Monday, October 4, 2010

Usagi Yojimbo: Book 3 or Pet Tricks...

Usagi Yojimbo volume three starts off as many of Stan's beginings do; a wandering ronin comes across a sitution that he decides to butt his nose into.

In this case, one of the setting's dogs, portrayed by lizards (tokage), is chased up a tower by a shop owner tired of the animal stealing food. Usagi decides to help the creature off the watch tower but in doing so, causes more trouble for the shop keep ranging from dropping hot tea and his 'thermo' onto him, to eventually crashing into the shop keep's store.

The story has some cute elements to it and showcases karma at full play in the setting, but it's not necessarily that which comes across of interest to me.

As a long term reader of the series, it's the 'dog' that I'm interested in. It's not that this is a super creature or that it's able to fight against all odds or that it's even a long term companion. It's how the dog is used in the story.

I'll be bouncing up against some other stories here to illustrate the point.

1. The animal saves the blind swordspig latter by warning him of an ambush.

2. The animal then comes between Usagi and Zato and joins the swords pig looking for peace and a place to live.

3. The animal is killed during a bandit attack where Zato finds a home.

4. Usagi meets Zato again and learns the fate of the animal.

5. Usagi, the 'uncle' of Jotaro, finds that Jotaro has claimed a dog of similiar style with the exact same name.

The use of this one small story, used with a strong internal consistency, is what sets up these events to come later on down the road. When players do something unepxected, keep note of it and the potential long term effects that it will have on the setting. These don't have to be campaign changers or things that will punish or advance the characters, but if they are things that touch the player's characters, then it can be more of a buy in from the players when knowing their actions have consequences.

For example, if the players take to occassionally feeding orphans or homeless, they might be accosted at various cities by children. Perhaps some of the children even take to following the players. In terms of potential benefit, the players get some information that they might not otherwise have access to. The children could lead them to discover some problems that the local guards can't handle on their own and don't want to draw attention to.

On the other hand, in older editions of D&D, and in other games like Warhammer FRPG, having an actual pet or war dog, is a very valid option, especially at the lower levels of old school D&D. Having that extra body around to take some damage or to dish it out could be the difference between life and death. When fighting giant rats and other vermin, a war dog makes a good companion, especially for a lone wanderer.