Wet Hot American Summer: Fantasy Camp is a hilarious new tabletop roleplaying game you should back on Kickstarter. The game is based on the cult comedy film turned Netflix series and created by two of the film’s biggest fans – Geoffrey Golden (Disney Comics) and Lee Keeler (The Hollywood Improv). We asked Golden and Keeler to discuss their new game, cockblocking wizards, gun swords, and the sex lives of vegetable cans.
Geoffrey Golden: When did you first see Wet Hot American Summer?
Lee Keeler: I was going to Ohio State University. I was in a sketch troupe with a bunch of assholes. They would screen it every weekend in their house, so there was no way I couldn’t see it. We were quoting it constantly. How about you?
GG: I was visiting my sister in Brooklyn and we saw it in the theatre, in its original theatrical run of – I’m guessing, two screens? It was the funniest movie I had ever seen. I didn’t stop laughing the entire time. So we both saw it in the early ‘00s.
GG: Then, 15 years later, you had the idea to make the movie a roleplaying game. How did that happen?
LK: I was stoned at Disneyland and Geoff, Amanda and our friend Yehudi were all enjoying beers at some weird hotel bar. We were just getting out of the sun and it kind of dawned on me: The Devastator had made RPGs before, plus we’d already worked with Joe Lo Truglio on a photoshoot about anime body pillows for our old comedy magazine. And the Wet Hot characters are so ridiculously extreme that they seem like a natural fit for a roleplaying game. Geoffrey and Amanda immediately thought it was a great idea.
GG: I feel like, when people are stoned, that’s when they get their best roleplaying game ideas.
LK: Naturally. Isn’t that how you came up with Wizards of Cockblock Forest?
GG: No, I don’t smoke pot. I get high on life. (The cereal.) But yeah, the thing that makes Wizards of Cockblock Forest fun is the combination of retro D&D storytelling with party game elements. We decided that was a good approach to making a Wet Hot American Summer game, too.
We wanted Fantasy Camp to have the feel of a classic pen-and-paper RPG, like the kind Keith (The Caped Boy) would’ve played in the early ‘80s, but simplified and with camp themed mini-games to break things up, to capture the spirit of the film. Because if you’re doing a lot of math to figure out how much damage a fireball does, your character definitely isn’t having sex.
LK: Yeah, by the movie’s standards, that’s literally one-third of the goal of the game! If you don’t at least get to French, then you’re a failure. One of the first ideas you had when we had concept meetings was having the book come from the perspective of The Indoor Kids. How did this come to you?
GG: I was partially inspired by one of the Gravity Falls books, which was really well done. They made you feel like the book was part of the show, which I appreciated as a fan. Also, I’ve read a lot of really dry roleplaying game manuals, so I knew writing it as the Indoor Kids would make it more fun to read. Games should be fun! RPG video games now have 20 hours of tutorials to get through, which is a lot of fucking work before you get to carry a giant gun sword around with a techno-wizard and Donald Duck.
LK: Yeah, it’s kind of shocking that more RPGs aren’t designed to entertain their players. I’m pretty proud of this book that way, ‘cause you can just read it as a regular comedy book and still totally get the Wet Hot experience.
GG: Exactly – the game is pretty simple. Every game takes place over one incredible day at camp. Players either design their own campers or choose from a bunch of Camp Firewood all-stars like Coop, Gene or Beth. Every character chooses a Big Camp Dream they want to achieve. If we were playing right now, Lee, what would would your Big Camp Dream be?
LK: Maybe do a crazy Evel-Knievel-style stunt by the end of the day, or to get laid in the speed boat under a blood moon – or win some kind of beauty contest while everybody else gets poison ivy.
GG: I’m itching just thinking about that. If I were the Camp Director – the DM in our game – I would have you audition with that stunt for the talent show with Susie and Ben to watch you pretend to ride around on a motorcycle. Because players gotta act shit out. They don’t roll to see how well they sang “Send In The Clowns.” They actually have to sing “Send In The Clowns.”
LK: That was one of the coolest parts about testing the game: People were actually, like, being active. They were getting up and doing stuff instead of just rolling dice and arguing. That dynamic, with the activities structure, was key to the design.
GG: Right. In re-watching the film, it was kinda tough to choose which plots points to “game-ify”. The movie has tons of plots, from a kid who refuses to shower to a motorcycle chase with dozens of children’s lives in the balance.
LK: We boiled it down to three: becoming a superstar at the talent show, getting laid before lights out, and saving the camp from a giant disaster.
GG: But players can make up their own stories, even within the stories we designed for them.
LK: And they will. Does that mean players can get the Can of Mixed Vegetables laid?
GG: Totally! Well, it would be a nice break from sucking its own dick!
Back Wet Hot American Summer: Fantasy Camp on Kickstarter now. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/devastatorpress/wet-hot-american-summer-fantasy-camp-roleplaying-g
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Art Credit – Devastator Press