Friday, 13 November 2015

The Bucket List 2015 (Part Five)

Let's wrap it up with a game idea that's a shout-out to one of our formative HTHD games. My friend Rob was the one who introduced us to PRIMETIME ADVENTURES, a game we've gotten a lot of play out of over the years despite some issues with it (which I won't get into here). He ran us through a series called T.H.E.M. -- a game about super-villains who were more heroic than the ostensible heroes of the setting. I think his intention was for something a little darker, but our tastes ran more toward protagonists who were rebels fighting The Man than straight-up bad guys doing bad things for bad reasons. I think I've got a really dark character in me waiting for the right game, but I wasn't quite there yet.

A side-light of that game was the idea that a lot of super-villains would draw their henchmen from a particular, working class neighbourhood of Our Fair City. HENCHTOWN. Two of the player characters grew up in "the neighbourhood", and thus knew a lot of the small-time players in town, had been to barbecues with the families of low-rent super-villains etc. I liked that idea a lot, but it didn't get a lot of screen time in T.H.E.M., unfortunately.


Flash forward a few years to my current addiction with Bundles of Holding. I had just purchased a Bundle -- it may have been a Wild Talents themed package -- and had in my hands an electronic copy of Ross Payton's BASE RAIDERS. Ross, if you don't know him, is the host of the Role Playing Public Radio podcast and its Actual Play sister podcast. I'd heard Ross mention he'd written this supplement on this show, and hadn't thought much of it at the time -- the high concept is sort of "dungeon crawling in a superhero universe".

The more I read of this setting, though, the more I liked it. The idea, in slightly more detail, is that a big Cosmic Event has made all of the superheroes and supervillains disappear from the world. What's left? The henchmen, the wanna-bes, the nobodies. But they know that the big-name Capes have left secret bases and hideouts unattended, full of weird super-tech that can transform any nobody into the next Big Thing.

Oh, they'd be scheming schemes and dreaming big, unlikely dreams in Henchtown, I thought. And then I had a hook that worked for me: basically, a small-time crime game set in a Four Colour universe like BASE RAIDERS. Goodfellas with henchmen.

I wrote the following piece of script for a short-lived writing group I was trying to get going, and it captures the mood of what I was picturing:


OVER BLACK:

JIMMY BLUE
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a
super villain.

Cut, with the opening notes of Tony Bennett’s “Rags to Riches”, to…

EXT. LAUNDROMAT – DAY

We see YOUNG JIMMY, 10-ish, standing on the steps of the Laundromat looking with wonder across the street. We

REVERSE ANGLE
to see CARNOSAUR, a scaly super-villain who looks like a cross between a burly street punk and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, climb out of a Cadillac IN SLOW MOTION. He is followed by a half-dozen men in green leather jackets wearing green-tinted sunglasses. They are parked in front of WING'S CHINESE RESTAURANT. 

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
To me, being a super-villain was better than being President
of the United States. Even before I first wandered into the
laundromat for an after-school job, I knew I wanted to be a
part of them. To me, it meant being a somebody in a
neighbourhood full of nobodies.

CLOSE UP on Carnosaur as he reaches into his pinstriped suit in SLOW MOTION, pulls out a KITTEN, and tosses it in his enormous, toothy mouth.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
They weren’t like anybody else.

INT. WING’S CHINESE RESTAURANT – DAY

We see Carnosaur take a seat in a booth with BRAINMASTER, a mad scientist type in a white lab smock, and SUNDOG, a huge figure with a ball of blazing plasma for a head. Nearby, Carnosaur's entourage sits at a table with a group of toughs in white satin jackets with goggles strapped to their heads. 

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
They did whatever they wanted. I mean, no cop ever thought
about putting a ticket on Carnosaur’s window if he parked
next to a fire hydrant. In fact, the cops pretty much never set
foot in my neighbourhood.

The camera ZOOMS IN on the window at the front of the restaurant, where we see YOUNG JIMMY press his face to the glass, peeking in past the curtains.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
We called it Henchtown, because one way or another, pretty
much everyone worked for one of the big villains.

