Wanted – Full GTM Article

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“Your father was one of the greatest assassins who ever lived. The man who killed him is behind you.” – Fox

Wanted is the ultimate power fantasy. You’re not really a wimp office drone, you’re the scion of the best assassin in the world. You’re not broke; you have millions in the bank. You aren’t a klutz; you can curve bullets with superhuman perception. You aren’t purposeless; you’re recruited by a beautiful woman to help direct the fate of the world.

In this version of a power fantasy, there are some hitches. A rogue assassin is hunting you down. The organization you’re joining is beating the crap out of you to train you. The justification for killing people is a little murky and requires some faith. But hey, they’re teaching you how to control your hereditary powers.
If you think you can handle it, you might try being Wanted.

Movie Summary

Wesley Gibson is a service manager at a nameless corporation suffering under a bullying boss. He has a cute girlfriend, but she’s having sex with his best friend and he knows it. People perceive Wes as a wimp since he does nothing to fix the situation or stand up for himself. He suffers from panic attacks that he uses medication to control. His bank account is always empty.

A beautiful woman comes into this poor slob’s life to save him from getting killed by another assassin. He’s given an opportunity: Join the Fraternity, a thousand year old secret society of assassins directed by Fate to maintain balance in the world. He’s told that his father was the best spy in the world, but was killed by a rogue named Cross.

“We don’t know how far the ripples of our decisions go. We kill one, and maybe save a thousand. That’s the code of the Fraternity. That’s what we believe in, and that’s why we do it.” – Fox

The Fraternity puts him through brutal tests and training, trying to toughen him up and trigger the talents they think are latent in him. He learns how the Fraternity is given its targets by interpreting the weave of a massive cloth, a sort of binary chaos theory code from the powers of the universe. He is made to realize that he sees the Fraternity as a way to find out who he really is.

Of course, not everything is as it seems. A group this powerful is tempted by that power. The will of Fate can be obeyed or twisted. And Wesley’s journey for his identity is longer than he thought.

SPOILERS: Sloan, interpreter of the weave, has been changing things for his own purposes. The rogue spy, Cross, learned of this and refused to go along with it. Cross is Wesley’s real father, something he learns only after striking the mortal blow. From that moment on, it is Wesley against the Fraternity. The conclusion of the movie is a ballet of violence, self-sacrifice, and Wesley showing that he is the best assassin of all.

How to Game Wanted

Like many superhero comics, the majority of the drama in the movie occurs between these super powerful assassins, not the assassins against mundane people. A campaign could challenge the PCs to complete especially difficult hits with the GM presenting a contained situation that has been predetermined to be the target’s greatest vulnerability. Those jobs could run alongside a main plotline with assassin vs. assassin conflicts.

“I want you to curve the bullet.” – Fox
“How am I supposed to do that?” – Wesley
“It’s not a question of how. It’s a question of what. If no one told you that bullets flew straight, and I gave you a gun and told you to hit the target, what would you do? Let your instincts guide you.” – Sloan

The movie relies on over-the-top car chases, trick shots, funky weaponry, and superhuman athletics for much of its visual allure. It will be critical that the PCs have these abilities and the players understand how to utilize these abilities to do “kewl stuff” and get the job done. Elaborate descriptions of their attack attempts, insanely long distance shots, death-defying moves, and life saving maneuvers will really bring the Wanted feel to the game.

It doesn’t take too many bullets to kill someone, but in general the assassins can take a lot of punishment. The “recovery” baths provide an element of quick ‘healing’ that gets them back into the fight quickly. They also have a sort of “Spidey Sense” that warns them of impending attack.

Firefights and assassination attempts should occur in dangerous and unusual places in order to give the PCs a lot of challenges. A train going off the rails, a building slowly collapsing through timed demolitions, or a crashing plane would all be challenging and cinematic battle sites.

Although the movie involved the destruction of the Fraternity, a campaign should keep the organization alive and a source of allies and enemies. Perhaps Sloan’s operation in Chicago was just one of many and its destruction did not destroy the organization over all. Perhaps there are surviving assassins who regroup to re-establish the group. Or the Wesley storyline never happened (my personal favorite).

A campaign of assassinations without specific justification isn’t my taste, so I’d suggest that any targets the PCs are given be shown to chaotic instruments of destruction destined to kill many people. An NPC can read the “weave” and handle the worries about longer term movements of Fate. Depending on how many players you have, they can fulfill the different roles of the Fraternity (below) or be field assassins.

