This time I am going to talk about Skyline. It is one of those movies that I wanted to like, since it had so much potential, but the script should have been a lot tighter.
Skyline is a 2010 movie, directed by Colin Strause and Greg Strause starring Eric Balfour, Donald Faison and Scottie Thompson (IMDB page)
Use tricks wisely
The movie starts off in media res, then flashes back to 15 hours earlier. I have seen this technique used numerous times, and I normally like it, but here it fell flat for me, and I have figured out why., there are two reasons.
- The times I have seen it work has normally been in a series, normally once I have already gotten to know the characters, which makes me actually care about their plight.
- The other thing is, the events preceding the event should somehow explain it, show how the characters have gotten themselves into that situation. In this case, the alien invasion had nothing to do with the characters actions during the preceding fifteen hours, so why show them to me?
You could let the players to get to know the other characters at a party. Just a time to roleplay what the characters do in their down time, without it necessarily tying into a deeper plot.
In a fantasy or historical setting, you could play through a couple of quick scenes from a spring festival at the village.
Know when to end a scene
This is more a what not to do example from the movie. It spends a lot of time setting up conflicts which turn out to be completely irrelevant to the main story. A couple of short scenes to get an idea of the characters are really useful, but don’t over do it.
Of course, in an RPG situation, if the characters are really having a blast at the party, then let them, but most of the time, you can just move on.
Don’t look at it!
I really like the idea of a weapon that will do harm when you just look at it. Something about it also brings the idea of Lovercraftian horrors to mind, where just seeing something may be enough to drive a character insane. How do you fight something that you cannot even look at?
This is the traditional trope of having somebody die horribly early on to show how dangerous the situation/villain is.
In order to do this, you need to have some NPCs hanging around with the characters, preferably ones that the players are not too attached to, but that they will still react when they meet a horrible end.
Other people are doing things too
At times it seems like the characters seem to be the only ones doing anything in the whole world. Sometimes, just for variety, make sure that they see other people trying to act as well. Perhaps they are not the only adventurers going to slay the dragon?
Of course, those other characters will fail, possibly in a way that will highlight the danger, or give the characters a clue how to defeat the evil.
Put the characters at the centre
For most of the movie, the main characters are hiding, while the battles are being fought by others.
Most of the time, you want to avoid this in an RPG… Put the PCs in the center of the action. Don’t let them be just observers, unless it is as a change of pace.
Sometimes the characters have nothing to do, perhaps they are waiting for a contact, hiding out, or are on a long ship voyage. It is easy to gloss over these times “After four days, you think it is safe to come out”. There is nothing wrong with this, but you can also use those times to highlight the characters, and let them do just short snippets of roleplaying.
Coming back to life
This is a classic trope, which I have not seen often enough in RPGs. The players have just killed the Big Bad, when he suddenly pulls himself back together. I think it could be really effective during the final battle, or perhaps during what the players think is the final battle, until the dragon gets back up, forcing them to rethink their tactics.
It seems as if surviving the initial exposure to the light gave the character some sort of immunity later on. I have always liked the idea that surviving an attack gives you some sort of immunity, or perhaps some type of additional ability.
You can use this in a fantasy game, the classical werewolf would be a good example of gaining extra power by surviving the initial attack… Perhaps surviving a dragon’s breath would give you immunity to it?
I really liked the aliens in this movie, they did not explain what they were doing, and just collected people for reasons which are not entirely clear.
I think that aliens should be alien, both in how they look and in the outlook they have on life.