Last week I started breaking down The Faculty to see how it works as a School Daze session. I got through the character introductions and the setup for the main plot of the movie. That’s where I’m going to pick up this week. In the intervening time, though, I realized something. It’s a simple, basic thing, but it informs how RPG adventures are set up. It especially informs how School Daze sessions should be run.
As a side note, The Faculty is a sci-fi/horror movie, and the tools I give below will be for mapping that kind of movie to School Daze. As this series progresses, I’ll adapt those same tools to other genres of high school, movie.
Scripted Moments vs. Reactionary Ones
Movies are written to take you on a journey. You’re along for the ride and as an audience member you don’t get to participate. For all that you might yell at the screen or engage in a meta performance a la Rocky Horror Picture Show, your actions don’t affect what’s happening on the screen. The movie progresses without regard for your actions.
Obviously, RPGs are different than that. RPGs are completely participatory. As your character takes actions, you shape the plot, and you have a hand in telling the overall story. A good Administrator for School Daze will take those actions into account and will use them to weave together a story.
What both movies and games have in common is moments. This is especially true for high school movies, and it’s what I wanted School Daze to accomplish when people play it. High school is a fraught time for a lot of people. There’s a lot of change, there’s a lot that’s transitioning, but it’s still this static time that almost everyone can relate to in some way. High school movies draw on both of those things. They give you character moments like The Nerd Stands up to the Bully, the Girl or Guy Kisses the Guy or Girl, the Senior Party. These kinds of moments have become iconic, and they define the genre.
School Daze says that “everyone knows how high school movies go.” It leans on that to make the game work. So if you’re running the game, you need to know what Moments (going to start capitalizing that now, like a game term) you want to see at the table. Let’s get back to The Faculty for a look at some of the Moments in that movie.
Casey, our nerdy kid, discovers something on the football field that he doesn’t recognize. He takes it to the science teacher. The teacher discovers it’s a new kind of life form, one that thrives in water. We also get a creepy-cool moment of the creature putting out tendrils to that map along the surface of one of the student’s hands.
This Moment is kind of kickoff of the plot of the movie for the students. Everything that had a student in it before was set-up for who their characters are. As a School Daze Administrator, this is where you would start showing bits and pieces of your plot to the Students. One or two of the Students discover something odd, weird, or out of the ordinary that begins to move the story forward.
The Discovery (Pt. 2)
Stan, the Jock, goes to shower after practice? Gym? We’re not sure, but he gets in the shower. One of the older teachers, a woman, comes into the shower. She’s naked and babbling about needing help. Stan reaches out for her, and she collapses into his arms. He touches her head and a large piece of hair and skin comes off in his hand. Gross.
This is another vector into the weirdness, but it’s one that Stan can explain away. You don’t need a Moment like this, but it’s helpful to the story to have one or two of your Students be skeptical about the weirdness you’re introducing.
During this Moment, Delilah and Casey go into the Teacher’s Lounge to get info for a story for the school newspaper. They end up having to hide in the closet where they find the body of the teacher that Stan encountered in the shower. They also see the already-converted teachers infect the school nurse, making her one of them.
Now the Students know something is off. They can begin gathering their resources and trying to figure out what to do about the problem of the possessed teachers. At this point, you’ve probably got some Students who are still skeptical, or who don’t know about the overall plot. The Faculty handles this with:
The Reveal (Pt. 2)/A Solution/Coming Together
All of our main characters end up in the Science room, either because they’re going there for help, or they overhear the weirdness and come in to interrupt/investigate. Casey tells the Science Teacher that they think the teachers are being taken over. Casey also asks the Science Teacher where the creature (which had been in the water tank) is. The teacher then locks the door and attempts to possess the kids. They fight back, and we find out that Zeke’s drug (which he smuggles to school inside of fake pens) will kill the beings.
This Moment takes the Reveal and adds some new, necessary elements. One of the best parts of a good high school movie is when Students who “aren’t supposed to be together” because of social status, wealth, brains, cliques, etc. are forced into situations where they have to work together. These students are the only ones who know about the real problem. They’re the ones that need to solve it. So they head to Zeke’s for…
The Plan/Who’s Real?
At Zeke’s they experiment to figure out how they can fight back. They infect one of Zeke’s rats and then dissect it to see what they creature does. They find it needs water, lots of it. That’s why Zeke’s drug kills them: it dries them out. Then we’ve got Stokely, who links things up and suggests that like her sci-fi books, there might be a Queen to kill. And of course we have the sub-Moment of Who’s Real, meaning that everyone has to take a hit of Zeke’s drug to show that they’re not infected by the alien beings.
This is the point during a School Daze session where the Moments an Administrator might plan begin to take a back seat to the Moments the players are going to come up with. When the Students in your game get together and make The Plan, whether the Administrator is privy to it or not, this is when the Students need to go forth and accomplish things. What the Administrator needs to do it throw in Twists.
The Uneven Road
Twists happen when it looks like things are one way, but they’re really another. In The Faculty the end has one major Twist, and a few minor ones. The students figure that the Queen alien must by the Principal. So they go and confront her at the school during the football game. They reason that since everyone in town goes to the game, it would be a perfect time for the aliens to infect everyone. They do confront the principal, and kill her.
The group keeps getting separated, each one getting infected. The big Twist is that Maybeth, the nice new girl, was the Queen all along! A chase ensues, Marybeth explains the entire plot to both the remaining students and the audience, and then Casey manages to trap her in the bleachers. He administers the drug, kills the Queen, and everyone is back to normal. Hooray!
In a session of School Daze, all of those elements could play out any number of ways. If an Administrator were planning this movie as a session, they would need to know one thing, specifically: who is the Queen? That’s the major Twist, and the other, minor twists in the end of this movie are set up because of it. If you know who the Queen is, then you can distract, mislead, and make the ending of the session much more memorable.
That’s all assuming that you’ve come up with your Moments in advance. Most often, I improvise my sessions of School Daze, and there’s a big difference between planning Moments ahead of time, and coming up with them on the fly. And that’s what we’ll talk about next week.
In the meantime, what other high school movies would you like me to break down? Let me know in the comments.
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