A Tale of Two Games

2011-05-14

(Originally posted on LiveJournal)

Note: a thread on RPG.net concerned playing D&D in a world-spanning “anti-magic field”; commenters who implied the whole idea was stupid triggered the following gibberish.

Imagine a session of D&D with four characters: Brother Julian, a male human cleric, Russ the Slayer, a male human fighter, Morgan Ironwolf, a female human fighter, and Carathel Prestameril, a female elf magic-user. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is a damn shame. (The last two names come from a classic D&D module and an Elvish name generator.)

Game 1

Seven hulking figures loped into the clearing. Beneath layers of filth a keen eye might discern crude leather clothes; hands that could crush a human head grasped primitive mauls made of dead branches or animal bones.

Russ the Slayer sighed. “Ogres? How dull. Caddy, hand me my +2 Sword of Ogre-Slaying.” A nameless hireling handed him a glowing blade.

Carathel Prestameril, or Cara as her mortal companions called her, drew her Wand of Fireballs. “This shouldn’t take long.”

“Hey!” Russ glowered at her. “Don’t bogart my XP!” Seven stoop-shouldered monsters turned toward the noise.

The elf-maid laughed. “Relax, I’ll leave some for everyone.” Morgan Ironwolf unsheathed her +2 Vorpal Sword and shouldered her adamantine shield. Brother Julian readied his +2 Mace of Smiting, made to crush evil (without spilling blood, of course), like a batter waiting for a pitch.

The battle was brief and one-sided. Carathel unleashed a fireball that killed four ogres and singed three others. The other adventurers stood toe-to-toe with the survivors: heads flew, bones shattered bloodlessly, and ogre voices screamed in agony. Less than a minute later, the band of heroes looted the bodies.

“Jeez, only 3500 gold?” Russ pouted. “Where’s the gems? Where’s the magic items?”

“Uh-oh,” Brother Julian said. “I found the burned remnants of a scroll.”

Morgan stood. “And here’s some broken potion bottles.”

“STEVE!” Russ howled at the skies. “Ogres are supposed to have 2d4 potions or two magic items. Not one of each! Not useless —-! When are you going to follow the —-ing rules!?”

Game 2

Seven hulking figures loped into the clearing. Beneath layers of filth a keen eye might discern crude leather clothes; hands that could crush a human head grasped primitive mauls made of dead branches or animal bones.

The four adventurers watched quietly from the treeline. Brother Julian whispered, “We must warn Greenbriar immediately.”

“Cara can go, and the rest of us can hold them off,” Russ the Slayer hissed. “My steel can part their flesh.” In truth, he only trusted the elf-maid as far as he could throw her (surprisingly far, she hardly weighed anything), but he couldn’t keep an eye on her in battle; better she rode off to the village.

“No.” Julian sighed. “The good people of Greenbriar are … traditionalists like you. They would never heed dear Cara; they might even harm her.”

Dear Cara … Russ could not see how a priest of Diwas could accept a sorcerous, soulless thing like her in their midst. Others thought Lady Carathel Prestameril beautiful, and Russ had to agree … beautiful like a serpent, like lotus dreams.

“Fear not for me,” Cara smirked. “No mortal can outwit a child of Darkvale.”

Morgan Ironwolf, former mercenary captain, scowled and absently stroked the scar across her nose. “We can’t take on seven of the brutes. At best we can harry them, buy messengers some time.”

Brother Julian nodded. “Russ and I will return to Greenbriar. I trust Morgan and Cara can shadow the brutes unseen, and divert them should the need arise.”

“You’re leaving the girls alone with those monsters?”

“One of us ‘girls’ trained with a sword since before you were born,” Morgan murmured.

“… and the other of us studied magic before your father was born.” Cara added.

Julian carefully backed further into the woods. “We shall return as soon as we can, Captain Ironwolf, Lady Prestameril. Come, Russ my son, to the horses.”

Now, consider:

Which game is an adventure? Which is more exciting?