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Friday, 30 April 2010

Two decades old and all-new

Tomorrow we’ve got a blast from the past – a scenario that’s now more than twenty years old, written originally for the Invaders & Ancients book. This is going to be its first publication anywhere. Blimey, it’s like opening a time capsule and finding my old Action Man.

It’s curious for me reading the scenario now. There’s very little in the way of planned set-piece combat, for a start. Back in those days, our group played a minimum of once a week, not counting the messages and one-on-one sessions that took place between the main games. The role-playing was intense and very “method”. The characters had real relationships quite distinct from the players themselves, making for a game that ran off the interaction, rivalry and alliances between the leads – more Sopranos than CSI, say. So it would have been quite easy for the GM (or referee, as I prefer to say) to set up a scenario like this and expect a tense drama to unfold without ever having to say, “Suddenly a pack of jackals come bounding across the plains towards you.”

Now that I only get to play once a fortnight, I have a better idea what casual role-playing is like. If you run tomorrow's scenario with a group that meets only occcasionally, the players are going to sit around waiting to see what the external threat is. Since our group doesn't nowadays spend the whole session in-character, it would be almost impossible to generate the kind of immersion this kind of scenario expects; it's Elia Kazan, not James Cameron. And, with the exception of the uncompromisingly committed Oliver Johnson, I don’t think any of our group would be able to delve down into the Rod Steiger level of immersion needed to turn the finale into the pressure cooker of paranoia and greed that was intended.

So if I was running it today, I’d probably throw in some kind of a fight in the third act. Not necessarily anything real – it could be a shared hallucination intended to crystallize the scenario’s themes. Perhaps a desert ruin full of disturbing angles, where some dark tentacled beast (representing Greed itself) lurked to seize a party member and hold them to a difficult bargain over the last of their water, something like that. Not that I wanted the adventure to go that way, you understand, but otherwise I think the point would be lost. Of course, if your group are willing to throw themselves body and soul into the story you won’t need a monster to make it work.

I haven’t provided stats because those that were in the scenario, for Hodansyr and the Rinder brothers, were first based on RuneQuest and later on the one of the protypical DW2s. Neither of those is going to make much sense these days, and anyway you’ll want to adjust them to be in line with your player-characters.

A final note: on first reading I was surprised by the scenario’s moral slant. Then I remembered that Dragon Warriors is indeed a moral universe, unlike the disinterested fate that governs the Fabled Lands or Abraxas or Tekumel. So let it stand. This was the scenario as written; here you have it.

More Precious Than Gold – in three parts, starting tomorrow. You’ll need the map and you’ll find it here. Then in a couple of weeks we'll be bringing you the real DW2.

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