I discovered Action Movie World, a Powered by the Apocalypse Game by Ian Williams, thanks to a post from D. Vincent Baker. He’s the man who got the PtbA revolution started back in 2010 with the original Apocalypse World rules.
AMW has some interesting features. You play an actor, playing a character, in a big dumb action movie. So, if your character dies, your actor can still come back and play another character in the next flick. Each player gets to pick a playbook representing one of the various action movie stereotypes. Once you’ve got your characters you can pick one of the emblematic action movie script playbooks for your flick. Your movie might take one session, or a few.
I knew our session needed to be a one-off. With my gang’s often busy schedules, I decided to GM a session instead of having a birthday party. If we’re going to go to the trouble of arranging to meet, why not get some gaming in?
Half my group wanted to rock a science fiction script, and the other half wanted some cop movie goodness. Rather than simply break the tie, I had each group pitch me (The Director) on their concept. In the end I picked the Cop flick, which had a distinct Rush Hour tang.
Our Lead actor was Hong Kong action veteran Yuen Lung playing DANNY WONG, an Interpol agent based out of Abu Dhabi. His on screen pal (DeMONT LeTROIT) was played by Lex Fox, part-time comedian, part-time action star, full-time badass. As part of our set-up we discovered that Danny and DeMont had a past together. They’d teamed up to break an international gun smuggling ring out of Atlanta.
Another character, ALI HAZARD (played by the inestimable Schwarzenegger Willis, III) was Danny’s friend, another Interpol officer from the Abu Dhabi office.
David Black played the elusive SAMI. He’s (apparently) all things to all people. He’s an arms dealer, Interpol snitch, war buddy of Ali Hazard, CIA asset, and who knows what else.
So, to take a step back for a moment, we’d established the following cast for our game:
- Our Lead actor, Yuen Lung (the Pugilist) playing Danny Wong as run by Brian;
- Our “second banana,” Lex Fox (the Yeller) playing DeMont LeTroit as run by Cliff;
- and our supporting cast, David Black (the Thespian) playing Sami (aka Noor) as run by Joe; and, last, but certainly not least, Schwarzenegger Willis, III (the Smartass) playing Ali Hazard as run by Greg.
So, here’s how we put it all together to get our movie going. Please bear in mind that we’re emulating ‘80s movies here, so the following is not exactly over-flowing with politically correct ideas…
In the film’s prologue we meet Sami, posing as one of his many covers, Noor. Apparently Noor owes a big time drug dealer, Jafara (aka Jafara the Butcher), a favor. Jafara’s son, Zhaglool, and Zhaglool’s right hand man, Ikram, come by in the middle of the night to tell Noor it’s time to “pay up.” They drive him out into the desert where there are a number of car’s already parking around a tight cluster of large vehicles covered with camo-netting.
We meet Jafara for the first time as he emerges from the shadows. He’s a wiry and leathery old Bedouin with wild, unkempt hair. He stares at “Noor” with the unnerving combination of one brown eye and one piercing blue eye. Just as Sami starts to get extremely uncomfortable, Jafara embraces him.
He whispers into Sami’s ear that he must watch his son Zhaglool. “Have you read your Freud, Noor? The Son must Kill the Father! But I’m not ready to die.”
Jafara turns to his group of assembled thugs and declaims, “Something has been stolen from us, and this I will not abide! Either we will get what we are owed, or we will sever the thief’s head and hang it on the highest hill!”
As the sun starts to rise we cut to Danny meeting up with DeMont at Abu Dhabi airport. We quickly establish they are a classic odd couple. DeMont is a non-stop chatter-box while the straight-laced Danny just nods and laughs.
As it turns out, DeMont is on vacation in Abu Dhabi ready to blow off some steam with his pal Danny. Through Danny’s co-worker at Interpol, Ali Hazard, he’s discovered that there’s a huge party going on at Sheikh Fisal’s oasis mansion. (Ali has drawn the crap detail of acting as door security at the Sheikh’s place. We decide that Fisal is actually powerful enough to just call up Interpol and ask them to send guys over.) Danny mentions the party, and DeMont is champing at the bit to go. Realizing that Danny intends to drive over in his sober Prius, DeMont produces a suitcase full of cash. “I took it from the evidence locker!”
The party is being thrown by Fisal’s entitled son, Malcolm. It’s ostensibly a fete to inaugurate a film fund, but it’s really about getting enough money to pay off the drug dealer he’s already deeply in hock to… Jafara. Yes, the same hard case we met in the prologue.
Cut to Ali Hazard, wearing a suit and an earpiece. He stands in the courtyard of Fisal’s mansion sweltering in the heat. A black Lamborghini with gold trim pulls up, and to his astonishment his buddy Danny Wong gets out. DeMont emerges dressed in an outfit that looks like a cross between an expensive purple suit and a pair of pajamas. While the two Interpol agents chat, Mr. LeTroit bounds up the stairs and into the pulsing heart of the party.
The mansion is sumptuous. It is a miniature recreation of ancient Babylon complete with blue-glazed walls, endless arcades, and, yes, a hanging garden. The oasis, maintained with its own canal, is big enough to have a small island with a folly of a ruined Norman castle on it. Pleasure boats dot the surface of the water.
DeMont is soon joined by Danny who finds him amidst a knot of investors and Hollywood people. Somehow he’s already become fast friends with embattled Hollywood super-producer Ryan Kavanaugh. They are laughing and slapping each other on the back.
Smash cut to Sami riding in what… a military hovercraft? Yes. Sami shifts uncomfortably in a machine gun turret behind Zhaglool who’s at the controls. They’re driving down a canal at the head of column of other hovercraft. Blue-glazed walls glint in the distance…
Meanwhile, Ali Hazard’s curiosity is peaked when a gorgeous women in a loose-fitting parchment-colored dress walks through the courtyard. She turns back to him and gives him an impish smile just before she walks through an arcade. Ali follows and finds her filling a fluted glass from what appears to be a champagne fountain.
“Oh, care to join me,” she says as she lifts a second glass. Ali declines to drink since he’s technically on duty. At the far end of the courtyard Malcolm appears. He’s artfully thin and wears a shiny platinum-colored suit with an electric blue tie. “You, get back to your post,” he yells to Ali as he closes the gap between them. Ali shrugs and turns to leave.
Ali turns back when he hears the sharp report of a slap. The woman’s hand is on her cheek, but she regards Malcolm calmly. Malcolm whispers savagely, “Lisa, why are you always such a slut.” Ali shrugs and heads back outside.
Back in the party, Danny and DeMont have to yell to hear each other… which is why it takes them a few seconds to register that they’re hearing not a sound from one of the many movies playing around them on immense flat screen TVs, but automatic gunfire coming from just outside the walls!
And now the exciting conclusion of… There Will Be Bullets!