Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Days of our Dungeons

I'm going to roll a wandering monster check to see if your wife comes by ...

The look of horror on the player's face when I declared this was wonderful. Her male character has in the past foisted two sexual relationships onto a loyal henchman as marriages (yes, the henchman is indeed bigamous); meanwhile the character has since married "respectfully" and without telling his now-wife the full story of his past.

And an NPC had just shown up with a young child, declaring it either the character's or the henchman's--"And you must now take care of her!" The henchman was away; the character tried to keep the child's appearance secret from his wife to prevent any further frustrations between the two (she had already been angered at the character for some other reason during an earlier session.)

I roll a black die (on a 1, the monster--the wife!--appears), a red die (on a 1 or 2 the monster is surprised--you have a moment to compose yourself), and a white die (on a 1 or 2 the party/character is surprised--you're caught in the act!) ...

Roll roll roll. No wife. Not yet. What do you do, now that you have this child foisted upon you?


The exchange struck me as pretty soap-operatic, or picaresque, and wonderful for it.

This was during a game back in March. We don't get to play together too often anymore as we live in different cities (same state, at least!), but we've been playing these characters for about six years now, and each of us has a stronghold of some kind, and we take turns DMing for each other. And after six years, a larger part of the fun with these characters that have grow on us is not tied so entirely to the dungeon or adventure--we've accumulated enough "episodes" and gathered enough of a cast of minor characters around us that a lot of the fun is the soap opera stuff--your wife doesn't know about your sordid past, but your sordid past just showed up looking for you.

What happens next? We'll find out on the next episode ...

(and check out Zak S.' essay about D&D as a picaresque if you want an actual essay about emergent narrative from episodic play; it's always worth another read)

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