Showing posts with label 80s Films. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 80s Films. Show all posts

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Savage Things (Part 1): Savage Worlds Adventures in the World of Stranger Things

Stranger Things is a Netflix Original Series that was released on the streaming network on July 15, 2016. The show focuses on mysterious events which occur in the fictional city of Hawkins, Indiana in 1983 that are related to experiments at the Hawkins National Laboratory. The Laboratory receives its funding through the U.S. Department of Energy and is run by Dr. Martin Brenner who uses the Laboratory to engage in experiments similar to those of the CIA's Stargate Project.

Many have described the series as a love-song to the 80s due not only to the fact that the show takes place in 1983, but also due to the number of references to 80s pop culture the show contains and the number of homages to 80s pop culture which served to influence the show. These influences include the horror of Stephen King, Sam Raimi, and John Carpenter, alternative music from the early 80s, Dungeons & Dragons, and the films of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. For example, the music during the opening credit sequence references score composed by John Carpenter and the opening shot of Episode 8 is a direct reference to the Imperial Base on Endor in Return of the Jedi.  A complete list of Easter Eggs and influences is beyond the scope of this blog post, but much has been written about the show at The Hollywood Reporter and elsewhere.

Given the supernatural elements of the show, and the fact that it falls into the Spielberg tradition of Tween/Teen Adventures, Stranger Things makes for the perfect setting for a role playing game campaign. To this end, I've put together some basic background material and statistics for important Player Characters/Non-Player Characters for you to use at your own gaming tables. The statistics in this initial blog post are for the Savage Worlds Roleplaying game using the core rulebook and the East Texas University setting book. The Savage Worlds system is particularly good at emulating the kinds of "kids using luck to survive dangerous situations" stories within the Tweenventure genre and the East Texas University setting of Pinebox, TX provides a nice analog for Hawkins, IN.  Future updates will include statistics for BubbleGumshoe, Hero Kids, and other popular role playing games.

Posts in Savage Things Series:
Part 1 -- The Setting and the Kids
Part 2 -- The Heroic Teens
Part 3 -- A Super Heroic Second Take on Eleven/Elle

Hawkins, Indiana (Population 4,936) – Hawkins, Indiana is a fictional city created as a setting for tales in the Stranger Things-verse. The show uses the city of Jackson, Georgia as a proxy for Hawkins and thus all estimations of population and city services are done using real world data for Jackson. 

Hawkins PD – Hawkins law enforcement is overseen by the Chief of Police Jim Hopper manages the City Jail and a staff of 17. This staff includes 13 sworn police officers and 4 communications officers. The Hawkins City Jail has 16 beds for use in housing inmates and provides service 24-hours a day.

Hawkins Library – The Hawkins Library is the central library for the County and thus has a large selection of books and access to all major newspapers dating from 1910 are available on microfiche. In addition to its extensive collection of normal books, the Hawkins Library is also home to a private collection of books about mysterious incidents and the occult (this information is not included in the show, but was added due to The Monster using the Library as a nest in the Upside-Down). The library hours are as follows:

Monday – Thursday: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
Friday: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Hawkins Middle School -- As one of the larger cities in the county, Hawkins Middle School (Home of the Tigers) serves as the home of the County School District's Middle and High Schools. These schools serve students from the neighboring cities. Hawkins Middle School has a population of 1,000 students in grades 7 and 8. It has an advanced science program for a school in the 1980s. This is as much due to the enthusiasm of Mr. Clarke as it is to grants and donations from Hawkins National Laboratory. The school district has an annual science competition and Will Byers' D&D group have won their grade level almost every year.

Hawkins High School -- Like the Middle School, Hawkins High School provides services for county residents who do not live in Hawkins proper. Unlike the Middle School, which only serves neighboring communities, the High School serves the entire County. This give Hawkins High School a population of 4,000 students. The High School receives support from the Hawkins National Laboratory and has a history of academic focus over athletics. The Football team typically has a .500 season and the same is true for the Baseball team. The school has a competitive Softball team and both men's a women's basketball have a history of success that exceed expectations from such a small county.

