Sunday, November 29, 2009

No Children's Tales Here

At this point in the manga, Dark Horse has moved well beyond the cartoon.
The series continues to showcase things that every good game master should involve themselves in.
First off, world building. Here we learn the story of Peekaf, a child with strange ears and red eyes who teased as a youth, runs away to find the elves only to discover that the elves cured him as a baby and left side effects. He runs home only to discover that time flows differently in the fey lands and his parents are long dead.
This is a small tale but showcases some common themes of loss and regret, of giving up what you already have for something you may never acheive. In addition, it showcases that things don't work the way we think they do in terms of setting. Just because time flows one way in one place doesn't mean it flows the same way in another place.
The material also makes me want to mention 'skinning'. THis is where you take the game mechanics or effects of one thing and apply them to something else. Because Guts is cursed, he's always fighting ghosts that possess nearby things. While entertaining perhaps to stat up possessed hounds, humans, and other bits, it's perhaps not the best use of one's time. Having a set of stats that represent the creatures base powers that can be easily modified on the fly is a useful ability for a Game Master to have. In some game systems, like GURPS and Hero, it's essentially expected for each player and Game Master to customize their abilities based not on what the ability does, but what it's 'effect' is. For example, in Hero, a d6 for damage is a d6 for damage regardless if it's a punch, a fire blast, an ice blast, a sonic blast or some other type of damage. Having an ability to quickly guage what something does and 'skin' it on the fly is useful for when you want to keep the game moving.
Don't forget the holy men. Even in small villages and towns, there should be a priest or three to take care of the spiritual needs of the people and to act as a contact point for any religious orders, pilgrims or religious events that need interpetation. Even here in a dark and dismal world where few survive, the small town that Guts is travelling through has a priest who speaks with the holy knights moving through and on Guts trail.
Lastly, don't forget about the characters actions. If the characters are having an effect on the game world, this should be something that is noticed. In this volume, the holy knights trailing Guts are doing so because in his persona as the Black Swordman, he's continuously killing things that are not meant to be, causing quite an upstir. The knights seek to understand what this means for their religion and what is going on in the larger scheme of things and if Guts is involved.
Keep the setting real by telling the players stories that take place in the setting. Let the players know their actions are felt by having their own stories enter the legends of the campaign.