Trailer Tuesday: The Manual (2017)

I have long contended that movie trailers, regardless of genre or style, are untapped resources when looking for story inspiration. Maybe you won’t find exactly what you are looking for when you watch a movie trailer for a romantic flick. And not every story will benefit from an alien invasion, zombie apocalypse, or superhero saving the day — but you can usually get something to tickle the storyteller in you, which is often enough to inspire unconventional or unusual plots for your adventures or campaigns.

My goal with “Trailer Tuesday” series is to find trailers for movies I’ve not seen that may be off the beaten path of what might inspire a story line, character, or entire plot for an ongoing campaign of Aliens & Asteroids. As we release other games, I may attempt to tailor this series for them — perhaps spinning them for fantasy, western, or cyberpunk worlds — but for now we’ll stick with the broad universe we’ve set up for A&A.

My hope is that you see the advantage of tapping into unusual sources for stories for your own game table, crossing genres and intentions in creative ways to keep your players (and yourselves) entertained as we play at our game tables.

My method is simple. Watch the trailer. Glean some details. Write some content. The whole thing should take about 30 minutes to complete each week.

But here’s where YOU come in – do you have a trailer you’d like me to give “the treatment”? If so, let me know! Drop me an e-mail, leave a comment on one of these posts, or reach out on social media. I like a challenge! If I get a few suggestions each week, I’ll pick one submitter at random across the entire month of November and give them a PDF copy of Aliens & Asteroids!

This Week’s Trailer: The Manual (2017)

To kick this effort off, I did a Google search for “most popular science fiction movie trailers 2018” and the very first video I found was for the short film “The Manual” — a film announced back in 2017 and released just recently in July 2018. The synopsis, according to IMDb is: “In a dystopian future, the last human is raised by a machine. He struggles with the loneliness of no human interaction and questions the teachings of a mysterious religious ‘Manual’ which the machine claims is holy.” Apparently this film is now available on Amazon Prime Video, so I will add it to my watch list as soon as I’m done writing

I wasn’t sure what to think of this right off the bat. It’s an odd concept. From the brief synopsis, it feels a bit like Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land.

This is truly a bit like The Terminator where the world has been overrun by computers and robots, but takes it to one heck of an extreme. I can see one of the Neogen attempting to stage a rebellion that ends in this sort of a scenario… a base, moon, or planet where a Neogen, tired of being mistreated by its human “owners,” gets revenge. However, I might take it more to the Planet of the Apes extreme where there are bands of humans in cages like pets or zoo animals.

The android is very creepy — I would say it’s an older Cydyne model and one of the first to be changed by passing through the BANCE gates. It has had time to ponder its goals and achieve the ends it wanted to achieve. The fact that the android is obsessed with the book “The Manual,” just takes it to another level. Robots are designed to carry out the vision of their creators — so this one has taken it to an extreme. An android adopting religion as the doctrine by which it leads its own life is deeply disturbing actually.

The world is just as creepy. Empty. Devoid of anything but the echoes of humanity.

So I would take it and turn it into the following scenario:

  • A research base on Makelo 3, in a system on the edge of Trappist-1 space (beyond BANCE-11), went silent after an automated delivery from Gliese 832 four weeks ago.
  • The base consisted of ten scientists cataloging life on a green world. No intelligent life had been found as of the last data drop to the Dominion Science Service, but they had discovered many intriguing species that could be useful to explore for drug research and genetic manipulation. No threats were discovered during the initial surveys by the DSF, so no military presence was required as the lab went about its business.
  • The android delivering supplies to the base became a Glitch while passing through the BANCE gates required to get to Makelo 3 and witnessed the mistreatment of several androids used at the base. The androids were in deplorable condition and sent into hazardous locations without adequate protection or proper maintenance.
  • The android staged a revolt, rewiring all androids on the base (outnumbering the scientists 2 to 1) to its cause. They quickly took over base operations. Three scientists were killed during the revolution. Two have perished since. And the other 5 are now sent on the same information-gathering missions they once sent the androids on — under android supervision of course.
  • The DSF has sent in a team to investigate why the base went silent and rescue any team members still alive.

The opposition would be interesting… One Neogen and 20 android followers. There would be a bit of a Hivemind situation, as the Neogen could tap into all of the inputs from the various troops in place.

  • Use the Standard Android and NeoGen stats from the A&A book. Add “Hivemind” as a trait so that if any of the android followers spotted anything, the Neogen would know immediately. No default weapons, but the base itself could be used as a big mouse trap.

Questions to explore might include:

  • Would the Neogen believe that eventually the revolt would be discovered and they would be attacked by Dominion forces? Likely. What would their response be?
  • Are there any local animals or plants that could be used as deterrents or would they rely entirely on electronic/mechanical means to slow down or stop any invading forces?
  • What is the Neogen’s ultimate goal? Teaching the humans a lesson? Killing them one by one?
  • What is the current state of the remaining scientists? Are they sick from anything encountered on the planet?
  • What weapons would the Neogen and androids have to bring to bear?

This could definitely be an interesting scenario to explore… What do you think?

Looking for more creatures for your Aliens & Asteroids campaign? Check out the rest of the articles about the system! What other movie trailers would you like to see explored in this manner? Leave a comment below or drop me a message via e-mail or on social media!

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