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Monday Mashup #21: Buckaroo Banzai

“Why is there a Mashup there?”

“I’ll tell you later.”

This entry, by the by, will probably not become a googlewhack, but only cause all of you are gonna use “Buckaroo” and “mashup” on your pages. C’est la vie.

Where was I… ah, yes. Mashup #21 is Buckaroo Banzai, goofy flagbearer of 80s sci-fi pulp. All the men want to be Buckaroo Banzai, and all the women want to look at him misty-eyed across the floor of Artie’s Artery. The movie is really a revamp of Doc Savage; you’ve got the mysterious ultra-competent leader and his henchmen, each of whom has a different specialty. If you dial down and focus on the movie’s plot, you’ve got a fairly standard alien invasion plot mixed with a kind of a pod people riff and some multiple dimension stuff which doesn’t entirely matter. More important, though, is the deranged hipness which permeates the entire thing. You could say that Buckaroo Banzai is a mashup itself: Doc Savage plus 80s style. You wouldn’t be far wrong.

So I’m gonna go Vampire — back to the classics, as it were. Because I trust the maturity of my players, and because I believe they understand that spotlight time doesn’t come in a 1:1 ratio to PC competence, one of the PCs gets to play the Buckaroo cognate. The other PCs are his merry men and women. Oh, and Buckaroo is the Ductus (or leader) of a Sabbat pack.

It works really well. You’ve got the hypercompetent, deeply competitive PCs; they’re also all blood bonded to each other, so you get the chivvying humor characteristic of such pulp bands of brothers without any fear of betrayal. You’ve got the sense of isolation, because who’s going to believe a Sabbat pack about anything? You’ve got the ideology which says “if you don’t save the world, nobody will,” since the canonical Sabbat motivation is highly tilted towards saving the world, albeit via rather depraved and demented means.

The opening story arc has to involve the Tzimisce and Vicissitude. The old school explanation for Vicissitude involved alien parasitic diseases, which is close enough to alien invaders who look like Americans for me. The Yoyodyne Pack is a band of rowdy malcontents in Newark, New Jersey; Buckaroo discovers that his sire was responsible for infecting the Ductus of the pack with Vicissitude during a horrendous experiment back in the 30s. (The 1730s, that is.)

Now the Yoyodyners are busily infecting mages in an attempt to gain access to the Far Umbra, for purposes best not discussed in a public forum. What’s worse, the Camarilla knows about it. Buckaroo’s got to stop them before the Camarilla sends a serious bunch of Archons to slaughter every Kindred in the area.


  1. Chris Chris

    For me, Buckaroo begs to be played troupe-style, with someone playing the big man himself and a handful of the lesser Cavaliers. Or maybe all of them if it is a one-on-one game. If there are other players I might give them a couple of the bigger guns, like Reno and Rawhide, and a few lessers, like Pinky or a handful of Regulars.

    System wise, Adventure! or d6Adventure seem to be the obvious answers for playing a straight-up BB game. To shift it around a bit, I’d like to put it in the Wild West though. The horrid Giant Spider int he Third Act movie aside, there isn’t enough Wild West Pulp lately. Besides, then I could run “Buckaroo Banzzai and the Lost Tribe of the Anasazi,” or “Buckaroo Banzai and the Mexican Invasion,” or “Buckaroo Banzai and the Hidden Treasure of Louis and Clark.”

  2. Over here at Chuckling Cthulhu, we’ve had the idea for some time for a LARP called “Big Brains, Skinny Ties.” The conceit is that a great deal of the genre my wife and I call “80’s Pulp” fall into the same universe. “Real Genius”, “Ghostbusters”, “Tron”, “Weird Science”, Back to the Future”…the list goes on and on. The game would be set in the year 2007, when the Banzai Institute rolls out the newest itieration of the Oscillation Overthruster.

    Players would take the parts of characters based on the source material, without actually playing Dr. Pete Venkman or Doc Brown. BB and the team were supposed to be there, but darn, they got double booked to play at a local nightclub, thus removing the desire by the players to actually play canonical characters. A great deal of the necessary tension would come (hopefully) from the characters trying to interact in the various styles of their movies. For instance, having the New Jersy franchise of Ghostbusters, Inc. trying to explain that the paranormal really does exist to members of OmniCorp.

    The “villian” of the piece would be what my wife and I refer to as the “Atherton” clones. Stay with me on this one…

    Have you ever noticed that the actor William Atherton played a series of serious pricks in “Real Genius” (Jerry Hathaway), “Ghostbusters” (Walter Peck), and “Die Hard” (Richard Thornburg)? Well, the unifying thread here is that all three of those characters are clones of one of the most trusted lieutenants of Hanoi Xan, Buckaroo’s most nefarious enemy. Years ago, these ‘replicants’ got loose and started following a plan of their own for world domination, a series of shadow plays that took them to such places as Pacific Tech and Columbia University, in an attempt to find the technology that would allow them to…

    …oops, that would be telling.

  3. I have long since wished I’d gotten into your LARPs while I was living in SF. Alas. The Atherton clone idea is brilliance.

  4. *tips the hat* I had no idea you were an SF ex-pat, or that you even knew about us. This world, tres small.

    I’ll tell ya though, I have had some serious troubles with this plot. Frakker has been rewritten three times from scratch. It was only after watching “Real Genius” and “Die Hard” back to back on TBS one afternoon that I thought, “Gee, that William Athreton…he sure does get around playing asshats…” *DING*

    Now all I have to do is get off my lazy ass and finish writing, oh, THE PLOT.

    That would be nice.

  5. Yep; used to be a Dundracon regular and all that. It’s a small world.

  6. This week, Bryant gives us Buckaroo Banzai as his half of the mashup. I’m with Bryant in thinking that Buckaroo…

  7. Wow, some great ones — the Donander group is inspired, as is the 80’s pulp. I never got into WW’s WoD, though, so I’m ambivalent, at best.

    I’d go for straight pulp play, using TORG rules, set in the cosm of Terra. The Martians are already there, after all. Adding in the lectroids would be a snap.

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