Movies for Gamers #8: A Knight's Tale

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.

Imagine a medieval setting. Near a castle. With noble ladies and lords parading around. A joust is going to be held. Two ironclad knights are put into the saddle. The burnish their lances. The knights storm at each other. The crowd goes wild. And then we hear Queen's “We will, we will... Rock you!”.

Anachronistic? Quite so. Silly? Not really. Effective? Very. Director Brian Helgeland uses anachronism – that's mixing things from very different ages in a story – very much on purpose. You may or may not like it, but the idea is to engage the audience. Show how these people are younger, a new generation. Or as he says it: it's set in 1370. So one should use 70-ies music.

Anachronistic or not, the film has a cool medieval feel – without being stuffy. Heath Ledger plays the title role, and sets out as a knights page at the tournament. When his knight suddenly dies of indigestion during a break – while being on the winning hand – he dons his masters armour and takes his place... And that's where our story really begins. Eventually he'll fall in love. He will make enemies. He'll find out about an old secret. And he'll use the ridiculous sounding name of Ulrich von Liechtenstein from Gelderland – Gelderland is currently part of the Netherlands by the way - the place where I live.

Heath is great. But Paul Bettany is even better. Paul plays Geoffrey Chaucer. Yes, the monk who wrote the Canterbury Tales. And this film is about the period in Chaucers life before he wrote the book, and went missing for some time. This is what might have happened. Well, Bettany's Chaucer is a wonderfully eloquent herald in this story. I wish I could be so glib of tongue, and so good with crowds.
I guess training in acting wouldn't be a bad idea for role playing. But that's for another series of posts.

The story of this film would make for a good series of adventures. Let the players start out as pages or travelling assistants to high level non player characters. And then bring them in the situation that they have to impersonate these high level NPCs. From this point on it can get really interesting, as the players would have to take on (or avoid) challenges usually above their level or station.

The lead characters in a Knight's Tale are in themselves also great to use as player characters, and the comedic tone would do well at the game table. But best of all it left me wondering if I could structurally use rock music in a few of my sessions. As background music. Normally I'd use film music, or perhaps medieval music. That generally works. But why stop there? What works for a movie might work for a game. Anachronistic music (if you can speak of anachronism in a fantasy setting, since fantasy is usually full of anachronism anyway). Queen and Robbie Williams... Tina Turner perhaps. Would it work? I'll give it a try.

Haven't seen it yet? Go do so and watch Chaucer and Ulrich!

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