Edge of Tomorrow-ish combat scene?

One of my players’ birthday falls on an upcoming session and I would love to tailor it to one of her favorite cinema moments. She loves the beach landing sequence from Edge of Tomorrow where Tom Cruise has just discovered he is looping in time and uses that to correct his (and others’) mistakes in combat until they go from “cannon fodder” to “perfectly timed combat heroes.”

I am struggling on thinking of a fun way to adapt that into a tabletop scenario. I think I would have to highly abstract the combat so you can die and repeat frequently without it being a tedious grind. I can also give them some hapless NPCs to save from imminent death to provide a little challenge. I am still afraid it won’t actually be that fun.

Any ideas from folks here? I tried listening to the Adventure Zone 11th Hour podcast for ideas but they don’t exactly touch on this idea.

Thanks in advance

I would think you cold solve this by giving them information in-game about whats about to happen. Something like “you know from previous experience that door is trapped” or " there are two orcs coming over that hill" kind of thing. Maybe don’t tell them everything at once - let them know a turn or two before it happens.

This is a pretty challenging idea to pull off, I think, depending on the number of players and your standards/goals.

You’ll have to pick a ruleset which provides enough traction to distinguish iterations from each other but is quick enough in practice that you can get through a lot of these “reboots” in a short time. (Anything where a fight scene takes 40+ mins to resolve is right out!)

If going a more traditional route (although this also would work well for many more story-oriented games or PbtA games):

One obvious RPG connection to make is to have the character’s “build” redone and/or advanced after each “death”. Allow the player to adjust the character’s stats, equipment, spell selection, moves, or whatever between each “reset”.

To take a rather extreme example, running a D&D character through a short adventure over and over, with the character starting at 1st level, and then leveling up each time they die, could be quite satisfying and exciting for some players, I’m sure. You get killed almost immediately on your first attempt, but as you come back at higher levels, the initial challenges become satisfyingly easy. (This is somewhat hypothetical, because in most editions of D&D, the gameplay would be too slow unless you were willing to do this over multiple sessions, but it illustrates the concept well.)

The other approach to base it more heavily on player cleverness, by having lots of challenges that reveal important information about them when you confront them. You hit these challenges and die, and, in the process, learn how to overcome them in the future. A series of deathtraps is one such example: probably and almost certainly lethal the first time you try, but easy to overcome once you know what they are.

To make it satisfying from story/character development perspective, on the other hand, you’d want to include opportunities for character growth/change, on one hand, and story development/discovery, on the other. Each leg of the “story” should develop one or the other further, which you don’t get from just running through the same adventure over and over - you need dramatic developments on pretty much each run-through, which means new information and new catalyst for character change.

I’d advise you to choose one of those options and hit it hard; trying to do all of them at once might be too much of a tangled web to be realistic unless you have a LOT of time to figure out how to do it.

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I think the fun way to adapt it is to take it upon yourself to narrate any failure as a catastrophic ciritical-failure wipeout that kills them, then just ask ‘how do you avoid that when you reboot’?, let that auto-succeed, and move forward with the story. You could do this with pretty much any system. @jasoncordova’s The Between uses something like this to create a similar video game multiple lives feel, and it works great.


This (that is, Jim’s suggestion) is what I do when players spend Fate Points in Warhammer FRP.
Just last night we had a PC get completely exploded by magical pink flames, so I described all that, then asked the player if they wanted to spend a Fate Point and not explode (they did) and then they described how they escaped the brunt of it.

We also have an ongoing thing where the group’s wizard is somehow aware of these almost-were timelines. Like, she knows when people have been touched by Fate – and sometimes alludes to it in conversation, which the other PCs find off-putting.

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Maybe you could play through just once but have the die rolls be known in advance and the players control who acts when in the turn? That makes the whole thing a puzzle in trying to manipulate events so that the PCs get the good rolls and the enemies are stuck with the bad ones.

I would use a simple system for extended conflicts, where the group rolls 1d10 + stats that will help them – they need to explain which ones and how they apply to the situation.

Both sides roll each turn. Each roll is a step in a situation. Sum up each roll with each other, the one who’s in the lead narrates the outcome. First to 40 wins.

When they die, play through the same situations, again, but now the players can decided to re-roll (to possibly get a higher result) before they enter the situation, and they need to describe if they do something differently. Otherwise, fast-forward the situation and move on to the next one.

They can get bonus on each roll, if they use their knowledge from their previous reset.

A simpler version would just have them die every time they fail, and then re-roll until they succeed. Seems kinda static tho. Can’t explain why. Possibly because it doesn’t feel like it’s repeating itself, and it will be useless to roll, because they will succeed anyway.

Another way could be to always be able to retcon as a player. “Oh, a monster showed up? Well, I knew that so I already…”

I’m planning a similar type of session for my 5e game next week.
It’s far more dangerous than a simple Groundhog Day effect, though.
I’ll report back.

But thinking about it… Why would you try to cram this into a single session?

The movie abstracts the experience into a single film, but it’s actually a campaign with fixed, scripted encounters, and the character gains experience through every play. Not only do they get more insight into the static nature of the world, but the build up their own skills as well.

Tom Cruise at the beginning of the movie would have failed against the big bad at the end. It’s only the skills and muscle memory and ingenuity he develops over repeat effort and failure that gives him his edge in the end.

This is pretty awesome. I’m starting my next campaign this way. Up front prep climbs, but encounters will not be wasted work, compared to wide open campaigns.

A series of deathtraps is one such example: probably and almost certainly lethal the first time you try, but easy to overcome once you know what they are.

Sorry for the late reply, but just wanted to close the loop and say this was the winning suggestion for me. I came up with some extremely lethal circumstances and introduced two plot-critical hapless NPCs they had to creatively help navigate said deathtraps. It was borderline puzzley-y since it focused more on them using their limited resources to bypass all of these in a single run. Good times were had by all.

Thanks to everyone who provided suggestions.


Fantastic! I feel useful, for once.

Want to tell us more about the game, and how it went?