Saturday, 27 April 2013

Merrie Olde (Part One): Bridges

And now, as a group of wise men once said, for something completely different. Having spent several years in London, Ontario, it feels more like home (although probably nowhere will ever feel quite as much like home as Kingston, ON). The odds are good that in the next year or so, life will sweep us away to some new vista and new adventures... so I'm in a reflective mood about London. I thought I would try to capture some of its individual character in a series of photo essays on various things about the city. I'm not a photographer, and the limitations of my iPod camera will probably show here, but I think it should be enough to give you a taste of London...

In this episode, I'll be showing you the first thing that jumped out at me when I gave some thought to London's character: its many bridges. The city is built around the banks of the Thames River -- one of many rather twee references to the other London that surround us here -- and that means there are many, many bridges that cross the river to facilitate the necessities of life. The river loops around the downtown and forks, and there are a number of very nice walking paths that follow the water. 

Foot / cycle bridge near downtown
Looking NW across the Forks
Automobile bridge crossing at the Forks

High water marker - Flood of '35
Ducks and geese sporting along the banks
Blackfriar's Bridge
Another view of Blackfriar's Bridge. Note wooden surface.
(Older!) Railway bridge near Oxford.
Platts Lane underpass.

Railway overpass near Oxford.

Oxford St. auto bridge.

Another view of the railway bridge at Oxford. Creepy!
That's all for now. There will probably be more stuff from along the riverbank as the weather becomes more tolerable and less like a frozen hellhole, and Megan and I explore the many walking trails in the area.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Online Playsets

I've written here in the past about my ongoing experiments with online play via Google Hangouts. My first game relied heavily on the Roll20 engine, which handled all the rules so that I could run my Savage Worlds western game Blood Money. After that, I've been experimenting with running looser, rules light games that operate using GH itself and a dice-rolling app called Bones. Generally, I've been pleased with the results.

As a general rule, it's worked out better and better the less rules interface is involved. Online games in general tend to be slower -- not necessarily worse, but they amplify a lot of issues that you find at the table. I am moving toward lighter and lighter rules to support play as I continue, and the results have been better with this approach.

Today I thought I'd quickly show off some of the tools I've been using to run those games.



This is the "game board" I made up for the online Fiasco games I've run. Fiasco works really quite well online, I have to say -- probably because there are very few rules involved. The Screenshare app and occasional rolls using Bones are all that's required.

You can probably notice that I've included big, colourful "name cards" for each player (easy to see even on a small screen) and the most important rules from the rulebook are right there on the screen. There are also black and white dice tokens that can be moved to player "cards" as they are distributed during play.


I'm running a Cortex Plus hack of Ghostbusters as the sequel game to Blood Money. This board mostly tracks the plot point economy, who's the acting player (the little Slimer shows whose turn it is), and has a big green card for me to add any scene details in play.

Although Cortex Plus works the way I intended it too, for the most part, and the players enjoyed it, I think I miscalculated using such a dice-heavy game for this. I would have been better served using something lighter like Teenagers from Outer Space.


I'm about to run the second session of a Cthulhu Dark game tonight -- Graham Walmsley's rules-lighter Lovecraftian RPG which squeezes a lot of awesome into 1.5 pages. This is the "board" I made for that game, mostly to track Sanity points (which I'm using neat little Elder Signs for).

CD is probably the perfect expression of a ruleset for online play, short of simply playing freeform. We had a very good first experience with this one, and I can see it working well for tabletop play as well. Although Graham Walmsley says in the rules it was intended for play using pre-written adventures, and indeed it would be a great way to dive into an adventure quickly without needing to make up characters, I think it could work well for more shared-narrative experiences as well.

The game contains a brilliant mechanic where anyone at the table can "contest" a player roll, suggesting that the outcome of that roll could turn out badly for them and describing exactly what awful thing would happen if it does go pear-shaped. Then the person who suggested this alternative outcome gets to roll against the acting player (it could just be the GM, and indeed that's the way I've been running it, but I think it would also be fun if the players jumped in and added their own ghoulish glosses to the fun) and if they roll higher, the action comes out as they devilishly described.

Now that'sa spicy meat-a-ball!

I can imagine scenarios where there is no GM at all, only a group of like-minded players setting off together into to explore dark vistas.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Campaign Trailer: SUNSET EMPIRE (Season 3)

I forgot about this one. This is a teaser I wrote for the impending third "season" of SUNSET EMPIRE, my Victorian monster hunting game. At the end of Season Two, London was utterly lost to the forces of the ancient vampire warlord Mithras, who somehow covered The Smoke in a gigantic bubble of perpetual darkness. The vampire legions swarmed the streets and lay siege to the Tower of London, the headquarters of the Royal Magisterial Corps -- the Empire's defenders from supernatural attack. One team member was unexpectedly killed just moments before the attack, and the leader of the Corps -- Sir William Gull -- was severely wounded before he could be spirited away by Our Heroes. Now England faces her Darkest Hour...


OVER BLACK

GULL (voice-over)
I’ve… made mistakes. Terrible mistakes.

