ACTION MOVIE WORLD: First Blood Play Reports

Posted by IanWilliams at 4:37 AM on Dec 16, 2015

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Daniel Swensen has been playing ACTION MOVIE WORLD: First Blood and his play reports have been so enthusiastic that I felt like sharing them, with his permission. Hopefully they give a bit of an idea of what a session feels like. You can find him at Google Plus, where all the tabletop nerds hang out.

If his AMW reports sound like your idea of a good time, consider snagging a copy. You can find it at DriveThruRPG in PDF and print on demand. Reports below the cut.


As promised, here is the rundown of our inaugural game of Action Movie World: First Blood. Short version: most hilarious, great success, group seems eager to play again.

Long version: My wife +Gina Swensen was the director. Play group was four dudes. Gina chose the Barbarian Movie script, calling it Big Trouble in Little Italy and modeling it vaguely off of Las brujas de Zugarramurdiaka Witching and Bitching. If you’re familiar with the movie, it’s a Spanish horror-comedy about a group of bank robbers who run into a coven of witches and a lot of material that seems like it’s satire or social commentary, but it's sometimes unclear. (Gina watched this with me, fell in love with it, and said "I have to rip off everything possible for the Action Movie World game.")

The game was set in New York in the 1980s. One of the mechanics of Action Movie World is you play an actor who in turn plays a character in the movie. I played fictional Austrian actor Flynn Buchleitner as “Roy Cannon,” an Italian deli owner. I picked the Musclehead playbook. I modeled myself after Arnold Schwarzenegger and deliberate miscasting was part of the joke. The rest of the cast was:

Scott McCheddar as “Race Cannon,” Roy’s older brother, a New York cab driver. Pugilist playbook. Modeled after Christopher Lambert. Yes, Christopher Lambert and Arnold Schwarzenegger are Italian brothers in 1980s New York.

Berkeley Blower as “Salvatore Stromboli,” an entrepreneur who ran a fledgeling gelato empire out of a storage unit on the edge of town. Stromboli and Race were old buddies from way back. He also had a samurai sword. Yeller playbook, modeled after Brian Blessed. Pretty sure he yelled “DIVE” at least once.

Javier Simpson as “Trapp,” a Smartass who hooked up with Roy Cannon’s wife Maria after they divorced. Trapp shacked up with Maria while Roy lived above the deli. Trapp had been unemployed for years and constantly lied about having job interviews. He was a terminal freeloader. His crowning moment came when we were trying to get some information at a retirement home and he convinced us to stay so we could bum a free lunch.

The plot was simple and probably fairly offensive, but we were rolling Eighties style. A coven of witches kidnapped Roy Cannon’s wife and son, holding them hostage until Race Cannon agreed to, er, have relations with the lead witch so she could maintain her immortality. In return, Race would ostensibly be given great mortal power, but in truth would just have his life force drained away. Needless to say this resulted in an endless series of jokes about male sexual anxiety, followed by Eighties freeze frame high fives.

Before we got to the final showdown, there were lots of smaller showdowns, which involved beating up punks at pool halls, shooting up a band of sorcerers in a darkened room, and -- my favorite -- a violent altercation in the deli itself where Roy Cannon put some goon’s head in the meat slicer while quipping “YOUR ORDER IS UP.” This temporarily sidetracked the game while we had to dispose of the carnage afterward. Race said he could make the cleanup sequence into his training montage, so I cued up Stan Bush’s “The Touch” on the playlist and we all described how we fixed up the wrecked deli and cleaned up the mess. When the cops came, we gave them sandwiches and Stromboli told them an old lady with epilepsy had driven a Volkswagen through the front door.

My second favorite moment was when Race was going into the posh high-rise apartment to pretend to go along with the ritual. The rest of us tried to bluff our way past the doorman (which didn’t work), then Trapp the Smartass tried to threaten his way in (which didn’t work), then tried to throat-punch the doorman (which didn’t work), and finally the doorman said “sir, first of all, Mr. Cannon is allowed to have guests; second of all, you’ve been parked in front of the building for twenty minutes and we all saw Mr. Cannon get out of his own cab.” Our characters were all enormous idiots.

Then there was a giant showdown on the penthouse roof, with all the meathead heroes vs. bodyguards and witches. It was horrifying and bloody and hilarious and people made bad one-liners before killing people. So, all true to form. At least two railing kills.

Some mechanical notes. During the first session, we got our Camaraderie to 3, but called upon it last-minute for some reason, so didn’t get that sweet XP at the end. This time, the Smartass made a bunch of one-liners that landed both dice-wise and at the table, got us back to Camaraderie and we stayed there. I was at five harm during the first session (the movie was split into two sessions) and wanted badly to die, but not during the first session, so I held on. Unfortunately, I aced all my Violence rolls in the second session and couldn’t get it together to take any harm! So Roy Cannon lived. In fact, all the supporting characters lived, which I thought was almost too bad. But everyone was still getting used to the system, and I think deliberately killing yourself off is still pretty counter-intuitive to most of us.

