Tuesday, December 2, 2008

There Is No Spoon, Just Some Dice

I've found myself thinking about 1999's The Matrix quite a bit lately for one reason or another. Not only did I got and see it on my birthday when it came out, but it was the DVD to get when it became available in that media. I've probably seen it, or at least instances of it, several dozen times over the last eight and a half years.

One of the things I've been thinking a lot about is that in a lot of ways, The Matrix isn't necessarily a science-fiction movie - it's a modern urban fantasy. Many urban fantasy stories (and I make the "urban" distinction because it's a little bit different than the kind of modern fantasy story that you'll find taking place "in the wild") involve the "other world" that exists co-mingled within our own world (which is where I think urban fantasy differs from rural fantasy - in the rural fantasy realm, the "other world" tends to be some kind of haunted wood or glen). The Matrix isn't quite there, but it seems to blend the genres a lot in some really interesting ways - part sci-fi, part fantasy, part cyberpunk, part superhero.

This sort of modern urban fantasy mix also has me thinking a lot about the old White Wolf games. I played Werewolf: The Apocalypse a lot in college, and dabbled in Mage, Vampire, and the Hunter series (this is in the days before Hunter: the Reckoning - I'm talking about The Hunter's Hunted and the Year of the Hunter sourcebooks). I'm not a fan of V:tM and I think M:tA was a great idea that only half succeeded (I kinda ignore Wraith and Changeling since I have no experience with either and didn't know anyone who had). Werewolf: the Apocalypse, however, I thought was a great idea, lacking a lot of the angst of V:tM or navel-gazing of M:tA, but it still had heart, and something that us poor mortals playing the game could get behind - it's all about nature vs. the machine, the wild vs. uncontrolled chaos, ego vs. id. I've never had a chance to read through any of the "rebooted" WoD material, but I'd probably still be willing to play in or run a W:tA campaign.

Which circles back to The Matrix. There appears to be, after a brief Google search, multiple different versions of a Matrix RPG out there. I'm not really sure I'd want to play in a Matrix RPG, especially one that involved the second and third movies (because they really tend to wrap up the story and give away a lot of "meh" detail that I wouldn't want there anyhow). I wonder if a blend of WoD mechanics/feel plus The Matrix storyline (first movie only) could brew up an intersting RPG. After all, a lot of the Mage powers seem awfully similar to abilities found once the rules of the Matrix are "bent". And was that Neo "ascending" at the end of the first film?

Has anyone out there ever thought of doing a Matrix RPG campaign, or knows anyone who has played in one? I'm curious as to people's thoughts on this matter.


Joseph said...

I can't speak to a Matrix RPG specifically, but if I may be permitted to bloviate on the concept of the Matrix movies in general...

They seem to have set themselves up for a perfect concept in the second movie and dropped the ball in the third. That is, the "real world" in which Neo et al live is just another layer in the Matrix. That's the only conceivable justification for agent Smith being able to move from the one world to the other. He's just moving from one virtual world to the other.

The whole speech of the Architect in the second film points right to this explanation, and yet they don't seem to have done anything with it in the third film.

If I were to end up gaming it, I would definitely use the set-up from the second film. It's all a shell of realities, like a matryoshka doll. Let the players jump between those (perhaps very very different in terms of physical laws) realities.

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Dave Bowman