EXT. LONDON / AERIAL SHOT – DAY

We see a shot looking down at London from above. We can see a shadowy dome covers most of the sprawling city. The ice-choked Thames winds along, disappearing into one side of the dome and emerging from the other. Snow is falling heavily, and as the camera ZOOMS IN we

DISSOLVE TO

EXT. LONDON STREETS / TOWER HAMLETS – NIGHT

Beneath the shadowy dome, the streets of London are bathed in perpetual darkness. Gas lights flicker in the streets, and VAMPIRES with shining red eyes stalk through the gloom. We see doors marked with BLOODY HANDPRINTS and BODIES lying in the gutters.

GULL (v/o, cont’d)
London has paid the price for my hubris.

The camera turns and we see the darkened walls of the TOWER OF LONDON, a great dark bulk looming over Tower Hamlets.

EXT. TOWER WALL – NIGHT

From the tower wall, we see the dimly-lit streets below. Snow swirls through the gloom. The camera pulls back from the view of Tower Hamlets below to reveal a SHADOWY FIGURE at the edge of frame, standing on the wall surveying his kingdom. It is MITHRAS, looking every inch the conqueror.

GULL (v/o, cont’d)
Our enemies have seized the Tower, our armory, our archives, and killed many good men in the bargain.

A wind kicks up, sending swirling snow into the air, and causing Mithras’s heavy cape to flap around him like dark wings.

GULL (v/o, cont’d)
This is our darkest hour.

FADEOUT, with the sound of gusting wind.

THE END OF EMPIRE

EXT. HMS TORCH – DAY

We see a small military steamship, HMS Torch, chugging along the Thames outside the shadowy dome. The river is nearly choked with broken-up ice and floating debris. A SOLDIER walks the deck carrying a long pole with a hook on the end.

SOLDIER
Hold up, we’ve got more of ‘em.

As the soldier stands at the railing, the camera TILTS DOWN and we can see that there are BODIES floating down the Thames with the ice and debris. The soldier begins using his hook to drag them closer, so they might be brought aboard.

SOLDIER (cont’d)
Bloody vampires…

As he snags the collar of a female corpse floating atop a large piece of wood – possibly a floating desk – we see MOVEMENT. The “corpse” suddenly reaches out and grabs the hook. She looks up – it is LUCY PELHAM, The Slayer. Her clothes are torn and her skin is nearly blue from the cold, but she is very much alive.

SOLDIER (cont’d, frantic)
Sweet Jaysus. ALL STOP! Bloody hell, we got a live ‘un!

EXT. WHITE TOWER – NGHT

We see a man walking across the snow-covered courtyard of the Tower of London toward the White Tower. He is clutching his arms tightly against himself, shivering, but he LEAVES NO FOOTPRINTS behind him. His voice echoes out across the courtyard, where there is no other living thing moving.

MAN (calling)
Hello? Hello, is anyone there?

We see a SHADOWY FIGURE step into the frame in the foreground.

FIGURE
Doctor Gladwell, I presume.

The man turns. It is indeed BERNARD GLADWELL.

BERNARD
You…!

INT. RUINED PUB – NIGHT

MUDLARK has BLACK PETER spread out on his back on top of the bar. He holds a knife to the evil faerie gangster’s throat.

MUDLARK
We have a contract, my ducky, and you’re going to do exactly what I tell you.

BLACK PETER (pathetic)
You can’t… they’ll tear me apart.

MUDLARK
Will they, now? Then you have a decision to make. Torn apart by the Unseelies later

MUDLARK presses the knife to his throat. A trickle of black blood seeps from a cut in Black Peter’s neck. He recoils.


MUDLARK (cont’d)
…or we can just get down to business right now. What do you say?

THEIR FINEST HOUR

INT. TENT – DAY

We see MATTHIAS VON HESS standing next to the flickering ASTRAL FORM of GULL in a makeshift “war room”. There are elaborate maps and charts set up around the room.

GULL
Von Hess, you can’t be serious. An attack would be suicide. Mithras has destroyed the Corps, sabotaged our capacity for large-scale spellcasting, and he has the largest army of vampires ever assembled…

The camera zooms in on him as Matthias smiles.

MATTHIAS
An army? Well, mein herr, this is your lucky day. I also happen to have an army.

QUICK CUT TO

dozens of WEREWOLF KNIGHTS all transforming and rushing at the camera.



 
EXT. PALACE OF WESTMINSTER – NIGHT

The camera pans across the roof of the burning Palace of Westminster. MITHRAS is there, standing on the edge of the roof. His red cloak snaps in the breeze. LUCY approaches – she is carrying a sword, and it gleams in the firelight. MITHRAS smiles. He raises his own broadsword in salute.

MITHRAS
Miss Pelham. At last.

CUT TO BLACK.

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN
MAY 2013

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A Storm Over Eden: JON SABLE FREELANCE

Sometimes when you meet your heroes, it doesn't work out the way you imagined it. I remember standing out in the rain on a dreary Montreal afternoon waiting to get my book signed by William Gibson, a writer I had huge admiration for, then not being able to say a single word to him when the moment of truth finally arrived. When I got a chance to meet George Romero at a convention in Toronto a few years back, I made a point of telling him how he was a hero of mine -- a title he humbly refused to accept -- because I had never forgotten that disappointing day in the rain so long ago.

