Monday, November 23, 2009

Repitition of Themes and Soldiers Mantras

Work has got me beating the gong quite often these days so I'm trying to knock out some of these ideas on the Berserk series before I forget where I'm going with it. For those who aren't fans of manga, I apologize for the near constant stream of Berserk coverage but I find it easier to hit the series as a whole then to chop it up and come back to it.

Dark Horse continues to provide the previews and summaries over here. I keep posting the link because I find the series very well illustrated and find that a picture speaks a thousand words.
So last volume we learned of a dread group of knights sent out to hunt down our hero and his allies in the Band of the Hawk. Here, the Black Dog Knights lead by the strange Wyald gets to the heart of the action.
Note though, the names being thrown around here. Descriptive to a point and entertaing in and of themselves. In a quick flashback for example, we learn that Wyald became the leader of his unit, a group of thieves and worse, by killing Barbo the Armor Hacker. Giving your characters little extra names gives them a little extra character and might let the players know what to expect. Indeed, it may give the players a little step up when facing such characters.
In terms of the value of a campaign, when looking at Berserk 11, it's important to keep in mind that there are campaigns of all types. There are campaigns that are just starting. There are campaigns that are starting, but starting in the heart of the action at a high level. There are long term campaigns.
In those, the long term campaigns, the Game Master should be keeping track of what the common folk know of the players and their allies. Here, because the Band of the Hawk is well known and well loved, Guts and his allies find their initial escape through the country fairly easy. However, its important to remember what happens to those who help outlaws. Well, that's not entirely true.
See, many times, writers use a standard trick to make the players hate certain NPCs. That trick is to make them as vile as possible. Here, as the Black Dog Knights catch up to the Band of the Hawk, the Black Dog Knights have decorated their pole arms with the remains of those who've just helped the Band of the Hawk. Actions has consequences in all cases. Here, the players have made those who've helped them the victim of those who seek them. If word gets out about such attacks, how long could anyone expect to receive help?
In the ongoing fight, Guts realizes that the enemy is fighting not out of loyalty, pride, or enjoyement, but out of fear. Their leader, another mosnter like Zodd, fears nothing so he encourages his men to live by facing death, a death that bounces harmlessly off him wither it's collapsing bridges, explosives, volleys of arrow fire, or even a direct attack by several members from the Hawks.
Another elment though would be the game going into new territory. In this case, Guts manages to win his fight with Wyald despite the latter turning into a real monster. We see not only the strength that Guts brings to the fight with his oversized sword, but the weakness of the monsters in terms of their 'skull' being a vital part of them. This knowledge will be vital as in the first few volumes, we've seen Guts able to fight these creatures on an almost one on one basis.
Another important element I've forgotten to mention as I've been going through the Berserk volumes though is distinctive features. While I've mentioned Guts himself, many of the other characters in the series have a very distinctive look and this makes them stand out. This ranges from Zodd's barbaric energy to Griffith's overwhelming charisma, to Pippen being a near giant and Ricket being a youth barely old enough to swing a sword. By making the characters, including the NPCs distinctive, the Game Master gives the players more 'coat racks' to hang their mental imagination on and makes it easier for them to enjoy a more fully realized game.