Averoigne Director’s Commentary

I took off for the Harms homestead a day early to dodge some bad weather, so I’m away from some of my material – including my backfile of Averoigne posts. What I can do is to offer some commentary on our most recent post.

Dyed-in-the-wool Lovecraft fans will likely note that this is far away from HPL’s conception of a mechanistic universe filled with indifferent gods who could – and would – crush humanity without a thought. What we should remember, though, is that this isn’t a Lovecraft game, but a Clark Ashton Smith game. Our starting point is “The Seven Geases“, to which Tsathoggua alludes in his conversation to Thibault.

Yet, it would be a mistake to see this as a strictly Clark Ashton Smith game. Smith looked at his stories in terms of mood and imagery, which works fine for short stories but not so well for a turn-by-turn play-by-email game.  Thus, I turned to my main supplementary sources for the mood were James Branch Cabell and Jack Vance.  Cabell was something of the inspiration for Averoigne, at least in the sense of using a medieval French setting for tales, but I haven’t read too much of his work – he’s good, but a little at a time goes a long way.   Vance, especially the Cugel tales, ends up being much more of an influence.  The best of Averoigne, I think, is when I can fuse Smith’s imagery and a sense of an aesthetic type of morals with Vancian character interaction.  The Tsathoggua scene is mostly Vance, but I think it extrapolates from the “Seven Geases” sensibility, so it’s all good.

The scene also illustrates some of the difficulties with portraying RPG as fiction.  Darrell Schweitzer, long-time science fiction editor, once said at a panel that he could tell when he was getting stories based on RPGs because the characters tend to arbitrarily fail at actions.  The same randomization that makes a game so thrilling for players can lead to confusion for readers.  I’ve tried to bear this in mind with the Averoigne turns.  I still use the dice to determine findings, but I might move a success that occurs before a failure until after it, or allow an extended skill check, or condense a number of actions in a single passage, or assume the character has a basic level of competence in a particular action.

A good example of this is in the Tsathoggua scene here.  It’s likely that Thibault could have pulled a better deal with the god, but he kept blowing his roles for Etiquette and Fast Talk, even though he was doing a great job of roleplaying in the situation.  The roleplaying certainly helped, but after a point you have to let the dice work, because that’s part of the contract with the players and you don’t want the rolls to be completely meaningless.  Besides, sometimes those random rolls can take the story in unexpected or funny directions that you can work with.

That’s all for now.  More Averoigne blogging next week!

Published in: on December 23, 2007 at 6:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

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