Tag: game adaptions

 

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Continuing Lost in Translation‘s look at adapting tabletop gaming settings, let’s jump into the future, a future where mankind has been at war somewhere in the galaxy for several hundred years. A future where feudal lords vie for control of all human space. Welcome to BattleTech.

Lost in Translation has covered the BattleTech animated series. While the series had issues, it did show off the then-current Clan Invasion metaplot the game was going through. In universe, the cartoon is anti-Clan propaganda by the Lyran owned Tharkad Broadcasting Company, with the characters based on real people in the setting. The BattleTech setting has several hundred years of history, providing a number of eras of play for players, from the Aramis Civil War and the end of the Star League in the late 2700s, the four Succession Wars, the Clan Invasion of the 3050s, the FedCom Civil War of the 3060s, and the Word of Blake Jihad of 3067. Conflict is built into the setting.

BattleTech has something few other tabletop games provide, giant stompy mechs fighting each other. No matter what form the adaptation takes, the draw will be war machines stomping their enemies into paste. The MechWarrior series of video games has focused on putting the player into the pilot seat of a BattleMech, controlling one of the engines of war. The recent BattleTech video game puts the action at the lance level, giving the player control of four `Mechs to fight against enemy units.

The question becomes, what level should an adaptation look at? Will the adaptation follow a lance of ‘Mech pilots getting in over their heads? Or will it take a top level approach, using the different Houses and their machinations to become the one ruling the known galaxy? Are the Clans threatening to invade, a threat not yet looming, or a pacified enemy that is now in competition with the Great Houses?

At the lance level, the best choice of unit is mercenary. House units tend to be in garrison unless either the war arrives on their world or they’re sent to the front. Mercenaries have more choice on what sort of job they take. In film, it’s almost traditional that the hired guns aren’t told the full story about what they’re getting into. The plot could be taken from other genres, from heists to Westerns. The smaller cast allows for more focus on just the unit, not worrying about the politics going on at the galactic level.

However, with the Great Houses, it’s possible for a BattleTech version of A Game of Thrones, The five Great Houses – Steiner, Davion, Kurita, Liao, and Marek – along with some Minor Houses such as Centralla of the Magistracy of Canopus, Calderon of the Taurian Concordat, and O’Reilly of the Marian Hegemony. Not only is there conflict between the Houses, there is conflict within the Houses. Conflict that bleed out to the battlefield, fought by BattleMechs. To continue the comparison with A Game of Thrones, the Clans can represent the White Walkers, lurking, ready to strike.

The Clans provide yet another approach to the setting. The Clans themselves are alien in thinking to the Inner Sphere, but they are still human. The differences is how Clan culture evolved, with scarcity, ritualized combat to prevent unnecessary losses of MechWarriors, and a stratified caste structure placing warriors at the pinnacle. Following a Star, the Clan equivalent of a lance, of new MechWarriors as they fight for position in Clan society, figuratively and literally, and dealing with how the Inner Sphere does things provides a conflict to build a plot on.

Suffice to say, BattleTech provides a wide range of potential for adaptations. The catch, like with most tabletop games, is that the game isn’t widely known. The video games, however, give the setting a boost in recognition. The other problem is the expense of special effects. The animated series had a limited number of BattleMechs for use during the enhanced imaging portions of a battle. Granted, the cartoon came out when CGI was in its infancy; it’s possible to have more models available for scenes now, especially if there’s assistance from the video games. Introducing the setting to a new audience shouldn’t be difficult; all works need to go through that, especially genre fiction, original or adapted.

BattleTech has a rich setting to plunder for adaptations, with the only common factor being oversized walking tanks ruling the battlefield. The BattleMechs are the draw; the story is what will keep the audience. Getting the existing fans onside shouldn’t be difficult, especially with the volumes written about all the factions that exist within the setting. A studio just has to choose an approach.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Lost in Translation has covered a Dragonlance adaptation, the 2008 animated film, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, based on the novel by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, which itself was based on the DL-series of modules released starting in 1982. The published adventures and the novels covered the War of the Lance as the heroes, Tanis Half-Elven, Raistlin and Caramon Majere, Goldmoon, Riverwind, Flint Fireforge, Tasslehoff Burrfoot, Sturm Brightblade, and, later, Tika Waylan, work to unite the nations of Krynn and recover the fabled Dragonlances, magical weapons capable of killing dragons. The story is an epic battle between good and evil, where gods walk the world.

The animated film showed the problems of trying to fit a novel into a ninety minute movie. The movie was accurate, but lost details and depth trying to get as much story on screen as possible. However, the world of Dragonlance, Krynn, has much more to it than shown in the novels. Game settings need a world for players to adventure in, even if the novels’ heroes are doing the heavy lifting. The setting includes two elven nations at odds with each other; the Silvanesti being insular and hidebound compared to the Qualinesti, who are hostile to outsiders. Yet, there’s room to deal with the corruption of the Silvanesti by the green dragon Beryl. Evil isn’t just afoot, it’s on the march.

There’s several ways to adapt the Dragonlance setting. The obvious one is to adapt the novels and learn the lessons from the 2008 animated movie. The core of the novels is the interaction between the characters; this draws from each character being played during playtesting of the modules. Film run times, even the longer ones at 150-180 minutes, don’t have the space for deep characterization, especially with a large cast. Add in battle scenes and there’s even less time for character moments. However, as A Game of Thrones demonstrated, television has the time to delve into a larger cast of characters. Unlike A Game of Thrones, the War of the Lance is complete. No waiting for the next book to be written.

Another option is to have new characters in a different part of Krynn as they fight in the War of the Lance. The drawback will be that the adaptation won’t have the characters fans are familiar with. However, DC Comics did have a short-lived Dragonlance comic in 1988 that featured new characters. Again, the best route would be television; a movie’s run time won’t be enough to get the background info across without taking away from screen time for the main plot.

If a film adaptation is needed, the best approach would be to break down each book to find good break points. This will turn a three book series into a six movies or more, but the loss of what the fans want will be minimized. The large cast will still be an issue, but might be handled better with the run times of half a dozen films.

The setting has a history and a future. Works have been set before the Cataclysm that marked the withdrawal of the gods from the world; others have been set after the War of the Lance. Dragonlance Legends involved magical time travel, so there are possibilities. The drawback is introducing the setting to a broader audience. Fans will know what the Cataclysm is; someone new to the setting won’t.

Dragonlance is a popular setting, with a greater success through the novels released, There is a fan base, but the setting can be closed to a more general audience. A successful adaptation will have to take the characters fans love and introduce the plot in a way that doesn’t leave the broader audience scratching their heads.

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