Sunday, November 1, 2015

Five or So Questions with Ian Williams on ACTION MOVIE WORLD!


I had an interview with Ian Williams on his game, ACTION MOVIE WORLD, which is currently on DriveThruRPG for purchase! It sounds like a really fun time!

Tell me a little about ACTION MOVIE WORLD. What excites you about it?

I got the bright idea to make an Apocalypse World engine game about a world where everything from action movies was real. I was working through the skeleton of this idea and my friend, Bret, says that I should make it a game where you're playing the action movie actors, who are then playing the action movie heroes. That was all brilliant, so that's the genesis of the game. I set it up so it was aggressively multi-genre; as an actor, you don't just play one role in your career. You play in lots of movies, lots of characters. So I decided that you would have a character playbook based on what "type" of movie actor you are, a la any other *World game, but you'd combine it with a playbook for your current movie. That would give you moves which lasted only for the duration of a specific movie, 1-3 sessions.

So you end up with what I think it a pretty cool and flexible thing where you can just go nuts with as many genres as you can squeeze into your game. Do ninjas one night, cops the next, etc. So that's exciting, but I also just genuinely love action movies, particularly the bad VHS fodder of the 80s and 90s. AMW is my way of deconstructing what makes them work as a medium before reconstructing it. It's a love letter with a stamp on it labelled "Thinking of You".

How does it work to combine the type and playbook - do you get separate moves or bonuses to stats? 

Your actor playbook is basically like a character from any other Apocalypse engine game. Or, if someone doesn't have that frame of reference, just a character in a RPG. So any moves or bonuses you get there are permanent. They're essential to you, the actor, who translates those moves into a character for a movie.

Scripts (the name for the movie playbook) give you a move. You pick one from a list which is super genre specific. But those moves last for the duration of that one movie, only. Say you're doing a ninja movie. You pick a move which lets you drop a smoke bomb and disappear. That's yours until the movie ends--usually 1-3 sessions. So the combo of these two approaches lets you play both with and against type.

I'm a big fan of team mechanics. Can you talk a little about Camaraderie? 

At the core of action movies, there's this physical expression of emotions. Anger, love, fear, whatever. It's always physical. That's a main theme, that action heroes display their emotions in this physical, primal manner. And another main theme is that these movies are basically about friendships, even if it's a friendship in the past, like with a lone POW escaping from Vietnam or something like that, where the soldier's friends are left behind but are still the motivation.

Camaraderie measures the friendship between the characters. It goes up and down, as you either contribute to or betray this communal bond between pals. And you can use it to make a Camaraderie move, which is basically that moment in a movie where the friends get together and kick some ass while a guitar wails in the background. That move is super powerful and it's not quite as distinctly "this is that and nothing more" as most of the other moves. It's meant to be rolled when you do a cool thing with your buddies, even if it's just a hi-five before fighting the bad guy. If you succeed on it, you get some cool doodads like doing mega damage to the movie's villain or similar.

I love that you have a statement about inclusivity. Who are your favorite lady action heroes, and what do you think they'd play in AMW? 

I love Michelle Yeoh on "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" alone, much less all of the other stuff she's done. I think she'd be a Thespian or Gunfighter, in terms of playbooks. Lucy Lawless. I loved Xena. Definitely a Smartass, with a high +Muscles rating. And Cynthia Rothrock, who should be way more famous than she is and probably would be if she'd come on the scene today. Pugilist for her.

The game has leads and supporting characters. Can you give an example of a team with leads and supporting characters from a film, and how they'd play out in game? 

It's really any action movie you care to look at! That system with an invulnerable lead and supporting characters who die in droves is really about the idea that action movies are about the journey, not the ending. The ending is never in doubt: the hero's going to win, most of his or her friends are going to be dead or maimed, serving to make the hero even more badass.

A really good example is "Alien" You've got Ripley and this cast of compelling, strong characters. And, one by one, the supporting cast are killed off. Ripley wins and she looks even cooler by virtue of the fact that her supporting cast was so strong. Textbook stuff, even though it's also a horror movie (horror and action are two flavors which go well together).

In game, that would be Sigourney Weaver as the Lead in the movie "Alien". Everyone else is supporting cast; they get experience when they die. The next movie the group plays is a Tom Skerritt movie. Skerrit's the Lead, Weaver is supporting cast in that one. Eventually, Weaver gets to be Lead in another movie after everyone else has had a turn. The whole table is happy and buys three more copies of ACTION MOVIE WORLD to show their enthusiasm!

Make sure to check out ACTION MOVIE WORLD on DriveThruRPG now!

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