Other times, your heroes pretty much seem exactly like you'd imagined them. In the case of Mike Grell, when I had a chance to meet him at the Motor City Comic Con, he turned out to be a larger-than-life figure as exciting and charming as any of the comic book characters he wrote and drew.

I first ran into Mike Grell's work in the 1970's, when he was probably best known for doing Legion of Super-Heroes. I found his stuff in an issue of Secret Origins, where he had done a re-telling of the origin of Green Arrow. (GA was always a favourite character of mine, and this was probably the beginning of that love affair. The story stuck with me, even though I was so young when I got the comic that I mostly used it to draw on with a big red marker I found somewhere. You can imagine how happy it makes me to have a surprisingly good TV series about him on the air right now, even if they seem embarrassed by the character's name for some reason. But I digress...)

Grell was one of the many comic book creators who decided to try their hands at creating their own new characters under the aegis of First Comics, in the early 1980s. I have written about many of the other great First books here, including American Flagg!, Grimjack, and The Badger. Mike happened to write and draw the one that is still my favourite First book, after all these years, and probably my favourite comic book period. That is no small feat, because as anyone who's helped me move can tell you, I have a lot of comics squirreled away in my basement. A lot.

Cover to first issue.
The book was called Jon Sable Freelance. It featured the adventures of a dashing but troubled mercenary named Jon Sable. Although Sable went into action wearing a "battlemask" of black combat paint on his face, he was no super hero. By turns, Sable owed the tenor of his stories to characters like James Bond, Mike Hammer, and the heroes of jungle adventure serials. Like John Gaunt, Sable was a "Jack" of all trades -- in his time, he had been a soldier in Vietnam, an Olympic pentathlete, a big game hunter, a mercenary in Rhodesia, and finally a famous soldier of fortune paid to go on adventures around the globe.

But here comes the twist. Sable, like many comic book heroes, leads a secret double life. In his case, his public persona is the globetrotting adventurer with the flamboyant battlemask and the custom Mauser. His secret identity is as the author of a series of children's books about leprechauns living in New York City's Central Park. Before embarking on a life of adventure, Sable wrote and tried to sell his autobiography -- he failed, but one publisher, Eden Kendell, liked the section of the book where he recounted the stories he used to tell his children. Sable agreed to publish them under a pseudonym, then found himself trapped -- the books were making him too much money to quit. So the fierce mercenary must occasionally don a blonde wig and fake moustache to hit the talk show circuit as kiddie writer B.B. Flemm.



If Sable was most other comics, it would end there -- with an action-packed central character and occasional comedy interludes. Where JSF was ahead of every other book on the shelves at the time, and most books since, is in the development of realistic characters with depth and complexity.

Sable has an early encounter with Flemm's artistic partner, a tall, self-possessed woman named Myke Blackmon who's dissatisfied with the arms-length working relationship she has with the author. Soon enough, she discovers Sable's dual identity, and they feel a spark. Myke doesn't understand how a man who can tell such warm children's stories can lead such a violent life, though, and a conversation with Eden leads her to the manuscript for Sable's autobiography -- and the tragic story of his family's murder.

Myke knows that Sable is a dangerous, self-destructive character to get involved with, but despite her best intentions, she finds herself drawn to him. And this doesn't happen quickly, but over the course of two years of stories. In the meantime, Sable jumps into the sack with any number of "Bond Girl"-esque supporting characters, but remains haunted by the loss of his wife and children. When he and Myke are finally drawn together, there is a real question whether together they can heal the deep wounds inside Jon Sable -- or whether he will take her down with him when he finally manages to destroy himself.


In the late 1980s, Grell left Jon Sable to return to DC Comics, where he revived Green Arrow in a beautiful painted volume called The Longbow Hunters. Although he didn't draw the interiors for the GA monthly that followed, which was aimed for adult readers (like Sable), Mike handled the writing duties. For those of us who missed him on Sable (a handful of not-even-close writers and artists tried to follow him and failed) there was a nice nod to the character in an early storyline. GA meets and fails to save a suicidal mercenary who bears more than a passing resemblance to Jon Moses Sable. Perhaps that was a shot at First Comics, who are by now infamous for burning their bridges with all of the talents who built their company, and perhaps it was Grell expressing his dismay at the Sable television series.

Yes, dear readers, there was briefly a Sable TV series that was produced by uberfan Gene Simmons -- who was in fact originally supposed to play the title character himself. The series managed to screw up pretty much everything that made the character memorable and unique, and it's best that it faded away. If you're really, truly perversely interested, you can dig up the pilot on YouTube.


The good news is that that wasn't the end of Jon Sable Freelance after all. Like Grimjack and Nexus, Sable was rescued from First's ownership and now Mike Grell has done several new series with the character. First, Mike tried his hand at writing a novel that retold the origin of Jon Sable for a new generation of readers. Then he produced a new comic version of the origin story called Bloodtrail. He has since followed up with Ashes of Eden, a full-throttle return to the glory days of Sable featuring his occasional partner in crime Maggie The Cat.

The original Jon Sable Freelance stories are in print again, in handsome new omnibus editions from IDW. Check 'em out.