Hawkins National Laboratory -- The Hawkins National Laboratory was built in 1979 as part of a Department of Energy program seeking to research new forms of energy production. A good deal of the research at the Laboratory deals with the creation of more efficient solar energy cells. Given the variations in weather, Hawkins makes an ideal location for study of a solar panel that can operate productively in less sunny climates. Unknown to the public is that the majority of the Hawkins National Laboratory's funding comes from the CIA's Stargate Project. This project investigates whether humans are capable of manifesting psychic and psychokinetic powers. To advance their efforts they recruited Dr. Martin Brenner whose earlier research on the use of LSD and sensory deprivation at the University of Indiana led to early insights into psychic phenomenon. While the CIA initially selected the Stargate title for the project as a means of obfuscating the actual research going on, recent events at the Laboratory have led to the creation of a Portal between our dimension and a Shadow Dimension which parallels our own.

The Upside Down/Vale of Shadows – A dark reflection or echo of the material plane, a place of decay and death. It is a plane out of phase and filled with monsters. It is right next to you and you don’t even see it and it is governed by necrotic and shadow magic. The Upside-Down appears to be a dark and cold version of our world with necrotic growths and no living creatures other than The Monster and possibly its offspring.

There are only two ways to pass into the Upside-Down. The first is through the semi-permanent portal created by Elle/Eleven. This portal is on a lower level of Hawkins National Laboratory and has begun to warp the world around it. Inside the Laboratory these effects can be seen in necrotic outgrowths, a lower temperature, and constant light snowfall. In an area of around 2 miles in diameter around the Laboratory, the effects can be detected through instability in the electromagnetic field. When you are within the diameter, compasses no longer point North. They point to the Portal instead. The other means of passing into the Upside-Down is to use a temporary portal created by The Monster. These portals are created by The Monster as it enters and exits our world, but quickly close due to the amount of energy needed to produce them. They can last as long as 5 minutes. Of course, using them without The Monster noticing is no small feat.

The creators of the show have a 30 page bible dedicated to the Upside-Down, hinting at future adventures in upcoming seasons.

Negative Environmental Effects
Poisonous Atmosphere: anyone non-native caught in the Upside-Down must make a Stamina check once per day or suffer one level of Fatigue. This damage cannot cause the death of a Wildcard.
Cold: Unless wearing warm clothing, a person must make a Stamina check once per day or suffer one level of Fatigue. This damage cannot cause the death of a Wildcard.

Cast of Characters 

The Kids 

Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) – Will Byers' is close friends with Mike Wheeler, Dustin Henderson, and Lucas Sinclair. When the group is playing Dungeons & Dragons, Will tends to play the character Will the Wise and when given the choice between taking risks and playing it safe, he will often choose to cast Fireball instead of Protection spells. He is a good kid, but his current home life is very unstable. His mother Joyce is viewed as unstable by the town and Will is viewed as the easiest kid to bully at Hawkins Middle School.

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d4, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Skills: Driving d6, Notice d6, Stealth d6, Survival d6, Shooting d4
Charisma: -2; Pace: 6; Parry: 2; Toughness: 5; Academics: 0
Hindrances: Loyal, Outsider, Young Edges: Alertness, Be a Zebra, Luck

Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) – Mike Wheeler is 12 years old and is one of the "point of view" characters in Stranger Things. He is the Dungeon Master for the D&D gang and frequently runs 10 hour sessions on the weekends which end with a climactic battle against a powerful villain. In the first episode, his adventure includes a stressful encounter with Demogorgon. Little did he know that this adventure would shape the perceptions of his friends as they encountered The Monster from the Upside-Down. He is the son of Karen Wheeler and brother to Nancy Wheeler. He was once very close to his sister emotionally, but her recent relationship with Steve and his obsession with D&D have come in the way of their friendship. He is a good student with developing observational skills.

Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Skills: Driving d6, Investigation d6, Notice d6, Stealth d4, Streetwise d4, Tracking d4
Charisma: -2; Pace: 6; Parry: 2; Toughness: 5; Academics: 0
Hindrances: Outsider, Overprotective Parents, Young
Edges: Alertness, Brave, Multitasker
Gear: Binoculars, Walkie Talkie, Bicycle, Compass, RPG supplies
Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) is one of Mike Wheeler's oldest friends and a part of the D&D group. He is not native to Hawkins and likely moved here from California (he wears a T-Shirt advertising the Castroville Artichoke Festival).  While all the kids in the D&D group are smart, scientific, and tech savvy, Dustin truly excels in these areas. His permanent teeth have not come in yet due to cleidocranial dysplasia.While Mike is the group's Dungeon Master, and the "hub" around which the group is centered, Dustin is the group's "leader." When push comes to shove, it is Dustin who gets the other kids to reconcile and who is able to rally the troops when the going gets tough. He is skeptical of certain kinds of authority and tends to view the challenges the gang faces through the lens of Star Wars and D&D.

Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Skills: Driving d6, Investigation d4, Persuasion d6, Repair d6, Streetwise d6
Charisma: -2; Pace: 6; Parry: 2; Toughness: 5; Academics: 0
Hindrances: Outsider, Quirk, Young
Edges: Command, Connections (Mr. Clarke), Multitasker
Gear: Bicycle, Compass, Walkie Talkie, Head Set

Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) Lucas is Mike's oldest friend and a key member of the D&D crew. He is smart and adventurous, but he often lacks patience and is not quick to trust anyone. He distrusts Eleven/Elle and wants to take action as quickly as possible to rescue Will. He is a man of action and not waiting.

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d4, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Skills: Driving d8, Investigation d6, Notice d4, Shooting d6, Stealth d4
Charisma: -2; Pace: 8; Parry: 2; Toughness: 5; Academics: 0
Hindrances: Loyal, Outsider, Young
Edges: Alertness, Be a Zebra, Fleet-Footed
Gear: Binoculars (Typical 10×25 binoculars), Bicycle, Walkie Talkie, Compass, Wrist Rocket (d8 2/4/6). 
Eleven/Elle (Millie Bobby Brown) was kidnapped by Dr. Martin Brenner when she was born. Eleven's mother was one of Dr. Brenner's subjects in his experiments at the University of Indiana. While the show hints that she is the 11th child/subject Dr. Brenner has worked with, no other subjects are shown in the series. When Eleven runs away, she befriends a local diner owner named Benny and eventually encounters Mike Wheeler. Even though Eleven is quiet and largely clueless to the mundane world around her, she and Mike become very close friends. Eleven has abilities beyond her "experience" level and is an extremely powerful young woman. She hopes to find a way to rescue Will Byers and free herself from the influence of Dr. Brenner.

Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d6, Spirit d10, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Skills: Faith d4, Notice d6, Psionics d12, Shooting d4, Survival d6, Tracking d4
Charisma: 0; Pace: 6; Parry: 2; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: All Thumbs, Clueless, Loyal
Edges: Arcane Background (Psionics), Brave, Danger Sense
Powers: Bolt, boost/lower trait, entangle, mind reading, telekinesis; Power Points: 10
Quirk: Loves Eggo Waffles.

To Be Continued...
Later in the week, there will be posts discussing the Teens, Parents, Supporting Cast, and Antagonists of Stranger Things.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A 70s Chevy Van Mural Come to Life? Or...a Film Representation of a 70s D&D Campaign?

I just saw the Red Band trailer for Your Highness. The Danny McBride and James Franco fantasy follow up to Pineapple Express. Like Pineapple, Highness is a fusion of stoner jokes and genre film making -- in this case Fantasy.

