Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Rashomon Effect of our Very Own

Nestled somewhere in the misty reaches of the ether there is a chart so nefarious, so utterly corrupting in its influence that I shudder at its mention.

How many souls—and livers—were gutted by a seemingly frivolous lark amongst its random probabilities? How many buildings burnt and fleckless innocents beaten to feed its soulless agenda? I write, of course, of Jeff Rient's infamous Carousing Mishaps, the table that launched a thousand FLAILSNAILS tall tales.

This is such a story.
Back up to a little over a month ago when one of several new additions to the player cast of the Hill Cantons, a mountebank by the name of Manzafrain the Mirthful (pictured above as drawn by that scamp Jeremy Duncan), is making a bid to gather those wee few extra experience points to push him over the next level hump. He doubles down and decides to put the maximum he can—all of the hard-earned swag he has minus a hobbit-carried sedan chair—and naturally just as promptly blows the roll.

Amusingly, the table dictates that he has found himself in a shotgun marriage in his binge haze. I promptly up the ante by explaining to him that his new bride, the eldest daughter of a local guild master, is an utter terror and nag.

Marzapan, an aspiring Flashman on psycho-tunes steroids, calls my hand and instantly embarks on a crazed and anti-social plan to kidnap his wife and ransom her back to his father-in-law. He then precedes to bug me for five weeks straight on running this escapade as a session.
Jeremy Duncan's own HC mountebank, "The Colonel"
Truth be told, dear reader, I was artfully avoiding the reality of actually running said session for the simple fact that it sounded boring as all get out to me as a GM.

Yeah, yeah I know I am one of those player-driven campaign preachers--and, yes, my big break from the West Marches model came when town adventures could be explored—but it's just that it clashed with one of my other foundational principles for the campaign. That is that most normal NPCs inside the bounds of civilization are...well...utterly normal unless there is a plausible and established connection to the Weird. In other words the affair smelled of dull little cake-walk.

But then it dawned on me, why not break the fourth wall and just ask the player outright? Fortunately Robert's desire to make good on his obsession trumped any objections to “sexing this session up”.

Poof, the faceless random entry spouse becomes Elishka, the closet sadist with a fondness for sharp cutting tools. Poof comes Drogo, her half-ogre manservant. Poof comes the scheming and Machiavellian father-in-law. And poof this menacingly letter is sent to Robert's inbox:
My Dearest Vagrant-in-Law Marzapan,
It has come to attention by my dear sweet daughter that you have not paid attention to your filial duties throughout the month of the Black Goat—indeed it is nearly Dapper Demagogues month and we have seen neither hide nor hair of you around our town home. I must take you to task, sir, for such negligence.

And it has come to my august attention that you are still seen gallivanting around town with a band of otherworldly ruffians. This simply will not do. 
I urge you to reconsider my offer for employment as an underscribe at my guild offices and to return to the matter of your familial responsibilities.

Or simply I will be forced to take matters into my more than capable hands. I will be meeting with my good friend and dearest boon companion, Jahoda the Sweetly-Scented. You might know him in his capacity as a journeyman in the Brotherhood of Slayers.

In Stern Disdain,
Hurloj  Kladivo
Master of the Guild of Accipitraries, Ankle Beaters, and Drovers
The session did not disappoint. In fact, it perhaps was the most crazed (and thus wonderful) in my three year run. But don't take my word for it, embrace the full Rashomon effect of the experience here, here, here and here. (It really is worth taking the time to read each, trust me.)


  1. Obsession may be a bit of an overstatement!

    I generally have a pretty good sense of what comprises a fun player-driven session, and the audacity of kidnapping my own wife promised hijinks galore.

    Happily, you handled it masterfully, and while I'm certain that it wouldn't have been a cakewalk even without 'sexing it up', you damn sure made it a session to remember.

    Moreover, by making Hurloj such a nasty customer, you've built an excellent long-term villain that we cannot easily rid ourselves of.

    1. Both your attitude and my own reluctance may have been stretched a bit for dramatic effect.