The twin engines of the Junkers Ju-52 coughed out puffs of smoke into the cold night air as they noisily started up, and Harriet slowly advanced towards the bleak aluminium plane, shakily treading the asphalt with her high heels. This was it. This was her farewell from Cairo – and her farewell from Martin. It couldn’t have gone well between the two of them. These days had been just too good to be true, and she had to end it, end it now, before her heart was broken once again.
Wrapping her feather boa tightly around her neck to protect herself from the icy night, she set her foot on the gangway that led up to the entrance of the plane. Sighing deeply, she turned around for one final glance back at Cairo, the city she had spent only a few days in – and which had still changed her life. Cairo, streets of desire and passion, Cairo, dark and yet so compelling, Cairo, home to sweet Martin, whom Harriet would never see again and whose voice, somehow, still echoed in her head…
Only that it wasn’t just in her head.
With a shock of understanding, Harriet looked down at the airstrip, and there he came running, her Martin, running for her, running through the chilly night to reach her before it was to late.
“Martin!” She let out a scream of despair. “Martin!”
“Harriet!” Breathing heavily, he stopped a few yards short of the gangway Harriet was standing on. “Don’t leave! Stay with me! Stay with me at Cairo!”
“I cannot,” Harriet sobbed in despair. “I cannot! These last few days with you were the happiest of my life. I cannot risk this memory for an uncertain future!”
“If you leave now,” Martin said in a low and sad voice, stretching out his hand towards Harriet, “everything will remain a mere memory. Stay, and the two of us can make it last forever.”
“Martin!” Harriet’s lips started trembling. “I… I cannot!” She moved up the stairs, backing away from her beloved. “I will only make you unhappy if I stay. I’ve never made someone happy by staying with him.”
“Then let me make us both happy, Harriet,” Martin pleaded. “Stay with me. I promise, everything will be fine.”
Harriet’s body was shaking. She was standing in the entrance of the Ju-52 now, and she was the most beautiful shivering lady in the world. She had stopped backing away, and now slowly, very slowly, she was on her way back, back towards the gangway, back towards Martin…
Then a hand shot out of the darkness inside the aluminium plane and grabbed Harriet’s arm. She screamed.
“Harriet!” roared Martin. “No!”
In the blackness of the Ju-52, the slender silhouette of Edward became visible. Tightly gripping Harriet’s arm, he gave Martin a cold smile. “The lady cannot stay with you,” he said. “She is with me.”
Screaming madly, Martin raced up the gangway, but Edward had already pulled the struggling Harriet into the plane. Slamming the door in Martin’s face, he disappeared, and Martin hammered against the cold metal, knowing that if he didn’t stop the plane now, he would never see Harriet again. Already, the big Junkers was moving, and he needed to act quickly if he wanted to have a chance, so there was only one thing left to do…
“CUT! That’s a wrap! Strike the set!”
Silver Screen is an original setting for Risus: The Anything. Its purpose is to relive the glory of 40’s and 50’s movie dramas, with the GM as the director and the players as the lead actors of the movies. They can take new roles in every game session, or play the same movie clichés over and over again, only in different settings. The twist: there are “movie mechanics” in the game that both the GM (known here as “the Director”) and the players (known as “Stars”) can use.
Mood and atmosphere
Silver Screen can be as serious or as funny as you want it to be. Personally, I wouldn’t use it for completely comedic purposes. Casablanca has more dramatic potential than Duck Soup. Plus, there’s always the fun of the “movie mechanics” if it ever gets too serious.
In Silver Screen, there are no long-running adventuring campaigns. Each game session is a new movie – and remember that this is 40’s and 50’s cinema where most movie plots are still original and there is no need for sequels yet. Ideally, you’ll even complete a game session within 90 to 120 minutes… well, if you want to.
The GM of Silver Screen is the Director, and the players are the Stars of the production. The Director, of course, is in charge of the entire set and the extras, the Stars, however, are in the spotlight of the movie. They are responsible for the success of the entire production, meaning they need to give everything to increase the dramatic value of their scenes. After all, there are no CGI special effects yet to cover up their lack of credibility, and at least half the atmosphere of the game should come from them.