Footnote: When I got to speak to Mike in person at the Motor City Comic Con, I asked him of all the projects he'd worked on over the years of his comic career, which was his favourite? The Green Arrow / Jon Sable fan in me was ultimately disappointed in his answer. His favourite job was his time drawing the Tarzan daily comic strip, back in the day when newspapers offered such things. Although it wasn't the answer my heart was hoping for, looking back on it now, I can see how that early, formative job put Mike on the path to Jon Sable.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Campaign Trailers: Footnote

Megan pointed out that I had used a particular device in those last two trailers that perhaps needs a bit of explanation, as it might actually be useful to someone.

In his great RPG Over the Edge, Jonathan Tweet insisted that as part of character creation each player should draw their character on the character sheet. Even if you're not good at it, or you just scratch down a symbol or design that represents your character in some way. The idea was that this engages different parts of your brain, making you think about your character from a different perspective. I have always thought that this was a brilliant touch -- one of many strokes of brilliance in that game, and from Mr. Tweet generally -- and I have never forgotten it.

In the past few years, I have gotten players to do something similar during character creation by "casting" their character as a particular actor. As with Tweet's method, this gets you thinking about your character from a different angle, and perhaps even imagining ways that they might talk or act. For myself, I know that when I feel I have a firm grasp on the "voice" of a particular character, they're cemented in my mind... so knowing that my post-apocalyptic swordsman Magnus talked like Clint Eastwood really made him spring to life for me.

Although many players are not gifted with artistic abilities, my friend John notwithstanding, most players can think of a few actors in a favourite TV show or movie who they can imagine taking the part of their character. And like me, having that "casting" in mind may help them know how to start playing that new character.

You may have noticed that many of the characters in the last couple of trailers I posted were described as a particular actor, and this is mostly based on how they were "seen" during play at the table. (In some cases, there are new characters in there, or characters that I chose to cast during the writing process who seemed to fit a particular actor.) Now you know why -- this is all part of a larger effort at my table to approach many of our dramatic games from the perspective of a TV show we're imagining, one with an unlimited budget for casting and special effects (and able, if necessary, to snatch actors from forty years ago with a time machine and whisk them to the set).

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Campaign Trailer: AMERICAN NIGHTMARE

This is the trailer for a proposed sequel to That Game, the one that really busted open the HTHD style in the first place. I have been reluctant to return to that particular well (for exactly the above reason), but that doesn't mean I haven't given it some serious thought. 

You should really play this music to accompany it.

EXT. LOS ANGELES SKYLINE – DAY

We see the towering skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles, set against a hazy smog-yellow sky. There is smoke rising from several points in our field of vision, from ground-level fires.

LAZARUS (V/O)
These are the end times.

EXT. RIOT – DAY

We see a large camp of protesters in a plaza outside a corporate building. The people here are evocative of Occupy and also the large-scale protests we have seen around events like the G20 in Toronto. There are a dozen tents set up here, and many people are holding signs or wearing t-shirts with the word AWAKEN! printed on them under a stylized EYE design. There are several fires burning here in trash cans or oil drums, and the people here are tense, as though waiting for something terrible to happen. We see their mouths moving as they chant, and we can see them playing instruments or beating on drums or noisemakers, but cannot hear them...

LAZARUS (V/O cont’d)
This country has become a corrupt and decadent empire, undone by its own greed, spreading its sickness to every corner of the planet. The people who came here in search of a dream have found only ashes and false glamour.

REVERSE ANGLE – PROTESTERS POV

We see a huge force of RIOT POLICE in black body armour and helmets with opaque faceplates approaching in a skirmish line, banging nightsticks against bulletproof shields like the dark soldiers of some medieval tyrant.

LAZARUS (V/O cont’d)
The freedom, justice, and equity they were promised in song and story have proven as hollow as the smile on a painted whore.

The RIOT POLICE CHARGE, as TEAR GAS GRENADES are launched into the crowd of protesters. The protesters begin to scatter and panic; we see some trying to protect themselves against the gas, while some launch themselves at the police and are BEATEN DOWN quickly, and others attempt to break and run.

PROTESTER – CLOSE

We see a female protester, barely sixteen, stagger blindly toward an group of armored RIOT POLICE. They close in and we see them knock her to the ground and deliver a series of brutal HITs with their nightsticks.

LAZARUS (V/O cont’d)
We have been waiting for this moment. Waiting for the lost and the desperate to turn on each other, for the cities to burn and the bodies to choke the rivers...

BLOOD SPLATTERS on the faceplate of one of the riot cops’ helmets.


INT. BOARD ROOM – DAY

We see a group of SHADOWY FIGURES standing in the foreground, against a PANORAMIC WINDOW facing out over the city. Smoke rising outside suggests that this scene plays out overlooking the police raid below.

LAZARUS (V/O cont’d)
And soon it will be time to feast... as we did while Rome burned...

The SHADOWY FIGURES raise glasses of champagne in a toast. FADEOUT.


WNF PRODUCTIONS
PRESENTS


EXT. DIVE – NIGHT

We see an establishing shot of a small, run-down bar at the side of a California highway. A familiar battered 1958 Cadillac convertible with distinctive tail-fins is parked in front.

MARCHBANKS (V/O)
The six of us are all that remains of the Highwaymen.

