I’ve been doing a lot of jabbering about fighting and doing cool stuff in RPGs recently. Anyone who saw my recent post about making a game more about what players can do and less about what they cannot saw one clip I shared from the cinematic trailer for Elder Scrolls Online. Yes, that’s the kind of stuff I want to see (or, at least imagine) during a roleplaying game. But, there are certainly others.
Awhile back, I first saw Now You See Me. It had a great cast of mostly up and coming actors and was a solid movie. I’d definitely recommend it for +Jonathan Henry or anyone else looking to run a heist style game. However, the main fight scene they had starring Dave Franco opposite Mark Ruffalo was awesome. I can totally see doing this with Fate Core. At the same time, I’m almost reminded of a well-flavored D&D thief, particularly DnD 4e. I like it, because we see no damage is being done really, but the characters are both fighting, working toward a goal. I don’t see that a lot in RPGs, but I wish I did—not only for the “damageless” combat, but the creative maneuvers.
Next up is a movie I saw some years back. Equilibrium is set in a dystopian future where emotion has been outlawed, because it is the root of all evil. Even fine art and music is contraband. Everyone takes a Prozac-like drug. But, it also brought in the “gun kata” which is funny and ridiculous in its own right (although, I have seen several firearms instructors speak as to how it could work in real life), but what is roleplaying if not fun, over the top, and unbelievable. The final fight scene here with Christian Bale and Angus Macfadyen has it all. A 45 in one hand, katana in the other, the maneuvers make for some visually stunning effects. I like this and want to see more of it in RPGs, because the fast paced action and complexity of the moves being able to be watered down mechanically to pull it off so we could actually envision this would just be awesome. Check out the beginning part where he slides the magazines across the floor strategically too. Tell me your favorite gun bunny shouldn’t be able to do that!
Now, I’m up for a good kung fu movie just about whenever there is an option. I happen to like Jet Li. In Unchained, he plays a prize fight who really only know how to fight. It was actually a very well done movie, though. The acting and script were good and it totally wasn’t what I was expecting. The cool thing about this martial arts flick, though was how a lot of the fighting was so brutal and animalistic. It wasn’t all style and form, but had a lot of street fighting in it. That was pretty cool and I think, when we have the brute that isn’t some sort of kung fu master, we forget how awesome and entertaining their fighting can be. That isn’t always the case, especially when there is a military guy in the group, but it often is. This compilation of scenes shows how awesome street fighting really can be made to look, and it’s worth keeping in mind for describing cool fighting stuff even if you aren’t playing some wandering sword master of the 9th clan of the 9th moon.
Along the same lines, checking out Fighting with Channing Tatum is worth it. It’s not a good script, but the acting is decent enough. The fight scenes are brutal. At one point, someone’s head hits a linoleum floor and I and about three other guys cringed at the sound when we heard it in the theater, because it was so spot on. That shit hurts, too. This level of realism, where getting punched actually hurts and—if you don’t do it right—can hurt your hand, where fighting leaves bruises and torn muscles—it makes sense and is something to keep in mind, especially for grittier campaigns and is a good reason many characters might avoid a fight, because—well, fighting hurts.
Now, there’s a lot of cool stuff out there and maybe you have some of your own you’d like to add to the list down in the comments. I know I could think of more, but there’s only so much room on the internet and all. Of course, with martial artists, action film buffs, etc., there tends to be more description that goes into the fighting. That’s been my experience, anyhow. And, there can come a time when that individual kind of steals the spot light. As a GM, I find it important sometimes to have them hold their thought when only part way through, so others can have a turn. There is a certain balance required here. It can be done. Let them start in, as it gets a little too long, ask them to hold on, because other players are acting at the same time in “fast paced combat” and all. You’;ll come back to them after others have gone or t least started to go. I’ve actually had it work quite well and the pause gives players a chance to modify and make their character’s actions even cooler, sometimes by playing what others in the group are doing.
To me, that’s a big chunk of what RPGs are—stories about cool people doing cool stuff. There are lots of variations on a theme there, but—I strong believe—if you’re going to do it in a game, you need to do it “awesomer.” It’s like +Robert Hanz is always talking about framing the scene and making it interesting and I know +Joshua Macy often talks about, if it isn’t interesting, why is it in the game?