Before your first game session, you should decide upon one minor thing first: Do you want the Director to create new and original characters for each game session and allow the Stars to pick their favorite role from them, or do you want to allow the Stars to have character templates of their own to develop? Both are mutually exclusive, and both have their advantages and disadvantages.
The first method means that everything will fit smoothly, all the time. There will never be unwanted differences in character power between the stars, and the Director can assure that every Star will have a good part in the movie. On the other hand, the Stars will have to live with the characters they get to play. Hey, it may not be the best role in the world, but it puts bread on the table.
The second method, of course, is probably well-known to the Stars if you aren’t new to role-playing. Also, it’s pretty much in flavor with 40’s and 50’s movies. If you had a picture with John Wayne in it, no matter what role he played, he was pretty much the same guy all the time: a hard-boiled, misanthropic hero with a heart of gold. That’s how the Stars create their characters: instead of a character from one specific setting, they give him general attributes, or rather, movie clichés, and then hope they somehow fit into each of the game sessions. The good: satisfied Stars, and characters that have a chance to develop. The bad: the chance of miscasts. The ugly: the Director’s life gets a little harder.
Follow generic character generation rules from Risus, no Hook, no Tale allowed. The chosen clichés should be generic enough to fit into most settings, so “Musketeer Upstart” or “Aging Chinese Concubine” are probably not good choices.
Sample generic movie clichés for character creation:
Strong Silent Guy
Once you know what you want, it’s time for the Director to prepare your first game session. Aside from the adventure script, the Director needs to work out the roles the Stars are going to play in his production – if the Stars made their own characters, the roles should at least have something to do with their clichés, otherwise, he needs to define the clichés for the roles, which, by the way, don’t have to be generic clichés but can very well be “Musketeer Upstart” or “Aging Chinese Concubine”, depending on the adventure setting.
The Star created the following character: Hard-boiled Cynic (4), Drunken Philosopher (3), Stalwart Defender (3)
Sergeant Major Pierre Dubois
Sarge Fulgrim has been an exceptional soldier for over twenty years now. He’s seen the horrors of the trenches in what they once called The Great War when he was still a boy, and he has never forgotten the horrors of those days. He drinks a lot to forget these horrors, even though the alcohol only makes him remember more vividly, and now his beloved France has fallen under the iron fist of Nazi Germany. But he hasn’t given up the fight. The Resistance has a place for men like him. Come what may, he will stand up against the usurpers.
Generally, it’s a good idea for the Director to tell the Stars nothing about the production he is planning, except for the roles they are playing and the title of the movie. Let them draw their own conclusion, then throw them right into the scene.
Finally, for each production, each Star should receive a Cue Card with the first line he speaks in the movie. That line should give him a hint about where he first appears, though it is entirely up to each Star when to use it. Yes, he could fail to be on cue, but then again, these things happen in the business every now and then…
Both the Director and the Stars may call a Cut if something doesn’t work out the way they planned it to. Each Star has one Cut per game session, the Director has as many Cuts as there are players. A Cut immediately stops the game session and allows for several “special actions”:
- Bringing in Stunt Doubles (Stars only)
At any time in a conflict, a Star may call for his or her Stunt Double. A Stunt Double has only a single Cliché: “Stunt Person (3)”, is controlled by the Star, and he or she will leave the scene right after the conflict has been resolved. If a Stunt Double is defeated, however, the Star suffers the fate of the defeated. His Clichés are unaffected, of course, but the director still decides what happens to him now.
- Call for a Retake (Director Only)
If the Director is unsatisfied with anything that happened in the scene, he can use a Cut to call for a Retake. He should tell the Stars what he wants changed, and then the scene starts again. All conflicts are resolved again. Of course, it’s up to the Stars whether they actually do what the Director wants.
- Rewrite the Script (Stars and Director)
If either a Star or one of the Director’s extras is defeated in a conflict, and the winner has decided upon the fate of the defeated, the defeated may use a Cut to change that fate. He can describe his defeat himself, though he cannot use the Cut to make himself the winner of the conflict, but he could change getting killed into “falling down a dark chasm in a way that no one could possibly survive” – and reappear some time later, for example.
