on victims.
Finally, one silicate turns up dead, apparently after having ingested a dog that was contaminated by a rare isotope called Strontium-90 from Phillips’ lab. This may have been vaguely implied at in the beginning, I am not sure. It did seem out of nowhere to me. The heroes hatch a plan to gather more of this isotope at the castle and contaminate a herd of cattle, setting a trap for the hundreds (look more like dozens) of silicates that are now on the island. This in the long run succeeds, of course, with a few harrowing moments among panicking townsfolk trapped in the town meeting hall while the creatures attack from all sides.
The story ends with evacuation and medical teams coming to the island and the heroes realizing how fortunate they were that this outbreak was confined to an island. Planted earlier in the movie, this sets up an epilogue of the movie – a visit to the satellite programme in Japan. The scientists there are attempting to duplicate Phillips’ work with the inevitable result. It ends with a scientists entering a room, you hearing the familiar sound of the creature, and a scream. Fade to black.
The theme of this story is a standard science gone wrong trope. It’s one of my favorites to use in my sci-fi and pulp horror games. These stories are born of man’s hubris and arrogance that he alone is master of the cosmos and science is the means to master it. I am using this in my current con Reich Star campaign (Man in the High Castle meets The Expanse). It also had a Lovecraftian feel to it, given the setting and the type of creature. For budgetary reasons, these creatures were a little disappointing, but my mind simply goes to what they could have been with the right budget and today’s special effects. Todays practical effects alone could make these things terrifying. Adding in a little CGI, and these things could be awesome. I love a good monster movie. A monster movie with tentacles and you will have me watching from beginning to end.
I love the isolation aspect of this. This can easily be “survive the night” type one-shot adventure in any horror, sci-fi or fantasy setting. Some scientist or wizard messing around with the wrong things only to open a gate into another realms of strange creatures that devour your bones (or some other aspect of your body). The inspirations are fairly obvious. Any island or island-like locations would do. In sci-fi, it could be an asteroid colony. This is the perfect pulp horror story, easily insertable into a game like Call of Cthulhu. In fantasy, it could be anywhere. Isolation is quite common in fantasy.
The creature itself could be anything but I like the creepiness of this particular creature. I would even use the sound they used in the movie if I could isolate it on my phone. I would add more tentacles just for effect. I would also alter the mitosis process to add a little more horror to it but the ticking time-bombs aspect to that would remain. It’s all a ready-made adventure waiting to be exploited in a role playing game setting.
The one thing I would change is probably the final solution as it seemed more coincidental than anything.
This is an award winning UK sci-fi space short film made Backyard Productions UK as part of the “Darkwave universe.” Set in a world where rare crystals – called Starlight Crystals – make FTL flight possible, it shows that even with a low budget and actors working for free, you can still tell a damn good story. I write about this because I really feel that this Darkwave setting REALLY needs to be written up as an RPG setting. Someone really needs to approach these guys with the idea.
As explained the beginning of the film, something called the Darkwave is an event blamed for nearly all the Starlight Crystals not working. ONly a small percentage of them still work. This ends up leaving many ships in mid-flight stranded in the middle of space, decades if not centuries away from a colony using sublight engines. Finally, a sci-fi movie that respects stellar distances.
Only a few fragments of working Starlight crystals exist, so only a few ships can travel limited FTL. Apparently the distance and speed a crystal can travel is proportional to the size in some way. Scavenger ships armed with these crystals travel from derelict to derelict – called Drifts – salvaging cargo, rescuing passengers where possible and salvaging crystal fragments. Some have good intentions while others don’t. The film introduces a Ministry ship named the Deliverance ( a ship that vaguely looks like the Firefly) and it’s salvage crew of eight scavengers. The drop out of FTL asleep in hypersleep suits after a 5 month flight, near a couple of Drifts – a cargo ship and a passenger liner – that is apparently near the nebula where the Darkwave originated.
The characters are kind of cliched – hard-ass woman inspired by Ripley from Alien, the wise-cracking American pilot, the by-the-book perfectly British captain, the pair of rough and tumble blue-collar types that are underappreciated and do all the work, a wide-eyed kid who is bound to get in trouble, rookie corporate guy and so on. Collectively, they come across as a cross between the crew of the Firefly and the crew of the Nostromo with some homages to the marines of the Sulaco. They come across a starship graveyard of multiple wrecks and other debris. Their systems apparently detected a crystal fragment and they are after it.
What follows is a series of events that are reminiscent of several claustrophobic space movies like Aliens, Pandorum, and the like. There are survivors on the ship and they all have a dark story to tell. It is a mad dash to recover a crystal on the ship that is apparently special. A mole in the group wants the crystal for their own clandestined purposes while the rest just try to get out. There are moments you can tell this is a shoe-string budget production while others are top-notch. The hallways seem thrown together and poorly constructed at times, but the set of the Deliverance is very cool. Overall, however, the story they tell is compelling and fantastically inspiring.
