Friday, November 20, 2009

Swords, Sorcery, and Supernatural Horror: Nosferatu Zodd

When you first start reading Berserk, you might wonder what's going on. The introduction show cases Guts fighting enemies that are the exception to humanity, using a variety of weapons that he does not possess in the 'origin' arc that follows.
But Berserk 5 starts to showcase the depth of the world. In another mission for the enigmatic and charismatic Griffith, Guts winds up fighting Nosferatu Zodd. "Among mercenaries Nosferatu Zodd is a legendary sowrdsman. They say he's killed hundreds, even thousands on the battlefield." and another mercenary notes "There are some mercenaries who reverse Zodd as a battlefield God!!"
So far that doesn't sound good.
Follow up with a up close Guts talking with the soldiers under his command, the Raiders. "We sent almost fifty men in thee and no one's come out...!!" Guts shouts.
But then someone does come out. Torn up and weakling whispering the name Zodd.... Nosferatu Zodd before dying.
Guts investigation leads him through slaughter where his men are strewn about like broken and shattered rag dolls until he encounters Zodd. At first, Guts does what any sword swinger might who doesn't realize what's going on. He charges.
Until Zodd whips the corpse on his oversized sword at Guts and smashes him into the wall at which point Guts thinks... "What the hell is this?! This overpowering sense that's got me tied up?!"
Note that Guts doesn't actual sit there and whimper. He realizes that there's something supernatural about Zodd. He knows that there's no chance based merely on his own strength that he's going to win. He takes a gamble and wins that one but alas, it's not to be and Guts winds up being saved by Griffith, both being injured by Zodd who leaves an enigmatic message behind.
So a few things to think about.
1. Supernatural Horror can be used in a standard fantasy game. Amp up the description of what's going on. If you've got a good group, the atmosphere you create will be picked up by the players and they'll go with it. If your group is of one mind and that's hack and slash, nothing less than full fledged insanity and horror rules are going to make them role play it out anyway so move onto a system that supports that.
2. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosiphy. Just because the players may be experienced with certain types of foes doesn't mean that the GM can't throw in some new enemies when the opportunity arises.
3. You don't always win. The players may decide at 3rd level to take on that elder worm. Sure, let 'em. If you've got a long term plan for them and that worm at a higher level is part of it, the worm may wind up doing some significant damage to the players but isn't necessarily out to kill them because...
4. Long term planning can pay off. Griffith in a previous volume has shown Guts the 'egg of the king', a charm on a necklace that resmbles a crimson face in disarray. When Zodd sees it, he stops his rampage and gives Guts a dire prophecy of the future.
After the fighting's all said and done, and perhaps even before that though, we can see somethings happening. In games like Hero, GURPS, and D&D 3.5, if you didn't follow a certain 'proper' path, you could wind up with a very well rounded character that could easily fall to enemies of the appropriate 'level' because you weren't following the standard.
Here, we see Griffith taking his place with the nobles while Guts? Guts is out practicing with his weapons. After the fight with Zodd, we see Griffith, whose at this point a war hero, speaking with the nobles while he recovers. Guts... yeah, he's continuing his mastery of the blade.
Long term planning continuing to take its seeds here, but what usually happens when one person continues to pursue a single mastery at the risk of all else while others continue to spread their focus about?