Thursday, 20 March 2014

Wednesday Weekly Oneshots #3: Hassocks & Malfoy Ride Again

The denizens of our house all grew up reading the Harry Potter books. I suppose they defined our generation; being exciting stories, nicely written, which brought us together in a communal narrative. Ten year-olds would wait for their Hogwarts letters, it became fashionable to wave sticks at each other, and sort yourselves into houses with colour-coded outfits. This world defined so much of our early creativity. So this his is probably why, when we discovered our love of roleplay, we loved the idea of playing a game in this wizarding world. Fresh faced, cherubic young Hogwarts students, keen to learn, full of japes or fripperies… OR we could generate and play two of the most evil men we’ve ever played.


...quite so evil.
Not all houses are...
Now sitting comfortably in its beta, this game has tumbled through many different iterations. It began life as My Immortal the Roleplaying Game, with a seduction stat and different rules for the goths and preps, an intentionally hilarious pisstake of one of the best fanfictions written evar!!1! It took a brief stop at Dark Lords & Dementors, which was closer to a Paranoia clone, d20 roll-under system. But now, the system has truly come into its own. As a 2d10 roll-under system, there is less room for extreme outcomes. The spell-casting system is much tighter, and now there are more ways to customize your character. With tiered points to spend on the main magical and mundane stats, as well as dependent spellcasting and skill stats, this homebrew has become more workable than some professional systems.

Hubert Hassocks
Known as Voldermort's chamberlain, Hassocks was a seriously messed up Hufflepuff herbologist with a nasty streak, and a penchant for venomous plants. He would ultimately end up magically creating and inseminating his would-be, school sweetheart with their genetically superior twins some years later.

Nicholas Malfoy
Cousin of the slimebag Lucius Malfoy, Nicholas is a deeply warped young man. Torturing people to madness and death, burning taverns of innocent bystanders, and magically strangling people. A dyed-in-the-wool blood purist and psychopath for hire, he has remained one of my favourite characters to play, and taught me a valuable lesson in gauging the tone of a game... 

     The game picked up where we finished our last W&W oneshot (almost three years ago!) Having broken into the Ministry of Magic to steal a powerful artifact, our "heroes" hexed and cursed their way out of the building and escaped wizarding justice... Only to discover that Voldermort had only too recently met a nasty, sticky end at the hands of a toddler with persistent Mum. Needless to say we hardened Death Eaters were not happy. Worse still when Nicholas discovered that his wife (the gorgeous, pure-blood and quite pregnant Maleficent Malfoy nee Lestrange) had been captured by magical law enforcement.
     Here I feel I made a serious error in the progression of this oneshot. I felt that Nicholas would have moved heaven and earth to get Maleficent back. However, this amounted to trying to storm two very well protected locations, on the day after the fall of the dark lord. Edmund and I spent the next few hours effectively bashing our heads against a wall of stealth, botched subterfuge and challenging combats. Ultimately we failed in our objectives and the party split up to one day be reunited in death and prison.

Overall... I worry that the inevitability of fate is what left me feeling so sad at the end of the game. We had already decided where these characters would end up. No one was getting out of the world alive. Maleficent would always stay in custody, Nicholas would one day go to prison, Hassocks would one day die in a violent blaze of glory. At the end of this I worried that I had neutered my attack dog. There is a curious amount of joy in playing someone who doesn’t think about tomorrow. The consequences of their actions never seem to sink in. So if their player knows that it doesn’t matter what they do, they are going to die like a bitch then that spectre will always hang over their game.

I always tried to play Nicholas as someone totally unafraid and unfazed by setbacks. This was a oneshot that brought him back down to earth with a sickening sort of force. Without his fearlessness, and the woman who’s brutality was only matched by his, he felt weak. Should a player be afraid of letting their character seem weak? Of course not, the inability to do everything is what leads to a balanced game and more fun for the players. However, to play a man who had everything he could ever possibly want; job satisfaction, a good home, a gorgeous and pure-blood wife, heaps of gold, and have that suddenly all taken away was jarring.

In fact, what it taught me was that if you want to play a character who thrives on brutal success, then play them in their heyday and not a day later. If Hassocks and Malfoy were ever to ride again properly, I would definitely want to drag it back to one of the higher points of the war, not the end. The fun of playing a villain is not in their inevitable defeat, but in their triumphant, bloody victory.

Next week: Christipher's First Pathfinder...

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