Thursday, December 18, 2008

F.G.F #1: Grosse Pointe Blank(1997)

At first blush, Grosse Pointe Blank might not seem like a very gaming-related film. On the other hand, it has some themes that are, I feel, very applicable. Foremost among them is the theme of a person who has been living on the violent, lawless, immoral side of life suddenly having to reintegrate himself back into "normal" society. This movie is far from the first film to touch on this - the film (and it's preceding book) Shane is a masterwork in handling this idea - but I think GPB handles it pretty well. How do you reconnect with people you haven't seen in over a decade when you have absolutely nothing in common with them, and in fact can't even talk about what you do for a living or what's happened in your life for the last 10 years? How do you come back home again after disappearing for a decade, and reconcile with lost loves and lost friends when they discover that you kill people for a living?

Here's an (admittedly rough-looking) trailer for the film:

(Actually, although it's not a "film", JJ Abrams' Alias was an excellent look at this concept - how does a person function in a polite modern society when your life is nothing but secrets, lies, and violence? Although this theme fades out in the later half of the series, it's actually the backbone of the first couple of seasons. If you get a chance, give the series a try.)

This is a theme that can be pulled into a lot of different genres. In your average fantasy setting "adventurers" might be commonplace, or they might be quite rare, but it's reasonable to believe that a breed of people who make their living going out into the wilds, killing monsters and looting long-abandoned places for fun and profit, aren't going to have a lot in common with your typical village population. Your average gaming party is a heavily armed band of marauding profiteers who make a living through plunder and slaughter - how do you put that aside when, for example, you return to your home village when your younger brother gets betrothed?

Or heck, how do you deal with "the normal people" whenever you stop off for the day in any little one-horse town between Ye Home Base and the nearest dungeon? The party is probably treated with respect only out of sheer terror, the locals fearing that if your tankard isn't kept full you'll slaughter the entire village. How can such simple peasants possibly hope to relate to people who regularly face and deal out death with sword, bow, and spell? Who confront demons and dragons and the undead? Frankly, the PCs would, I think, be regarded more often than not as little better than the creatures they habitually do battle with.

This theme carries over even better into more modern, real-world settings. In a techno-thriller or espionage campaign, how do PCs deal with the fact that you can't tell your friends or family what you do? You can't have a serious relationship and heck - at what point does your character stop viewing "normal" people as human beings, and begin viewing them as little more than sheep - or worse, target practice? Col. Dave Grossman's disturbingly insightful work On Killing talks about this at some length - the difficulty in associating with "noncombatants" when your life is a horror show of death and violence. How can you attend your high school reunion and enjoy yourself when, in the back of your mind, all you're doing is idly contemplating firing angles, ingress and egress points, suitable venues of cover, and whether that guy from your senior physics class is now fat enough to use as a bullet sponge if all hell breaks loose?

That's all for now, folks. As always, questions and comments are appreciated.


Questing GM said...

Good point!

It certainly points out the more 'human side' of the rugged adventurer which is easily overlooked when friends or family are involved.

This would make a great roleplaying situation and also a good place to drop in an adventure hook.

TMan said...

Love that movie!

I've always thought that the last part of The Lord of the Rings was about precisely this. Frodo can't reintegrate into the Shire because of the horrors he's seen and participated in, but he can't explain why to anyone there (besides the other hobbits). Explaining those experiences would harm the same fragile hobbits he wanted to protect. In the end, he travels to the Gray Havens to find peace.

Sam, Merry & Pippin all have families to return to, who help ground them and love them. But Frodo has no one but them and Bilbo and Gandalf.

mxyzplk said...

Yeah, this is a great theme to explore. Even good adventurers accomplish deeds of brutality such that normal citizens blanch to share a bar with them. When some powerful enemy inevitably decides to ambush them, it's the low level commoners that fall like dominoes as collateral damage.

A party of adventurers visiting your village is about as welcome as a biker gang rolling into town. (On a related note, the FX series "Sons of Anarchy" could be used as inspiration for a locally based adventuring band).

Badelaire said...

I watched what I think was the season finale of that show last night. Pretty hardcore stuff. I think you have a point there - your average bunch of PCs are probably not too far off the mark there.

Adaen of Bridgewater said...

I really liked that movie a lot. Your post really points out how relevant it is to gaming.