From an RPG point of view, this movie is more inspiring from a setting point of view than anything else. The story itself is tropey and cliched, but would serve as a great intro adventure into the settings. This “Ministry” they work for needs to be fleshed out, as does the covert factions within that drove the mole character. There would need to be an idea of what the universe was like before the Darkwave and what it is now. Colonies are isolated now, with only a few fragments available to them, perhaps only able to reach out to other nearby systems. Smaller stellar nations would form, space would factionalize and people would start blaming others for the Darkwave. Perhaps a whole faith would rise out of the Darkwave, saying that humanity had reached too far.
Youtube is full of short sci-fi and fantasy films, some good and some not so good. I found this one exceptionally imaginative and inspiring. I hope I can find the time to flesh out a setting inspired by it.
Blood Creek, previously known as Creek and Town Creek, is a horror film directed by the famous (and infamous) Joel Schumacher, starring Michael Fassbender, Dominic Purcell, and Henry Cavill. Where else are you going to get Magneto, Heat Wave and Superman in one movie. Written by David Kajganich, the film apparently had a limited theatrical release in 2009. I came across it in my streaming options, and it was highly recommended by a friends. Dominic Purcell and Henry Cavill play brothers on a mission of revenge who become trapped in a harrowing occult experiment dating back to the Third Reich. Yes, Nazis, Occult and Zombies in the same movie. I am all in!
I would not qualify this as a B-Movie as much as a “under the radar” movie with limited release/straight to video production. It has a great premise, a decent execution and so much potential for sequels.
In 1936, a Nazi professor named Richard Wirth (Fassbender) is sent to the West Virginia, US to be hosted by the Wollners, a farming family of German emigrants. The Wollners believe him to be a visiting scholar, but Wirth turns out to be a Nazi occultist who seeks a Viking runestone buried on their property. He demonstrates occultic power on some dead animals, raising briefly from the dead, indicating a more sinister plan once he has tapped the full power of the runestone under their house.
Fast forward to modern day, the movie introduces Evan Marshall (Cavill) as a tired and hard-working paramedic who works 12 hour shifts, takes care of his invalid angry father and the children of missing brother. Through several well-shot and interestingly scripted scenes, we learn a few things important to the story. First, it’s Halloween and there is going to be a lunar eclipse that evening. Secondly, the brother – Victor (Purcell) – is a war vet who disappeared sometime ago during a camping trip in rural West Virginia.
One evening, Evan is surprised when Victor suddenly appears. Victor explains that he has escaped some mysterious captors, and they quickly prepare to return for vengeance. The brothers arm up and head to the farm to confront what we learn is the Wollners, who have barely aged since 1936. When they arrive to exact revenge, the Wollners tell the tale of Wirth and his intentions. Back in 1936, when Wirth revealed his intentions of occultic evil, the family bravely takes it upon themselves to save the world from this evil and trap him in their basement. Using occultic runes they learned from his books, they bind and contain him on the property and out of the house. Through rituals that requires frequent human sacrifices, they have been feeding him victims over the decades. Linked to Wirth, the family survive through the decades, operating as both captors and servants to Wirth, who they keep weakened and at bay.
Wirth then gets out of the cellar and begins his terror. Wirth is now a zombie-like figure with occultic symbols carved into his gray hairless skin. It is revealed throughout the story that Wirth has a plan to eventually awaken his third eye, which will mark the pinnacle of his power. The fact that its Halloween night and a lunar eclipse works in there somewhere too. Wirth’s terror includes killing and then subsequently raising horses and dogs into crazed zombie animals, as well as a few victims (reminiscent of Evil Dead). Lots of blood and gore follows until things begin to fall apart.
I am going to avoid any further spoilers, but needless to say this movie ends with a occultic bang that is very satisfying. By the end we learn that SS leader Himmler sent other Nazi agents to different locations throughout West Virginia. Evan finds a map that was under the farm and discovers that others like Wirth are at other farms. While Victor returns home to his family, Evan heads out to the other farms to stop the other Nazis, obviously setting up for sequels. However, it ends with Victor ominously returning to the Wollner farm, now burned down, standing over the runestone, perhaps implying he is tempted by it’s power.
Not only is a cool self-contained adventure, it is a setup for a great campaign. I fully plan to steal from this, advancing this into the future for a sci-fi adventure. Imagine finding runestones on an asteroid! I can easily see this as a horror RPG adventure for something like Call of Cthulhu. A group of players stumble across a bloodied young girl in the woods, with her back all shredded and sign restraints on her wrists. They investigate her tale to find an old farm house with runes all over it. What is to follow is a night of horror and death that would drive any party insane.
I highly recommend watching this movie for its inspiration (although I realize I might have spoiled it some). It is very much worth a watch.
Also known as Ragewar: The Challenges Of Excalibrate, I found this movie in an old article about old awful 80s fantasy films. And this one was pretty awful. although it had great potential. The article included several movies I had already reviewed so I decided to give this one a chance. My research found that it was somewhat inspired by Disney’s Tron, but only mildly. The studio changed the movie’s name from Ragewar: The Challenges Of Excalibrate to The Dungeonmaster in part because of the popularity of D&D at the time. So obviously, I had to review it for RPG inspirations.
The movie stars Jeffrey Byron from Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Synfame, as Paul, a computer geek with interesting and rather visionary talents. The movie starts out in the 80s modern world where we see some of his computer skills and talents. It is implied that he was “experimented on” by someone, giving him some very unique abilities to connect, diagnose and communicate with computers. Before there was wireless, touch screens and Google Glass, this guy could use his glasses and watch to wirelessly connect to his home computer, diagnose computer problems, and change traffic signals at will.