EXT. CAR DEALERSHIP – DAY

We see a row of shining 1960’s vehicles parked in a row, with a SALESMAN in a loud suit shaking the hand of a customer in the foreground. The camera TRACKS PAST THEM to focus in on the OFFICE in the background, where a window is blocked by blinds. A pair of METALLIC FINGERS emerge to pry the slats of the blinds apart, and we see the GLOWING EYES of a ROBOTIC HUMANOID: LORD MECHANO.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
They owned most of the businesses in Henchtown, and got a
piece of pretty much any deal that went down.

EXT. CHICKEN SHACK – NIGHT

We see the outside of a fast-food fried chicken joint, Chicken Shack, with a cartoon mascot on the sign that looks suspiciously like Colonel Sanders made over as a surfer dude with a drumstick in one hand and the other holding a surfboard.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
And believe me, you didn’t want to hold out on these guys…

After a beat, we see the staff of the restaurant fleeing the Chicken Shack, SCREAMING. The camera PULLS BACK and we see a huge DRAGON swoop down, grabbing the building in its claws and tearing it off the foundation and into the air. 

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
That would be a mistake.

ZOOM IN
on the DRAGON to reveal THE SCARLET SORCEROR riding on its back, LAUGHING
MANIACALLY.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
I’m no genius, but I knew a good thing when I saw it.

THE DRAGON rears back its head and BREATHS FIRE directly at the camera, and we WIPE IN A BRIGHT FLASH TO...

EXT. BLUE SKY – DAY

A caped superhero, THE CHAMPION, flies at the camera. At first, he is a black spot backlit by the sun, but as he gets closer we can see a handsome, muscular white man in a blue-and-gold costume. He grins at the camera.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
I know what you’re thinking. Super villains? What about the
heroes?

EXT. BANK – DAY

We see THE CHAMPION waving to the crowds and grinning at reporters with cameras as he pushes a group of henchment in dirty leather smocks and their leader - KING MOLE - into a police paddy wagon.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
We called ‘em “Capes”. And we hated  those guys.

INT. VISITATION ROOM – DAY

We see a tearful WIFE talking to her jailbird husband through a Plexiglas window, speaking through a telephone receiver. The camera TRACKS ALONG the row of little booths where similar family tragedies play out. A young BOY holds up a good report card while his father - a bruiser with a CYBERNETIC EYE - nods at him proudly. An old man coughs as he speaks to a worried looking jailbird son. A mother wipes her tears while a LIZARDMAN tells her to be strong.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
In my neighbourhood, everybody knew somebody those
bastards had sent up the river. Families had to struggle along
without their dads, parents lost their kids, and all because
somebody was just trying to pay the mortgage, or some
medical bills, or put some goddamned Christmas presents
under the goddamned tree.

A GUARD steps into the foreground, holding up a magazine he is reading. It has the smiling face of THE CHAMPION on the cover.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
Capes? Fuck those guys. Fuck ‘em all.

EXT. POOL HALL – NIGHT

We see JIMMY BLUE, now maybe 16, standing just outside a pool hall smoking a cigarette nervously. After a beat, a big guy wearing a leather vest steps out of the pool hall door. He gestures to Jimmy to come in, using a METAL HOOK HAND. Jimmy follows him in.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
Best thing about super-villains was, they were always hiring.

INT. POOL HALL – NIGHT

We see Hook-Hand lead Jimmy through the pool haul in a long, expensive-looking STEADICAM shot that weaves around pool tables, through groups of ne'er-do-wells, gamblers, smokers, hookers, and hangers-on, before walking up a set of STAIRS to a door marked OFFICE.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
I made my bones as a Buccaneer. I wasn’t big enough to
work for The Aberration, wasn’t athletic enough – or
Japanese enough – to be a ninja, and Dr. Abominus had this
thing for deformed henchmen. If you weren’t ugly enough for
that guy, he’d go to work on you with a scalpel, know what I
mean? No thanks.  I could climb a rope pretty good, and I
figured I’d look okay with an eyepatch, so… !

