Using Grey Ranks for Terminator: Salvation

edited March 2009 in Story Games
I love the Terminator franchise. I watch The Sarah Connor Chronicles devoutly, eating up every episode and yelling for more. I am eagerly awaiting Terminator: Salvation. When I was much younger, I watched & rewatched Terminator 2 so many times -- it was clearly my favorite movie.

Holy crap, I loves me the story of Sarah & John Connor.

So, I totally want a game that lets me play out the story of the Human Resistance. But, like, there are core truths I wouldn't want to violate -- namely that the humans lose. It's important to me that the humans eventually win against Skynet, because otherwise it invalidates the core idea of the franchise and thus, meh, it's not what I want.

But if that can't be "at risk," then what's the game fucking about? I was thinking about that today, reflecting on the amazing TPK game detailed in another thread, and realized that we were playing out a human drama set to events we as players knew would Go Bad. What if instead of the players embracing a truth of ultimate failure, it was a truth of ultimate success? That doesn't make it any less of a human drama, because a victory over Skynet is paid for by the lives of good people and the hardening of kind souls.

I'm contemplating "re-skinning" Grey Ranks for this, partly because that old adage of "GMs runs the games they want to play in" is so true here, so why not take a GMless game for it? And because the reason Terminator is so powerful for me is because of the individuals involved and how they change due to knowledge of the future -- in other words, human drama, not "dude, check out that liquid metal guy!" (Though, dude, check out that liquid metal guy!) It would take a different arc, one that's more depressing in the beginning and more hopeful (or at least daring) in the end.

I just thought of this idea like an hour or so ago, so it's not really fleshed out in my mind. But I got to thinking: hey, there some people here who like the same sort of thing! For y'all, what would you consider in re-skinning Grey Ranks?

Comments

  • Why didn't this post get more love? Crazy!

    I've also been looking at reskinning GR, for one game about superheroes balancing ordinary lives and another game reworking my favorite parts of Cybergeneration.

    For Cybergeneration, you've got GMless, mission-based play and more player-generated personal scenes: ace. You've got an easy equivalent of Radio Lightning in net feeds. Writing up the grid stories is enjoyable (bit of fun pre-play there). And the axes pretty much work as is, assuming you want a relatively dark revolution story.

    For the superhero game, I was thinking about changing the axes considerably - Famous <> Quiet Life and Power Mad <> Hesitant. There's some peculiar setting material I'd need to work on first, to get a real handle on the world.

    A Terminator variant would absolutely work, and I don't know if GR would even need many changes. I'd maybe turn Radio Lightning into 'messages from the front', delivered by walking wounded and dead drop.
  • Posted By: Joe MurphyA Terminator variant would absolutely work, and I don't know if GR would even need many changes. I'd maybe turn Radio Lightning into 'messages from the front', delivered by walking wounded and dead drop.
    Have you see the trailers for Terminator: Salvation, by chance? There are bits where John Connor is speaking into something and at one point says "This is John Connor. If you're listening to this, you're the resistance." After my total fanboyism at that, I thought that would be a kick-ass way to end each Radio Lightning-type bit.

    Your setting axes for Cybergeneration (which I'm unfamiliar with) sounds pretty awesome. I hadn't thought about changing those up, mainly since I was still setting this in a war. But, as you said, probably doesn't need that many changes.

    Another thing to consider, and I hadn't thought about this until now: the game could have a very different feel of you change the number of chapters. Obvious to some, I'm sure, but I only realized that now.

    Thanks for giving this some love, Joe!
  • I got your back, Ryan. Your 'Rules of Playtesting' podcast was excellent.

    Ah, I'd forgotten the 'You're the resistance' broadcast. So Radio Lightning would directly become John Connor? That's at least as iconic!

    Swapping out the situation elements for post-apoc Terminatory goodness would be a fun project in itself. I'd keep TSCC's references to 'metal' and assorted militaristic technobabble. And the suggestions of collaborators as they make the moral situations greyer.
  • You go, guys! I've thought about reworking it for other similar conflicts (Lwow 1920, Berlin 1945, the Baltic states 1945-55) but never a straight-up fantasy gloss.

    Creating the situation elements might be a hard slog, lonely fun aside. That's a lot of stuff you need to come up with, and you'll be making a lot of it up rather than shamlessly grabbing it from reference books.

    Reversing the grid so that the corners were positive is interesting and could totally work. It'd be subtle and finding appropriate opposites might be tough. What's the opposite of suicidal depression, and why does it get a d4?
  • I am every bit the Terminator fanboy that Macklin is. This is a great frickin' idea.

    That is all.
  • Posted By: John HarperI am every bit the Terminator fanboy that Macklin is. This is a great frickin' idea.
    You. Me. This. GPNW (if I can attend).

    This is the second game throwdown one of us has done to the other, the previous being Shadowrun in DRYH. This time, though, it'll happen!
  • One that that I think make's Grey Ranks work is the overall teenager vibe, especially with the differences between a 15, 16 & 17 year old. I'm not sure how to tweak that, but I do think that restricting the resistance PCs to only teenagers would be (in this case, not in GR!) a copout. But the vibe that teenaged drama has was powerful, and I wonder if being "too adult" would end up making it too easy on the players -- that whole "this is a hard world and we've been made hard adults by it" thing that could easily deflate some of that interpersonal tension.