We are then introduced to his girlfriend, a dancer named Gwen. She and his AI personal computer Cal (short for X-CaliBR8) fight a battle for Paul’s attention. One night while they slept, something weird happens that the movie does not clearly explain. Paul and Gwen are somehow teleported to a Hellish realm by a mysterious devil-like figure named Mestema (played by the great Richard Moll). Somehow, Cal the computer is connected to this but it’s not really explained how. I am pretty sure the subtext is that computers are of the devil, though. Having worked in computers for nearly 25 years, I can safely say that is not far from the truth.
Mestema (I really hate that name for a villain) sees Paul as a new challenge. Although not clear in the movie, some of the text on the internet say that Mestema is a dark sorcerer bored with defeating all things magic and sees technology as the new threat. There is a lot devil and Satan references and symbolism throughout. Mestema plans to send Paul against seven challenges and if successful, he wins Gwen. If he loses, Gwen remains with Mestema. Reminiscent of Hercules and his twelve labors, Paul faces off against various beings and situations armed only with a portable version of his X-CaliBR8 mounted on a bracer.
This is where the movie really falls apart, however. The story actually had so much potential. It would not have blown the budget if they just had a little more imagination. Instead, they settled on Paul’s laser-shooting wristband for most every solution. Each challenge was a separate story that maybe lasted 10 minutes, and was written by a different person. Bold move in my opinion but in the end, the story fell short.
The segments were:
In Ice Gallery written by Rosemarie Turko, Paul and Gwen are placed separately in a frozen gallery of “criminals” or denizens of hell. They include Bloody Mary, Jack the Ripper, the werewolf, the mummy, a unnamed Samurai, a Zombie, King Louis and of course, the worse of the all – Albert Einstein??? I guess, in the 80s, he was deemed evil or hell-worthy because of his contribution to the bomb. None of this really makes sense but you roll with it. I got stuck on the movie-monsters in Hell, but whatever. Something like the Nightmares of Hell would have made more sense.
Gwen begins to freeze up while Paul is trying to find her and a way out. Mestema proceeds to turn the heat up and of course, all the figures begin to thaw out. The two find each other and have to find a way out. The end solution is surprisingly not technological, however, and very stupid in the end. This is one of many examples of a lost opportunity in writing and storytelling. I thought the whole point was for technology to overcome magic but instead, it’s just some mysterious crystal being held by the un-thawed Einstein (why was he still frozen?). Somehow, Cal knows that Paul needs to just throw this ice crystal, and everyone wins! Yay! It’s just stupid.
Why not use technology to defeat each creature in more ways than just Ask Cal? I realize it was supposed to be short but the end solution made no sense. I suppose because the crystal was in the hands of a man of science, that it is a metaphor for science defeating magic but I found that very weak. It could have been a book or something closely related to knowledge and science. Let the light of knowledge destroy all your nightmares. Or something like that. If you needed to cut something out, take out the whole aspect of Gwen freezing (we already know it’s cold) and instead add her figuring some aspect out of the mystery. Instead of making her yet another damsel in distress, make her a equal partner with Paul in figuring this challenge out.
Demons of the Dead, written by John Buechler, had Paul appear alone in another realm of Hell, ruled by a puppet-effect demon. Paul faces off with a couple of zombies and then meets the puppet demon, Ratspit. Paul must face his own death, according to the demon puppet. How does that work out? Paul staring down his own zombie-self and saying “Meh.” Again, stupid and it has nothing to do with technology defeating Mestema or magic.
A redeeming moment in this scene is the line uttered by Paul “I reject your reality and substitute my own!” (partially borrowed from a Dr. Who episode) and I think this gets to the point of the encounter. Paul is supposed to die at the hands of Mestema, resulting in zombie-Paul, but Paul realizes it is only a single possibility of many and rejects that reality altogether. Although fairly imaginative and cerebral, the execution of this encounter is really poorly done. Facing one’s own death needs to be more dramatic and meaningful. I think, once again, lack of budget killed the potential in this scene. And a realm of Hell should look more epic than something thrown together with hot-glue and discount Halloween decorations.
Of course, RPG scenes have need no budget and so this is how I would have done the scene. Paul awakens from the teleportation effect on some kind of stone dais, the only light in a seemingly cavernous room shines on him like a spotlight. The dais is just high enough that the a dozens of zombies surrounding him can not reach him. This is the moment that he realizes that he could be surrounded by thousands upon thousands of zombies in a huge cavern. Ratspit called himself the “caretaker of the dead” and controlled the “discarded husks that once contained the human souls.” If so, then there would be millions in his realm. However, cinematically, I would only show a few just his feet and imply there are thousands and maybe millions around him.