Once each session, whenever a Star Pumps one of his Clichés, he may choose to call for a Close-up. A Close-up basically means that he steals the scene from the other stars and intends to solve it alone. He cannot call for a Stunt Double in a Close-up; the audience would easily see that it isn’t the Star himself. If the Star is still standing at the end of the Scene, all his Clichés heal immediately. This is a classic from most old adventure movies: the hero is beaten up, hacked almost to pieces and shot to the point where he can only crawl to face the villain. However, after he uses some uncanny trick to defeat the villain, he is suddenly back in action again and fast enough to escape the villain’s crumbling hideout while all his minions die as it goes crashing into the sea.
If a Close-up fails, however, the Star (or rather his role) dies. He cannot Rewrite the Script to prevent this, but at least his death will be remembered as very heroic. The only way to prevent his death is if another Star chooses to die heroically in his place, and even then, he will still have one of his Clichés at zero and will be in need of help. The Director, of course, could Call for a Retake if he’s feeling generous… but why should he if the death has sufficient dramatic impact?
The Heroic Fanfare
Unlike most Risus settings, Silver Screen shouldn’t have too many situations where an Inappropriate Cliché would fit into the mood of the game. Thus, instead of the usual rules for Inappropriate Clichés, use the following mechanics:
You’ve all seen this in the movies – the hero is definitely about to be defeated, then suddenly, the music suddenly changes from the usual dark, sinister tones to a motivating, uplifting fanfare, and the hero gets his “second wind” and still wins the day. Just like that, once in each game session, and only in a situation where a Star is obviously on the losing side of a conflict, that Star may opt to play his Heroic Fanfare. Under the influence of the Heroic Fanfare, he may now describe how he is trying to gain the upper hand using one of his Clichés, and for the rest of the conflict, this Cliché is treated as though it were Inappropriate as by Risus rules.
Pericles (Spartan Warrior 4, Slightly Homosexual Athlete 4, Musical Tenor 2) has definitely picked the wrong battle when he chose to tackle the Minotaur of Knossos (Hulking Man-Beast 6) in hand-to-hand combat. He solidly loses the first round of combat, getting knocked down to Spartan Warrior (3), and even Pumping his Cliché wouldn’t do him much good any longer. His ranks in Slightly Homosexual Athlete might work in the fight, but pumping them to a range where he can stand against the Minotaur would only give him a short moment of glory before the beast stomps him into the ground. Thus, he chooses to call for a Heroic Fanfare, and describing how he uses his Slightly Homosexual Athlete Cliché to push himself against a pillar and bring a part of the Labyrinth crashing down on the Minotaur. He also pumps his Cliché to a solid 7, outrolling the Minotaur in the next round, and as it counts as an Inappropriate use of the Cliché, the Minotaur’s Hulking Man-Beast cliché is reduced to 3. Now that the Minotaur has been taken down a notch, he is finally at a size Pericles can tackle…
Getting into the mood
Silver Screen can be quite a peculiar experience, and it can be difficult at times to get into the right mood. Fortunately, there are many tools a Director can use to help the Stars get into it.
- Use movie scores
Especially orchestral ones from original 40s and 50s movies. Most people won’t recognize the exact movie they were from. I mean, aside from As Time Goes By, what can you remember from the Casablanca score? And for good show, start all your game sessions with the MGM Lion Roar.
- Create fake movie tickets for your production
And put some effort into making them match the setting of the movie. Use appropriate fonts, and don’t forget to label them “Front Row – 40 c”
- Write opening and/or ending credits
Also in a font appropriate to the setting, and don’t forget to mention all your Stars. Hold them up so that the Stars can all see them. A great introduction is also to write some introductory narrative lines to outline the setting a little, also holding them up at the end of the opening credits.
- When in foreign places, prepare subtitles
Yes, I mean it. Speak to your Stars in gibberish, holding the subtitles below your face. Of course, only do this for a few lines. Then introduce someone who actually speaks the same language as the Stars.
- When in doubt, add some Nazis.
They were almost everywhere in the movies of the era, so feel free to use some yourself. Just don’t forget that these aren’t real Nazis – they are more like boogeymen. Never make them anywhere like they were in real life, or you won’t have much fun with your game.
- Listen to your Stars
After all, they make your production a hit at the box office. Give them the roles they want to play, and they’ll be eternally grateful. Well – at least until the next game session.
- Never let the rules stand in the way of fun
If you’re not having fun, you are not playing right.