Lost is one of my favorite shows, and easily one of the best things on television. And every time I watch an episode, I think “Man, how cool would it be to play this?”
Lost puts deep, memorable characters in an unusual, high-intensity situation, and intersperses kickass character drama with bizarre occurrences, surprises and a backstory that’s still far from being clear after two seasons. It also uses flashbacks in every episode, and uses them well — they tie into the action, and they bring out new elements of whichever character they focus on.
In other words, it’s full of things that make roleplaying great — and that would be crazy-challenging to GM. So how about it — could Lost be made into an RPG? Is there already one out there that could handle all its curveballs, and not just in terms of mechanics? And am I right that it would be tough to GM?
Lost watches like a Primetime Adventures season so much it is incredible. I’m playing PTA right now while catching up on the second season and it is uncanny.
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
Some spoilers from Season 1 of Lost appear in this post.
I was thinking about a Lost RPG just the other night while my wife and I were finishing up Season 2 on DVD. I agree, it would be a blast to play, but a bear to GM!
A few thoughts. In the Eberron D&D setting, it is recommended that the DM “cheat” when incorporating an organization called “The Lords of Dust” in play. One of the Eberron supplements suggests that, as the Lords have been scheming for centuries, it is appropriate for the DM to wait until the players make plans, and then use their own knowledge of the players plans to represent the fact that the Lords of Dust have probably already come up with a counter-plan based on the player’s plans.
I think you’d have to do something very similar to GM “The Others” in a Lost-like RPG. Of course, to do this effectively, you’d have to understand the motives and goals of The Others, and you would have to make sure your players didn’t–you perhaps would have to forbid them from watching Lost!
You could go another route–without knowing the master plan of The Others, the GM could create her own branch of The Others, and create a plot that would run parallel to the main plot of the show. In this scheme, I’d run Jack, Locke, et. al as NPCs working on the shows plot, while the players run their characters on the game’s plot (which may or may not be influenced by what happens on the show).
In my imagination of this, the players are not the Jacks and Kates and Sawyers, but rather a group of people who have decided to go a bit independent. Of course, to use any resources controlled by the main group, interaction with the show’s main characters would be necessary.
This brings up another fun idea–what if you actually played the day after the show aired, and had to incorporate what happened in the show into your game? So, the GM’s plots would be ever-changing based on what happens in the show. For instance, perhaps during a first season session, one of the players is trying to get some information out of Boone. Boone makes a deal–if the players explore an area of the island, he’ll give them the information. While the players are away, Boone dies–and the GM has to figure out what to do with that!
You could apply this to a lot of shows–24, Alias, The Golden Girls :), I don’t know, I might need to try this!
I’m attempting to do just this. If you think about it, most Modules, in the beginning are designed around the lost concept. Characters dig into a dungeon, then find out they have unearted something that happened long ago. What it is, depends on how savy they are. Clues are dropped most all over the place.
I’ve been doing this for a while, with my players, they are digging up these dungeons, and several of them, have to do with a character named Juradain…
they run into some aspect of Juradain every time they go places. Currently, they are deciphering a journal that leands to many of Juradain’s former houses… and they are moving to head off an evil organization that wants Juradain’s stuff first.
This is pretty much the way I run most of my campaigns… Str4ange stuff happens , and the character try to figure out what’s going on, and why they are involved in it.
I don’t think that Lost really has the market cornered on that idea, but I do think that they manage to handle it very well.
Erekibeon – it may be in Spanish, but is muuy funny.
In Google translation, it sounds like Heblish we speak in game.
Someone really needs to translate this: a lot of the stupid characterization in Lost makes perfect sense if you realize that it’s just JJ Abrams’ players that are nuts.
Thank you, Dotan!! I made an effort to translate it. There are some SPOILERS, and sorry for my poor english!!
“Here, in a small coffer, lays the answer to one of the questions the humankind has made itself this year… “But how the f*** do they write the scripts of Lost?” It was send to us by an spy, was hidden by an air-hostess and a lesser demon (marketing) certified it’s authenticity. So here we have it. Each weekend J.J. Abrams and his friends meet to play a game of an RPG, and the mondays he uses his notes to write the scripts. We have been able to access to some of his notes, which we offer to you now.
The game starts. There is too many people. It can’t be any good…
Abrams: You are at the beach, the debris from the plane is scattered all around, you hear a strange noise coming from the forest, the trees are trembling… what do you do?
Jack: I stay still, watching to see if whatever it is comes out of the forest…
A: Ehm… no, it stays in the forest.
J: Then I’m going in. I look to the trees, searching for a trail
A: You don’t see any broken trees.
J: What? What are we facing? A giant Koala?
A: Definitely, it’s going to be a loooong looong game…
A: What are you doing, Locke?