Somewhere above him, perhaps sitting on his thrown on some ledge in the cavern is Ratspit, who challenges him to face his own death. At that moment, another dais raises out of the crowd of zombies. Standing on it is his zombie-self. It proceeds to walk over the crowd of zombies below him, using the heads as stepping stones. During this time, perhaps Paul has flashes of future challenges and how he might die – death by the torture devices of the Heavy Metal band, death by the Slasher and death by the Stone Canyon Statue – all greweling and gory. Meanwhile, Cal could be calculating the possibilities of each, somehow tapped into this vision. The zombie-Paul then reaches Paul’s dais and perhaps a combat ensues but Paul eventually rejects the death saying it is only one of many probabilities, sighting mathematically all other possibilities, tying it back to technology and science.
Heavy Metal written by Charles Band brought me back to my 80s metalhead days. The great 80s hair-band WASP makes an appearance in this one. Paul is sent to a modern heavy metal concert in some crowded dive. Gwen stands chained in some torture apparatus while WASP plays their song, The Tormentor. The crowd is full of vicious big-haired fans trying to prevent him from getting on stage to save Gwen. The lead singer Blackie Lawless, threatens Gwen with a machete. After another awkward and poorly shot fight sequence between Paul and the band, Paul uses Cal to determine the solution was sound waves – blast the band and crowd with a massive burst of sound waves and they will be free. Wow, Cal has better speakers than an iPhone!
Again, a missed opportunity. They thought of hacking into traffic lights to allow Paul an uninterrupted jog as well as hacking into ATMs to get money (both in the beginning scenes of the movie) but they did not think of hacking into sound systems of a rock band. Admittedly, they did not really identify the source of the sound; it just happens. But I assumed it was from his Cal device and not the sound system. Although this whole scene was a stupid excuse to get a WASP song in the movie, it had potential if they really wanted to explore it. The producers truly failed on this one because the dive they found was so cramped and small. I feel it would have been more successful on a big stage where Paul would have to climb up to save Gwen. Budget problems, again!
Again, imagination has no budget. I would have had this in an arena with various torture devices in the background on stage. I would also tie this into Gwen interest in dancing and perhaps plug this early on. I would have her as a dance girl in one of the devices, something she has been trying out for. Due to plants earlier in the movie, Paul knows there will be an accident and realizes it will cause the death of Gwen. He rushes to stop it but demon-things as well as stage security try to stop him while he climbs back stage and attempts to save his girlfriend. He uses the sound system to stun the demon things and everyone else, so he can nab Gwen from the faulty torture device.
Stone Canyon Giant written by David Allen is my favorite of all of the challenges, primarily because it uses stop-motion and was probably the single most expensive challenge in the movie. Paul is transported to another world and like in almost every case, he awaken in it groggie from partial unconsciousness. While trying to awaken from whatever magic Mestema used to transport him, two grunting dwarves snatch up his wrist computer and run off. Paul chases them down for a bit until he stumble across a temple with some kind of giant monkey god statue with a jewel in its forehead, sitting on a throne. The dwarves apparently placed Cal on an altar in front of the statue. He retrieves it only to awaken the giant statue that apparently shoots lasers from his jewel. A short fighting chase ensues, where the dwarves annoy him while he tried to get a shot off at the statues, and it ends with Paul shooting the statue in the jewel. Ouch!
While simple, this told a lot of story and left you wanting more. What were the dwarves? Why did they feel the need to leave an offering? I enjoyed this challenge thoroughly and there is no wonder it was featured a lot in the trailer. I think the lost opportunity was with the dwarves. Instead of making them just grunt, why not let them tell more story? So much more potential here but finally a legitimate use of the Cal wrist computer.
Slasher written by Jeffrey Byron is a very tropy and predictable story but it still has its moments. It seems out of place, however, after so many challenges based in fantasy worlds. Paul again is transported to another world – this time the modern one where he is basically framed for a murder that is apparently part of a series by a serial killer. As it turns out, somehow Cal figures out that Gwen is the likely next target and Paul has to save her. Paul has to escape the police and hunt down the killer using Cal. This would have been a much more meaningful challenge if (1) it was truly connected to the real world and (2) Gwen’s character wasn’t stupid in it. Suddenly, Gwen has amnesia and is in the real world seeking a dancing gig. Why? See below for my comments on connecting it to the real world.
Cave Beast written by Peter Manoogian is perhaps one of the lamest of all the challenges but in part because I do not think some of the story came across well. It is another lost opportunity. Paul is teleported to a cave opening where he hears a female voice calling out. He thinks it is a trap and resists going down into it, However the cries continue and he eventually gives in. Somewhere hidden in the cave is some kind of demon-troll, throwing exploding crystals at him. He uses Cal’s lasers to bring down the cave ceiling on the creature only to discover that it was an angel trapped inside the trolls body. She implies that she somehow “transgressed and was banished to this cave” but nothing is explained. She then vanishes, implying that she did not actually die. This could have been expanded to something far greater.
We have already established that Mestema with demon and devil imagery. Why not make this angel-person a trapped enemy of Mestema and with some act of compassion, Paul frees her from her cave prison. And then, at a moment of dire need in the final battle, she appears to return the favor. Such a missed opportunity.
Desert Pursuit written by Ted Nicolaou rehashes Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, by re-using the same vehicles in a similar post-apocalyptic setting. Paul and Gwen find themselves in a aircraft graveyard, somehow implying a post apocalypse. They are attacked by desert figures in these aforementioned vehicles. A chase ensues and the only value of this scene is Gwen finally shows she is more than a damsel in distress. Otherwise, it is simply a sad excuse of a ending story and probably was not needed. I guess they just needed a chase scene.