Stromboli cut somebody’s arm off with his sword while making jokes about “disarming” and “hands off.” Roy kicked over the witch’s cauldron during the final ritual and yelled “party’s over.” Race managed to pull off the Vengeance move when his sorta-girlfriend (they’d hooked up once in the back room of the deli) was killed by the head witch. It was a pretty blatant fridging, but we all agreed it was well within genre. The gang escaped with Roy’s wife and son safely rescued. I pulled off a Love Scene move that resulted in Maria dumping Trapp and getting back together with Roy, thus reinforcing the nuclear family as any Reagan-era movie should. The final shot was of Maria looking back on the burning ritual space with demonic eyes, leaving the story open for a sequel.

The general consensus afterward was that this was a wildly fun game, and everyone seemed to love the conceit of the actors-playing-characters. This was the first *World game for most of the players, and people were eager for more. We scheduled another session, with a new GM (not me), for the next week. I’m eager to see what we get up to. Gina had a lot of fun directing but is looking forward to getting back in the player’s seat.


I'm a bit punchy today, so this won't be as long or as detailed as I originally planned, but I wanted to talk about our second session of Action Movie World: First Blood. This session was run by +Jester Slayn and was entitled Denk the Space Savage versus the Sorcerer Popes, (Part II of the Legend of the Mystical Huubajuub.) It was intended as a 1980 space opera knock-off, probably Italian, still using the Barbarian template. Think Flash Gordon, Starcrash, etc.

The cast lineup:

Scott McCheddar as Reverend Slo Wing Chun, 23rd Master of Tae Kwon Fu. He was a Pugilist monk whose monastery was attacked by the Sorcerer Popes. Since Scott McCheddar is basically Christopher Lambert, this was pretty much ironic racism, though it didn't really extend beyond him having a name that in no way fit him. The player changed accents every two minutes, which I thought was probably not deliberate, but still funny.

Javier Simpson as Amhert Grey, Former Governor of Division 6. Basically an alcoholic stellar bureaucrat who incurred ever-increasing gambling debts to cover his administrative misdeeds and eventually had to flee to become a space pirate.

I played Flynn Buchleitner as Denkos Mass, aka "Denk," the Lead. A young colony farmer with oiled pecs whose farm was wiped out by the Sorcerer Pope's soldiers. He was hidden in a nearby cave by his uncle where he found the Infinity Blade, and vowed to wander the galaxy shirtless until he avenged his village. I straight up stole all this from Beastmaster. I was straight up a space barbarian and had a chicken leg and oiled pecs in every scene.

Gina played Anna Citizen as Sonya Starwind, aka "Windy," secret space princess posing as a scullery maid. Slo Wing Chun was her bodyguard, as they were survivors of the explosion of Ceti 6, which the Sorcerer Popes imploded.

During character creation we decided that since although was the third film in a series, all our characters were being played by different actors than previous installments and there were huge continuity errors in everyone's relationships. So Denk and Sonya had a romantic relationship in the previous movie, but frequently didn't remember that in this one.

We started aboard the Nebula Schooner Arcadia, which the Director decided was just a sailing ship that operated in deep space. The plot mostly consisted of us walking into one trap after another or mowing down endless waves of goons as we tried to get to the Sorcerer Pope, who wanted the Infinity Blade and the Amulet of Huubajuub (which was in the hands of the princess).

The Director added two henchmen, whom he distinguished from one another by putting on different hats, which was pretty amazing in practice. Then one of the players (the Smartass) decided he would sneak into the enemy lair impersonating one of the henchman, and he had to wear the hat. If you'd have asked me if using hats as a major roleplaying prop would work in the abstract, I'd say no, but this was brilliant.

Mechanical notes:

1) Supporting characters died in this episode, and it was beautiful. Slo Wing Chun was impaled trying to save his buddy. The player, who generally does not like taking damage in combat, yelled "I'M TRYING TO DIE HERE" and the Director obligingly killed him. The action cut to the Lead cradling him in a "Pieta" style scene to set up the Vengeance move. (The best part was, they had no real relationship in the movie, but we agreed this was humorously ridiculous.) Later, Amherst was killed when Denk became mind-controlled by the Infinity Blade gone berserk.

2) The Assistant Director mechanic works even better than advertised. Having someone whose job it is to just sit around thinking of ways to pump up the fights and add tons of color to the action takes even more load off the Director. It also just raises the bar for the action scenes.

3) The Smartass player said this was rapidly becoming one of his favorite games and said "I have never had so much fun losing."

Overall, the session was brilliant and I had a complete blast. I wanted to play a sequel -- even more, I wanted this hunk of glorious sci-fi trash to be a real movie I could watch. I could not give much higher praise to a game than that. Action Movie World, you win at genre emulation.