7 Reasons I, Frankenstein Is Like the Greatest RPG Campaign Ever GM'd

By Christian Lindke in Daily Lists, Gaming, Movies
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 6:00 am

6) There are a number of RPGs that are Crying Out to Be Run as I, Frankenstein Adaptations

I think anyone who plays role playing games and watches I, Frankenstein will be hard pressed to not begin making a list of games that could, and should, be used to run a campaign inspired by the movie. I instantly began wondering how I could use Kenneth Hite's brilliant Night's Black Agents to run a game where the PCs are former spies who get caught up in the battle between the Order and the Horde. The Demons would translate nicely into Vampires using the mechanics in the game.

Image Pelgrane Press

The movie is just begging to be translated to In Nomine, Hero, Savage Worlds, Gamma World 4e, FATE, and a host of other systems. If I were feeling particularly ambitious, I might try to find a way to translate this film into the Pokemon Jr. or Faery's Tale systems and run sessions for the younger set.

7) The Movie Takes Time to Establish World Rules and So Should Your Game

Unlike your typical Vampire vs. Werewolf movie, I, Frankenstein doesn't have too many pre-constructed world rules that it can rely on its audience to know before they walk in the door. Sure, it can expect that the audience will know that Adam is Frankenstein's monster and is an animated corpse. Equally, it can count on the audience having some preconceptions about how demons operate. On the other hand, the film breaks from the demonic tradition in one very significant way and it had to create world rules for the Gargoyle Order. It manages to convey these world rules in the opening exposition and one or two reveals during the story and it's done in a fairly fluid matter. Demons can be "descended" by anything inscribed with the symbol of the Gargoyle Order as it is a holy symbol created by the archangel Michael. Gargoyles can only be harmed by creatures without souls, which seems to include only demons and Adam.

Most interestingly, demons cannot possess a body that contains a soul of its own. This is a pretty significant violation of the preconceptions that viewers might bring into the theater, but it is one that is central to the plot. Do you want to know why the demons are so interested in how Adam came to be? Let me clue you in: it's because animated corpses don't have souls and the demons would really like to finish this little war they've been having with the Gargoyle Order. This is also why the demons have had Terra experimenting with reanimating rats.

This one world rule sets the stakes for the adventure's conflict nicely. If you were ever looking for an example of how to incorporate the lives of one of your PCs into the nefarious plans of your villains, this is a pretty good template.

All of this praise might make you think that I believe I, Frankenstein is a great movie. It's not. It's clear that most of the actors in the film are phoning it in. Bill Nighy is a particular offender in this regard, though it should be noted that his performance is a fusion of his Underworld vampire lord and the burned out rocker he played in Love, Actually. As such, it adds a nice comic charm to the film. We also never get to see Yvonne Strahovski kick ass, and after years of Chuck this seems like a waste. There are other female characters - all Gargoyles - who do some damage to the Demon Horde, but the film is wasting a resource here.

But there is something about watching a scene where hundreds - if not a thousand or so - demons rain from the rooftops to do battle with a dwindling number of gargoyles. This is then immediately followed by hundreds of fiery explosions for the demons and pillars of upward bound blue flame when the gargoyles ascend.

All of which leaves one asking, "With firework displays like this, how is it that this war is happening 'in the shadows?'" The citizens of Battletown must either be blind, or have a lot of extremely festive celebrations.

When Miami Connection was initially released, it went completely unappreciated. Now it has a 73% Fresh rating. That happened because people decided to watch the movie for what it was. I imagine that as time passes and more people watch I, Frankenstein for what it is, more people will come to like the film. It's popcorn fun. I can definitely say that I don't think it will be the worst film of 2014.

I should have gone to see The Legend of Hercules...then again, I might have been hypnotized by Hercules' forgotten lightning powers. It seems Hercules is the real Lightning Thief.


Previously by Christian Lindke:

The 10 Best Superhero Role-Playing Games
From The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle to Dallas: 10 Strange Licensed RPGs
Ten Ways to Make a Dungeons & Dragons Movie Not Suck

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