L: I’m a top-class hunter, so I decide to go hunting…
A: Ehm… but you were seated in a wheelchair, don’t you remember? You chose a major defect to…
L: Ok, then… I change it! instead I choose a Scar on the face…
A: With only that…
L: And Madness!!! I’m starting to say that the island is alive…
A: Ok, ok, whatever…
A: Some people are retrieving objects, somebody else is carrying away things… what do you do, Shannon?
S: I pour suntan oil on my skin and go sunbathing
A: And… THAT’S ALL??
A: Ok, it’s over. The next time somebody ask me “May I bring my sister to the game?” I will send him… hey, would you mind STOP HITTING ON SAYID??!!!
A: Well… what are you doing, Sawyer?
S: I gather everything I can..
A: Very good
S: … and I keep it for myself.
S: It’s clear, I’m a rogue
A: But… but… but…
A: Ok, the Marshall is dying, what do you do?
Sawyer: I shoot him.
A: WHAT? ok, throw the dice..
A: ufff… a 7, you managed to shoot him, but it’s not enough to kill him. What do you do?
S: I’m going out to bring the doctor.
A: You’re doing it on purpose…
A: Ok, make a dice roll on the encounter table…
A: You find a Polar Bear!!
Kate: Ehm… in a tropical island?
A: You too? Ok, do you want to face the encounter table too?
K: Ok, ok, a Polar Bear…
A: So… you find a place full of corpses.
Jack: Can you describe it?
A: Well… it’s like a little cavern… there are rocks… water… and corpses.
J: Ok, I try the water to find if it’s drinkable…
A: But… the corpses… I… well, make a roll…
A: yes, it’s drinkable.
J: yihaa!! We now have a place to refuge!!
A: And… and the corpses?
J: well, they DON’T need a refuge…
A: Ok, Jin, is your turn to act…
J: I talk to…
A: You can’t and you know it… you wanted a yakuza ninja, isn’t it? and you didn’t care about the languages, so PUT UP WITH IT!!!
J: But… what about my ninja bike?
A: IT WAS IN THE PLANE!!! BWA-HA-HA!!!
A: Well, Charlie, what do you do?
C: Humm… I’m a rock star, so I get my guitar and…
A: ahm… you DON’T have a guitar.
C: How is it possible? I’m a rock star, I MUST have a guitar..
C: Maybe I found one in the plane…
C: Or maybe I’ll find one searching around here…
C: GUYYYYYYY… I’m a Rock Star!!!!!
A: Make a “find object” roll …
C: Yes!!!! Natural twenty!!!
A: Sigh… you look up and see your guitar hanging from a branch of a tree.
A: Well, guys, don’t want to hurry you, but… this is our eighth session and still nobody… ehem… has mapped the island…
Jack: let Sayid do it.
S: Ey, no way, I’m always doing that kind of things. Leave it for one of the chicks…
Shannon: Not me, I’m not entirely tanned…
Kate: I won’t.
Claire: I’m pregnant, maybe Locke should do it.
Locke: Impossible, Locke is a great hunter, he has to find hedgehogs and kill them… and we are forty survivors.
A: Talking about it, maybe you should talk with an NPC…
L: Locke don’t want to. He thinks we shouldn’t grow affect towards them…
A: Just in case they die?
L: Just in case we run off of hogs..
A: Ehm… well, ok, whatever.
A: Ok, Hurley, everybody is divided between the two camps, the tension is growing. Sayid has already left, and you still have no idea about the secrets of the island. What do you do?
H: I organize a golf tournament.
H: Of course, I got “Obesity” only to get “Skill with golf clubs” so…
A: Crazy, you all are crazy!!
A: Ok, Sayid, you managed to free yourself from your kidnapper. What do you do?
S: I get all the maps… and the music box!!
S: Maybe it can be useful for fixing the transmitter…
A: AND WHY DON’T YOU USE HURLEY’S DISCMAN??
S: I keep the music box to fix the electronic thing.
A: You are going to trail Ethan, who has kidnapped Charlie and Claire. The group is formed by Locke, Jack and Boone…
Kate: And me…
K: I can trail too.
A: B-but why?
K: Look, it’s written down in my character sheet, when I was a kid…
A: I’m tired of flashbacks, of you reading me your character sheets everytime!!! If I wanted to read your f*** sheets I would have started the game from there!!
K: But it’s written down and you gave it your approbation…
A: who, me? What did I drink?
A: You finally find Ethan. What do you do, Jack?
J: I…. fight him barehanded.
A: sling the dice…
A: ouch, a fumble. He not only beats the crap of you but you still manage to hit yourself against the floor… when you stand up you see Charlie hanged..
J: what a novelty
A: …from a tree branch.
Charlie: Eh, I could have defeated Ethan!!
A: oh, really? are you sure, Mr. I-sacrifice-constitution-points-to-be-a-rockstar? Look, I’m making a roll… Oooohh, Jack can’t do anything. You’re dead.
C: What?? It can’t be!!!
A: Oh, yes, it can be.
C: But… but… but… we are friends, give me an opportunity!
