I’ve had the pleasure of playing two sessions of Ian Williams‘ Action Movie World (paid link), and this game fucking delivers on every front.
It’s designed to play like a cheesy action movie made from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s, and it does exactly what it says on the tin. The two movies we’ve played were “Major Heat,” a low-budget cop movie starring Maj. Heat, and “Danger Force 2: More Dangerous,” an even lower-budget Predator-esque “Delta Force vs. aliens who look like Krang” flick. Both were a hoot.
Get to the chopper
AMW is a self-contained Powered by the Apocalypse game — all you need is this one book. At 120 pages, it’s a quick, fun read, but it’s not fluff: This is a solid, thorough, focused, and exceedingly good game.
What drew me to it was this excerpt from the foreword, which someone (I’ve forgotten who, sorry!) posted on G+. It’s one of the best summaries of a game I’ve ever read, and it’s an excellent litmus test. Does this sound fun?
This is a stupid roleplaying game. That’s not to say that there is not an examination of action movies going on within this book. It is to say that this examination probably shouldn’t be foremost in your mind as you settle down for a game. Just be dumb when you’re playing this. Dumb and loud and happy.
If so, and especially if you like movies like Commando, Total Recall, Bloodsport, Universal Soldier, or others in that vein, AMW will likely be right up your apple cart.
See you at the party, Richter
AMW plays out in about two hours, and — no surprise — works great as a one-shot. You play an actor playing a character, and choosing your actor is a lot of fun. When the movie title, and the niche within the broader genre into which it fits, start to come together at the table — collaboratively, of course — it all clicks into place, and you’re off and running.
But there’s an ongoing campaign option, too, and it sounds intriguing. You earn XP, but remember: You’re playing an actor. It’s the actor who earns it, not the characters she plays.
Want to play again? Spend that XP, pick a new genre, and play the same actor playing a new character in a new movie. (My group has also talked about doing this without retaining playbooks, so I might play Arnie in two movies, but as the Musclehead once and the Smartass another time, which also sounds fun.)
Don’t disturb my friend, he’s dead tired
The rules suggest actors who are a good match for each playbook, and the book is full of clever touches like this.
In every session, you choose a lead; the lead can’t die, and is the only one who can kill the movie’s Big Bad. Everyone else is expendable.
The Director (MC) gets movie-specific moves, as do the PCs. And every move I’ve seen, from the basic ones to the scripts we’ve used to the playbooks I’ve played, has been spot-on. This game knows exactly what it wants, and bends every word of its rules towards that end.
I could go on — and on — because there’s not a single sour note here, just well-executed cleverness that makes being loud and dumb and happy extremely easy at the table.
Action Movie World (paid link) fucking rocks on toast.
 I assume you can also play an actor playing a dude disguised as another dude.
 [Inception horn]
The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.