Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Usagi Yojimbo Book One: Bounty Hunter I and II

Usagi meets quite a few interesting characters in his time as a wandering samurai. One of those he meets is Gen, another masterless samurai like himself.

Where the two differ though, is that Gen is more 'realistic' about how the world works versus how Usagi would like the world to work. He has no qualms about robbing the dead, even honored samurai dead. After all, they have no future use for it right?

And where Usagi is on a journey to increase his own swordskill, Gen is a bounty hunter.

Ever since a green covered book by Bard Games called the Compleate Adventurer introduced me to the concept pf the Bounty Hunter, a subclass of the hunter in this optional AD&D compatible rule book, I loved the idea.

Bounty Hunters are perfect arch types in many ways for players to follow. They are often on the move. They have to go where their bounty is. They may be feared and needed by the local lords, but at the same time, they are not wanted. It could be considered a show of weakness that the lord cannot handle a particular issue himself, or it could be that the bounty hunters outstay their welcome or any number of social issues that happen when you have masterless men who are skilled with weapons around with no steady work.

Gen and Usagi have an interesting relationship at first. In many ways, they could both be player characters if the two players were friends. You see, Gen and Usagi, at first at least, have a bit of pranking going on. For example, Gen sticks Usagi with the bill the first time they complete am ission together. The second Usagi returns the favor.

Gen is a good recurring character because he is not 'bad' and is trustworthy even when he is not necessarily doing things the way Usagi would prefer.

When making allies and enemies for the players, you don't always have to go for the extreme. The players may be able to handle an ally who occassionally uses them for his own needs, as long as that same ally doesn't take dramatic action when the players do the same to him. And its up to the GM to provide the players with the opportunity to do the same with him. No one likes getting made into a chump multiple times by the same person and in a RPG setting, swords and spells can easily become the solution to that particular problem or worse yet, they ignore the NPC because they're just tired of him.

When players engage in this sort of behavior, the GM has to decide ahead of time where he's comfortable with it. Discussing it with the players before hand is not a bad idea in any case. If one person is playing a paladin and another plays a sneaky rogue whose still got a heart of gold, if the paladin insist on converting or killing the rogue when they first meet, there is likely to be party friction in such an instance. Try to remind the players that it's not always necessarily about "what their character would do", but how the game itself needs some trust between the party members if things are going to get beyond the killing of players by each other. While it's entertaining to read about PVP in places like Knights of the Dinner Table, it's not one of my preferred activities. I've got enough monsters and obsticles for the players to overcome.

Putting the players in a lurch can be a difficult thing to accomplish without going too far, but when done well, the players will remember and be looking for their own payout.