Sunday, May 1, 2011

This is the Free Trader Beowulf, calling anyone...Mayday, Mayday ...

This is the Free Trader Beowulf, calling anyone ...
Mayday, Mayday ...
we are under attack ...
main drive is gone ...
turret number one not responding ...
Mayday ...
losing cabin pressure fast ...
calling anyone ...
please help ...
This is Free Trader Beowulf ...
Mayday ..

So goes the cover quote (and yes, I apologize for the horrible May fool wordplay) for the black box of classic Traveller, a quote that sucked me in from the beginning. I have always been a sucker for the special evocative kind of paragraph that hits the tone just right in a game.

Years later and I still remember the feeling of reading in the original D&D intro (first read by me in Holmes Basic); Gygax's invocation of Blackmoor, the Egg of Coot, and the Great Kingdom and the dropping of pulp fantasy heroes I had yet to encounter: Burroughs' John Carter, Leiber's Fafhrd and Grey Mouser, and Howard's Conan. The doors opened up in my brain on reading them.

This being a lazy Sunday, let me just throw this up for conversation sake: what quotes from a gaming product grabbed you and didn't let go? Which ones blaze out of your memory years later? What had the power to evoke a sense of what it was all about and why?


  1. Heh. As soon as I read the post title, I know you were referring to Traveller.

    The only other quote I can think of off the top of my head is the subtitle of the Fiend Folio: "Tome of creatures malevolent and benign." When I first got the book, I had to look those adjectives up, so I eneded up learning a couple of new words. To this day, whenever I see the word "malevolent," I still picture that blue FF cover with the image of the githyanki.

  2. "Give me what I ask and Kerunan will wear Black again!" General Vreshsheqmu of Salarvya

    From the "Battle of Ry" account by MAR Barker, Wargamer's Digest, March 1976

    1. Wargamers Digest, man. Before I ran into D&D in 1978 I was wargaming kinda LOL and subscribed. I think I found a collection of them online a few years ago.

  3. On the frivolous side, there were so many little quotes and snippets from Dragon magazine that became intertwined with my DNA...

    "Forsooth Fantasysmith!"

    "There are no saving throws in school."

    "Valley elf... Valley elf..."

    "Could you repeat that in Auld Wormish?"

    "Look honey, he's got his first hit die!"

    "They call me Bes."

  4. Mayday... yes that's Traveller - in a nutshell. This one did not only draw me in to Traveller, but actually into role playing in general.

    Words sometimes can be just as strong as a good cover image :-)

  5. Ahhh, the Traveller Mayday call. Did you have to start with the best? :)

    There is one from Mekton Zeta that I couldn't shake if I wanted to.

    "And that's how your father and I met, dear."

  6. "As someone once said, that which does not kill us makes us stranger as well as stronger, and the changes wrought upon us by the traumas we have suffered leave a mark that is both a reminder of pain and a badge of honor, the proof of survival, the ability to truly understand the sufferings of others." -Changeling: the Lost NWOD

  7. "A person can be destroyed by a traumatic experience... or can rise above it to become a person whose strengths are defined and proven by the refinement of suffering, through acceptance and growth." -Changeling: the Lost NWOD

    Those two quotes from Changeling really grabbed me, and they seem to rise above a mere RPG product.

  8. Dave, get the barbarian in the corner a drink, quick!

  9. The Beowulf bit is still the strongest thing to me, but "I know the Shakespearian bit about a 'sea-change'!" (DMG p.99) is another one. It got me thinking about how things we understand to be true now were not always so, and how those things helped make up the feel of a fantasy world of the sort portrayed in D&D and many other fantasy RPGs. Thinking about it has also helped me consider the ways that cultural differences can make for a very different understanding of the world.

  10. It kinda seems like RPGs are a bit weak in the tag line department, the Beowulf mayday really seems to be the most to films and TV:

    "In space noone can hear you scream."
    "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...."
    "Soylent Green is people."
    "You god damn dirty ape...damn you all to hell!"
    "We have the technology to build the world's first bionic man."
    "These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise..."
    "We want information...You are Number Six...I am not a number; I am a free man!"

  11. I wish that I'd gotten into a good game of Traveller with a competent GM. Alas, my first experience with it was a con game that remains one of my worst gaming sessions, lifetime.

  12. @Desert Scribe
    There are an amazing number of ten-dollar words I learnt from rpgs back in the day (along with things like probabilities and bell-curves). That would make a fun post.

    I had no idea Wargamers Digest did fantasy coverage, let alone anything having to do with Tekumel. My obsession with historical minis pre-dates my rpg one by about a year. My dad bought me copies of WD in 1979, but by that time they were completely historical in focus.

  13. "It's a great new fantasy role-playing game. We pretend we're workers and students in an industrialized and technological society."

  14. "It's a either a +3 backscratcher, or it allows a magic-user to cast all of the various Bigby's Hand spells... So far we're not sure which.

  15. "Good luck - you're on your own."

  16. I'm late to the game with this one, but I was always partial to:

    "Watch your back, shoot straight, and never deal with a dragon."

  17. Stay alert! Trust no one! And keep your laser handy!