Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Conan, Roleplaying, and Single Shot Single Player Games


I was recently reminded that when I first started gaming, I would often play with just one other person. My brother, Russel, Feon, and others come to mind. We would play when we could and wherever we could. Having read as many of the Conan stories, Tarzan yarns, and comic books such as Savage Sword, Kull, Conan, Red Sonja, and a multitude of others, my little mind was fertile with adventures for single player games of Dungeons and Dragons. This traipse down memory lane was prompted, “The Curse of the Monolith” from Conan of Cimmeria.

Yuppers, reading that book.

I’ve been reading some Robert E. Howard lately as our Robert E. Howard art compendium is being released. The stories in Conan mostly have him acting alone or allying temporarily with one or two people. There are often soldiers in the background, either as enemies or allies. These rarely come into play in the fore of the adventure but serve to disentangle Conan from broader threats. The adventures are short and typically simple and occur in a short timeframe. There is always quick, decisive, action. That basic environment was the basis for almost all my single player adventures.

I even stole ideas whole cloth.

As time passed and my reading expanded to other authors like Michael Moorcock and Karl Edward Wagner, my games shifted in tone and reach. Wagner added an element of darkness to the games and Moorcock added a degree of the mystical or overarching themes. At the same time the number of players in the game increased until it was a crowd. Although the essential elements established earlier remained, I was finding that the ‘party’ was too big and varied for the plot lines derived from earlier pulps.

Six people could not be the hero of the party.

Then I read Lord of the Rings followed by The Sword of Shannara. These helped expand my capacity to play large parties of players and introduce the weird and inexplicable into my games. Essentially, the latter gave me the ability to see larger groups of heroes at play, with each player being a hero in their own way. Then I received the blue basic box for Christmas one year and, that was all she wrote. I knew then how the game was intended to be played.

That did not last long.

I played the way I enjoyed using Conan, Kain, and the Eternal Warrior as inspiration for plots, storylines and especially pace. Still do. The quick pacing and decisive action from Conan, the dastardly setting and amorality from Kane, with the deep plots and themes of Moorcock combine to form the triumvirate of my game’s foundations. I still find it difficult to manage larger parties. Not everyone can be hero.

Some things never change.

Now to change the tire on a car. That will change.

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