Friday, December 4, 2009

Stealing Names and History

Berserk 22 starts off with Guts and Griffith having a meeting atop a hill. Ricket, under the guidance of Gordo, fashioned swords for practice and used them as grave markers for this hill of swords.
A site like this lends itself up to a few possibilities. First off, there is the creation of the site itself. A single man honoring his comrades has a resonance that can be felt wither the event just happened or happened hundreds of years ago.
Second, it's a potentially dangerous place to fight. Guts, not really happy to see Griffith again, charges at his old leader only to be stopped by Zodd. As the two fight on the hill, through the swords about them, Guts uses his old infamous Sunder attack on Zodd's sword, just as he did when they first meet, only to have Zodd reach down and grab one of the nearby swords to augment his fighting style, which is countered by Guts kicked up one of the swords managing to wound Zodd.
This maze of swords can be used as something like a skill challenge where you can inflict an extra dice of damage on the enemy or replace a broken weapon.
The thing I was thinking of though, would be what if you were a wounded soldier holding a magical sword and needed a place to hide it? Now I know it's a bit of a cheat since players can always use detect magic or other means, but placing the sword among the other swords already out could at least slow down just yanking it off of the soldier.
Another element here is that of the Nemesis. While the word initially has a mythological context to it, depending on its context, it can mean a long term enemy. Zodd and Guts have crossed swords before and as the end of this fight showcases, may do so again.
In a fantasy RPG, especially one like Dungeons and Dragons or Rolemaster, where almost everything earned in terms of experience to gain levels, is a direct result of killing things and taking their stuff, it can be hard to have a single nemesis. On the other hand, there are things that can be done to make a 'feel' for a Nemesis.
One, the foe is just that much stronger than the player. This allows the first fight to be one in which the player probably won't win and perhaps even in the second fight.
Two, the foe is actually an organization. This can be a family that has a grudge against the players or can be a cult that the players have thwarted. To give it a personal feel, the GM should have someone at the head of the organization or family that the players know is in charge and is continuously putting them in danger, but can't actually do anything to physically harm that individual. It might make them think of ways outside the box to harm the individual such as pooling their money and trying their hand at the game of finances, trying to bring ruin to the individual in that manner, or for those groups which have bards or other social types such as nobles, using a slow and sure methodology of destroying that person's reptuation.
Three, the foe is essentially immortal. In Marvel comics, Ultron is a robot that returns again and again and unlike many comic book foes, each time he's defeated, it's apparently permanent. But by being a robot in the first place, the writers are able to use any old excuse around to bring him back. In a game like Dungeons and Dragons where there are spells like Wish, Clone, Reincarnate, and now in 4e, rituals, not to mention the various templates and ideas that can be applied to a dead individual, such as coming back undead, demonic, etc..., it could be easy to bring someone back from the dead in some form or another. Heck, have the players meet a warrior they thought dead come back as a half-golem!
The trick though, is to make the nemesis someone the players want to fight again even if their characters don't necessarily want to fight again. A lame nemesis can be good in a game like say Paranoia but unless the group is enjoying it, just brings down the mood. In addition, the appearance of the nemesis should count for something. When first introduced, Zodd is the herald that the world is not normal. That there are things larger and more monstrous beyond the ken of mortal men. In his second apperance, it's just before the Eclipse where Griffith sacrifices the band of the hawk. In his third apperance, it's to prevent Guts from attacking Griffith. This indicates to Guts at least, that there are things going on that he has no clue about. Note that these apperances are as they pretain to what the character, Guts knows.
Next up, powerful Non-Player Characters. There are times when reading online forums, I have to wonder why the players are even bothering to play. They try and nit pick apart all things at all times. In this volume, Griffith leads... well, is present at a counter attack as the invading army of Midland learns that the Apostles are not to be trifled with. Each one of these aposltes appears as a great warrior, some of them of some reknown. But we as the readers haven't seen any of them before.
This can easily happen in a RPG. The scope of the game, as in the scope of the comic, has to be on the here and now and can be expanded. To continuously question why the character's wouldn't know of this 'Dragon Knight' or Locus, the Moonlight Knight. And the short answer is that they didn't exist before. The long answer, depending on the circumstance, is that they were thought dead, retired, from another country, etc.. etc... etc... This is another case where the longer and more forward thinking the Game Master can be in terms of whose who in the campaign, and introduce at least the names and deeds of those individuals, that they appear as more than just upstarts when they first make their apperance.
However, the Game Master must keep that door open for the players as well. For example, in this volume we get some more background information on Lady Farnese and Serpico. In many ways, these two might be players. Why then after they've been introduced do we need this background now? Where did it come from?
As a player, I'd be lying if I didn't say sometimes I just want to play and think of the background latter if at all. I like to see how the character evolves through paly. On the other hand, there are times when I have a definitive idea for my character and write out a brief background on it. If a character presents background details that don't clash with the campaign, or if he presents information that can be incorporated into the campaign and actually make it a fuller, more weighty campaign, then the Game Master should allow it.
Even if it's the exact same thing that the players are crying about, history and characters bursting forth into the scene that didn't exist before, it has the same effect in making the game fuller.
Keep the locations interesting. Use the nemesis sparringly. Keep ideas of long term character introductions at the start of the game and be prepared for the players to ambush you with background at any time.