Sunday, January 11, 2015

Big Trouble in Little China: Niche protection and intraparty balance

Big Trouble in Little China is a neat little urban fantasy/martial arts movie that reads like a dungeon delve in movie form. In fact, the whole set-up is very easily adaptable to your dungeon exploration game of choice (like AD&D in modern times). The other big thing that clicked when I was watching the move besides "this is a great dungeon, I should swipe it" was that the two protagonists, Wang Chi and Jack Burton, demonstrate a good example of balancing party dynamics and giving each character a chance to shine.

The two protagonists of Big Trouble in Little China are Wang Chi and Jack Burton. Wang is a fairly straightforward martial artist. Jack is what most roleplayers would call a rogue-type build that focus on non-combat skills.

Every time Jack and Wang get into a combat situation Jack turns into a bumbling oaf while kicks ass. By the same token, when non-combat challenges such as scaling a scaffold, getting out of tied ropes, or catching a knife, Jack is the star of the show while Wang is out of his element.

What makes it work is that Jack and Wang can't succeed without each other. Without Wang, Jack gets punched or shot to death by a random mook. Without Jack, Wang gets thrown into a torture chamber and killed.

It's a nice outside look at how a roleplaying game dynamic should work.

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