If you’re a fan of roleplaying games, then you’ve undoubtedly experienced one of those magical nights, when every player is on their best game, and when it’s over, you say, “Wow, that would make a great movie.” Well, that’s what we’re doing! Last year we filmed about 30 roleplaying game sessions, and one of those stood out above the rest as a session with a clearly cinematic story. What’s unique and exciting about this project is that the screenplay is an adaptation of a story and characters created through roleplaying.
Don’t play roleplaying games but like dark tales? You’ll love this film, too! It contains bitter family rivalries, unexpected betrayals, a nasty and manipulative villain, lies and deceit, and perhaps a horrifying hanging...or two. For fans of dark works, it’s delicious! Naturally, this project only succeeds if what we create is appealing to someone who doesn’t care at all about games. If you’re a film buff, it’s crucial we create a work you find compelling on its own merits, and we believe we can do just that.
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The game that launched the tale was Fiasco, but the game was played in a dramatic fashion instead of a more common comedic way. The players included Ben Robbins, the designer of Microscope, and Seattle-based story gamers Caroline Hobbs, Jerome Vernich, and Pat Kemp. We’ve completed a screenplay adaptation of this gaming session, and we’ve brought together a talented film crew to put this project together.
When completed, The Devil Walks in Salem will be a “long short film,” roughly 30 minutes in length. We will film it in Washington State using local cast and crew. So, if you’re local to Seattle and you’d like to actually be in the film, it includes an “angry town mob” scene where Kickstarter backers who select that level of pledging get to yell “hang her!” or “burn the witch!” and join the fun by wearing period costumes!
As another part of this project, we’ll finish a documentary on story gamers, plus we’ll put together footage of the entire Fiasco game session so serious gamers can watch the actual game play out—I know it sure upped my game to watch these talented story gamers in action. We’ll also provide a transcript of the game that inspired the screenplay alongside the shooting script so you can see precisely how the game was adapted to the screenplay. Further, we’ll have bonus interviews with the cast as well as with Ben Robbins, who organized the game, and designer Jason Morningstar, who will share his reaction to how his game, Fiasco, was adapted to an unusually dramatic style.
What is Fiasco?
Fiasco is a roleplaying game designed by Diana Jones Award winner, Jason Morningstar. Traditional roleplaying games tend to focus more on mechanics and the accumulation of power through gold, magic items, and “leveling up.” Fiasco is a game where the emphasis is on story creation. Fiasco also shuns the traditional notion of requiring a game master; the players collaborate with one other to create a wholly original story, and the mechanics are focused around rights of narration.
Using story games to develop a script is a new concept, and community-based funding allows us to explore this idea of merging story games with cinema. So, with your help, we can afford to hire the cast and crew to make this the best film possible.
Come join us in making the dream of creating a movie out of an exciting gaming session a reality. Participate at any level that works for you, and together we’ll make gaming history. Not only will you receive cool rewards for joining our little filmmaking “club,” you’ll know that without you, this film would never have been produced.
While I believe this project will be well-received by the gaming community, I also hope it will help make roleplaying games more accessible to those who are curious about what happens in the basements of gamers around the world. In other words, I hope we provide a showcase for what roleplaying is all about.
Whether you’re a film buff or a gamer, I hope this project inspires you as much as it inspires me.
Vision for the Future
I’ve enthusiastically played roleplaying games since 1978. I merged this passion with my career in 1990 when I founded Wizards of the Coast and authored that company’s first product, The Primal Order, a treatise on mythology in gaming. Then in 1997, we acquired TSR, the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons, and I had the opportunity to publish D&D 3.0, one of the most successful D&D editions of all time. During the last decade, I’ve taken a deep dive into expanding my passion into story games.
Yet one thing that’s always troubled me about roleplaying games is that the experience is ephemeral. Just last night (at the time of this writing), I was dining with some local gamers, and Ryan Macklin described an incredible session he had played recently, which led to us discus how roleplaying experiences can never be adequately shared with others. Wil Wheaton, Zak Smith, and others, including me, have explored this by filming roleplaying sessions, which is great but is greatly limited by the patience of the audience for watching what Jeff Grubb calls, “Twenty minutes of excitement crammed into four hours.”
Perhaps the desire to share memorable roleplaying experiences could be addressed (albeit to a limited extent) through screenplay adaptations? This is the underlying question I want to address with this this film and with future projects.
Risks and challenges
Although I’m relatively new to filmmaking, this isn’t my first film production since graduating from film school. This spring my new filmmaking company successfully produced a trailer and two episodes for Gen Con: Behind the Screen. With the Salem project, we are notching up the complexity by creating a period piece, which I believe is a reasonable incremental step forward.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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