Note: This post may contain affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission from purchases made using them. TTRPGkids uses this to keep the site going. Read full disclosure here.
Movie Night is a game for both kids and grown ups
Movie Night is made to play out any type of movie setting and to be rules-lite enough for young kids to understand and play. While this is rules-lite, there is still enough action and strategy going on, in addition to the near and dear story topics that you choose, to keep older kids and grown ups engaged.
The premise of putting together or relating everything to a movie is also familiar, which makes this a great first tabletop RPG for new players or a great frame for experienced players who want to get more of a movie or TV series vibe than you would find in a D&D campaign.
Movie Night is made to play in under an hour on average but with flexibility to add scenes as necessary to fit your players (so this can be a 30-45 minute TV show episode kind of game or a 1.5hr movie length feature kind of game). This adjustability is great for playing with kids and fitting into tight timeframes like a lunch break or after school program.
Movie Night is made for 80’s movie nostalgia
Movie Night is made with the intention of capturing the feel of some of the best 80’s movies to have hit the screen.
There are great visuals on the character sheet and the scene and script printout that make it clear you’re playing in a movie, the story guide is called the Director, and there’s some great movie maker tables to help create a fantastic and thematically on point adventure.
The cadence follows an 80’s movie formula with certain types of “bad things” happening at key points and has character builds that reflect 80’s movie tropes, like the Geek, Little Kid, or Teen. Movie Night also includes several pregenerated movie prompts, like “Ghosthunters” and “My Alien Friend” to get you started with capturing the vibe of some classics.
Although the target genre is 80’s movies, you can also use this for other settings too. The game even includes alternate worlds, like FaerieQuest and Space Wars, with slightly different mechanics so you can use this system to adjust to any type of movie that you want!
Your character in Movie Night
Character creation in Movie Night is fairly easy with only 3 main skills (called Ratings) to track. It also has preset archetypes set up to build the base for your character.
For each character, you pick if you want them to be a Geek (nerd and gear bonuses), Teen (jock and relationship bonuses), or a Little Kid (kid and hear bonuses) archetype and assign points to your 3 Ratings: kid (exploration), nerd (smarts), and jock (physical). After that, you get any starting gear and relationships set up and are ready to roll!
This was really fast to set up, and it immediately set a tone for each character. In the game we played, my kid picked a Little Kid with some nerd tendencies, and I had a “Director-NPC” who was a bit of a nerdy Teen. We had a good balance between those two, and it was really easy to see how our characters fit into the story based on their skills.
ALSO… the character sheet is AMAZING. The visual of having it on the movie clacker was very fun, and it’s laid out well with clear spots for everything, pictures or fill in bubbles where possible, and everything snugly on one page.
Game mechanics support the story in Movie Night
Rolling and resolution mechanics
When you want to resolve a scene in Movie Night, you choose which Rating (skill) you’ll use to solve it, roll 1d6, add your Rating number, and then add any bonuses you have from gear, relationships, help from the other players, etc. This means that there’s some addition, but the numbers that you’re adding are pretty low and easy to help kids walk through. You have 1d6 + Rating + bonuses from your character sheet.
Your bonuses can come from gear (like a flashlight, ghost detector, bike, etc), an NPC companion that you’ve befriended, or help from a fellow player! It leaves enough room to be able to strategize and work between players to come up with a combo that fits your situation.
If you win the scene, you gain 1 heart, which represents your vitality. If you lose a roll for a scene, you lose 1 heart and need to find another way to try again.
Mechanics walk you through story creation
One thing that I really liked about Movie Night was how the game walks you through making the story. If you’ve never run a tabletop RPG before, this is a fantastic start because it has a step-by-step summary and tracker for the Director with key points (your scenes and Bad Things) clearly laid out. Each scene also follows a bit of a formula that’s great for new Directors to get used to story-making or for keeping things manageable when rambunctious children are your primary players.
Each major scene will look something like this:
- Director sets scene and introduces a Bad Thing or an in-between scene
- The players decide what they want to do, choose a Rating, and roll
- Based on the roll, the scene is won (+1 heart) or players can try again (-1 heart)
There’s also 3 types of Bad Things that happen in a particular order to fit the movie vibe. There’s discovery, conflict, and finale. You can also add those in-between scenes that I mentioned (which would be finding a clue, dealing with a storm, etc) to add to the story and give opportunities to explore.
Between the scene layout and scene sequence, Directors need to fill in some ideas based on reference material from the movie you’re emulating, and the game is set up!
Leveling up for the sequel (or series)!
If you want to play out a sequel or a long series (similar to a D&D campaign), you definitely can too! Once you complete a session, players gain marks by nature of winning the movie or by spending any remaining hearts. They can then trade marks in for gear, heart or rating increases, etc to level their character up… for when they return in the sequel!
This would play out like multiple movies in a series like Star Wars or a TV show like He-Man and can lead to long cinematic universe style episodes chained together into one massive story!
What did my kid think about Movie Night?
I asked my kid (4yo) what he thought, and he said, “I liked that I got to pick the movie and could do what I wanted…. I could count on my fingers too! And I liked finding stuff to use.”
So, he liked the way it lined up with the movie we picked (he chose something kind of like My Neighbor Totoro), that the mechanics were easy enough for him to understand, and that he was able to use gear (and that the gear was easy to track)!
We adventured into a magic forest full of soot sprites and a big friendly forest spirit who we needed to help revive a magical tree before a shadow took over the land! He had a great time playing through the story, and the progression from scene to scene in Movie Night really helped to facilitate that flow.
Overall thoughts on Movie Night
Movie Night is a perfect system to translate movies into a tabletop RPG format and for running a game that an entire family full of age ranges can play and have fun with. It’s set up to train new Directors on how to run a tabletop RPG story and captures the vibe of some of the best 80’s movies. I recommend checking it out and playing stories that are reminiscent of movies and shows like E.T., Stranger Things, or The Labyrinth and having an awesome time!
Find a copy of Movie Night
Movie Night can be found on Drive Thru RPG!
If you liked this post, make sure to subscribe to the TTRPGkids monthly newsletter to stay up to date on the latest reviews, tips and tricks, game and podcast list updates, and more! Thank you for playing tabletop RPGs with your kids and sharing this awesome hobby with the next generation!