Saturday, October 16, 2010

More About the Slog

For those of you who aren't the sort of voracious fantasy novel readers that I am, the Rules of the Slog might be a somewhat obscure reference.  It's from the new R Scott Bakker novel, The Judging Eye, which is the first book of his second series, the Aspect-Emperor.

If you have not read R Scott Bakker, and are a fantasy fan, they're a very good read - the first 3 anyways.  The new one is a STUPENDOUS read, especially the portion about the dungeon-crawl into the Mansion of the Nonmen.  Really - this is Old-School at it's best.  A few high-level characters, Achamian, Kosoter, Cleric (actually an insane Nonmen wizard), a few mid-level henchmen, and a bunch of low-level grunts, the Skin Eaters, collectively.

The battle scenes in this book are fast-paced, gory and very, very fatal for most participants.  Enemies come out of the dark in shrieking waves, magic is brutally powerful, except when it fails totally, and high-level wizards are engines of destruction who are also terrifically fragile.  If you want to read pretty much exactly what OD&D dungeon-crawling is like, pick up this book!

The rules of the slog are the guidelines of the Skin Eaters, veterans of many trips into hostile territory, populated only by hordes of implacable enemies (aka, adventures).  They are fairly simple rules, enforced with a ruthless lack of compassion.  Rules like: No weepers on the slog.  Fail a morale check with these boys, and you don't get to go home...

For our new Rules Cyclopedia game, I'm working on our own set of "Rules of the Slog".  No, obviously we can't go killing the help - the orcs will take care of that for us, but I think I can come up with some excellent rules of thumb for those unfamiliar with this particular gaming genre.

1) HAVE A PLAN:  Pretty self-explanatory, you would think.  But actually put into place a lot less than you would expect.

2) DON'T PANIC:  If you run, you pretty much just die tired.  I'd rather have a TPK than get cut up piecemeal.

3) STAY IN FORMATION: That means you, thief!  I know you can backstab for tons of damage, but you wear leather and have 3 hp!  So stay the fuck behind the plate-mail and shield boys, OK?

4) IF IT LOOKS LIKE A TRAP, IT IS A TRAP:  The old neckbeards who wrote these modules were evil fucking bastards.

5)  TALK, THEN KILL:  This one is missed pretty often in the era of balanced encounters and milestones.  If you talk to them, you may not actually have to kill them, and better yet, they may not try to kill you.

6)  YOU ARE SQUISHY:  All character, the entire campaign long.  You never really get tough in a save-or-die environment.

I'm sure I'll think of more later.