I don't know what to think of this kind of movie. I've never been big on the Cheech and Chong style of comedy, even when well done. As amusing as parts of this film look, the pot joke in the film's title, like most stoner jokes, is as stale as hard tack left over from the Civil War. Get it? "Your Highness?" ahuh ahuh

I like comedy aimed at shock value a great deal, but I don't like stale comedy. After all of the anti-Prop 19 editorials published this year, I've had enough stale pot jokes. Hopefully this film will have something more to offer. There are glimpses that it might.

That said... I have a compulsion to watch every Fantasy film ever made and I have a crush on Zooey Deschanel.

I can say that this trailer reminds me of the gaming sessions that one of my best friend's older brothers used to have in the late 70s and early 80s. Those sessions were a gonzo fusion of Led Zeppelin, Tolkien, and Thongor.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Tron: Legacy Releases Second Trailer

I mentioned in an earlier post that December 17, 2010 will be a very busy day at the movies. That day will see the release of The Smurfs, Yogi Bear, Tron: Legacy, and The Green Hornet. I am eagerly awaiting Tron: Legacy and I can already hear my twin daughters -- who will be 33 months this December -- trying to pressure me into taking them to see The Smurfs or Yogi Bear.

Late last year, Disney released a teaser trailer for Tron: Legacy that demonstrated how cool lightcycles look with modern computer effects. They looked stunning with 80s "super computer" visual effects, and the new ones are just as mind-blowing as the original effects where when they first came out.

I have always thought that the original Tron film did a great job of conveying basic computer concepts to a wide audience. The fact that it conveyed these concepts with visual storytelling concepts made it all that much better. I wonder how many Gen X computer programmers and video game designers were inspired by Tron? The inter-relatedness of programs in Tron, and its use of the "Master Control Program," predated the internet and the Windows operating system -- or the Apache HTTP Server Project -- but the world presented in the film "assumed" such advances would take place. The film forever shaped how I viewed "cyber landscapes" when I read the fiction of William Gibson or Bruce Sterling.

It's hard for sequels, especially sequels separated by decades, to recapture the magic of earlier episodes of a film series. In many ways, remakes have an easier time introducing entertainment to new audiences or rekindling fandom among old hands. Compare the Star Wars prequels and Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, and their reception, to JJ Abrams' Star Trek or the Battlestar Galactica television reboot. The "sequels" earned fan ire, and didn't fire the imagination of new generations in the same way as earlier entries had.

Tron: Legacy is taking the more difficult path. It is a direct sequel of the original film, though one where the "real time" between the two films is the same as the time that has passed during the films. The use of the narrative trope of a son looking for his lost father -- and his legacy -- is as old as Homer, and it is a good narrative technique for introducing new audiences to old ideas without overly irritating the older audience. One can forgive narrative exposition when it has a narrative purpose. I don't know how this story will play out, and one can certainly induct very little about the plot of the new Tron movie from the newest trailer, but the more I find out about the sequel the more I want to watch it.

Obviously, this is a film that I will have to see in 3D.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Toy Movies as You Likely Won't See Them

Playing off of the recent explosion of films based on 80s toy and animation properties, animator Dan Meth brings us a few imagined films based on other properties. The first film Care Bears vs. My Little Pony doesn't list an imagined director, one could easily pick a few names, but the other films do. My personal favorite is David Cronenberg's Cabbage Patch Kids. It captures the Cronenberg feel while demonstrating just how creepy the Cabbage Patch backstory really is. It's like a combination of Village of the Damned, The Children, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Night of the Living Dead.

Toy Movies

Just for kicks, here's the preview for The Children.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hulu Recommendation Friday: Fright Night

It wasn't quite the TWILIGHT or NEW MOON for Gen X movie goers, but it was a rollicking good time. FRIGHT NIGHT manages the careful balance between comedy horror and teen dramedy. Think of the film as Ferris Bueller meets the Hammer films catalog and you won't be far off. I also find it hard to imagine that a franchise like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER could have come to fruition without FRIGHT NIGHT.

