Friday, September 09, 2005


Tony came round yesterday for another session brainstorming our future roleplaying campaigns.

We're still working up the key NPC's for the new superhero campaign we want to put together. We now know who they are, and where they come from. We got as far as putting together a HERO species package deal for Tony's character.

After that, we turned to our copies of the D&D PHB and tried out rolling up a couple of characters. I'd done this once before several years ago, but this was my first go with v3.5. Tony had never seen the d20 D&D in action before. I ended up with a fairly decent fighter. Tony got a slightly less noteworthy rogue. Nostalgia buzzes aside (for Tony, it had been a long time since he had generated any kind of D&D characters at all), we both agreed that the new system looks very good.

We liked the addition of proper skills lists, which was particularly notable with the rogue, who had nearly twice as many skill points as the fighter- a nice piece of balance we thought. For my part, I was delighted to discover that a 1st level human fighter starts with 3 feats; all the more so when I saw the list of feats from which I could choose. I ended up with power attack, and 15HP- 15HP at 1st level?- woot!

Overall, we were both favourably impressed with the logic and coherence of the new core mechanics. Also, working as we were from a v3 and a v3.5 PHB, we began to get some idea of the differences between the 2 editions. Aside from the improved layout to the various character creation tables, we noticed a few small but significant changes to the skills lists. At the end of the day, on the strength of just the generation of a single character each, we both knew that we were looking forward to visiting roleplaying haunts old and new using the d20 system.

Later I passed a pleasant couple of hours watching the 1963 romantic thriller Charade, starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. The cast also features a growling Walter Matthau and the young James Coburn and George Kennedy.

This is fine wee movie. The dialogue is sharp, witty, and amusing; the plot full of neat twists that can survive multiple viewings. And no matter how soppy the romance got it didn't matter for me, because with Hepburn as the female romantic lead- in a role that would be very difficult to write today (if not outright impossible?); well, I just couldn't resist seeing her getting her happy ending, even in the face of cloying saccharine sweetness. Although, truth to tell, it's not all that bad sometimes in any case.

It was also nice watching much younger versions of movie actors I have enjoyed in many other films.

Most striking for me though probably was seeing Cary Grant playing another light action-hero. As was explained to me many years ago: although better known for his light romantic comedies, Grant was a very credible light action-hero, by virtue of his being a stage acrobat in his early career. Consider him in Hitchcock's classic North by Northwest. There is something convincing about the way he moves that- in a way similar to the young Sean Connery as James Bond- makes Grant look right for the part (though he doesn't have Connery's air of barely subdued violent menace).

These same qualities are on dsplay in Charade, especially when he's sprinting about to rescue the delightful Hepburn from peril. Watch the way he uses the objects around him, grabbing hold of railings and the like to redirect his movements say. Little touches like these mean that you can easily believe that, beneath the familiar debonair leading man who is so justly famous, there lurks a steely core that could credibly survive the classic 'ordinary people in extraordinary situations' thriller subgenre of which Charade is a fine example.

From a gamer's point-of-view? Well, there is a nice mystery plot to lift- although I would expect your average group of PC's to be the bad guys from this movie! More than that, it strikes me that this kind of light thriller is perfect fodder for a one-off or mini-series using a rules-light system. Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes (the modern-era version of the venerable Tunnels and Trolls) is a game I know was written largely for this purpose. I wonder what's been done in this vein in the subsequent 2 decades?
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