Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Trouble with Swashbuckling Adventure

The Trouble with Swashbuckling Adventure

Swashbuckling adventure always seems so appealing on paper. Danger,
romance, duels, sudden turns of luck and all that acrobatic swinging
from chandeliers stuff sounds great. But in practice it's hard to get
the buy-in from players. After all, much of the appeal from
swashbuckling is constant trouble- and then getting out of it. Problem
with that is that so few players I have ever famed with like to set
themselves up for problems. My dear, late friend Matt, for instance
lived for having his characters put through the wringer. Kill his
character's family, have his character's best friend betray him, put
his character's beloved in harm's way, and he was happy. But my
experience is that more player will have their characters be
friendless orphan drifters to avoid the "gotcha" of possible surprise
character drama.

I don't want that to come off as a complaint. It's just and
observation that what works in books and movies may be less successful
at the game table. Or at least harder to encourage in play.

It may just be that the easiest genre to emulate may me the
picaresque. From Lazarillo de Tormes to Huck Finn to Fafhrd and the
Grey Mouser, the unpredictable adventures of generally likeable rogues
stumbling into trouble and figuring their way out through cunning and
street smarts with a little humor thrown in seems to me a better model
of traditional RPGs than anything else I can think of.

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