Thanks to Bob G. for putting this page together.
A great British film Noir style thriller about a bunch of gangsters in Brighton all trying to screw each other over. Every performance is great, but Eddie Izzard, funniest man alive, is almost Harlequinesque as the camp bookie who sings pop tunes as he beats up the unfortunate hero, John Hannah. Looking for a primer on street life or the Rogue class at its best, I suggest this movie. Twists and double-crosses, ingenious stings and intricate plots abound.
A perfect "troubled mentor-student relationship" movie for PCs with mentors or with dependents. Excellent for development of relationships after they've been established. Most PCs have Little Jimmy running around and getting kidnapped; this movie can show a GM how to make Little Jimmy not just a 20-point disadvantage, but a driving force behind the plot of the game. Making enemies for the mentor, stealing his gear, exposing him to his greatest foes, even rescuing (or attempting to rescue) the PC when his efforts lead him into too much danger. Or, for NPC mentors, their inoxerable knowing-better, pursuit of and protection of the PCs from threats too great for them to handle, and their eventual exit, giving the PCs further motivation to take on the foe they (hopefully) now have the skills to challenge.
A bitter captain on the losing side of the last war, a tough-as-nails soldier first mate, the comic relief pilot/navigator, the none-too-bright weapons specialist, the mechanic with a heart of gold, the holy man with a secret past, the aristocratic prostitute and the healer that's hiding his psychic sister from the government.
A large sized party with their own base of operations aiming to misbehave. Heist of the week, and character backstories rich enough for in-group interaction and to build whole storylines from.
You can easily bring this over to any role-playing game or genre, and once again its a perfect fit for Eberron, complete with Last War and airships with cool fire effects.
Costume, sets and dialog. Description!
Be fantastical and occasionally over-the-top (regardless of genre - extremes and archetypes are memorable). Colors, textures. Think about the mood you wish to convey.
Be thematic. Guys from forestland dress like Erol Flynn in all greens. Hawkmen use feathers and furs. Good guys wear orange casual cloths. Bad guys, expensive designer suits. If it wears a uniform it is a mook.
Themes help players build up "knowledge" of your world. Your descriptions will build on each other, so eventually just a few words will bring forth vivid and detailed images in players' minds. This also lets you drop cool clues, such as a bit of torn green cloth that will immediately inform the players forest dudes were here.
"Preparing for combat." Or, if you please, "winning before you start fighting." The titular character wins his battles by choosing the time and place for them. He chooses the location, which gives him an advantage, but more than that he prepares his enemies with manipulation and psychology before he fights them- or he gets other people to kill them for him. Hero, like many other Jet Li movies, also includes a radical reinterpretation of the story, right at the end; the evil master becomes the dupe, the heartless mercenary becomes the noble warrior. If nothing else, you should get your players to watch it so that they understand what an incredible difference motivation makes to someone's actions.
One innocent man, one mastermind with a plan to free him, and a handful of other inmates, some extremely dangerous, forced together to escape their cells guards, escape the guards, escape the traps and escape the prison itself. And that's just season one.
Once you make it out, you have to deal with life on the run, the guilty conscience of the criminals you helped escape, former prison guards out for revenge and federal agents. And that's just season two.
You might wind up in a foreign country, in an even worse prison before. But with some familiar faces....possibly even some of those who have been hunting you. Now you have to break out again, but this time you don't already have a master plan.
The TV show does an amazing job of mimicking a D&D campaign. Just when you have everything planned out, something goes wrong and you're faced with a bigger problem. Plus alignment questions and cliffhangers almost every episode.
To keep the "easy fit for Eberron" theme going, you can start with a local prison and build up to the inescapable Dreadhold. Or start with Dreadhold, and find something even worse on Xen'drik, Argonnessen or the planes.
Vanzan and his bunch of Gung ho Dragon Hunters make a perfect gang of Monster hunters. If half the players are survivor villagers and half are mercenary or wandering freebooters as in this movie, the tension for a good story is already present. The same set up work in modern horror, fantasy or science fiction.
Reign of Fire – why the heck to stay away from dragons: they are big, they are bad, they breathe fire; also good plot for introducing dragon or dragons into a fantasy game – twist on the ‘dragon destroys the village’ idea.
It's a three-season television series from Britain (starring Michael Praed as Robin), first released in the 80's. It's full of plot-ideas, gloomy castles, a mysterious, godlike being, a huge forest, peasant-villages and ofcourse a lot of battle with the unfortunate men who have the lethal job of working for the sheriff of Nottingham. Some slightly over-the-top characters make this a worthwile addition to a GM's DVD collection. (Plus: right now, here in the Netherlands at least, the series is dead-cheap: three seasons of about 12 50-minute-episodes each for about 20 euros = about 15 dollars).
These are great stories, as proven by the many remakes and transliterations, especially into spaghetti westerns. What I've learned most from Kurosawa is personality, emotion. Any of his characters make excellent NPCs. He shows how to convey their personality through action, dress, mannerisms, facial expressions, and camera angle.
When I do NPCs now, I try to think back to these movies and use facial expressions, large arm/hand movements, stand up straight, slouch, stare players in the eye, ignore players, cast eyes down despondently, etc.
Rashomon is great for learning that, even if you described something one way (i.e. as the characters saw it), it is not necessary to forever be held to that if plot/fun requires changes. Use sparingly though, and only if neutral/positive for characters.
