Actual Play - Reel Adventures - The DaVinci Machine

Posted by: Iain McAllister On: Dec 1st 2009 edited

The second Reel Adventures session on Saturday afternoon of Indiecon was fantastic and is probably my favourite game of it so far. I had Rich Stokes in the group who had played once before, when I was initially toying with the idea, and everyone else was at varying levels of experience. I have had some feedback at UK roleplayers on my other AP, and have tried to incorporate some of their comments into this report.

Anyway let's get into it.

At the start of each game of Reel Adventures there is a pitch session, where the players chat about the film they want to shoot and then put down some details about it. This is done with tokens, the game recommending that you just use cards, each player having 4 to throw in. 2 of these are used to put down details about 'Setting and Plot' and the other 2 are used to define 'Characters and Scenes'. Once the pitch is done those details can be used to flesh out the heroes and the nemesis.

The players had a bit of a chat about the kind of game they wanted and came up with a Musketeer style film, set in France and Italy, featuring the machines of Leonardo DaVinci, heists, espionage and the French court. Sounded good to me!

Scene wise they wanted a mass battle, a midnight carriage chase and an invention montage.

The characters we ended up with were:

Clive Owen as Machiavelli: Two fisted investigative reporter
Stake: Get my book published
Resource: Razor sharp insight

Pierre Beaufort: an inexperienced musketeer from a noble background who is very high spirited.
Stake: Gain honour for me and my family
Resource: Family sword

Robert Rouge: grenadier with a bit of an unlucky streak and a habbit of blowing things up accidentally.
Stake: Learn how to do his job properly and get into the army.
Resource: Just one more stick of dynamite.

Alan Rickman is Francois de Vile(nemesis): French Noble who used to be Davinci's apprentice. He is a neatness freak who 'works like clockwork'.

A couple of the players couldn't think of an appropriate actor, but we just got onto the film itself rather than putting any pressure on them.

Resources can be characteristics, items or sidekicks. They can be used for colour in scenes or as a boost to the number of cards drawn in action scenes. Each hero gets to define one at the start of the game, the nemesis gets his during play. A resource can be used 3 times, first time it gives 1 card, 2nd time 2 cards and last time 3 cards.

Stakes are the personal journey of each hero throughout the film and the 'danger' to them increases over the course of the film. It does this at the start of each act and as the result of action scenes.

Title Sequence
Before the film begins properly there is a title sequence, setting the film up a little. In the case of this film it was a montage of DaVinci inventing something, the casting out of his apprentice and a quick look at the three heroes, ending up with Machiavelli before we faded into the first scene featuring him.

Act 1
The film opened properly with Machiavelli stealing a code hidden in the Lourve, an action scene written by non other than DaVinci himself (insert joke here). The early scenes involved the musketeer arriving in Paris, helping the grenadier win an invention competition (an action scene directed by the grenadier and assisted by the musketeer) and both of them meeting up with Machiavelli through a common acquaintance at the inventor's college (a colour scene). This acquaintance, a Professor Larone at the college, beseeched the 3 of them to make a trip to Italy, to the workshop of Leonardo Da Vanci, in order to ask him about the message that Machiavelli had found.

A short while after setting out they found themselves set upon by another coach and a bunch of clockwork rats, a resource added in by the nemesis during the action (I think during this action there was a resource of a 'pied piper' henchman created but not used). The nemesis won this action, stealing the code and leaving the heroes wondering where to go next (the nemesis can draw on resources as soon as they are created)

More in the next post.

Posted by: Iain McAllister On: Dec 1st 2009

Act 2
Concluding that they had been betrayed by Larone who had sent them on this mission they made their way back to the university to confront him (this was decided in a colour scene). Putting some pressure on the professor (a mental action scene) they found that he had been coerced into betraying them by another student, Jacques, the student that Robert had defeated in the first act and an accomplice of the nemesis. Learning that he had made his way to a castle in the Alps, they pursued Jacques.

After failing abysmally to sneak into the castle, even the addition of a sawn off musket hadn't helped, the heroes had no choice but to barge in and try and escape from the hordes of clockwork guards, a recently created resource from the nemesis. Concealing themselves in a large cupboard, they snuck out once things had calmed down. On emergence they saw a Zeppelin being prepared for lift off. Running up the tower, they fought their way to the top and out onto the defences, only to throw themselves off and onto the rope hanging below (this was an action they lost I seem to recall, but the director always narrates, allowing the heroes to turn a mechanical failure into an interesting piece of story that allows the plot to continue).

Machiavelli pulled out his 'special crossbow', a resource he created that scene, to hook onto the zeppelin they were now hanging below. Making their way aboard they fought their way up to the control deck. Confronting a man whom they assumed to be jacques it was revealed to be a mechanical replica of the nemesis, creating the personal resource for the nemesis of 'Many Duplicates', in a Doctor Doom-esque fashion.

An action scene later and they were in control of a giant zeppelin, colour not a resource, and had the head of the replica in hand, literally. Examining it closely they found a trademark stamp, those crazy inventors, and head to Pisa where it was made.

Over the course of the act the nemsis had created some inventor minions who had been shown delivering goods to the french court, something the players had wanted to include in the film as well as revealing the multiple copies and hinting at the bigger picture.

Act 3
Landing on the tower of Pisa, and knocking it sideways of course, the heroes began a search of the town to find the lair of the nemesis (an action scene that came off fine). Making their way below the city the heroes found a fantastic base, full of automated clockwork machines, making what looked to be an army. A couple of action scenes got them through the base defences, created by the nemesis during those scenes as a base resource and some colour scenes got them to the final confrontation in the bowels of the complex, of course they were expected!

Finale and Epilogue
The finale was a showdown between the nemesis, his multiple copies, the remaining base defences and rats and whatever our heroes could bring. In the finale every hero draws cards and the total number of victories on the protagonist's side is compared against the antagonist. The nemesis was defeated utterly, no chance of ever coming back in a sequel, and the heroes just escaped as the base came down on top of the factory (colour not action result there).

As the dust settled, the players got to narrating their personal epilogues. Each protagonist compares their personal number of victories in the finale against the danger of their stake. Machiavelli found the fame and fortune he wanted and got his book published, a 'happy ending', the musketeer Pierre found honour but lost his family sword, a 'bittersweet' ending, and the grenadier Robert was thrown out of his unit for going off on crazy adventures instead of attending to his duties, a 'down and out' ending.

After game chit-chat
We talked a bit about how the trailers should be written. The idea here is that after the game you can record some information and put it up on the website allowing other people to be inspired by your movie but shoot their own version of it. We agreed that the following should be written down for the trailer:

Back of Dvd style blurb
Names of heroes, their background and 1 resource
Name of nemesis, their background and 1 resource from each type they used.

For me this game was one of the best I have seen so far with 'Reel Adventures' and everyone really enjoyed it. The game is almost done, it just needs me to get the text right and get a couple more people to playtest it 'as written' to make sure that the game is ready. Any volunteers?

Anyway, really enjoyed this game and looking forward to running it at Conception some more, and hopefully releasing it at Conpulsion in Edinburgh next year.



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