Here is the next The Breakfast Club character converted into Lady Blackbird-style stats for my hack. As with Bender, if you are familiar with Lady Blackbird (and if you’re not, go get it now), you will see pieces work with each other. I’m hoping you can also start to see how the characters interact with each other a bit. It should be fairly obvious by looking at Bender and Claire that inter-player conflict is a big deal in this hack. Not all conflicts need to be problematic, but certainly it is the way in which the five kids challenge each other. Let me know if you have any feedback about Claire; she was fairly hard to figure out, game-stats wise, but I think I captured her essence.
Here you go, the draft character sheet for Bender. If you know how to play Lady Blackbird, you’ll understand how the pieces work. Of note, you’ll see there’s references to conflict between players; this will be a main feature of this hack, unlike in Lady Blackbird where there are no explicit rules for it. The conditions are also different to fit the theme and setting, and at least one of them can be suffered multiple times (in Bender’s case, 8 times – you figure which one out). I will keep working on the others; they are a bit harder to figure out than Bender.
I’ve been swamped at work due to the start of the semester (I work at the university bookstore, so imagine the scenes of chaos) and applying to a new Nursing program, which means I’ve had little time to spend at home with my wife, let alone to write. Which isn’t to say I haven’t written, but it hasn’t been as much as I would like. What I have had time for, as I process endless textbook rentals and returns, is thinking, and that thinking has gone in great part towards the PJ&N Blackbird hack. It’s late, I’m half asleep and need to be up early in the morning, but I wanted to throw a couple of musings out there.
Building the characters continues to be the hardest part. I’ve managed to create more Keys for each character, but Secrets remain elusive. This actually ties to the other two thoughts I have to share now.
Sean Nittner, in a comment left in my previous post, brought up something that I also had noticed when I last saw the movie in prep for writing: there is very little action. The Breakfast Club is a talky movie, not an action movie, which means a lot of the events are conversation-based. That’s great for the movie, but it means there’s a distinct lack of external pressure to do anything in a game that needs to be addressed.
Lastly, I continue to vacillate between making this an actual The Breakfast Club game or an inspired one.
Answering those last two questions will make my job of building the characters easier. In terms of the external push to action, it is very easy to notice in the film how Bender is, essentially, an agent of plot: he has to find a way to keep things happening, keep the situation fluid, keep everyone moving. Bender gets a Key that rewards him for doing just this, and a clever player will use that ability to drive play and rack up advancements. In addition, I am toying with the idea of having an external force that opposes the characters and which they can only defeat by the use of advancement XPs. This could be used to simulate the overarching goal of “proving the stereotype wrong” the kids face during their day in detention.
Choosing whether I’m making a TBC game or an homage to the style will also help me in fleshing out the characters. At the moment I am leaning towards making it as close to the movie as possible and letting the players decide the events from the basic premise laid out in the film. I also would like the basic framework to allow groups to explore beyond the day of detention, like, what happens when they all meet again in school on Monday?
These are some thoughts that I have been mulling over and over in my head as I get ready to make final decisions and put the game together.
Last week at Gen Con, I had a chance to both run and play Lady Blackbird once more, which was just great. I played this little game extensively a couple of years ago and it never ceases to amaze me how much a few pages can deliver. After running it, I was talking to some friends at the lobby of the Embassy Suites about the game, comparing notes on how we ran the game, and I made the observation that for me, Lady Blackbird really sings when you have all the characters in one location, with their agendas out in the open where they can see how much at cross-purposes they are. After that it’s just a matter of seating back and enjoying the ensuing show.
Later, as I went back to thinking about Princess, Jock & Nerd, it occurred to me that the Lady Blackbird format would be a really amazing and simple way of doing this The Breakfast Club game since that is exactly what the movie is about: putting these characters in one location and letting them interact with each other. This was confirmed in my mind as I played the game on the last day of the con and then spoke about it some more with more people, including some of my players from the weekend.
I mentioned this on Twitter and immediately the idea was both liked and supported. It makes sense; Lady Blackbird is an experiment on character interaction at its core and fits well the theme and format of the movie.
So that’s what I’m doing now, turning The Breakfast Club into a Lady Blackbird hack that can be played quickly and in a short period of time, which fits my design goals to a T. In addition, Sean Nittner of the Narrative Control podcast issued me a challenge to have this done by the end of September so he can run it at Big Bad Con in Oakland, CA, which works for me as it lights a fire under my butt to get this done quickly. To that end, I’m just gonna go straight into writing, as opposed to blogging the process as I go along.
I’m starting it all by cheating, though.
I’m a child of the 80s, raised on a steady diet of romantic comedies and high school movies, king among them being The Breakfast Club. Movieland High School is as mythical a land for me as is Middle Earth or A Galaxy Far, Far Away; it bears little to no resemblance to my own high school experience, but it captures my imagination as if there were dragons or lightsabers. Naturally, it has always seemed to me to be a perfect setting for a roleplaying game.
I’ve been aware of fellow blogger Michael Wolf (Stargazer’s World) has a free game called Warrior, Rogue & Mage in which those three words are the characters’ stats as opposed to their class. MWP’s Leverage also does this with the roles of Hacker, Hitter, Grifter, Thief & Mastermind being also character stats. Given how in Breakfast Club the whole point of the movie is that the characters are/are not the stereotypes of a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal, it seemed riffing off the roles-as-stats idea in these two games was the way to go.
Thus I came up with Princess, Jock & Nerd.