Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Not So Innocent Bystander

Berserk 18 starts off by using an old stand by of role playing games and fantasy novels (and probably Westerns as well.)
Guts comes into conflict with an invading force by merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time and we the readers, are introduced by Isidro, a youth whose skills apparently include stealing and wishing to be the world's strongest swordsman.
Guts saves Isidro and this is a common method of introducing new plot points or quests in a game. How often have we seen the old man on the side of the road being attacked or having the heroes approaching home only to notice fires in the distance?
It's old hat but it works and if not overused, it shouldn't strain the players to take the bait.
The series also continues to showcase how evil people can be... 'good'. For example, the clerics in this particular setting are some of the dark examples of heretic hunters, putting many to the rack and death. Several of these individuals that follow the Father, are unique in apperance, 'freaks' in some people's eyes. But the Father has taken them in and given them food, shelter, and at the very least, the comarderie of each other. This binds them to the Father like iron chains in a bond that will not be broken , regardless of what they do in that service even though when not punishing heretics, they don't seem to be of the "enjoying evil for evil's own sake".
If the game master can find a way to show case individual elements that are normal, things that everyone does, such as enjoying time with a pet or telling tales around a table, it gives the players another dimension of those they battle to consider.
Next up, how about some cult action? Here we see a few things at work. First off, is the use of drugs and sex to act as binding agents of loyalty to those who are in the cult. Those who won't partake of these 'joys' are not members. It's an old trick of sorts where you make everyone take part of the guilt. By doing this, you bind those who are in your cause to you with the same guilt. It's similiar to say, how a movie like Lord of War has Cage's character become closer to an arms buyer who does him a favor and has Cage kill a man whose killed one of Cage's family. The ties that bind...
But beyond the physical, there is the potential spiritual. During the rituals of drugs and sex, there is a vision of a goddess with fiery wings in the flames. She bears a remarkable resemblance to one of the God Hand, indicating that there is more than just the standard events going on here.
Another old stand by used here is the fall from a great height that "no one could survive!" It's been used at least once before in Berserk and it's one of the classics, good for both players and non-player characters. No body may mean that they're not dead. Something that players, especially seasoned ones, will well be aware of so don't overuse it.
Lastly... bait and switch. The cover is a clear indication of Guts getting ready to battle the Immortal God of the Battlefield, Zodd, with Griffith behind him. Nothing of that sort appears in the actual tale. A clear case of bait and switch. Player's often don't like it, so use the old bait and switch with care if at all.