In between each segment is various encounters between Paul and Mestema, one of which involved them battling it out with virtually created dragons that really do not seem to do much. This segment alone would be awesome if they had half the budget of today’s films of this nature. In the end, it comes down to an awkward fist fight between Paul and Mestema where Paul ends up pushing him over a cliff into some lava that was only planted a few minutes earlier.
Also, throughout the movie, the Cal-bracer device has the ability to do all kind of things not possible in the 1980s but some are possible today, giving it a rather visionary subtext. He uses it to track down Gwen in Slasher, for example, almost simulating GPS location. At times, when convenient,. Cal also responds to voice commands, like Ceri. He also accesses police files remotely.
He also uses it constantly as a weapon, shooting lasers at everything. Most of his solutions involve shooting something out that wrist computer. Unfortunately, the effect is shooting out perpendicular to his wrist rather than a much cooler effect of shooting parallel from his wrist. I found that kind of stupid. You tell me which one is cooler?
Come on, there is no comparison. Additionally, there are times that he uses voice commands, while at others, he has to tap the screen or press buttons to get the wrist weapon to operate, creating a frustrating delay factor. There isn’t really any consistency with the weapon aspect of the wrist computer. In the end, the wrist weapons was really the ultimate missed opportunity. Although they did use this idea at the end to save Paul from falling into the pit of lava with Mestema in materializing something for him to grab, it’s frustrating that they did not allow the wrist computer to materialize a technological based weapon or tool to help him in each challenge.
There were two challenges that take place in the real world. This is another lost opportunity in story and in an RPG campaign, can make for a much more intense challenge. If they had connected these two events to the real world in the beginning, perhaps planting news headlines or TV broadcasts of a “concert accident that kills a dancer girl” (see above) or a “serial killer on the loose,” then these challenges would have deeper meaning and more impact. The bothered with a scene where Gwen is dancing with a bunch of nameless girls. Why not connect one of them to the serial killer as a victim. A boyfriend that comes and picks her up while Paul is there meeting Gwen (seen in a flashback). Later, Paul sees her face as a victim in the newspaper and he begins to put together the pieces. That’s a lot better than the way they handled it in the movie – “The paper you read is tomorrow’s headline…” and it’s Gwen’s face on the page. That’s just stupid.
I realize that is a lot of detail for a bad movie, but there was a lot of story potential in it.
The 12 Labors: From an RPG point of view, a series of challenges is a common theme in any genre. As mentioned, it goes as far back as Greek and Roman mythology. Each challenge should have a solution, however, but the GM should not railroad them in that direction. Leave clues for one way, but leave enough room for the players to come up with their own. Sometimes, the player can come up with better solution than you thought of.
I saw this movie come across Facebook in the form of a throw-back movie poster and was intrigued. Investigating it, I found that one website claims it was sited as the inspiration, in part, for Predator. The trailer has some amazing actors – Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Larry Storch, and Kevin Peter Hall (the man behind the Predator mask himself). I can see how it perhaps inspired the concepts. However, the general execution of the movie is pretty bad, despite all the talent they brought in. It was directed by Greydon Clark, mostly known for low-budget productions in the action/horror genres.
The movie generally centers around some small backwoods town that is secretly being terrorized by an alien entity that throws flying starfish-things to subdue its targets. Many victims fall to this hunter, including a father-son team out on a hunting trip, a cub scout leader (played by Larry Storch) and a few teenagers out for a swim on the town’s lake. Of course, the teenagers get a warning from the old town crazy men (Jack Palance and Martin Landau) about going to the lake, but they don’t listen.
For the most part, we follow the cliche group of teenagers as they are picked off one by one by the alien flying starfish, but you never really see who is throwing them. Landau plays Fred ‘Sarge’ Dobbs, a war veteran (one can only assume Vietnam but they never say) who suffers from a severe case of PTSD. Unfortunately, Sarge is the only one that (at first) claims to have seen the alien and it’s jellyfish throwing stars. And of course, no one believes him because he is the town crazy. On the other hand, Palance plays Joe Taylor, the local gas station owner and hunting expert. Taylor secretly knows about the alien and has been hunting it since it arrived.
It starts out like a classic 80s slasher film and turns into “the town fights back” in the end. Sarge and Taylor play a big part in the final story at opposite sides. Sarge, going in and out of a PTSD rage, ends up accidentally shooting the town sheriff and thinking everyone is an alien, including the college kids. Meanwhile, Taylor stalks around suspiciously and you are not sure his motivations. At one point, he’s gallant by taking on Landau and disarming him, while at other times, he’s creepy and suspicious in ways that only Taylor could pull off. In the end, he does reveal that he’s hunting the alien and felt that one town crazy was enough, so he kept it quiet.
The movie may center on the teenagers playing the cliche 80s victims (and that’s about it), but Taylor and Sarge steal the real show. They are two sides of the same coin – one man driven crazy by his past who no one believes and the other a valiant secret hero. Both want the alien dead for their own reasons. Both know it is up to no good (although it is never really explained to the viewer). Landau and Palance are great in this movie.