  • Gunsmith: Firearm manufacture and use
  • Repairman: Taking physical punishment and pain
  • Butcher: Knife Fighting
  • Librarian: Keeper of the Fraternity records and obtainer of information on new targets.

Money appears to be no object to the Fraternity, but determining how it really is funded can be one of the more intriguing aspects of the campaign. It is a thousand-year-old trust fund? Does the weave also give stock tips? Do they profit when they realize that the death of the target will move the markets? Do they steal money more directly? Are they hand of action of a larger, deeper organization which in turn funds them?

A Wanted Campaign

After a devastating attack on the Fraternity cell in New York City, its leader, Thomas Cowl, must recruit new members. The special abilities of the assassins manifest themselves in specific bloodlines but can also be found in rare individuals. He approaches three people who know each other in their normal lives and are each suffering from tragic financial problems. He gives each of them an offer. “Fulfill your destiny by joining the Fraternity and you will be paid one million dollars.”

Cowl doesn’t tell them that he orchestrated their financial woes to help motivate them, or that there would be an intense regimen of tests and training to determine if they are good enough. The policy of terminating anyone who fails to measure up in order to maintain the secrecy of the Fraternity is also hidden in the fine print.

The three PCs go through rigorous and often brutal training by the surviving active members of the New York City cell. They develop their ability to speed up their perception of time, to focus with great precision on distant targets, to withstand a lot of punishment, as well as mastering basic martial arts.

Cowl explains the nature of the Fraternity and why he trusts these bizarre messages in a piece of freshly woven cloth. The PCs develop relationships with the existing team members before heading out to complete their first assignments.

The big mysteries of the campaign include the existence of other cells, who is directing all the cells, is the weave being interpreted properly, is anyone twisting the interpretation for their own ends. Individual assassins might turn against the Fraternity and go rogue. Specific assassinations might bring a lot of heat on them: government investigators and shadow hunters. Perhaps they stumble upon a rival organization (the Protectors) who also knows about the weave but are dedicated to using it to sell protection to the targets… some might consider that noble or opportunist but it puts assassin-level individuals against each other for exciting combats.

A Wanted Adventure

“You’re not an assassin of fate, Sloan. You’re just a thug who can bend bullets.” – Wesley

A target is interpreted from the weave and the PCs are assigned to the target. Planning the hit, they determine that the optimal opportunity is when the target is traveling to the airport to fly to Washington DC. They have to develop a plan that deals with airport security and the chaos of big crowds.

The execution fails when a Protector shoots the bullet out of the air to save the target. This explodes into a running battle through the airport which only can be resolved if the target makes the flight or not. A large can of worms is opened up as they try to figure out who this opponent was and what it means for the Fraternity.

Picking your Rules

“Boom goes the dynamite.” – Barry

The key to a Wanted game is finding a way to enable the players to perform incredible stunts without having to be creative geniuses at every play session. A good fight involves movement through, over, under, or around interesting spaces, the exchange of attacks which would kill normal people but narrowly miss, and a dramatic conclusion. If combat devolves into standing toe-to-toe hack and slash, you’ve lost the point of it. Even a knife fight should be fast and creative.

The assassins all have superhuman abilities with guns and hand-to-hand combat. Differentiation between PCs comes in their secondary skills: can they fix or supe-up cars, are they expert in crafting and fixing guns, do they in-depth knowledge of computers or business or high society. Their backgrounds can also contribute to their individual flavor so rules that help capture the effects of background, culture, language, etc. are important.

Where to Find More

“I have a gun, sir!” – Wesley

The original story was a series of comics by Mark Millar and while it has some similar elements, the heart of the story is radically different. Still a great read, but port it to a game of the movie Wanted with care. It is available in a trade paperback.

There are plenty of movies attempting to out-do each other with stunts and cool assassin movies: the Bourne series, the Transporter series, both Kill Bills, No Country for Old Men, Grosse Point Blank, the Daniel Craig Bond films, and many more. All of them can be mined for shootout ideas and stunts.

That’s a Wrap

“Welcome… to the Fraternity. This gun you’re holding belonged to your father; he could conduct a symphony orchestra with it.” – Sloan

The world of Wanted is a sort of loosely amoral power fantasy with beautiful assassins doing crazy impossible stuff with guns and cars. It doesn’t ignore this moral ambiguity, nor does it white-wash the members of the Fraternity. It has the potential for a very dramatic game with over-the-top violence and action sequences. If you want to work for the mysterious hand of Fate, walk the world from a position of power, and be able to curve bullets through the air, you might just be Wanted.