We had a quick conversation with Ian Williams about ACTION MOVIE WORLD: First Blood. This is a great introduction to AMW.
What is ACTION MOVIE WORLD: First Blood?
AMW is a game about action movies. That's a deliberately chosen wording. It's about the kind of action you see in those types of movies, yes, but it's also about the actors who play them. It's about how they're typecast and specialized, how often times the best of those movies are the silliest. It's a game where you get to blow things up, have love scenes, and die a lot with no long term consequences. It's rad.
It sounds rad. What's this about the actors? And how do you use typecasting in the game?
So you play actors. That's what you'd consider your character in most RPGs. No matter what, you're that actor. But you play a character in a movie, and that changes. A campaign is several movie, with each movie being 1-3 sessions long. So if real life were ACTION MOVIE WORLD, you would create Sylvester Stallone as a Thespian, but then you (Person playing Stallone) would play Rocky Balboa for a one session movie before playing Rambo for a two session flick.
Typecasting is super important in the game. Most actors strive for versatility; they dread being typecast and want to show their chops across a variety of roles. Not action movie folks. Getting typecast means you're enhancing your personal brand. So, in game, you pick a specific"type" of actor to play, called a Playbook, with the types being real world types of action star. So you have the Musclehead, who's the big, beefy guy, and the Pugilist, who's your martial arts type, etc.
What about Scripts? How do they work?
A Script works kind of like a Playbook for movies. It's the same thing transposed onto genre. You can break action movies down into some pretty simple, almost always applicable categories. So you and your friends get together, you want to play AMW. You each pick a Playbook and then you communally settle on a type of movie to play; that's your Script. It might be a cop movie or ninja flick, whatever. You play that movie and you get abilities and pointers which are only in effect for the duration of that specific movie. When it's over, you pick or create a new Script and keep going.
Why did you decide to use the Apocalypse World engine for this game?
The Apocalypse World engine just feels very flexible and accessible to me. The idea of moves lets you really compartmentalize and define what's important about a specific kind of fiction. And it makes for really interesting, sometimes difficult choices in the act of play. There are a lot of Powered by the Apocalypse games out there these days, but there's a reason for that: Vincent Baker's system has really allowed for some language around and inside of games. I wanted to be a part of that and it was a logical choice once I figured out what sort of fiction I wanted the game to be about.
Do you have a favorite Script? Is one kind of action movie more iconic than the others?
The Ninja Movie. It's so silly while also being action packed, just like actual ninja movies! I don't know that you can pick a specific subgenre of action movie which is especially iconic. Instead, I think the most iconic action movies are the ones about love and friendship. Really crudely, violently expressed friendship, but friendship all the same. Those are the best.
In the text of the game, you talk about the Pugilist Playbook working particularly well with the Fighting Tournament Script. Are there any other surprisingly good combinations?
The Yeller with anything. In playtesting, Yellers were always amazing. They either immediately fell into a well-worn role within the context of a given movie or broke free in really unexpected ways. Always have a Yeller at your table, trust me.
There's been talk of this game for some time. What took it so long to come out?
I'm busy! I write about video games full time and have taken a freelance gig as Vice Sports' pro wrestling guy, so that eats up a lot of time. I go to school and also do just enough other game design to make an all out effort on just AMW pretty difficult. I'm really happy it's out now and I hope people enjoy it.
Pro wresting? Do you like pro wrestling for the same reasons you like action movies? Or are your loves separate? And which one was a better use of the late Rowdy Roddy Piper?
Maybe! I mean, pro wrestling is drama plus live action stunts, so there's definitely overlap. But pro wrestling always has this strange thing going on where the line between reality and fiction is always blurry. So that's not like action movies. And believe it or not, I think movies are the better use of Piper. Don't get me wrong: the man was a legend in the ring. But I think They Live is one of the all-time great action movies and maybe John Carpenter's best work. And I love John Carpenter. Piper was so good in that it's hard to process, because he mostly just did Hell Comes to Frogtown.
What's your favorite action movie? Is there one you love to hate?
Samurai Cop is my Z grade answer, Kickboxer is my serious answer. Samurai Cop is like an unfiltered look into the mind of someone who only has a garbled version of Lethal Weapon as a frame of reference for American pop culture. Kickboxer because I'm just a massive, unironic JCVD fan. As for love to hate, I have a weird relationship with Stallone. Something about him just annoys the hell out of me, but I can't ever look away.
What was the movie that made you fall for JCVD? And what's his worst movie, according to his biggest fan?
Bloodsport. Kickboxer is my favorite movie of his, but you saw Bloodsport and you just stopped. It was so well shot and JCVD was so fresh. Equal parts kind of awkward and humble while feeling legitimately dangerous and badass. It's kind of hard to describe with so much time having passed and him becoming JCVD the Character in real life, but there really wasn't anyone quite like him. Plus it had Bolo Yeung.
As for worst, I'm going to say Double Impact. Anytime you have someone playing twins, it sucks. That includes The Parent Trap (sorry Haley Mills). Funnily, my friend Bob's mother was convinced that there were "Van Damme Twins". She hated that movie and would tell Bob how much she hates those Van Damme Twins all the time.
What other games are you into right now?
My group is getting ready to run a campaign of 5e; I get to actually play that one. We just wrapped Mutant Year Zero, which is just an amazing game. And generally I love Cubicle 7's stuff to death; their new Lone Wolf game looks great and I think The One Ring is the best game of this century.