D&D Lego

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 29, 2009

Just because I’ve seen Star Wars 100 times, does that mean I’m cheating when I play Star Wars Lego? The game follows the plot of each Star Wars movie with incredible accuracy. So does knowing where the game is going give me an unfair advantage? Does my familiarity with the heroes and villains ruin my experience? Not one bit. In fact I bought the games and have enjoyed playing them for EXACTLY that reason.

After playing Star Wars Lego every night for the past week I realized that this familiarity really appeals to me. It doesn’t matter that I know the story backwards and forwards. It doesn’t matter that I know which villain I’m going to face around the next corner. My love for this story and its characters is what brought me to this game and what’s kept me glued to the flat-screen for 50 hours of game play (so far). Upon making this realization my mind immediately started thinking about how to apply this epiphany to D&D.

When I’m the DM I try to come up with a campaign that’s original and interesting. I often look for influences in the popular media like TV, movies, comics and novels, but I take painstaking effort to make sure that nothing I’ve borrowed resembles its original presentation too closely. After all I don’t want the players to have an edge during the adventure just because they’ve read Batman: No Man’s Land or seen Raider of the Lost Ark.

My experience with Star Wars Lego has me questioning the value of my original methodology. If the source material I’m drawing from is good (or in the case of Star Wars, great) then why change or hide the similarities. So what if the PCs know the story? The very fact that they do know the story will help me as the DM keep things moving in the right direction.

Since the basis for the adventure will likely need to be altered a little bit to fit in a D&D style game, the PCs will probably be curious to see how I’ve re-imagined their favourite TV show or movie as a D&D adventure. Perhaps the Death Star is a fort build on the back of a gigantic flying creature. This curiosity should hold true for the villains as well. Just what class is Darth Vader? How does a light saber translate into a D&D magical item?

By letting the PCs in on the style of the game they’re more likely to make PCs who fit the mold of the heroes from the story they’re emulating. What race and class do you think best fits Luke, Leia, Lando, Han and Chewie?

So the next time you’re looking for inspiration and find it on the big screen or in a comic book, don’t worry about hiding the source of your inspiration. Hold as true to the story as possible and encourage the PCs to have fun role-playing a part of pop culture.

Have you ever tried this kind of campaign? Did the PCs known where you got your ideas from at the beginning of the campaign? How long before they caught on? Did they keep to the original story or did they try to change the ending?


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Siskoid July 29, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I played a few of the prefab scenarios for the James Bond 007 RPG which have the same titles as the films (the book too, of course, but the plots are obviously based on the movies). Though I didn’t advertise it, I think it was pretty clear that something set in Louisiana was Live and Let Die, and Dr. No is Dr. No is Dr. No.

What the scenarios did, however, is change a few key points. So perhaps a certain traitor in the movie isn’t in the game (or vice-versa), or the climax might include a different set piece. For the characters whose players know the story, thwarting expectations makes them make false assumptions. The characters was suspcicious of the wrong person, etc.

Keeps it both fresh and familiar for the players, and as soon as discrepencies show up, gives them permission to also stray from the script and try their own solutions.

2 Ameron July 30, 2009 at 8:20 am

@Siskoid
I agree that if you’re going to use familiar material you don’t need to follow it exactly. I think your suggestion to change a few details (like the identity of the killer) is a good one. You want the PCs to have fun. If your game follows the movie or tv show shot-for-shot then it will loose it’s appeal pretty quickly. But if it’s got the high strokes with a few new twists then everyone should have a good time.

3 Rook July 30, 2009 at 8:24 pm

I have never pulled a campaign or adventure plot from any particular movie, book, etc., but I’ve often been tempted. I guess I’m afraid that if my players recognize the plot, they will blow me a lot of crap for not being very original. I’m sure they wouldn’t be too harsh, but I wonder if I’ll feel that way about myself. However, I do love to jot down interesting character styles and personalities, as well as plot hooks and devices. Then I’ll morph those into something I can use in my campaign.

Recently a friend of mine did drop our Star Wars characters into a strange world. The adventure lasted two sessions, which is forever for us since we don’t get to play all that often. It wasn’t until afterward that we found out that he was running us through the plot of some computer game that he had been playing for a while. So I guess it can work. What is important is that it works for you.
.-= Rook´s last blog ..My Foray into 4E: My Iconic Character(s) =-.

4 Ameron July 31, 2009 at 8:52 am

@Rook
I don’t generally like to have my campaign follow any established story too closely because I’m worried that the PCs will do something totally off-the-wall if they realize what’s going on. But after playing Star Wars Lego I thought that if the PCs are on board with the idea from the outset and agree to have fun with it (and not do stupid things just to mess with the DM) that this kind of experience can be very rewarding.

You know you’ve really done a good job of adapting a story to D&D if the PCs play the entire game and don’t realize they’ve been following the plot of a familiar story.

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