INT. DIVE – NIGHT

Inside, we see a group of six sitting around a table. Two shall be described in only the vaguest terms, as they are not-yet-created characters played by Amanda and Eric; the other four are ROSA ALVAREZ (Michelle Rodriguez), an athletic young Latina woman, 30ish; ERIC MACON (Carmine Giovinazzo), a blond-haired young man in a denim jacket, 30ish; KAT COBBLER (Katee Sackhoff), a slim young woman with odd, elfin eyes, 20ish; and SETH MARCHBANKS (Martin Freeman), a worn-down looking man in his 40s.

ROSA
What the hell happened? We haven’t been gone that long.

MARCHBANKS
After the battle with the Nightmare Man, the Highwaymen scattered... returned to their usual hunting grounds. But someone was waiting--

FLASH CUT TO


EXT. SKEEZY MOTEL – NIGHT

We see a group of SINISTER FIGURES in the foreground moving in toward a run-down motel with a flickering neon sign near the road. We see there is a big Harley parked outside one of the rooms.

MARCHBANKS (V/O, cont’d)
--Someone organized. I estimate at least half a dozen kill squads, operating all over the United States.




INT. MOTEL ROOM – NIGHT

We see EASY (Ron Perlman), a big hairy biker-type inside the room. He is peering out the window, and clearly can see something bad’s going down. He slides away from the window and presses himself against the wall, behind the door. He ratchets the pump on a SHOTGUN and takes a deep breath –

MARCHBANKS (V/O, cont’d)
Our people were good...

A CLAWED DEMONIC HAND bursts through the wall and grabs Easy around his face and neck. He opens his mouth to scream, and FIRES HIS SHOTGUN into the ceiling, before we CUT TO BLACK.

MARCHBANKS (V/O, cont’d)
But they didn’t have a chance.

INT. DIVE – NIGHT

Back to the dive. Rosa and Kat are agitated.

KAT
So someone sold us out? Someone inside the Highwaymen?

ROSA (dangerous)
And the six of us are all that’s left. Three of us have an alibi, pendejo – we were in another dimension for the last four years. These two I don’t know from shit. But you, you knew everyone who joined a Lodge...

She grabs Marchbanks by the collar and pulls him across the table. As she does, she pulls his tweed jacket aside, and we can see that Marchbanks is wearing a PROSTHETIC ARM on his left side.

MARCHBANKS
As you can see, I barely survived an attack myself... if not quite unscathed. Nadia was killed protecting me. She went down fighting a dozen demons single handed while we escaped. I wouldn’t have survived without these two.

ERIC (trying to calm her down)
Rosa, he’s telling the truth.

KAT
Someone doesn’t want the Highwaymen getting in the way. But who? And why?

EXT. CORPORATE RETREAT – DAY

We see a Helicopter landing just outside a lavish corporate retreat. The building is in a wooded area beside a lake.



THE HELICOPTER - CLOSE

LAZARUS and a group of men in expensive suits – corporate raider types – climb out in slow motion. Lazarus (Christopher Eccleston) is tall and slim, with neatly styled hair and mirrored sunglasses.

MARCHBANKS (V/O)
We believe a man named Lazarus is behind it. He is an agent of a wealthy consortium of some kind, people connected at the highest levels of government and finance...

THE COMPOUND – MEDIUM SHOT

The camera pans across the beautiful vista of the lake and we can see, on an island, a large STONE STATUE that dominates the scene. It is of a gigantic, sinister OWL.

MARCHBANKS (V/O)
Lazarus has enormous resources at his disposal, including intelligence assets,  and we have learned he is almost certainly a sorcerer of great power.

INT. DIVE – NIGHT

A sombre scene as the words sink in.

KAT
What are we going to do?

ERIC
What can six of us do against someone with that kind of power?

Rosa stands.

ROSA
We do what Van Cleef taught us. Saddle up and throw down.


A Bill Templeton

GAME


MONTAGE:
We see a quick flash of several scenes:

  • Kat begins to SHAPESHIFT, and we see her features run like quicksilver.
  • Rosa and Eric are barreling through a forest in the Cadillac. Eric is driving like a madman while Rosa stands facing behind them, firing at (unseen) pursuers; we shift into SLOW-MO as she ejects an empty clip from her automatic and Eric tosses her a full one as though anticipating her needs – it flips end-over-end and she catches it, slapping it into the gun in a single, fluid motion. She fires!

  • We see the L.A. skyline at night; there is a strange glow around the top of one of the skyscrapers, and a STREAK OF LIGHT travels up into the sky as we hear a THUNDEROUS BOOM. The sky seems to TEAR OPEN, revealing a strange misty OTHER DIMENSION. We can see an ENORMOUS EYE staring out.

KAT (V/O)
This is not a war, Rosa. This is a rescue mission!

MONTAGE CONTINUES:

  • The Cadillac zooms down a desert road that seems to vanish into the distance.
  • A series of shadowy figures move through a gate into a darkened lane – which suddenly lights up to reveal a CREEPY CARNIVAL MIDWAY.
  • A hand enters the frame and spray-paints the AWAKEN! EYE on a brick wall.
  • The Cadillac screeches to a stop beside WHITE STONE STEPS. As the camera pulls back, we see that the car is stopped in front of the LINCOLN MEMORIAL in Washington, D.C. The sky is a nightmarish, unnatural RED.

