Friday, August 14, 2009

The Riot at Bucksnort and other Western Tales or Mistaken Identity

One of the things it can be fun to do in a role playing game is to play the mistaken identity game. In The Riot at Bucksnort and Other Western Tales by good old Robert E. Howard, the first story Mountain Main introduces us to Breckinridge, a huge man whose skin is imprevious to normal harm and whose size pits him in the role of one of Robert E. Howard's standard "old blood" style characters.
When Breckinridge goes into town, he's mistaken for a boxer and this leads to some interesting scenarios.
In another story, Guns of the Mountains, Breckinridge temporarily falls in with a bad crowd that lies to him, claiming to be the sheriff and his deputies.
In terms of mistaken identity, it can happen one of two ways. The NPC's in the setting think the character is someone he isn't, or the player's think that a particular NPC or group of NPC's are someone they're not.
This can come about in an innocent way or it can be done through deliberate machinations where the players are trying to deceive someone or someone is trying to deceive the players.
In terms of actually pulling it off, a lot of the mechanics will depend on the game system. For example, in 3rd edition, there are several skills that can be used right off the bat such as bluff. Of course there is always magic. In addition to those standards, depending on how big the scam is, the party trying to hide may draw other people into the scam. For example, what if the players come to a town that's supposed to be under threat of bandit raid and they're too late? The bandits are already here and have informed the town people that if they let the character's know, things won't go well for them.
The GM should think of how the 'scam' is going to be pulled off and for how long. Players should do the same.
While impersonation can be a difficult piece to pull off well, it can also be fun providing new venues to the game that might not have been open otherwise. After all, who hasn't seen some type of spoof where one character of a social circle has a twin out there of another social circle and the two decide to swap families?
But it doesn't always have to be about people pretending to be other people. In a game like Dungeons and Dragons, what if it's monsters pretending to be other monsters? For example, in the story, The Haunted Mountain, the mountain man goes into a cave to wrestle with a primative wearing a panther and using a club. In the dark though, he comes across something else but isn't aware of it until he gets back into the light and asks where the primative is. "Well, what was that thing I just run outa the cave?" I hollered. "That was a grizzly b'ar." said Glanton (p.88).
One favorite of that method is the dragon that's one color but is actual another. This is usually the albino red dragon that breaths fire. All of the players arm up against a white dragon that uses frost and get a nasty little surprise when the fight actually starts. Its best to go light with that touch though as its not something that will work more than a time or two.