A few weeks ago, Mr. Green talked the long ongoing dispute over the film/television rights to Dungeons & Dragons. I know, I was kind of confused at first too as the first film was TERRIBLE. Not even the great Jeremy Irons could pull this crapfest away from the mire of a Wayans brother. But as Green pointed out, this is probably the result of the popularity of Game of Thrones (and probably to a lesser extent Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films). Having a fantasy property in your pocket might not be a bad idea and that’s when I got to thinking, maybe RPGs might be the next comic books for Hollywood.
In terms of comics and film/television, we’re starting to get to a critical mass point; rebooting stuff that was only made ten years ago, developing movies and television projects on lesser known characters, filling every super hero movie with every character in their back catalog. Eventually, Hollywood will have to move on from comics at least for the majority (ie, we’ll still get comic based movies just not to the extent we’re getting them now) and in my opinion, the various pen and paper roleplaying games that are out there make a very tempting starting point.
In the grand scheme of things, RPGs share a very similar history to comics in terms of films. They’ve been tried before (The Dungeons & Dragons movie, the Kindred the Embraced t.v. show) but the results were very lacklustre and kind of slapped together much like the comic book movies of the 90’s (Captain America, The Punisher). The difference being that with RPG properties, you don’t have to worry about characters too much.
The one thing that fanboys gripe about more then anything else is when a film changes their beloved characters. While there are a lot of non-player characters created for the various worlds, you don’t have to include a lot of them. All you’ve got is a setting, a world. Just make sure the script is good (I know, easier said then done) and you have a geek film possibly worth checking out with a ton of source material to develop sequels and spin offs with. D&D alone has multiple settings that can be turned into great back drops for film and television. You can do a semi-realistic Game of Thrones-style fantasy or you can do fantasy with a horror mix with settings like Ravenloft (a personal favourite of mine). There’s also darker fantasy like Dark Sun. Plenty of options.
But there are other RPGs that could easily be used as back drops for film and television and not just fantasy based. Jerry Bruckheimer has long held a film option on the sci-fi based RPG, Rifts which is a big mix of sci-fi and fantasy in a magical post apocalyptic setting. It has robots, it has magic users, it has evil armies pushing down the masses, pretty much everything you could ever want in a sci-fi/fantasy film. Another interesting candidate could be Shadowrun, a cyberpunk style world where magic has returned and brought with it the revelation that some of us are actually dwarves and elves. Native American shamanism has risen as have men interfacing with machines.
In the genre of horror, the realm of White Wolf games is an area that could be explored. Vampires, werewolves, mages and ghosts have been mined for many television properties. Fox took a crack at it years ago but I really think a good adult based television series not geared towards teens and starring supernatural creatures could work. Or if you’ve got the money and time, do two or more shows like the old school World of Darkness RPGs. Do a Vampire The Masquerade show and a Werewolf The Apocalypse show and tie them together similar to Buffy and Angel.
While I would prefer Hollywood to work on original concepts and ideas, if they want to gain new footing into the geek culture, maybe RPGs are the way to go.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!