D&D: Le Tome of Bread

So, the post previous to this one was quite strange, out of the blue, and possibly surreal (your mileage may vary.) Regardless, I felt that providing context would be at the very least amusing, until such a time as God strikes me again with great spiritual motion to write something else significant.

So, Pierre is an NPC from my most recent Dungeons and Dragons campaign, hosted with a group of new friends from my also new church here in Tampa. They were all new to the game, while I have several years of experience in writing and designing not only my own campaigns, but my own balanced rule-sets to incorporate mechanics I could not find in any amount of rule supplements (nor did I have the inclination to spend money on them). They needed a Dungeon Master, and I thought it would be a fun way to spend a weekend (not knowing I would also get dinner and enough Dr. Pepper to drown in).

So, there they were on a halfling caravan, adventurers from far-off lands various: Erik Withakay, an alcoholic palace guard from the mountain kingdoms of Nowhertall, who put in a two week notice and left to see the plains below the mountain peaks; Elle Many-Daggers, the gnome grad student turned chipper, socially-awkward thief; and Volos, the unwanted scion of King Haddock of the Tritons, on a journey to find meaning in life, and acridly criticize everything along the way. Arriving in the little village of Lapplaken, which was the only habitation across the wide Lapplake swamp, they quickly discovered that this pit-stop was not only going to be extended by the oncoming flood rains making land-bound traveling an impossibility, but this pit-stop was to be in the hodunkest of hodunk towns. The nominally elven sheriff and his deputies probably had a combined alphabet of maybe three vowels and six consonants, and the intellectual level of the majority of the town’s public figures was comparable to a concussed sea slug. Depressed by their rude surroundings, Withakay quickly fell prey to mushroom rum, began quoting some unknown troubadour group called Verdant Day, and passed out over the bar. Elle was able to hold her liquor well enough to be mentally present for a harried young woman looking for the help of altruistic adventurers, and Volos was able to restrain his inner critic long enough to agree to help the single mother find her lost son without laying into her on her poor parenting skills.

Now a lot happened in between; they grilled the Three Bobs for information, and deduced that Short Bob was an idiot, Tall Bob was even more so, and Weird Bob was either the only smart man in the entire village, so stupid he was approaching intelligence from the other side, or just an imbecilic vampire.

There was a gnome archaeologist named Avelldon who was related to their quest, to find a missing boy who was lost in the swamps (which were also filled with ancient and mysterious ruins, because the people of Lapplaken were just full of great ideas when they settled their little village on top of the drowned ruins of an eons old undersea city of the dormant empire of dimension-swimming snake people. Good call Sheriff Rourke).

Avelldon was to be a collector of magical knickknacks and this-or-that’s, who could be pressured or persuaded to help the party by giving them enchanted gear and spell scrolls to help even the odds against their vastly more numerous and more powerful enemies (since they only had level 1 gear and were up against CR 8 monsters). One of these items was a magical talking book who could conjure bread at will, named The Tome of Bread. I thought this would be an amusing way to help the party not worry about the logistics of feeding themselves while still instilling in them the importance of packing sufficient rations for when they graduated to a more hardcore adventure.

So their first meeting with the Tome of Bread was on the trek to Avelldon’s house, after being subtly prompted by the frankly abysmal intellect of the average Lapplaken villager that he was probably their best bet to get any remotely useful intelligence. Upon walking up to the house, they were greeted by what sounded like a boisterous Frenchman shouting, “LE BAGUETTE!” repeatedly.

Moments later, a leather bound book appeared in the window, opened its pages, and with a LE BAGUETTE to ring down the ages, bombarded them with a hail of fresh baked baguettes.

To be continued in Part 2…

 

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Le Tome of Bread – Le Origine

Pierre, Le Tome of Bread – the First Bake

Foreword: this story is best read aloud in an exaggerated French accent. It just is.

Pierre wasn’t, and then he was. In the musty darkness of the bakery, Pierre knew nothing, though he held many words within his pages. And then, suddenly, he knew – not quite everything – but he knew a lot more then he did before.
Mostly about bread.
But the precise origins of how Pierre came to be are not a subject for a storyteller such as I – that is a topic for a wizard, or perhaps a bookbinder to tackle. I can only speak of Pierre’s deeds, not his birth.
But I know that when Pierre came to be, he was in a bit of a shock for a while.
He was rather passive with his fate. First the baker who owned him was baffled, then terrified, and quickly accused his wife of being a witch, which was not quite true, but suffice it to say, having exposed her identity on accident, he was not bound long for this world. So Pierre changed hands after being left on the shelf of a friend’s house the day before his bakeshop home exploded in a ball of green fire, and demons rampaged through the city for several weeks as the now-moderately-infamous lich Naghali of Borkindor summoned moving demons to help relocate her lair from the sewers of the sleepy small town to a more scenic location in a cliff city perched over the Bottomless Pit of Pitiness. There was some confusion in the whole affair, and while no one was seriously hurt (except for Naghali’s unwitting husband, who was incidentally evaporated in her transformation except for his head which is even now kept in a jar), there was considerable confusion and mistaken property destruction due to unclear instructions to the demons on where exactly she wanted the black dragon yearlings kenneled.

