Movies for Gamers #7: The Princess Bride

This is part of a series of reviews of movies particularly interesting or inspiring for role playing. Because of their setting, style, characters, editing or story. Read the introduction here or here if you are new to this series.

An absolute classic of classics. The Princess Bride was made in 1987, but it's still fresh, silly, full of witty lines and humour, and sweet and romantic at the same time. Well, kind of romantic. It's a fairy tale about true love, TRUE LOVE, Trooo... Luv... And yet it's for all ages. All ages that understand English.

The Princess Bride was masterfully filmed by Rob Reiner, who also did When Harry met Sally (another classic you should see). The book and script were written by William Goldman, who also did classics like All the President's Men. Yes, he's old, I know. I'd say classic. Did I say classic? I'm overdoing.

The film is a frame story – told as a story within a story. We see how Peter Falk reads the book to his grandson, who at first is not interested in it because it does not contain sports. But as the story develops, he wants to know more and more – just like we do. Even about the kiss. The kiss that surpassed all kisses since 1642 BC. Now is this silly? Yes it is. And it gets better.

The Princess Bride book is about farm boy Westley, and Princess Buttercup, who are in true love with eachother. But of course they can't tell each other, for she is a princess and he is... well. Westley and Buttercup are separated, and the rest of the story is how they find eachother again. And on their quests they meet Fezzik the Giant, who was once "unemployed in Greenland" (you should use a nasal voice while saying this). And Inigo Montoya – “my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die”. Vizzini, whose brain will match anyone, Rodents of Unusual Size, the Dread Pirate Roberts...

Perhaps the movie is too witty to make into an average adventure. It will be a feat to play like this – although it would be a great trip. Quotes galore – have a look here and here if you already saw the movie. Otherwise see it first. And think about it, could you do an adventure session like this? This silly, this fast, this witty? Maybe you can, can't you?

Whether it would work or not would mostly depend on your playing style. And whether at least some of your players are good at thinking up silly quotes. And the game system - or the way you use it! - should be simple and fast to allow for it. It will be easier to use say - Risus, or Fudge, than Role Master or d20. Too much realism would also be crippling. Actually I think my own "Santiago Joe" would be pretty good for it, as it has the pace built in, and needs no dice whatsoever. You'd only have to adapt it for fairy tales. Maybe I'll do that too for a later free game. Keep you posted.

Another thing you might consider is to actually fit such a zany story into your regular campaign as a framed story. Just like the Princess Bride is a story within a story, you could do a role playing game in a role playing game.

Imagine the player characters come to storyteller wizard Goldman. They need him to help them. But he wants them to do something first. He is sitting at the fire, and he begins to tell them... a story. Then, as the story develops, the player characters (and their players) are engaged in the story, role playing new characters made up on the spot (in Risus, or Santiago Joe). These new characters then have to solve this story within the story first, before Goldman will do what they want.

So the player characters would have to play... second tier player characters! Lost already? Go watch Inception, that's six tiers - or was it five?

Anyway. Just get the Princess Bride (off the shelf again). And have a Merry Christmas.


  1. This is one of those much gushed-about movies that I rate at a solid "Meh." Maybe it's because IMHO, fantasy and comedy have only recently been mixed right? I loved How To Tame Your Dragon, for example but that's A) very recent, and B) it's animation.

  2. It's generally perceived as a classic though I feel that Meathead has done better than this (you know, the "rockumentary"). I share JLC's "meh" about the movie as a whole but I agree with Jake that there's a wealth of RPG inspiration to be drawn from this flick. Testament to the writing and delivery in the movie is perhaps that I doubt I've ever gone more than 5 sessions without the Inigo Montoya quote coming up in some form, easily equaling anything Python in this respect. In any case a storyteller drawing players into the fiction as a concept in RPG is underused and has limited but interesting applications.