LAZARUS (V/O)
How much are you prepared to lose to save the world?



INT. LINCOLN MEMORIAL - NIGHT

Lazarus stands over Rosa, who is lying on the ground bloodied and beaten. He holds the point of a sword to her throat.

LAZARUS (triumphant)
You’ve already died once. You should have quit while you were ahead.

ROSA (defiant)
I was about to say the same thing, cabrĂ³n.

Rosa’s legs flash out, sweeping Lazarus’s feet from under him and knocking him to the ground. She rolls away, grabs a sword lying nearby, and comes up in a crouch. She CHARGES AT THE CAMERA WITH A BATTLE CRY and we CUT TO BLACK.


COMING SOON

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Campaign Trailer: SHADOWRUN - YEAR OF THE DRAGON

This is a previously unreleased trailer I wrote for a proposed sequel to the well-received Shadowrun game I ran a couple of years ago. My take on Shadowrun would probably make most hardcore SR fans weepy and irritable, because it was more about soap opera and interpersonal conflict than heavily armed mercenaries attacking corporate enclaves. I wrote the sequel to reframe the game as a Bourne Identity-esque romp through Europe. There are familiar faces and a bunch of all new baddies with connections to the player characters' black ops past -- this would be a game about unfinished business. 

-->
EXT. HILLSIDE – DAY

An idyllic scene. From behind, we see a man (HE) and a woman (SHE) sitting in comfortable wicker chairs on a hillside, under the spreading branches of a great oak tree. They are only visible to us at first in silhouette. There is a table between the two chairs. Below the figures, we can see a large farm – there is a big red barn and a farmhouse.


WNF PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS



HE
You have a very nice life here. A quiet life. It would be a shame if anything happened to... disrupt that.

SHE (dangerous)
Your bodyguard is twenty-five meters away. Even with the best neural upgrades money can buy, it would take him longer to draw his sidearm than it would take for me to put my index finger through your forebrain and turn you into a vegetable. Threatening me and mine is about the dumbest thing you could do.


A BILL TEMPLETON GAME



SHE (cont’d)
...so I’ll ask you again: What do you want?

HE (icy calm)
You misunderstand me. I came here as a friend.

TABLE – CLOSE

We see a hand (HE) reach into the frame and place a photograph on the table. Another hand (SHE) reaches out to pick it up.

HE
The photograph was taken in Paris yesterday.


THE PHOTOGRAPH – CLOSE

We see a black-and-white still from a security camera that shows a crowd of people in Paris’s Gare du Nord. The figure at the center of the frame is clearly MICHAEL DANE (Liam Neeson), dressed in a suit and a long black coat.

HE (cont’d)
Your friend, Ms. Connelly, arrived in Paris a week ago. But I’m sure this is just a coincidence.

REVERSE ANGLE
To show KARYAN ARONYAN (Tulip Joshi) holding the photograph. She is seated opposite SHERMAN HUANG (Ken Wattanabe), the President of Renraku America. DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. SEATAC – NIGHT

We see Karyan, in full ninja gear – a jet black bodysuit under a black leather jacket with two katanas strapped to her back and wraparound mirrorshades – striding in slow-motion across the tarmac.

KARYAN (voice-over)
...You’re not coming.

LEAH (V/O)
The hell I’m not. If you think you can run away to Europe every time we have an argument, think again. If we’re going to make this work, we’ve got to stick together.

We see LEAH (??) is waiting next to an ebony black private jet with the Renraku logo on its tail. She is carrying a small suitcase, and she looks worried.

INT. JET – NIGHT

We see Karyan and Leah sitting across the aisle from each other. As the camera pulls back down the aisle, it seems like there is an enormous space between them.

EXT. SKY – NIGHT

We see the Renraku jet flash past the camera, quickly disappearing in the night sky except for the blinking tail light. FADEOUT.

THIS Summer


EXT. PARIS SKYLINE – NIGHT

The camera drifts over a futuristic Paris skyline. Although there are a few more modern buildings visible, airships with corporate logos drifting over the city, and holograms playing over some of the buildings, the Paris of 2051 looks remarkably untouched by time. The Eiffel Tower is visible along the Champ de Mars.

THE EIFFEL TOWER - CLOSER

As the camera drifts in toward the Eiffel Tower, we can see flashing lights from inside the platform at the top of the tower, and hear POUNDING DANCE MUSIC from within.

INT. NIGHTCLUB – NIGHT

THE MUSIC IS MUCH LOUDER NOW. The camera drifts across the dance floor of La Tour, through a sea of blazing lights, clouds of dry ice vapour, trideo holograms, and beautiful people dancing. We see macho orks, sleek elves in decadent Eurostyle fashion, tattooed dwarves in leather and drag, cyborgs wearing next to nothing to show off their chrome-plated limbs, even a few humans. As the camera moves through the crowd, the music begins to recede. We follow a YOUNG WOMAN in a short gown as she breaks from the crowd and steps through a pair of glass doors to a balcony outside.