In that time Pierre thought much about the contents of his pages, wondering what meaning these numbers and proportions had and these descriptions of sights, smells and tastes which before he never had known (not having a nose, or eyes, or tongue was something of an impediment to the newborn book.)
Until one day he was left on the counter while his new owner baked a loaf of bread to celebrate the defeat of the demonic invasion – and as he read out the recipe in Pierre’s pages, that old, leather bound book finally understood his purpose, and cried out in revelation, “No monsieur! That recipe is TERRIBLE! Use the one with the almonds! I promise you, you shall live forever!”
Unfortunately, his owner thought the demons were returning in book form, clutched his chest in agony, and died on the spot of a massive heart attack.
After a brief investigation by the city watch, during which Pierre continually cried out for someone to open his pages and finish the bread, the house was declared haunted, condemned, and scheduled for demolition. Just as the priest was blessing the demolition crews to enter the house and smash it down with hammers, an alchemist by the name of Gormiron, who had lost his house in the Great Moving Siege, ran in the door, sat in the hall, and declared he had squatting rights.
Frankly glad to be rid of the accident-prone alchemist (more on his reputation later), the city did not object, and Gormiron was given possession of the ‘haunted’ house. However, even now having a house with literally zero rent, Gormiron still struggled with a truly astronomical debt from his numerous failed experiments, and it seemed like they would throw him in the can, when he discovered he was not the only tenant of this dilapidated, moldy city cottage….

 

Half-Lucidity: Getting into Character

Actors, singers, dungeon masters, and roleplayers all talk about getting into character, stressing how vital it is to the quality of the performance / game to have good roleplaying. And we know what it is, or at least what it looks like, just by intuition. But how does one get there, without years and years of practice or innate talent (or psychopathic manipulation)?

The answer is (not-entirely) simple: what would your character do, and why?

Roleplaying will come more naturally if you understand your character’s background and why their personality has turned out the way it has. This requires some more effort on the development side, but will reward you with increased immersion. It’s one thing to have your character obsessively collect puppies and paint them sky blue. It’s funny a few times, but after a while, with no apparent reason for it, it can quickly become a mere annoyance.

But what if he had a strong reason? Strange as it may be, what if his reason for painting puppies is because he’s secretly part of a doomsday cult that believes the world will end under an invasion of blue dogs, and he is setting up the end of the world by painting the dogs blue and indoctrinating them into hyper-aggressive dog soldiers when no one else is looking? Not only is it more interesting and possibly generating its own involved storyline, it’s also freaking hilarious, and evolves from slapstick to an inside joke.

Here’s my example:

Jenny has decided (or been coerced by her impatient and demanding DM) to expand her horizons and roleplay someone besides the standard-issue lithe, manipulative rogue type. So, she goes with a gruff male fighter named Jeff, because she wants to use the line from 22 Jump Street. But her DM isn’t satisfied with that. ‘What’s his personality like? Why is he a fighter? Why is he going out to save his village?’

Now, the easy way out is to make him a gruff mercenary who is (naturally) grizzled by his years of experience, and is saving the world for dimes and dames. But such a character is so cliched it’s difficult to play him well without spending an exhaustive amount of time developing the history of an already matured character.

So Jenny makes Jeff a nervous, withdrawn momma’s boy. And before her DM can pester her again, she preempts him and thinks about why he might be this way, and how on earth such an individual would become an adventurer.

“Jeff was never really any good at anything. He was always middle of the back, and never stood out. He wasn’t really that strong, or smart, or clever or talented. The only thing that others ever noticed about him was that he was always there, rain or snow, sleet or hail. He knew he would never stand out here, and he feared the loneliness of growing old without someone beside him or real friends. So though he’s not really brave, strong, smart, or any adjective that would indicate a hero, he’s got a heart of gold and a will of iron, and no matter how many times you knock him down, he’ll get back up, again and again. The strongest warriors are those that don’t quit. And though he hasn’t received a lot of love from his village, and has little to keep him from leaving, he wants to be the hero. He wants to save the day. And he wants something to matter enough to him that he’d die for it. Realizing that nothing will matter that much if he doesn’t try, he’s decided to risk it all, do or die to be reborn a hero.”

Jenny’s DM stares at her, and slowly begins to grin.


More important than mannerisms, accents, quirks or oddities, knowing why your character is risking his or her life is the most important part of roleplaying in D&D, and roleplaying in general. Embedding yourself in the character’s desires and emotions will allow you to more easily perform their associated verbal tics and make player decisions that feel like they really matter. From this proceeds a story that makes more sense, requires less DM prodding, feels freer, more organic, and much more entertaining.

Quirks are just icing on the cake (very much appreciated and iced cake is preferable to plain cake).

P.S. Doing young or inexperienced character with a fairly shallow background is actually better for roleplaying than some guy who’s had decades of experience and taken every sort of blow a man can take. Those young characters can still have traumatic events that define them, but their youth and relative inexperience means that the adventures they undertake can still leave a mark on their still impressionable minds. Plus, the younger the character, the less time you have to cover when making your background.