Unfortunately, the alien not only killed just about everyone in the movie but the movie itself. Its motivations are not quite clear. Aside from some disjointed ranting by Sarge, you don’t really know what it is. And once you see it, you just roll your eyes. It is basically the same old tall gray alien you see, with a big gray head and gray skin. It really looked like something out of Star Trek!
The flying jellyfish throwing stars got pretty old, pretty quick. They could not come up with something else? It seemed like a largely ineffective weapon. It would land on a victim and extend tentacles out into the victim’s skin, and exude some kind of yellowish goo. It never really tells you what it does to the victims but it shows a few of them kicked up in the shack later, some with eyeballs removed and others with big holes in their skulls. You are never really told what the alien is doing to the victims other than killing them. I guess we are just supposed to say “It’s alien, you won’t understand” or something. Not even an anal probe?
From an RPG perspective, I drew a couple of things from this movie that I really liked.
Human Accomplice: For a while there, I thought they were going to go down a dark path and have one of the men (Sarge or Taylor) an accomplice with the alien. Why? Well, one would have to expand on the alien itself to have that happen but it can be easily worked out. For instance, Sarge was driven so crazy by the alien that he saw him as his commanding officer, and being controlled telepathically (gray aliens always have telepathy, don’t they).
Alien Fugitive: Things would have to be reworked but I thought maybe the true killer was Sarge or Taylor and perhaps the alien was hunting the killer (for whatever reason). One of the men could be an alien shapeshifter that is acting as a serial killer, using the stars to paralyze his prey to later take them to the shack (in the movie) and butcher them. The alien is actually an enforcer hunting the shapeshifter down.
Showdown at the Bar: At one point, the teenagers end up at the town bar, with a number of the locals including Sarge and Taylor. This could have turned into a cool siege storyline where the people seal themselves in the bar and fend off all the strange things the alien would throw at them. Apparently, the alien was using some kind of organic tech (the throwing starfish) so a GM could up with other interesting organic tech things – hunting dogs, traps, and other interesting tidbits.
Just a Scout: Stealing from Predator 2, the GM could make the single alien just a scout and that there are a number of them in some secret lair or hidden spaceship.
By far, the alien is the weakest point of this movie – a one-trick pony with very little background or motivation. The GM would have to really flesh it out or use some other alien in its place. I think it would be a challenge, though, to simply use what they give you and expand off it.
T. Julian Bell is the owner, lead game designer, and a writer for Raex Games, a gaming publisher that specializes in RPG table top games, card games, and board games. The Gamers Codex appreciates him taking time out to talk with us.
First off, tell me a little bit about yourself and your gaming history.
I’ve been playing tabletop RPG’s, board games, and online video games since as far back as I can remember. I’m a huge fan of storytelling. I was hooked to tabletop games full time around 19 when my college roommate introduced me to d&d 3.0. I’ve worked in the film industry and game industry, but left those to do what I love. I think it was just this idea that tabletop games offer another layer. They are just way more fun and the stories never end.
What were the primary inspirations for the game system in Kromore?
The game system was developed over many years of playtesting with a hundred or so testers throughout the US and Canada. I wanted a system that could encompass scifi and fantasy at the same time. I needed a simple system but also one with the ability to allow gamers that like a lot of tinkering those options. Basically it became a balance of what can I offer as many players as possible with keeping the majority as happy as possible. The three action combat system with d4 skills was born out of that labor.
What were the primary inspirations for the setting?
When it came down to packaging a setting, I initially was going to release all the different eras of Kromore separately, but I came to the conclusion that giving the players the keys to the entire universe upfront would be a huge amount of content for them to explore. As it always is with my gaming groups, the GM or as we call it “storyteller” always modified and changed the universe to fit their group’s needs. Kromore’s eras are a perfect canvas for those GM’s and the hundred story arc moments provided in the book are all great hooks from which to launch a campaign.
Did each era have a specific inspiration?
Sure they all are settings that are built around existing archetypes. What make them unique is that they each organically grow from their previous setting on the planet Kromore so all that history still exists as do the weapons, armor, and technologies. What you get are the Three Kingdoms Era, Age of Man, Age of Nations, Steam & Steel, Civil War, and Space Eras.
I’ll break them down a bit more for the readers: Three Kingdoms Era is a fantasy medieval setting. It’s a mix of castles, sword and sorcery, political espionage, and exploration as the globe wages war against one another. That setting is ended by a cataclysmic event known as the star comet. The star comet strikes the 2nd moon of Kromore and reigns down dust and debris for a hundred years causing darkness to cover the planet leading into the reconstruction and rebuilding of cities, history, and society called the Age of Man. I have to say it’s a very Conan-esque time and the hundred years of darkness in between those two eras is a pretty great time to play in as well. Organically, the Age of man era eventually leads into the Age of Nations, a high seas time. This is when Kromorians are starting to rebuild cities throughout the planet and rediscover ancient ones. As technology grows, steam technology is discovered and you get the Steam & Steel era of Steam air ships and giant mechanized robots. Those sort of speak for themself. The Victorian theme lasts until it clashes with the futuristic evolution of social and technological advancements in the Civil War era. This is probably one of my favorite eras as you have that steam victorian feel being edged out by science and space like themes. This then transitions to the Space Era.
