Thursday, March 30, 2017

Dragon 1 : Werwolfe 0

"I get lifted and spin 'til I'm half-twisted
Feet planted and stand with a grin full'a chapped lipstick
Did I just hear somebody say they wanna challenge me here?
While I'm holding a pistol with this many calibers here?"

Eminem - Amityville

Once upon a fourth era, in a Skyrim far away, a lone moon-beast stalked mountain forts and caves and steep ravines, gorging himself upon the corpses of his enemies. As night turned to day, sated at last, he found his steps had led him to a narrow upthrust of rock overhanging a glorious view of the surrounding landscape. He advanced to stand upon its pinnacle, bathed both in gore and glory, and roared a defiant challenge to the morning world so far beneath him.
A moment passed.
A deeper roar answered his challenge from below. He had time to blink before the dragon was upon him.
I wish I could say this screenshot represents the actual event, but it's a mere re-enactment. Possessed as I am of a slight flair for the dramatic, I really did venture out onto that rocky overhang to repeatedly bellow my werewolf howl over the lands below. When the dragon (which apparently sleeps at the bottom of this mountain) swept upwards along the cliff face, its motion knocked my character physically off his mountaintop perch to a rather ignominious falling death. Far from snapping a screenshot in the heat of the moment, I merely stared slack-jawed at my screen, trying to make sense of the past couple of seconds.
As I splattered onto the rocks beneath, the game interface informed me I was entering an area known as Dragontooth Crater.
Dragontooth. No shit. Would've been nice to know that five minutes ago you assholes!

I roared a challenge to the world and my bluff was called. This was not meant to happen. I didn't know there was a dragon sleeping at the bottom of that cliff. The dragon, in its 64-bit brain, certainly didn't know I was coming. No narrator cued suspenseful foreshadowing music. Had I not decided to get loud and proud at that moment, I could have kept walking along the cliffside utterly ignorant of the fire hazard lurking below.

I've been talking a lot about heavily scripted RPGs lately but as good as something like Torment:Tides of Numenera can be, it doesn't quite fill the "adventuring" quota of the emblematic RPG hero's journey. Adventure is not scripted. It's an emergent property. Given adequate substrate, it writes itself. Don't program the dragon to seek me out. Just give it the ability to hear noise and let my hubris do the rest.

Guess what I'm saying is: Mount&Blade 2 just cannot come out soon enough. Good writing's always good, but much too lawful for my chaotic tastes. The Pandemonium of a good sandbox, the thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters yield one campaign after another, pitfalls and pinnacles of storytelling, by simply stepping over the next rise. Good scripted RPGs are a sure thing, a low risk venture: you know what you're getting. Sandboxes are a gamble, but if you keep pounding away at them the stories you write yourself easily surpass the thrill of having lines placed in your character's mouth.
Roguelikes, sandboxes, virtual worlds. Not a nice tidy headshrinker's office where you're quietly guided in exploring your superego and archetypes, but an insane asylum with crumbling walls, shit smeared on the ceilings and dead flies piled on the windowsills. Dirty and freaky and half-baked and howling through the arteries of the world, that's adventure, adventurers.

And yes, sometimes a dragon just jumps up and knocks you off your pedestal.

"You can get capped after just having a cavity filled."

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