Roddy McDowall is wonderful as the combination Van Helsing and local horror movie host -- like Zomboo. More to the point as local horror movie host Van Helsing poseur who is called to combat the forces of Darkness to help a teen whose neighbor happens to be a vampire.

There's a phenomenon in horror films that I haven't written about before, and it's the underlying cause of the reason people tend to open doors when the audience knows better. Essentially, it's the fact that most characters who are in horror movies believe that they are in the real world. You know, where supernatural stuff doesn't really exist. One way that one can begin to categorize horror movies, and their characters, is how meta-aware they are that they are in a horror story.

For example, the only real difference between your typical Lovecraftian professor and Manly Wade Wellman's John Thunstone is that Thunstone knows at the beginning that he is in a horror story and he acts accordingly. In Lovecraft's horror, the breakdown of the psyche of the protagonist is often triggered at the point they realize they are in a horror tale -- this is usually the case in horror movies as well. In Wellman's Thunstone tales, Thunstone's awareness allows him to combat evil in ways that others wouldn't. One can also compare the characters in "Supernatural" to characters in most other horror films/television shows. The Winchester's meta-awareness is what sets them apart and enables them to avoid opening doors best left closed.

FRIGHT NIGHT plays with this concept a lot, and has fun with it. At first, only Charley knows he's living in a horror movie. Eventually, Roddy McDowall finds out, and though his character should know how to defeat evil the tension between real vs. supernatural makes him less effective at combating evil than he would otherwise be.

Sadly, the film cannot be viewed as an embedded film on a non-Hulu site, but it can still be viewed at Hulu at the link provided. I don't think I like these "Crackle" hosted items on Hulu because they cannot be embedded.

Click on the link or the picture and have a good time.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Hulu Recommendation Friday -- Enter the Ninja

The classic Bond film You Only Live Twice, may be the first example of ninjas being featured in mainstream Western cinema, but it was the Sho Kosugi vehicle Enter the Ninja that captured the imagination of a generation. I can still remember sitting in my 7th grade Drama class, having just finished performing a monologue from The Glass Menagerie, as a group of my classmates enacted a sequence from Enter the Dragon.

The instructor wasn't very impressed, but I was and I immediately hunted down the Sho Kosugi film and experienced pure viewing pleasure.

Enter the Dragon follows one of the standard Golan and Globus action storylines. In this case it is the "old army buddy comes to visit an old friend who he served with during some military exchange or another, only to find out that the friend is in trouble with the local (criminal underworld, greedy land grabbing corporation, or both)." It's up to our protagonist to kick ass, take names, kick the asses of the people whose names he took, and save the day. Enter the Ninja adds ninja techniques to our protagonists usual repertoire of skills, which naturally makes him invincible as only a ninja can kill a ninja.

Franco Nero (Django and Camelot), our protagonist, has less than stellar martial arts skills, most of the acting is horrible, and the film suffers from Samurite syndrome. The film often borders on the ridiculous. For example, there is a point when Christopher George is calling out stating, "I want my ninja now!" in a manner that can only be described as extremely homoerotic -- an extremely incongruous moment in the film. Any one of these flaws could have ruined the film for all time, yet none do.


Sho Kosugi. The moment Sho Kosugi hits the screen, the viewer is in for a treat. Even while covered head to toe in his ninja costume, Sho Kosugi brings charisma and power to the screen. Yes, ninja costumes are inherently cool, but Sho is cool beyond the outfit. He is a joy to watch, which is likely one of the reasons Revenge of the Ninja drops the Samurite aspects of narrative and let's Sho carry the film. Sho Kosugi was the quintessential ninja throughout the 80s, and I cannot wait to see him in the forthcoming Ninja Assassin -- even in a small role.