Iíve been watching Scott Pilgrim vs the World a lot lately. Like a lot, a lot. Right now, even. Anyone living immersed in that setting as much as I have would start to think about the video game setting of the comics and movie and how each of Ramonaís exes relates to common tropes of video game bosses. I spend a lot of time talking about how video games need to take a page from tabletop games, but have never been afraid to turn the tables and discuss the good ideas the digital age can bring to pen and paper gaming. Besides, this about a comic book and movie and as such this intro is fast becoming rambling and irrelevant. Either way, lets examine each of the evil exes' defeats and what lessons we might learn about boss encounter design.
1. Matthew Patel
I donít recommend Bollywood-style song and dance numbers during RP, but who doesnít love a good villain monologue before or during a fight? Also, the ability to call in assistance (be they guards, demons or demon hipster chicks) is always a nice trick to keep up your villain's sleeve.
2. Lucas Lee
The movie offers us another excellent use of minions in a boss fight. But the book and the comic also show us how a character using persuasion skills to hoist the villain by his own petard. As a GM you may feel cheated that your pet bad guy go down to a skill check rather than the epic fight you may have planned, but your players want to do awesome stuff and when your player thinks back and says "man, remember when you conned that skate-punk actor to kill himself on the rails at that castle? that was awesome!" you will be reminded of why exactly you started GMing in the first place. And if you have a game that supports the playerís ability to assess and exploit an NPCís weakness (i.e. F.A.T.E.), so much the better.
3. Todd Ingram
In the comic, the Todd Ingram's episode would be absolutely terrible game mastering. He's nigh on invulnerable and so far outside the protagonist's weight class it's not even funny and can only be stopped by deus ex machina. In a gaming scenario this is the GM's indestructible villain who can only be stopped by the GM's pet NPC. The movie version gives a better option, where a quick-witted player fools the enemy into losing his powers.
4. Roxy Richter
The movie version gives us the fairly standard 'attack its weak point for massive damage' scenario. Not much to be said about that, in tabletop mechanics it's a matter of learning a weak point and making a called shot to that spot. The comic book offers an interesting example of roleplay and combat intersecting; Scott being able to personally mature and move forward in his relationship directly results in him gaining the power to defeat an enemy that heís had to run from for the entire book.
5. Kyle Katayanagi and 6. Ken Katayanagi
The comic book gives us more good examples of minion use from their robots, but using NPCs that are eerily in-sync in combat could be a fun thing on a tactical level. The movie gives a really neat way to execute an opposed skill check or a skill challenge of some sort.
7. Gideon Graves
The most video game boss-like of the league with the having to kill him twice, the transformations, but again the character growth leading to new powers being a cool idea to bring to the tabletop. The thing Iíll praise about this fight is the set piece just being crazy awesome in the comic.
What I really think is the real lesson is how to show the players your villain's motivations and character traits before and even during the fight and how to use an action sequence as a complement to a character's conflicts. The action isn't what makes Scott Pilgrim shine, it's that the action is so perfectly blended with the emotional conflicts.
Bonus Round: Knives Chau
Itís always fun to bring back a character your PCs have wronged for revenge, but it's even better when they donít go after the PCs directly and when you can give the players a chance to redeem themselves, it is always awesome.
Bonus Round 2: Knives' Dad
This was the most missed aspect lost to the adaptation, Knives' Dad is a supernatural foe that hounds the PCs only to relent not when defeated but sufficiently impressed, see also Harry Dresdenís encounters with the Erlking.
Bonus Round 3: Nega-Scott
Itís generally pretty cool to throw your PCs against evil opposites, either as literal copies or as dramatic foils. These encounters can be a great chance to throw your playerís favourite tricks back at them, or you could confront them with their darker sides, or you could take a page from the film version and have them realize that even their darker sides can be sympathetic characters and leave the conflict amicably.