All the eras are great to fill that itch any gaming group needs and there are thousands of years to explore within them or create your own settings within. It’s a sandbox setting in a lot of ways where we give you the outline and you go from there.
What are you most proud of in this work?
All of it.
What do you think players will most enjoy about the game?
There is content for every type of player from casual to hardcore. With literally hundreds of character build options and setting story hooks you really have a great book to use as a tool box for any game you run. The majority of time players come up to me and tell me how they created alternate nations and eras within Kromore. I think that is awesome and exactly the point of the book. Be creative and use it as a tool where you feel you need to. There has been a lot of great feedback about the art as well.
What are your future plans for Kromore?
The book just came out in stores this year, so as a solo indy publisher I’m slowly trying to familiarize the audience with Kromore until the moment comes when I can really take it to the level it deserves. This moment involves a larger team than just myself and commissioned artists. I have dozens of expansions planned, but right now it’s about getting the book into players’ hands so they can start to absorb the massive content Kromore provides. I will say I’m already working on the playtest for the second edition that I don’t plan on releasing for several years out, but that book will simply add to the setting from the first one on top of streamlining some of the mechanics to open the game up to an even bigger audience and speed up sessions. If players want to see more Kromore faster they should talk about it with their gaming groups and get their stores to stock it so word can spread! The only way for me to bring more Kromore products is for the community to support it.
How has the reception been thus far?
There are a lot of games out there to compete with, but when I get feedback from someone who has taken the time to crack the book open and play some games the responses are great. I don’t have the marketing budget the bigger companies have so it’s entirely a player promoted product beyond what I can do at conventions and through social media. The hardcover book is almost sold out, but it was a small print release of only around 1000 units this past February. The digital version and modules are selling well and players should expect more products coming in 2017. People can pick up the book and talk about how pretty it looks and how much content they can see, but they won’t realize the massive amount the book offers till they start to play it. I couldn’t be more happy with the feedback from the game so far.
Every once in a while, you will find a gem on Youtube.com that is surprising. Of course, Youtube has had full length movies for a while. Recently I decided to explore the sci-fi selection and found a movie that interested me. It looked pretty cheesy but something about it peaked my interested. As it turns out, there was more to it than just a cheesy name.
Ice Planet (2001) is a movie pilot that was intended to be a series. Made by a team of Canadian and German producers, it starred a few actors I recognized and a few I did not. One part Star Trek: Voyager, one part Battlestar Galactica, and one part Stargate: Atlantis, this pilot had incredible potential and I am highly disappointed that it never made it as a series.
The movie is set is the hundreds of years after a devastating war on Earth. Humanity has reached out to colonize the solar system. No alien races have been contacted because it is apparent that faster-than-light travel has not been discovered yet. We find ourselves on a military base on Io, orbiting Jupiter. There is a large population of humans on this base, which is part of something called the Union. The base is commanded by Commander Jonah Trager (Wes Studi) who reminds me of Adama from the new BSG. I really liked the design of their fighters, which resemble Star Wars B-wings but simpler. They bend and twist in some very interesting ways.
In the beginning, they sort of bounce around some scenes and it is difficult to make sense of it at first. They quickly introduce the French-accented rogue Han Solo type named Blade. They also introduce a mysterious girl being secretly transported on his vessel and some Jabba The Hutt person he is working for. Meanwhile, some alien ship shaped cloud is ominously converging on Io. At the same time, some professor-looking dude (played by Sab Shimono) is speeding towards Io in some huge ship, apparently reading something in a microscopic crystal.
The colony is in chaos as the cloud/ship approaches. Once the attack begins, it is quite obvious they are outmatched and they proceed to abandon it, launching life pods away from the alien ship. Some make it to the professor’s ship (which we discover later is called the Magellan). With the aliens in pursuit, the ship performs a strange warp jump orchestrated by the professor (Karteez A. Rumla). After a psychedelic trip through space and time, the ship drops into unknown space and onto a strange frozen world. If the strange ship and interstellar jump wasn’t bizarre enough, the ship landing in a landing zone obviously made specifically for it made it even stranger. This definitely got my attention.
They discover that they have no idea where they are, the stars and constellations are not recognizable and the professor postulates that they could have even traveled not only in space but also in time. The rest of the movie is a standard strangers-in-a-strange land story, with a few interesting plot devices. The overall pitch of the show was that this professor found an ice planet.
The survivors (a little over 1400) discover a tribe of Native-American-like humans speaking a strange language, an alien crystalline artifact that contains vast knowledge waiting to be tapped and the quiet girl planted in the beginning is connected to the whole thing somehow. Throughout this time, Rumla has been researching the planet’s orbit, saying the planet is acting more like a ship. This later is proven to be true.
