This week’s #ifthiswereaTTRPG post is about the Stranger Things Season 3 climatic finale: The Battle of Starcourt. As always on #ifthiswereaTTRPG, spoilers ahead!
There’s a fascinating meta-narrative about Stranger Things that says the plot of the show is actually a group of people playing a home-brewed version of Dungeons and Dragons and we, the viewer, are seeing the result of their play. And naturally, this space each week is dedicated to re-imagining famous scenes from movies and TV shows as a group of people playing that scene around a table as a tabletop role playing game. So there’s a great match between that Stranger Things meta narrative and the purpose of this post each week.
Today’s post takes the Season 3 finale “The Battle of Starcourt” and zooms in on the heroic sequence of the shutdown of the machine keeping the gate to the Upside Down open. For the purposes of making the table manageable, and taking a different spin on the kids of the show playing D&D, we’ll say that there are three players: Hopper, Joyce, and Murray as well as a GM who portrays the kids and the rests of the NPCs.
“Well Murray” says the GM to the player playing Murray “the show is yours. Roll Electronics to deactivate the power to the gateway machine.”
“Take this, you Commie bastards!” yells the Murray player as they roll their dice: a 10! An excellent roll. The Joyce and Hopper players offer some polite applause – not quite the reception the Murray player had hope for and it shows on their face.
Through gritted teeth, the Murray player turns to the Joyce and Hopper players, mock holding a walkie-talkie: “Powers out. Good luck.”
The Joyce and Hopper players look to one another, each with serious looks on their faces. The GM interjects: “You look to one another, affection and even love in your eyes when the door behind you bursts open and Grigori punches you, Hopper, square in the jaw before you’re each able to turn the key.”
There’s a collective “damn!!” around the table as the Joyce, Hopper, and Murray stay locked-in, listening to the GM. “Hopper, you and Grigori, in an almost Looney Tunes whirlwind, tumble your way out the door and next to the gateway machine. Joyce: what do you do?”
“Did my uniform come with a belt?” the Joyce player asks.
“Yes it did actually.” replies the GM.
“Okay then. I’m going to take off the belt, hook the buckle around one key, and try to grab the other key with my other hand.” says the Joyce player. The Hopper and Murray players are quite impressed.
“You take off the belt and lock the buckle around the first key.” says the GM “And reach out to the second. But you’re just a few inches short, even with your best efforts.”
The Joyce player drops their head. But a moment later it’s back up: “I reach as hard as I possibly can. I’m getting that key, no matter what.”
“You reach out with furious desperation, knowing it’s the difference between life and death and get so, so close. You’re almost there!”
The GM turns to the Hopper player. “You know what it’s time for, Hop. Two Combat rolls please.”
The Hopper player nods. “I know.” The Hopper player looks at the Joyce player and rolls their dice simultaneous to the GM’s rolls for Grigori. A moment of still anticipation at the table at the dice clatter about, ready to decide the fate of the two characters.
Hopper’s dice read 7 and Grigori’s dice read 10. The Hopper player hangs their head. The Joyce player puts their arm around the Hopper player’s shoulders as the Murray player shakes their head in disgust.
“It’s the third act of a heavyweight fight as you and Grigori trade blows around the electric gateway machine, neither of you refusing to concede to one another. At times, each of you get the upper hand only for the other to come back stronger and more determined. As the fights draws closer to the machine Grigori is able to flip you Hop on your back, your skull precariously close to the machine’s whirring, electrified blades.” says the GM.
“Well this is it.” says the Murray player “I guess you went 0 for 3 against this guy, Hopper.”
“Hey, I said two rounds of Combat rolls, didn’t I?” says the GM, smiling.
A renewed look of hope crosses both the Hopper and Joyce players’ faces. Without hesitation the Hopper player rolls again: an 11! “Wow!!” exclaims the table!
The GM rolls a last time for Grigori, the table staring at the rolling surface in grim anticipation. It’s a 6! The table erupts in cheers! As the celebrations die down, the players look to the GM.
“With a furious kick, Hop, you’re able to push Grigori back just as he was about to turn your skull into paste. When a renewed sense of zeal and appreciation for life, you wail on Grigori whose military training finally cracks under the weight of your blows. In the moment his defenses break, you toss him onto the machine and his body is completely eviscerated at the atomic level by the incredible power its generating. He won’t be troubling you anymore.”
The Hopper, Joyce, and Murray players all hug and congratulate one another before sitting back down.
“But over Dustin’s radio” continues the GM “you hear Dustin shouting “DO IT!! DO IT!! HE’S HERE!!” and know that the time has come. Joyce, you’re finally able to grasp the second key and are able to blow up the machine. You catch eyes with Hopper as he looks up.
“I uh, I just nod to her, appreciating the moment for what it is.” says the Hopper player.
The Joyce player, a little choked up, says: “I um, I…I turn the keys.”
The Murray player looks to their fellow players and knows that this is the end, sadness flashing across their face.
“Joyce, you turn the keys and the machine begins to explode from the inside right as the Russian scientists enter the chamber. Moment’s later, there’s a brilliant flash of white light and you see those same scientists get obliterated by the machine’s explosion. You look to where Hopper was standing: there’s nothing there, just like the scientists.” says the GM
“Murray.” continues the GM “You burst through the door and see Joyce staring at the machine. You know what’s happened. But equally you know, it’s time to leave.”
Hope you all enjoyed seeing this amazing scene in “The Battle of Starcourt” be re-imagined as a tabletop role playing game!