The premise is ancient races spread civilization/magic, false gods enslave man, one group of men rebel and now fight against the false gods for the freedom of all men. That is an awesome campaign right there. You could keep the multiple planet thing, or use multiple planes, or replace "planet" with "nation" and stay on one world.
Remember Arthur C. Clarke's quote: "Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." To add SG-1's concept to your preferred genre, just use the ideas of portals, portals require addresses (keys), and that through portals are exciting adventures and technology (magic). If your players can resist that, they are comatose. This would also be great for a campaign of loosely connected one-shot sessions.
Many of the cultures SG-1 encounters are perfect for fantasy. Egyptian, Cretian, Greek, Scandinavian, European Medieval. I've used sets and costumes from the show to enhance/improve my descriptions. The Ori are awesome medieval culture/villains. I've used a couple puzzles (obscured slightly so players would not recognize) featured on shows.
Many of the show plots are excellent fodder for adventures. Watching entire seasons show how to weave sub-plots/side- plots into larger campaign plots, and how to have an "on the edge of your seat" cliff hanger.
Stargate is a good demonstration of the military campaign. Characters belong to, are beholden to, or are commanded by some organization. But, they have a lot of freedom to act how they please as long as they get the missions and objectives completed.
SG-l also shows you how to handle things when characters get out of line. Star Trek Deep Space Nine is another good source of this.
I've always liked to play the cleric. It's one of those classes you either love or hate to play, and I'm on the former side. While watching this movie I realized it was a lovely situation in which to roleplay a cleric.
If I'm not mistaken, there is an Exorcist prestige for clerics in D&D. It has specific spells to banish a demon that possesses someone, which should make the game straightforward.
What if a more powerful demon requires a longer ritual, though? Weeks, maybe months? Can you imagine a fight that takes this long, slowly wearing both combatants down? And your opponent is inside a little girl. A little, helpless one. How far would you go to drive the demon off? (Remember Emily Rose?)
It gets interesting on the psychological side too. Suppose you get a good roleplayer invited to play both the possessed and possessor. One that makes the child's cry face as convincingly as the devil's snarls, curses, and lies. How does your cleric player handle it?
It can also be applied as a metaphor. Your quest is to destroy some evil, and protect something pure. However, the evil is inside your object of protection. How do you attack the problem?
It is said that a western is just a set in which to tell any kind of story, and this is the case with this movie. I'd suggest the good and the ugly be played by PCs, and the bad and his band by NPCs.
The story is about a treasure and its three parts, with characters knowing just half (or thinking they know half) of the information to reach it. Talking, persuasion, and intimidation skills are used more than fighting.
There is a war, a bridge to be destroyed, a huge cemetery, information to be collected everywhere, and a monastery to be visited. At one point, characters use disguise to enroll inthe army.
This is not only a movie to create an adventure, it is meant to be a whole campaign.
One of the best pair of action movies ever: great villain, solid heroes, cheerable supporting characters who are actually smart enough to live through what is some of the best horror moments in a monster film. Great mix of action (especially chase scenes), romance, gaslight environment, horror, and comedy (very quotable lines). Character development is believable and fun to watch, villain is fun to hate, but has understandable and even sympathetic reasons for what he does.
The version with Gene Kelly as D'artagnan. Yes, Gene Kelly the dancer. Aside from being the only version I've seen that really shows what a scoundrel D'artagnan was, it has some amazing choreography of the fight scenes, largely because of Kelly's abilities as a dancer.
The scene near the beginning of the movie where the cardinal's guards interrupt D'artagnan's duel with Athos, Porthos and Aramis is what all swashbuckling fights should be. Kelly skips around his opponent, climbs atop a monument to hide, and then reaches down to swat the guard on the butt (a classic use of Tagging, for all you 7th Sea players), and leaps back and forth across a little pond to lead his opponent on a merry chase during the duel. And he does it all with a smile on his face that makes him look like a kid having the time of his life at the circus. Absolutely classic.
This Sci-Fi series (259 episodes) is aimed at kids but it is in fact one of the best written things TV has seen in years, even though the introduction of Technology based stories has been a bit hard to swallow. Basically, for those of you who haven't seen it, the Tribe is set in a world after a virus wipes out all the adults and the kids struggle to survive in a post apocalyptic city. Gangs form, new weird religions bringing false hope, new plagues left by the old world and mad dogs all threaten the young and the meek who have inherited the world. The entire concept of politics from a teenagers point of view works well for Changeling, Cyberpunk: Cybergeneration or any Zombie or post apocalyptic game.
What to learn here is that fear, hopelessness, and impending doom are great fun. Throw out the idea of level appropriate encounters - boring.
Instead, tell players they may encounter things they cannot defeat (this is important for game systems like D&D where players expect to be able to defeat everything they encounter). Then, occasionally slam them with overpowered foes.
Be sure there are ways out of encounter. Don't set out to kill them, but don't prevent their deaths either. Truly leave character fates in the players' hands. The feel you're after is that mere survival is victory.
More in line with zombie movies, have them face easy foes they defeat without problem. But make sure there are _a lot_ of these foes, an endless amount that never stops coming. Forcing high level characters to retreat from "wimpy" monsters, such as orcs, is a change of pace and challenges players in a different way than tougher and tougher monsters do.