Another alien ship arrives in orbit and the young girl somehow becomes possessed by an alien intelligence and conveys the rest of the story. With the alien ship looming, the possessed girls speaking in an alien voice says that alien intelligence on this planet sent out messages and the people of the Magellan were the first to reply. It identifies the aliens attacking as the Zedoni. With some help from the alien intelligence of the planet, they save some captured members of their crew, and fend off the alien ship long enough for us to discover that the planet itself can make a warp jump and appear in an entirely different system
I really liked this idea. This had so much potential. This can not only be a RPG adventure but it easily could be an entire campaign or setting. The production value of the show is about what you would expect for a 2001 sci-fi show. This was in the era of Babylon 5, Deep Space 9 and Voyager, and was about that level of quality. The acting was subpar but what you would expect from a show like this. The aliens were overly CGI’ed and needed to be more practical and tangible. The CGI was obviously low budget even for its time because it was a little choppy and blurry. It also was not shot in HD so that made if even more obscured.
For an RPG, the adventure opportunities are endless
An alien planet that jumps: This one stands out as one of the biggies. To get stuck on a world that jumps from one totally different part of the universe to another? What’s not to like about that?
Alien message in a bottle: This has been used in a lot of shows and movies. What does the message contain? Coordinates? Ship plans or plans for a gate device? Genetic codes for alien life forms? New scientific knowledge? Again, endless opportunity.
Alien tech changing humanity’s destiny: This, of course, is at the core of 2001: A Space Odyssey as well as many other novels and movies. This never gets old.
Browsing NetFlix again, I found a new sleeper sci-fi/post-apocalypse movie called The Colony. Starring some of my favorites like Bill Paxton and Laurence Fishburne, this movie had a great look, a great background but a fairly predictable and straightforward plot. It has some good concepts and execution wasn’t bad but for such an epic setting, it was a tad disappointing in story. But there is some inspiration in it.
The Colony takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a second ice age has enveloped the world. According to wikipedia – “By 2045, humans have built weather machines to control the warming climate due to climate change and global warming. The machines break down when one day it begins to snow and doesn’t stop. ” That is not quite the vibe I got though and this is where my first inspiration came from. What if these weather machines were more the cause than the solution? Humanity’s own hubris thinking they could solve “global climate change” made it worse. This is the perspective I approached it while watching it and is a common theme in many of my RPG campaigns.
The surviving humans live in colonies of underground compounds, where ever they can find them. Each are referenced simply as colonies, Colony 5 and 7 being the primary bunkers we see in the movie. Each deal with the issues you would expect in a frozen post apocalypse – food, water and disease. The colonies stay in contact via radio and Colony 7 in particular has the luxury of satellite connections which is commonly used to search for survivors as well as thaw.
The movie spends a good amount of time introducing the characters and establishing the social environment that the survivors are in. As you can imagine, it is pretty harsh. Anyone that is sick is quarantined until they get better. If they don’t get better, they are banished into the cold. Colony 7 is “ruled” by two former soldiers – one somewhat more nurturing and cerebral than the other. Paxton plays the harsh and hard-nosed leader (Mason) while Fishburne plays the opposite type of leader (Briggs). Briggs is officially in charge and the only thing that keeps Mason at bay. Of course, you get the feeling that things are going to change soon and the beast that Mason is will be released.
That moment comes when they lose contact with Colony 5. For some odd reason, Briggs volunteers himself and two others to go check it out. Apparently it is within reasonable walking distance. Personally, I would have said “Oh well” and stayed home. But I hate snow. The trek takes two days. Passing over an old bridge, they use a grounded helicopter as shelter at the halfway point. The tension in the movie begins to build from this point because my mind was going all over the place imagining what could be waiting for them? Aliens? Mutants? Alien Mutants? The possibilities were endless.
Going into the movie not knowing the nature of it, as I said above, I imagined all kinds of possibilities. Unfortunately, they never fulfilled by wildest hopes. They kept it more conventional and grounded, as well as gritty and somewhat gorey. Simply put, Colony 5 was attacked by cannibals – savage, teeth sharpening, cold-adapted humans that have gone insane from eating human flesh. Colony 5 is their new slaughter house as they feast on raw flesh.
Briggs and his team barely escape, losing the youngest in their group as they try. The savage cannibals give chase until the two survivors make a stand at the bridge, where Briggs sacrifices himself by using dynamite to collapse the bridge just as the group of savages are trying to cross. Sam makes his way back to his own colony feeling like the cannibals were defeated. He of course arrives to find Mason ruling over the colony like a tyrant and things don’t look good. However, all hell breaks lose when they realize that somehow, some cannibals survived, including the vicious leader who was at the center of the blast on the bridge (It could happen!). The assault on Colony 7 begins and chaos ensues.
From an RPG game master perspective, this movie is more about atmosphere than story. The story is not original, but not bad. This would be a great movie to watch, however, if you are creating an ice age apocalypse setting. It gives you ideas on the various things that could happen, things a survivor would have to deal with and the general feel of the movie was inspiring in itself.
The plot is nothing special, as I said, but the savage cannibals could be something else. I was rather uninspired by them because I find the old trope of “no monster is any worse than the ones inside ourselves.” But a GM could relate the bad guy back to the mysterious ice age. Maybe it was alien terraforming and they finally get to meet the aliens. Maybe the aliens did not expect survivors. All kinds of possibilities there.
Overall I like the movie more because of production value than story. They successfully created a ice age apocalypse on a fairly small budget. I recommend it if you like that kind of movie.