    Though, it could be a case where judicious use of language to keep the feel going. For instance, retitling the "mission scenes" and "personal scenes" as:
    * Metal scenes
    * Human scenes

    Hmm. Something to think about.
  • I haven't gotten to play Grey Ranks (but I hope to!) and I haven't followed the Terminator franchise (even though I dig it - Terminator 2 is still a favorite for me) I'll just jump in and say 'Yay!' and wave my arms.

    Also... I just had the urge to contrast a "Metal scene" with a "Skin scene" ("So, what's next, Metal or Skin?"), so I thought I'd through it out here.
  • I think Grey Ranks works because of the really harsh juxtaposition of total war and prosaic adolescence. So if you want to dump that, something in equal thematic opposition needs to take its place.
  • ...

    ...

    ...awesome.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI think Grey Ranks works because of the really harsh juxtaposition of total war and prosaic adolescence. So if you want to dump that, something in equal thematic opposition needs to take its place.
    Yeah, I'm not sure of "the needs of war to be like the machines" and "our own need to be human" is enough.

    But part of the issue I think is the nature of the opposition. To say that a German soldier shoots a kid is vile -- we accept that horror overall less than "a German soldier shoots an adult." In a sense, I think in playing the game we respect that enough to keep adult-on-kid violence to a minimum. But to say that a machine shoots a kid is, well, understandable in that "it's a machine, it doesn't care" sort of way. So, that sense of immortality of youth & false protection that "being under 18" gives isn't valid in this setting.
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarReversing the grid so that the corners were positive is interesting and could totally work.
    Now you've got me thinking about reskinning* the corners -- not necessarily as positives, but to highlight the idea that these are the little costs (or "toll") of a human victory. Maybe less "this is what you experience" and more "this is what people will say about you when they tell your story to their children."

    (*I now realize that saying "reskinning" here is a pun! Hah!)
  • Ryan,
    This is a really cool idea. Grey Ranks is an interesting game but I'm certain my group would not play it as it. Re-skinning it in this fashion (look I made a joke) I believe would catch their interest. It also gets me thinking about what other skins it could wear. Keep us posted.
  • I'm considering writing & running this at the next Endgame Minicon.
  • That's great. Please report back on how things went.
  • Some other thoughts I wanted to note down, after watching this week's T:SCC.

    I'm thinking of replacing "Country" under "Thing you hold dear" with "John Connor." He's the banner under which they all fly. He's the commander-in-chief of a resistance network that goes beyond a single nation. I'm also going to love seeing someone destroy the symbol of their utter trust & faith in Connor -- man, that will be sweet.

    But along with that, I'm going to have what I call the "John Connor Rule" -- that is, he may not appear in the game (beyond the resistance broadcasts that are a replacement for Radio Lightning). He's a nigh-mythical figure who is closed off to many for his own protection. It's enough for people to say "Connor said we need to secure this point," not just constantly having him come in and say it. I think that'll also reinforce the sense I want of average resistance fighters here.

    Man, the more I think about this, the more I want to play it right now.
  • That's a cool, mythic touch, Ryan. I like it! I may even steal it.
  • I've decided against running this at the minicon -- I have enough stuff to do in the next couple weeks without adding the pressure of a setting hack beforehand. It's good to keep some "fun projects" firmly in the realm of "fun projects" and not "work." :)

    But once I have it done and tested with my home group, I'll probably bring this elsewhere and post the conversion notes online.
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarThat's a cool, mythic touch, Ryan. I like it! I may even steal it.
    Thanks! Please do!
  • Understood, Ryan. No need to go crazy just for GPNW.

    I really like the John Connor Rule.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI think Grey Ranks works because of the really harsh juxtaposition of total war and prosaic adolescence. So if you want to dump that, something in equal thematic opposition needs to take its place.
    Yesterday, I think I hit on the idea of what would replace Age: Life Before Judgment Day. That might be the harsh juxtaposition needed: of prolonged armageddon and hope for life returned.
    And none of the options can be anything like "Soldier." Everyone in your Tech-Com unit can to learn that after Judgment Day.

    Not sure if that's magic enough, but we'll see...
  • The John Connor of the actual Polish resistance was Tadeusz Komorowski, code-named Bór - leader of the Home Army. He was the in-country face of the government in exile, he initiated the Rising, and it was he who negotiated terms of surrender on 2 October. How bad-ass is it that he demanded terms of the fucking Nazis, and got them? An awesome guy who was well and truly kicked in the jonx by fate.
  • edited June 2009
    This idea has just captured my imagination.

    JUDGMENT DAY, plus 28

    If you are listening to this, I know you are afraid. You must be hungry, tired. I know you are hiding out there, looking at the fires. You are thinking about the people you love, where they are. You are wondering if we've been attacked, which of our enemies has struck out at us. Because we have been attacked, attacked by something we built. Attacked by things we created to protect us. Now there are only two sides, us, and the machines.

    Whoever you are, listening to this, you are so special - you have no idea how important you are. You have to survive.You have to survive to fight back. Keep your heads down, and keep listening to this channel.

    This is John Connor, signing off.


    Chapter 1: Taking Stock

    - A cry for help in the distance
    - An intact construction site, complete with neat stacks of lumber, bricks, and sacks of cement
    - Jack Thompson, insane old man
    - A shallow grave, with two bodies embracing
    - Goddy, a small dog, tears open a bag of garbage
    - A building collapses suddenly as you walk by
    - A door within a frame, with no house attached
    - The local librarian becomes a hero
    - Mrs. Sarkoczy, mother of twelve
    - A complete Joan Baez LP collection
    - The inverse shadows of two crouching children and a bicycle, burnt into a scorched wall
    - This just isn't my day
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