Sunday, March 17, 2013
Mazes and Monsters... better than nothing, I guess.
The next time we have to cancel a session on short notice because of last minute excuses from some of the more fair weather gamers in our weekly RPG group... we're watching Mazes and Monsters! That's what I told Harold. He was all for it since neither of us have ever seen the 1982 movie about the perils of roleplaying starring Tom Hanks and some other people. So, that's what we did last night.
It wasn't bad. Sort of what I expected while not being what I expected, too. Mazes and Monsters struck a decent balance between the lives of typical college students and what some people must imagine Dungeons & Dragons to be like since they've never actually played it. The line about blurring fantasy and reality hit home because deep down I believe that's what makes a terrific game. But that doesn't mean players believe they're master swordsmen once they leave the table.
Some elements were interesting, such as "You play Mazes and Monsters? What level? 9? Awesome, that means you can create your own fantasy world Maze!" Or something to like that. Harold and I wished there had been more "actual play" in the movie because the footage we saw was over-the-top and kind of ominous - dark room lit only by candles, the Maze Controller reminding everyone that "Your lives are in my hands", and later the costumes with fantasy paraphernalia worn in the caverns. Why Maze Controller? Why not Maze Master or Master of the Maze?
The fact that the M&M group was rather fanatical about playing was pretty cool. I was able to dimly recall the obsession some of us had about roleplaying back in the day. Not so much these days. Now, I'm lucky to have three players seated at my table once a week. Of course, our campaign is new and I've been out of touch with the local gaming scene for a couple years.
As for the last half of the film, it kept me entertained, and I was interested to see what was going to happen next. The girl M&M player gets around! Nice. When the cops started asking questions, it felt like games like D&D were on the verge of being outlawed. Rather than focusing on any inherent Satanism within M&M, the movie zeroed in on psychological distress and working through emotional problems at the risk of making them worse. M&M added fuel to Tom Hanks' flame. The last few minutes were pretty damn unrealistic, even if we assume that roleplaying games are potentially damaging to those on the edge of sanity.
At least I can say that I've seen it. Not sure I need to ever see it again. Would I recommend it to others? Sure, if you're into roleplaying games, I suppose you could do a lot worse. Overall, Mazes and Monsters was gratuitous enough to get the juices flowing, but clearly the story departs from realism here and there. I guess that's it. Still annoyed that we didn't play last night. I suppose Jay Jay and I have that in common. Definitely not the hat wearing...