The door swings open and we see THE BUCCANEER, a piratical sort with an EYEPATCH and a PARROT on his shoulder. He grins, revealing several GOLD TEETH. FREEZE FRAME.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
The Buccaneer treated me pretty good. I ran with his crew for
six months or so, and there was always plenty of rum and
good times. Not so much with the pieces of eight, but
whaddaya do?

INT. BANK – NIGHT

A SECURITY GUARD flees into the foreground as a gigantic, spinning DRILL bores up through the floor of the bank. A tank-tracked MOLE MACHINE rolls up to the surface, the drilled nose-cone spinning down to a stop. A door in the side opens, and we see KING MOLE, a short little man with a big nose wearing a brown costume with a helmet fitted with a tiny crown on the top, emerge leading a group of his henchmen wearing leather smocks. They are carrying heavy, 1950's-esque RAY GUNS. 

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
Eventually I moved on to a gig with King Mole, and I stayed
with him for another two years. That was when I started
feeling like a real, honest to god bad guy, you know? That
short-sighted little bastard had a real hate on for anybody
who lived above ground, and he sure liked to wreck shit up.

The last mole-henchaman – JIMMY, now a little older – steps into the foreground and SHOOTS. ZAP!! FREEZE FRAME. 

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
I stuck with him until some Cape sent us to Iron Bay for a
nickel stretch. (beat) Fucking Capes.

INT. POLICE PHOTOGRAPHER – NIGHT

Cut, with a FLASHBULB POP, to JIMMY standing in front of a chart measuring crooks' heights, getting his mug shot taken. Jimmy is wearing the leather smock from last scene, a little older again, and has a big BLACK EYE.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
Some mama’s boy in a star-spangled tu-tu busts up the gang
and whammo, I’m in prison.

ANOTHER FLASHBULB POP, and we cut to JIMMY standing in profile.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
Happens to us all eventually. Crime does not pay, and all that
holier-than-thou horseshit. That’s what really burns my ass –
those pricks actually think they’re reforming us  when they
send us up. What a joke.

EXT. PRISON YARD – DAY

We see JIMMY walking across the yard, the camera tracking with him. As he goes, super-crooks and henchmen in prison greys are greeting him, pounding him on the shoulder, laughing. We see CARNOSAUR lumber up and embrace him, giving him a two-cheek kiss like a Mafia goombah. THE BUCCANEER grins at him from the weight pile, exposing those gold teeth. LORD MECHANO gives him the (robotic) thumbs-up.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
Iron Bay was like old home week in Henchtown. I knew
practically everybody there, and they treated me like I’d just
busted my cherry. Doing your first stretch was a milestone for
a super-crook, see, and now I was really one of the family.

JIMMY bumps fists with a LIZARDMAN and looks around him, getting the lay of the land. We switch to

JIMMY’S POV and get a look around, taking in various gangs: a group of heavies in clown makeup, a group of robots playing pickup basketball, more Lizardmen trading cigarettes, and a group of hideously deformed goons that have to be Dr. Abominus's crew.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
Now that I was legit, I could hook up with whatever crew I
wanted. Mr. Punch, Lord Mechano, the Lizardman
Syndicate…  Doc Abominus if I was desperate or, you know,
fell down a flight of stairs. I spent six months getting plugged
into the super-villain network and picking up new tricks.

EXT. PRISON – NIGHT

We see a group of INMATES scramble through a huge HOLE with GLOWING EDGES in one of the prison walls. JIMMY BLUE rushes through the hole into the foreground, pauses for a beat, then runs. In the background, we can see FLASHING SPOTLIGHTS, and hear SIRENS and GUNSHOTS.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
By the time somebody put together a heat ray in metal shop
and sprung us, I was a changed man all right. I was twice the
crook  that I’d been when I went in.

CUT TO BLACK.

JIMMY BLUE (V/O, cont’d)
“Crime doesn’t pay?” Kiss my ass.


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