A: No. You’re dead. End. Get a new sheet.
C: But guy, I haven’t used any bard spell..
C: How is the group going to survive without its hobbit?
A: No. And, remember, this is NOT the Lord of the Rings.
J: C’mon, buddy, give him a chance… mark his sheet and the next one is the last one…
A: Hummpff… make a roll.
J: Natural twenty!! HE’S SAVED!!
A: I’m beginning to hate this campaign…
A: Ok, Claire couldn’t make it today, so we are going to leave her plot in the air. Everybody is ok with it?
A: I expected it…
A: Ok, Boone, Locke, you find something… a hatch on the floor. What do you do?
L: Locke thinks that he should… stay there, staring at it.
B: If Locke thinks that, I back him.
A: But… but.. aren’t you going to try to open it?
B: Yes, sure… there must be traps and since the poor Boone is so important…
A: Aren’t you going to do anything???
A: You’re trying to undermine my moral… that’s your game…
A: Ok, you find a case, and it seems it’s yours. What do you do?
Kate: I don’t want it.
Sawyer: May I keep it?
K: Oh, yes.
A: But… but… Kate, your story… your plot… that caseeeeeeee…
K: Oh… yes… well… give me it back, Sawyer.
S: No way, what’s given it’s not returned.
A: Argh!!! Why do I bother to create subplots?
A: Ok, Michael, what do you do?
M: I’m an architect, so I’m going to design something to get us out of the island… using scraps from the plane.
A: But… you’re an architect…
A: How are you going…? Ok, don’t mind, whatever.
A: Ok, you finally confront Ethan. Surprisingly Jack has rolled some awesome rolls so you have him against the floor. What do you do?
J: I aim my gun to him and I interrogate him
L: I aim my gun to him and I interrogate him
K: I aim my gun to him and I interrogate him
C: I SHOOT HIM!!
A: What?? But… but… he… he could be an information source… he could..
C: I SHOOT HIMMM!!!
A: sob.. sob… roll initiative..
C: Yes, I won!! I act first, bang, bang, die you motherf***
J: Abrams, my friend, please stop crying…”
I think that a game like Lost could be done as an RPG. I think that you have to build in a few things.
The action of the show is 50% on the island and 50% in flashbacks. Doing the flashbacks would have to be written carefully so that would contribute to the main sessions.
As a GM, you would have to work out several of the answer to the reason for the island, so that you could properly set what happens on the island, and be able to react to anything the players do.
You would also need to plot how how the players relate to one another and how their pasts crossed. One of the best things about the flashbacks is that you see how the other characters may have been near or involved in each others lives; like how Desmond gets the Sailboat.
The game would work under most mechanics, but I would (despite my love of the d20) use a more diceless and more dramatic system, as the action in the show, is not really critical. There are no military ambushes and such in the game. There is an occasional exchange of gunfire, but drama drives how that is resolved. The game is more about social interactions, as well as personal exploration.
As a GM, I would work quite hard to build very deep dramatic characters, who have all had some profound life experiences, before they crashed. If you notice none of the characters that we have met on the island have had a “normal” life. Because of that, their landing on the island has altered their already extraordinary lives, making their personal exploration the most interesting element of the story.
I would want a system that would allow for the creation of a background like that, and a mechanism to reward players who played within their background and personality, as well as rewarded them for the evolution and resolution of various personal elements in their lives.
Then I would dump them on that crazy island, and while forcing them to live those characters, would drop layer upon layer of mystery on them.
BTW, if someone knows a system like the one I described above, please let me know. I just might play something like this.
Judd: PTA came to mind for me as well, but I’m curious specifically about how it would handle the trickier aspects of Lost — mainly the flashbacks and the “WTF is going on?” factor.
Charlie: I like the approach you outlined — that sounds pretty solid. Personally, though, after watching the first two seasons I still don’t know the Others’ master plan! I’d have to make a conscious decision to either a) take your “adapt to the show” approach, b) make up my own plan (in which case, would it really be Lost?) or c) wait until the show actually ends — the whole show. 😉
Jay and Nenad: I see what you’re getting at about “strange stuff happens” not being all that unusual in RPGs — but what about the depth and variety of the strange stuff in the show? As a player, I think playing Lost has the potential to be very frustrating — unlike many other RPGs, the party is in control of very little, and would be baffled a lot of the time. I can only handle bafflement for so long as a player. 😉
Erekibeon: Ooooooh, cool link! That’s some great reading material — thank you!
Phil: At the end of your comment, I was asking myself the same question — does this system exist? 😉 I agree with the high notes you addressed (and that said system would have to address), I’m just not sure it’s out there.
Can anyone with Primetime Adventures (PTA) experience confirm whether or not PTA is the magic bullet for Lost: The RPG?
That sounds pretty neat, John — it could even be a fun exercise just to try it once, for an evening. And it does sound like it could work well for Lost.