Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jack Vance Memorial Game...

Rhialto Is Dead! Long Live Rhialto!

...wherein our Magicians insult twk-men, interfere in local mating rituals, perform amazing feats of regurgitive magic, and inspire filicide, all before dinner.

As the blogosphere duly noted, master author Jack Vance died a bit more than two weeks ago. The weekend following his death, I hosted a Jack Vance Memorial Game session. Inspired by the coincidental discovery of this astounding Vancian Magic Supplement, (which includes the two perfect stories to read before playing in this particular milieu) and using my large collection of Dying Earth RPG rules and supplements as grist for the mill, I decided we`d play what those in the know refer to as a Turjan-level game using the Original D&D rules. 

All players would be Magic-Users of mid-level: Rolling a d6, 1-2: Thaumaturgist; 3-4: Magician; 5-6: Enchanter. Spells were generated using the list of Vancian spells. All were assigned two Vancian taglines (as per the DERPG) and four magical items chosen by me from various DERPG supplements and the OSRIC magic items list. Otherwise they rolled up characters 3D6 in order, HP according to rules, etc. It's worth noting that Grodram secured a STR of 18, and therefore decided to wear platemail and carry a two-handed sword...

In the end, the group of truculent mages consisted of:

  • Xamruc the Gourmet, played by Jesse
  • Pupericion the Wisemonger, played by Nick
  • Grodram the Grisly, played by Sean
  • Igrex Zed the Colorful, played by Trevor
  • Abador Rex, played by Will

Normally loathe to cooperate, they had banded together to face the threat of Zaramanth, arch-mage of Almery who, displaying perhaps fatal temerity, had decided to locate his new Manse Sabulle, in the Derna river gorge in Ascolais, running through the Great Forest Da. The outline for this potentially radiant stew of conflict can be found in the pages of the first issue of the Excellent Prismatic Spray (known by all pundits and men of style as one of the best gaming magazines ever printed...) As is usual when five erudite and obfuscatory personalities congregate, chaos ensued...

We made it almost exactly halfway through the adventure, and will be finishing up this weekend. Honestly, it ended up being a lot more fun than I`d hoped, especially with me just throwing it at my beleaguered players a few days before we played. Most of them were at most tangentially familiar with the Dying Earth, but with just a bit of guidance, they all jumped in with both feet, slinging spells and taglines right and left.

One of my suggestions, taking my cue from the Rhialto stories, was for each of their characters to consider themselves as the absolute authority on some aspect of magic. E.g., Igrex Zed ended up with the spell "The Gestation of the Ignoble Servitor." He thereby considered himself to be the last word on mephit culture, physiology, psychology, and style. And therefore began working his expertise into every conversation possible. At least until he became distracted by a nubile village maiden, which led to a forest chase and a disagreement with Thrang the ghoul-bear...

I`ve come more and more lately to see ODD as an almost transparent tool or, to paraphrase Jesse, a practical engine of pastiche, and this experience really clarified it for me. Though of course there`s a large dose of Vance in ODD already, especially in the magic, it was effortless to translate DERPG-specifics into ODD terms on the fly. Pure awesome.