Keep your Eyes on the Road

A fast and furious tabletop roleplaying game

This post is somewhere between a game and game design. It started as satire, not sure where it’s ended up. Eventually I’ll make a version 2 that is more of a typical ttrpg.

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

It’s an obscure time that could be anywhere between 1970 and now. That’s not important. What’s important is cars and family.

This game is intended for a crew that’s played a couple ttrpgs before, if not then your mileage may vary. You can use dice if you want, d6’s are fun, but use whatever. You at least need to know that the Fast and Furious franchise exists.

How to Play

Characters drive the game. Play is structured into sequences, which tell the story of family. This is the end goal, all roads lead to family.

What’s a Sequence?

This section is based around the ideas from Paul Gulin’s book: “Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach”.

According to Paul Gulin:

“A typical two-hour film is composed of sequences—eight- to fifteen-minute segments that have their own internal structure—in effect, shorter films built inside the larger film.”

He also explains that:

“The difference between a sequence and a stand-alone fifteen-minute film is that the conflicts and issues raised in a sequence are only partially resolved within the sequence, and when they are resolved, the resolution often opens up new issues, which in turn become the subject of subsequent sequences.”

If you are still confused then maybe The White Stripes can explain it better than I can:

This is a similar concept to Dreaming Dragonslayer’s posts on scenes (linked here).

So you have a sequence. Conflicts and issues are raised in the sequence. They’re only partially resolved and their resolution often opens up new issues which are addressed in future sequences.

How do I make a Sequence?

Here are some tips:

  • What’s the sequence about?
  • What’s it really about?
  • Sequence length = how much you care x number of characters in the scene

Ultimately the goal of each sequence in a screenplay is to engage the audience. In the case of a ttrpg, we want to engage the players. Paul Gulin gives us some tools to do so (starting from weakest to strongest):

Telegraphing: This is where you explicitly tell the audience what would happen in the future. This could be saying where you’re headed next, getting into a car or plane, etc. Related to this is the idea of a ticking clock or a deadline. You can also do what he calls “False Telegraphing”, when what you telegraph doesn’t happen. A twist.

Pretty standard “how stories work”, ticking clocks and deadlines are interesting though and are a good way to create some tension/pressure.

Dangling Cause: Cause and effect, but you let the effect dangle for a while.

Choices having consequences, but the consequences aren’t seen right away. You’re creating anticipation.

Dramatic Irony: Omniscient narration, when you know more than the characters.

In ttrpgs this might be considered meta-gaming. Sometimes this can lead to powerful moments when you know it’s a bad idea to do something, but you do it anyway because that’s what your character would do.

Dramatic Tension: Somebody wants something badly and is having a hard time getting it. Also someone trying to escape something, but having a hard time doing so.

This is the juice. It’s the gasoline that makes the car go. Have your characters want something badly and make sure they have a hard time getting it.

This sounds an awful lot like character growth.

How do you do a character growth?

How to do a character growth

  • What does the character want?
  • What do they actually need?
  • Do they figure out what they need?
  • What happens if they don’t?

This is also called a character arc.

Always remember: this isn’t about heists, it’s not about street races, and it sure as shit isn’t about cars. These are only ever analogies for what is really important.

Character Creation

You can be an undercover cop, a street racer, really whatever you want, it doesn’t matter. What matters is cars and family.

Cars and Family

Actually cars don’t matter either, it’s all about family.

Cars and Family

Your character either starts out with a family or they don’t.

If you’re starting out with a family the sequence that introduces your character should be with your family and you should be having dinner together or hanging out being a family.

If you don’t start out with a family your starting sequence can be whatever.

Either way, come up with some dramatic tension for your character or pick one from the list below. This is what your character wants and should be incorporated into the starting sequence.

  1. They want money.
  2. They’re trying to escape the law.
  3. They want to win a race.
  4. They’re trying to get out of crippling debt.
  5. They want a friend.
  6. They want to get out of jail.

Your character doesn’t realize it, but what do they actually need?

  1. To let go of the past.
  2. To care about someone other than themselves.
  3. That it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.
  4. !?
  5. !?
  6. !?

Starting Sequence

Come up with a sequence that introduces your character.

In this sequence we get to find out what your character wants and that want is what drives the game forward. Your character is having a hard time getting what they want, which creates conflict. Conflict creates tension which eventually has a resolution, but may create more conflict.

Next Sequences

Telegraph the next sequence. If you dangled a cause in a previous sequence then let’s see the effect. However, you could leave it and drag it out a bit longer. If you just started playing the game then there should be more conflicts created than resolved and the conflicts you do resolve should cause other conflicts to arise. The opposite is true if you’re wanting your game to start coming to a close.

Where does this highway lead to?

Eventually your conflicts will be resolved and your character’s arc will come to a close. Did they get what they wanted? Did they learn what they actually needed? If you’re doing a one-shot then great, but if you’re wanting to do multiple sessions you can have your characters arc last through multiple sessions or resolve and come up with new wants and needs or those wants and needs can change throughout the course of playing.

And that’s how you play a fast and furious game of tabletop roleplaying.