EXT. BALCONY - NIGHT

The camera moves to her side and we see that it is MUIRIN CONNELLY (Andrea Corr), alive and well, glamourously dressed and styled, but clearly lonely. We see the City of Lights spread out below her. She lifts a glass of champagne to her lips and drinks. As she does, a WIND picks up around her, blowing her new hairdo back wildly. She lifts a hand to her face just as we see a HELICOPTER rise into the shot, training a bright SPOTLIGHT on Muirin.

THE HELICOPTER – CLOSE

We see a MERCENARY in sleek body armor lift a tricked-out sniper rifle to his eye and take aim—
MUIRIN – MEDIUM

We see Muirin kick off her (expensive-looking) shoes in a quick motion, and DIVE OVER THE EDGE of the railing!

GET READY


EXT. TOWER BASE / LOOKING UP – NIGHT

We see the DARK SILHOUETTE of Muirin as she drops away from the balcony, still caught in the light from the helicopter’s spotlight. The camera zooms up to meet her as she falls, and as we get close enough to see her face, we see that she is beginning to CHANGE SHAPE. Shining, irredescent scales are beginning to bloom all over her face, shoulders, and arms, and we catch a glimpse of a SMILE on her face and YELLOW, REPTILLIAN EYES as she falls, filling the camera’s frame, and we WIPE TO BLACK.

TO RUN


EXT. CHAMPS DE MARS – NIGHT

From ground level, we see A DRAGON, perhaps five meters long from nose to tail, swoop overhead, causing the crowd looking on to scream and scatter for cover. The helicopter spins, then dives and follows Muirin at high speed.

EXT. HELICOPTER – NIGHT

The camera follows along with the helicopter as it comes up to speed and follows Muirin over the roof of the Ecole Militaire. Muirin stays low, executing a series of high-speed turns that keep her just out of line-of-sight for the helicopter, dropping below roof level to shoot through an alley or cut from one street to the next, just barely above the level of cars and pedestrians.

HELICOPTER / STARBOARD DOORGUN – MEDIUM

We see the MERCENARY, strapped into a harness, bring a MACHINEGUN to bear and fire a burst.

EXT. RUE DE VAUGIRARD – NIGHT

At ground level, we see the dragon and helicopter swing overhead, and we can hear the sound of MACHINEGUN FIRE. The camera swings left as the dragon plummets from the sky on the Boul. Pasteur with an INHUMAN SHRIEK as the machinegun strikes its target. In the foreground of the shot, we see a figure in red motorcycle leathers astride a sleek, futuristic motorcycle.

EXT. INTERSECTION – NIGHT

We see MUIRIN, back in her humanoid form, getting up from the pavement. She clearly has a wound in her side that is bleeding, soaking her dress and running down one leg. She looks shocky and panicked, and stumbles as she gets to her feet. Overhead, we see the helicopter swing around and change its orientation, preparing to land. Muirin clutches at her side and stumbles into the foreground of the shot when we see the MOTORCYCLE RIDER from the last shot arrive in the foreground with the roar of a high-powered engine.

REVERSE ANGLE

and PAN UP the body of the rider – now clearly female – to her helmet. It is a custom unit with an elaborate paint-job that turns the visor into an elaborate CHESHIRE CAT GRIN with two small green eyes above it. The helmet’s front unfolds like a flower – a memory metal alloy – and we see that inside the helmet it is CAT COTE (Jennifer Connelly).

CAT (holding out a hand)
Allons-y!

Grateful, Muirin jumps on the back of the motorcycle and they take off at high speed, directly toward the HELICOPTER. We can see the inside of the custom visor light up – like a computer display – and lines of code scroll across Cat’s line-of-sight.

MUIRIN
Cat---!

As the motorcycle streaks toward the helicopter, it pivots to turn the DOORGUNNER toward Muirin and Cat. Suddenly, there is a FLASH OF LIGHT inside the helicopter and all the internal lights go out. The ENGINE lets out a WHINE and we see the helicopter start to list to one side, careening down, as the motorcycle zooms down the street, threading through traffic at high speed.

EXT. PARIS STREET - NIGHT

We see the motorcycle with Cat and Muirin pass. A figure in a long coat and broad-brimmed hat steps into the frame – we can’t make out any features, but the person is feminine, slim, and dressed stylishly. She reaches out and places a GLOVED HAND on the wrought-iron light pole next to her, and we see a BLUE GLOW from between her fingers. As she takes her hand away, we can see a GLOWING BLUE RUNE on the metal.



EXT. INTERSECTION – NIGHT

We see the motorcycle screech to a halt as traffic stops at an intersection. Muirin, exhausted and bloodied, clings to Cat’s back. Cat’s face is invisible except for her eyes inside the visor of the “Cheshire grin” helmet, but we suddenly see them WIDEN IN SURPRISE.

REARVIEW MIRROR – CLOSE

Behind them, beyond the stopped vehicles nearby, we see a group of THREE ENORMOUS HUMANOIDS – FROST GIANTS! – racing along the street toward them.

CAT (V/O)
Tabarnac. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

MUIRIN (V/O)
What?

THE MOTORCYCLE – CLOSE

Cat guns the engine, and we can see the phosphor letters and number of a computer display light up inside her helmet, scrolling down the inside of the visor.

CAT
Just hold on tight.

