Old Games I Like: It Came From The Late, Late, Late Show

Category: Cussin' In Tongues
Created on Friday, 07 August 2015 Written by Steve

You know an old game that's a lot of fun? It Came From The Late, Late, Late Show by Stellar Games. I think it's safe to say that it was the first game where the genre was "camp." The premise was that the characters were B-movie actors in a terrible horror movie. The rulebook was even "hosted" by an Elvira knock-off named Demonna. I ran the game several times in college for a group that included many of the people who would go on to be involved to various degrees in the early days of Hex Games. 

If I remember correctly, the main rulebook was entirely dedicated to bad horror movies, but it might have made some mention of other genres. Stellar also released two follow-ups (with appropriately B-grade sequel titles) with rules for Westerns, sci-fi, martial arts movies, and other genres with a tradition of churning out terrible films. There was also at least one collected edition that was a much slicker book with better art. I enjoyed the game enough to buy them all, and I'm pretty sure I've got one or both of them in a box in the attic somewhere, but don't know which (though considering the original is going for $50 on Amazon, I might need to check). Even though I had the supplements for the other genres, I usually stuck with the horror premise, because bad horror movies are kind of my thing.

Since it was written in 1989, the rules of It Came From The Late, Late, Late Show were far too complicated for the premise. Like most games from that time period, character creation was a multi-hour commitment. If overly-complicated character creation wasn't just an inherent assumption for RPGs at the time, it would have been incredibly off-putting, especially since being true to the genre meant that most of the PCs were going to die by the end of the adventure. The rules for combat were also far too crunchy. I'm pretty sure it had rules for wind speed and encumbrance and femoral artery integrity checks and all the other crap that games had back then.

Fortunately, there were also rules for things like Acting Appropriately Stupid (deciding to check out the strange noise in the basement, alone) and Inane Dialog ("Is he...dead?" when he very obviously is) and all the other stuff that happens in bad horror movies. When you did them, you got experience points (called Fame, I believe). There was also a way for the players to try to create a Film Break when things were going badly (maybe by spending Fame--Late Show had some early signs of a bennie system, but I don't remember how complete it was). If they succeeded, the scene that was going badly ended and the new scene started somewhere else with the characters explaining how they escaped the previous scene. We tended to focus more on those rules than the crunchy stuff. 

My favorite line from a Late, Late Show game combined Inane Dialog and Acting Appropriately Stupid, and I believe was spoken by (QAGS co-creator and writer of the Electric Team comic) Leighton Connor. His character and one of the female characters had just managed to lose whatever masked stalker was chopping up campers, so he turned to her and said (something like): "We're lost in the woods in the middle of the night, most of our friends are dead, and there's an axe murderer stalking us. We should have sex now." He got Fame points, because that's the kind of game It Came From the Late, Late, Late Show was. 

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