Movie Trailers as Adventure Seeds

Film - Movie TrailersLike most GMs and writers, I’m always looking for inspiration. Sometimes it comes from within. Sometimes you have to go looking for it. And one place it occurred to me to look for such inspiration is in movie trailers.

I’m sure you’re wondering why use movie trailers. But if you think about it, they’re the perfect vehicle for getting plots, settings, and characters. In about 60-120 seconds, you get the rough outline for the setup of the story. Plenty of plot points to snag quickly. And you don’t get bogged down in all the details as you do when you watch the whole thing. Plus, and this is the key, without all the context your mind is more free to interpret what it sees and put things together in different ways.

Sure, you could watch the whole movie. Or the whole television program. Or read the whole book. But it’s too much information. You might get a few plot points here or there, but it’s a different beast entirely. For our purposes we want broad strokes and nothing more. The details just get in the way.

The steps are simple. Pick a trailer. Watch the trailer. Take some notes about key elements. Ponder the notes and turn them into an adventure idea.

Let’s start with an easy one. Take a trailer like the one for the movie Devil’s Pass (watch it here). I’m not a huge horror fan, but I find that just about any trailer can be broken into story elements around which a story could be built.

In this case, you get a few high points…

  1. A past expedition went to explore a mountain pass and disappeared
  2. A modern expedition is going to recreate the expedition /li>
  3. They arrive in the valley (snowy or otherwise) that the past expedition was heading to
  4. They get strange readings on their equipment
  5. They decide they don’t want to hang around, but it’s nearing nightfall and it’s too dangerous to leave
  6. In the night something/someone triggers an avalanche that they get hurt in but survive
  7. In the morning they are attacked by a group of people
  8. They find refuge in an old cave system or underground facility
  9. But something is in there with them that’s decidedly not friendly

Doesn’t this sound like a solid adventure for your PCs? I don’t even really have to massage it much.

Though the movie appears to be set largely in a wintery location in the mountains, it could easily be moved to just about any location. Perhaps somewhere isolated like a dark wooded area or a desert. Or even somewhere in space… a distant world, shipwreck, or whatever. Just about any group with a secret agenda might have a hidden location they’d rather not have someone bring to light could be the antagonists… And perhaps they have something truly evil in store.

As with all ideas, your imagination is the only limitation.

So you don’t think this is a one trick pony, let’s take another trailer… This time for the upcoming Jobs movie about Steve Jobs (watch it here). Not a movie I plan on seeing. And yes, this one is a little tougher to translate into something usable. 🙂

We can break it down into a few points:

  1. Jobs goes to college
  2. Jobs drops out of college
  3. Gets involved with girl
  4. Gets involved with Wozniac, who creates Apple I
  5. Businessman gets involved
  6. Apple gets big
  7. Jobs and Apple have fight
  8. Jobs fired
  9. Jobs finds himself again
  10. Jobs back at Apple making history

Let’s change it slightly and go with two wizards who went into business together to produce a better quality of magical items. Quality over variety or production. But when one wanted to change the company philosophy towards increasing production by making a deal with dark forces, the two parted ways. Years later, the wizard who left returns to find an empire in ruins because his partner had sold out to a demon. The second wizard asks the PCs to help find and stop his old friend, now corrupted beyond saving… Can they save the empire? Can they save his friend?

Not quite as clean a conversion, but I think I ended up with something usable. In fact, I may start doing a weekly challenge over at my Moebius Adventures blog to have folks submit movie trailers for me to try and massage into adventure plots!

What can YOU come up with? Pick a random movie trailer on the Internet and see! Be sure to put your adventure plots and the movie trailer link into your comments – we’d love to read them!

Brian “Fitz” Fitzpatrick is a Software Engineer who manages (or is that mangles) Game Knight Reviews and tinkers with writing game materials via his Moebius Adventures imprint. When he’s not writing about gaming, he’s actually gaming or at least thinking about gaming in some capacity. During the non-writing, non-gaming time he’s likely trying to keep up with his wife and two daughters or wrangling code for a living!