THE INTERSECTION - MEDIUM

We see the TRIDEO traffic light – a hologram floating above the intersection – suddenly change, and Cat’s motorcycle races forward with the vehicles in front of her. As they pass through the intersection, zipping around cars on the edge of the street and bumping up over the sidewalk, the lights go RED again, blocking both lanes of traffic. Vehicles come to a screeching stop and several crash, creating a great tangle in the middle of the intersection.

THE FROST GIANTS charge into the intersection and knock cars out of their way like they were toys.

EXT. BOUL. DE LA TOUR MAUBOURG – NIGHT

Cat and Muirin are really red-lining it now, changing lanes of traffic, leaping the curb on to the sidewalk, threading between pedestrians and vehicles so quickly we can barely follow the movements. But it’s no good. The giants just plow through everything in their path. They’re catching up. We see the fear on Muirin’s face as she looks back at the hulking giants, as they swat people aside with weapons the size of telephone poles.

As the bike crosses the Pont Alexandre Bridge, we see the word NITROUS appear on the control column and we cut into SLOW-MO for a moment as Cat pulls the bike up into a wheelie, turning into the path of an oncoming, sleek Euro-style sports car with a smooth, streamlined shape to its hood.

NITROUS BOOSTERS kick in as the bike bounces off the front off the sports car, sending it airborne—

We see the bike fly through the air, OFF THE BRIDGE, dropping thirty feet to the VOIE EXPRESSE RIVE GAUCHE – a high-speed highway that runs along the banks of the Seine. We see in Cat’s eyes that she wasn’t quite sure she’d make it, but no luck – we see the FROST GIANTS leap from the bridge behind them to land on the expressway!

EXT. EXPRESSWAY – NIGHT

(Normal speed) We can see the motorcycle and the FROST GIANTS approaching in the distance. As they do, A SHADOWY FORM steps from the side of the highway and walks straight out into the middle of the expressway. Several (civilian) cars miss the figure narrowly.

As the MOTORCYCLE comes into the center of frame, the person in the middle of the road is directly in Cat’s path! She swerves wildly, and we catch a quick glimpse of a beautiful dark-skinned woman with long braids wearing a long leather coat. She has her face painted with white makeup to resemble a SKULL.

Behind her, we can see the motorcycle slam on its brakes as Cat fights for control. She manages to stop a few feet short of plunging into the river.

THE WOMAN (French-Carribean accent)
Sparky, git down.

BEHIND THE WOMAN – CLOSE

The Frost Giants are almost on top of the Woman. They raise their weapons—

THE WOMAN – CLOSE

--As the Woman seems to DRAW IN A BREATH. She EXHALES A STREAM OF WHITE FLAME.

THE GIANTS

Are immediately engulfed and consumed by the fire, letting out a dull roar as they collapse to the pavement.

MUIRIN – CLOSE

MUIRIN (breathless)
...Egan?

CUT TO BLACK.


EXT. SKY – NIGHT

We see the black Renraku jet streak across a starlit sky. Below, we can see a bullet train, the TGV, coming up to speed as it crosses the French countryside. As the camera moves in on the jet, we can see that CAT COTE is sitting in the cabin. Green phosphor computer displays are projectedon the window in front of her. The camera DISSOLVES through the skin of the jet to



INT. CABIN – NIGHT

We see Karyan and Leah standing next to the exterior hatch. Karyan is securing her combat gear, strapping down her swords. Leah looks frantic.

CAT(over intercom)
Okay, we’re level at a thousand meters, leading the train... matching speed at 500 kmph.

LEAH
This is insane.

KARYAN
This could be our only shot at Dane.

LEAH
You’re dropping out of a jet on to a train going almost three hundred miles per hour without a parachute!

KARYAN (cocky)
The earth will catch me.

She punches a button, opening the hatch. There is a sudden rush of air from the cabin as the door cycles open. Karyan leans in and kisses Leah, hard, then throws herself from the plane. THE CAMERA FOLLOWS HER IMPOSSIBLY CLOSELY, hanging just a few feet away from her shoulder and tracking her movements.

EXT. SKY – NIGHT

Karyan tumbles through the sky, and as she rolls,  we see the JET moving away above and ahead of her. She rolls again, catching herself by spreading her arms like wings to bring herself into stable flight. We can see the line of the railroad tracks below her. As the TGV comes into view below her, she folds her arms and begins to drop toward the train at high speed!

KARYAN – CLOSE

Karyan’s hair snaps around her head in the wind, and we get the sense of the tremendous speed she is dropping at. We see her close her eyes.

THE TRAIN – MEDIUM

The camera tracks with the TRAIN as it streaks through the countryside. Again, the sense of incredible SPEED as the trees and farmhouses whip by. Above the train we can see a tiny dot – KARYAN – dropping from the sky toward the train, which is beginning to pass her by. The tiny dot begins to FLARE with golden CHI ENERGY, like a falling star.

KARYAN – CLOSE

We see Karyan, eyes still closed, surrounded by the golden glow. We go into SLOW MOTION as the following unfolds: Her eyes snap open and the camera begins to PULL BACK as she spreads her arms and goes into a roll, bringing her legs around so that she is feet-down, and she somehow seems to slow her momentum just as she drops the last thirty feet to the top of the TGV, landing in a CROUCH. CUT TO BLACK.

COMING SOON