A Preview from Beneath the Sea! - The Director's Chair & Movie Budget
While the game They Came from Beneath the Sea! is presented as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to 1950s Sci-Fi and Creature Feature films, there's been lots of discussion about how various setting and system "dials" could be adjusted to get the tone and experience matching up with the story you'd like to tell. Some of those dials, as noted in this latest excerpt from the manuscript, can be described as the in-game "budget" for the "movie" you are making.
The Director’s Chair
While Directors come with many ambitions, they are as much of a player as the others at the table. Just like the players, who get to enhance their characters as they gain experience through play, Directors in They Came from Beneath the Sea! get to alter their games with a few fun features they should advertise before the game commences.
If the Director decides the story they’re running is equivalent to a low-budget movie, they should go out of their way to describe the shoddiness of the sets, costumes, weapons, and acting. Directors of this type should play their supporting characters in stilted or hammy ways, implying washed-up actors pulled in off the lot are the cast of this feature. Monsters should seem less threatening in their description, or have their actions only rarely described. When the low-budget Centopus devours its prey, the camera cuts away to the faces of the characters. You never see the full action in a low-budget movie.
Consider restricting your plots to a handful of areas, or repeating descriptions for multiple locations using the same, slightly adjusted set. If you want to get truly meta, insert deleted scenes where transitions might otherwise happen. In games on the low-budget setting, the highlight reel is more important than the car journey from A to B.
Directors should consider awarding Experience points (see p. XX) to players whenever they act in a hammy or amateurish way, when they describe their characters falling through scenery (or making it wobble) at a dramatic moment, or when harm dealt to an alien seems to do more damage to the costume than the alien itself.
Big-budget movies barely scrape by under the B-movie banner, but plenty of blockbusters have flopped, to later be incarcerated to the bargain bin of a supermarket somewhere. This is your story. Directors should insert characters based on famous movie actors and lovingly describe the effects and visuals surrounding alien attacks. Liberally apply explosions after every gunshot, even when a bullet hits something innocuous like a telegraph pole. Boom — up it goes, the victim of a movie with too high a budget.
In games based on big-budget movies, action takes precedent over subtle dialogue. Incongruous styles edge in, such as a martial arts contest between the sheriff and the intruding special agent, a cheerleader who works as a costumed vigilante at night, or the giant monsters when humanoid-sized threats will do.
Directors should consider awarding Experience points (see p. XX, if we’ve not made that clear) to players whenever their characters cause an explosion, when they suborn dialogue in favor of fists, or when they accomplish an award-winning scene (see p. XX) that makes the rest of the players applaud.
Art movies are, by their nature, often B-features. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was common for a confused crowd to stumble away from the French art feature preceding their monster movie, wondering why in hell that skeleton was smoking that cigarette for 45 minutes, and what the voiceover was rattling on about. A game of They Came from Beneath the Sea! with an artistic flair should give scenes over to introspective character moments, inexplicable alien movements, and political and philosophical declarations during the story that bear little relevance to the action. Only in the hours after the game ends will the players start thinking “so the Prefecture of the Pod was an Anarcho-Syndicalist commune after all…?”
No player group wants to walk away from a game utterly confused, but a teased mystery or a montage of events following or running adjacent to the story that seem to bear no relevance, can serve to pique interest or amuse. Consider freeze framing at the end of a session to explain what happens to each character present. The players may be a little bewildered when they find out Dino, the local circus strongman, was a communist all along, but they may see this as part of the madness of TCfBtS!
Directors should consider awarding Experience points to players whenever they stand or move away from the group to perform a soliloquy, when their characters make a stunning political or philosophical revelation, or when the characters do something completely incongruous to the rest of the plot.
FINAL WEEK COUNTDOWN
Tomorrow, we will begin our final week countdown. That's right, we're approaching the surface and will soon be coming up for air! This is the action-packed third act of our campaign, full of excitement and activity as we sprint toward the finish line! Thanks to everyone for making this such an awesome (and often hilarious) kickstarter campaign!
I think the joyful and fun tone of the game has carried right into the comment section, and the stuff I've seen shared around the web (actual play videos, campaign threads, Twitter hashtags) has been awesome. Congratulations on the solid effort, and let's keep it up for 8 more days!