Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Saga of Barostan Skullbasher

In its efforts to instruct the reader on how to play role-playing games, The Adventurer's Handbook demonstrates the process of generating and improving six characters in a fantasy setting.  Those characters are young residents of a town called Triford.  After the characters engage in a coming-of-age ceremony, five of them depart the town for a life of adventure.  The remaining character, Aloysious (who has no characteristic higher than twelve), “goes back to the farm.”  Specifically...
His player has decided he has no future as an adventurer.  Yet he might be played on odd occasions.  For example, he would be useful to take along as a horse handler, out of play while more competent PCs (player characters) are doing the real adventuring.  A game master might use Aloysious as a background character, an NPC (non-player character).  Any position that can be filled by an anonymous NPC can be personified as Aloysious if useful to the campaign task.
The characters resolve to return to Triford after five years for a reunion.  At the reunion, the characters decide to reunite again after another five years.  Between the first and second reunions, different characters are said to have participated in different types of campaign.  The book uses this opportunity to discuss three types of games:  Story Telling, Role Playing, and Power Gaming.

Rokana is something of a magical adept.  She “enters into the service of Zazen the Scholar, an NPC of great wisdom with a following of students who are glad to work as his servants and helpers in exchange for knowledge.”  Her experiences are meant to demonstrate a story telling campaign.  Zazen and a group of his students – including Rokana – try to make friends with a population of dwarves.  However, Rokana eats a sacred pear or something and the dwarves imprison them.  Zazen and party are released only after they agree to leave one human behind with the dwarves.  The emphasis of a story telling campaign, according to the Handbook, “is on participating in some sort of important action which creates a challenge to the characters.”

Dernfara and Joleen went to the city of Myboro to pursue their vocations; Dernfara as a “rat hunter” (i.e., thief) and Joleen as an “entertainer.”  Their adventures represent a “campaign ...where role playing is a primary objective.”  Joleen is imprisoned in a creepy temple and Dernfara rescues her.  The temple accuses Dernfara of murder and the authorities apprehend him.  Joleen testifies before the court and it turns out the temple is guilty of the murder they tried to pin on Dernfara.  “Scenarios in role playing games tend to test strength of character or inner will and ability to remain in the role.”

Barostan became a mercenary and participated in a power gaming campaign.
The major interest in these games is the accumulation of power and loot through successful combat.  In these games, fighting is of utmost importance.  Power gaming rests upon the hack and slash school of play.  There is one easy answer to every problem: kill it.
Barostan's story is the most amusing of the three.
          “I'll tell you what life is like out there.  On the first year after I left here I was riding overland with some friends.  Suddenly, lions attacked us and killed half the horses.  That night a bunch of trolls kept us awake until we charged them and killed them.  The next day we found the ruins, and we went into the underground tunnels.  Down there I fought skeletons, zombies, ghouls, liches, and vampires in one room, and in the next one there was one of every kind of animal I could think of.  That was a hard fight because I didn't know who to parry.  The next room was full of water so the wizards froze it and we walked into the treasure room.  That's where I earned my name, Skullbasher.
          “...Another time we heard about some treasure in a wizard's abandoned tower, so we went to look for it.  It was like a maze, but everything was booby trapped until we came to a magic room that seemed endless, and we were attacked by one hundred tiny men about a foot high.  Then a green dragon attacked and it killed almost everyone before we overcame it.  It was wearing a diamond bracelet which we took.  After that, we crawled out a window and went home.”
          “In the old days,” says an elderly man from the background, “I went into a dungeon and, in every room for seventy-two rooms, there were monsters of a different type which we fought, killed, and looted.”
          “Ah, the good old days,” says Barostan.  “But now the monsters are smarter, it seems.”
          “Or you are less smart,” says someone from a dark corner of the tavern.
          Barostan bristles, but calms down at Bridla's touch, then continues.  “One time, when we were fighting dwarves, they were damn smart.  They led us into their dungeon, as we walked past their secret doors before we knew it, and they came out and attacked us from the rear and front both.  But they never dared to close up with us completely, and so they wore us out a little at a time, and made us use up our magical strength.  Then they sent a couple of monstrous worms at us which were all but immune to our attacks, and they killed half of us before we surrendered.”
          “Surrender to a dwarf?” asked Aloysious, “Isn't that dangerous?”
          “Sure is,” says Barostan, “but not as dangerous as fighting a giant purple worm!”

No comments:

Post a Comment