Reviews from the Past – 01 – The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen

“The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen”
ISBN – 1-899749-18-7 UK£ 3.95 US$ 5.95 (at time of publishing)
Copyright 1998 Hogshead Publishing Ltd.
Authorship denoted as being by Baron Munchausen

The scene

The shadowed and dim studios of elijiah Hogg, scrivener and publisher of ill-considered  vanities and games reviews. Enter the Earl of A_____, a well favoured gentleman clutching a sheaf of papers.

“My Lord, you honour me, please be seated.”

“I do honour you, Hogg, and don’t ye forget it when it comes to the matter I present to ye now. A review of this Continental Flummery ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Muckhwasen, no, Munchausen’ that some London mountebank has seen fit to print”

“I have heard of this work, my Lord, and it would be my pleasure to publish your musings on it. If I could, most humbly though not obsequiously (too late), enquire as to how it came into your possession. It is said to be as rare as rosewater at a reunion of the League of Gamesplayers”

“I shall tell you that, and more, Hogg, but first dispense with that inferior claret you ply your authors with and bring me the decent stuff.

“As to how I obtained it, when all known copies were locked in the grasp of the colonials is not a simple matter to relate. Suffice it to say that it was smuggled in by a man that I retain, hardened by years in the Galleys of the Turk and cynical to the trends of the Collectable Tarot Industry.

“When at last I obtained my copy I have to confess to having been momentarily surprised, for whereas I was expecting a smaller document typical of the Jacobin pamphleteer I instead found myself with a larger beast, in area at least, the page count is but 24 pages. The cover was of a thin but serviceable cardstock coloured and overlaid with an engraving by some modish fellow by the name of Gustav Dore, whose futuristic daubings also inhabit the interior of the document.

“It becomes hard to describe the system without revealing it in its entirety, but I own that I am equal to the task. To call it a role-playing game is true only in the loosest usage of the term. Like “Once upon a time” before it, it is a game of story telling, wherein the players tell each other (hopefully) short stories about phantasmagorical exploits that they purport
to have had.

“Unlike Mr. Wallis’s oeuvre, that of his ancestor employs no cards to drive the action, but the competitive element is retained. Players have the opportunity to challenge each other’s stories on points of fact, with coins as the stakes, with but two provisos. The first being that the extinction of the storyteller is not asserted. The second is that the veracity of the story is not challenged. This is done by speaking the challenge and making a wager.

I give you an example. Should someone say to me,

My Lord A_____tell us of the time you introduced Loch Ness Monster to
Court Prester John

then I would be obliged begin thus.

“Good Gentles, it was not in Scotland that I encountered the Monster,
but in the Kingdom of Naples, where that Caledonian Behemoth was as part
of his Grand Tour ?”

“If my memory had failed or I had found myself parched and wearied by the day’s travel, then I must pay a forfeit to the company. To aid the inspiration there are over two hundred opening challenges that might be employed.

“And should some lout be ill-mannered enough to doubt the incident being related,

“But wait Lord A______, surely the creature in question would not travel
to Naples, for Loch Ness must perforce be a body of fresh water, whereas
the Mediterranean is as salty as brine.”

then the raconteur has three options.

  • “Imprimis – He can call the knave out to a duel, of which more anon.
  • “Secundus – He can clarify the point of confusion in the cur’s thoughts, or expound upon the points raised. The challenger can acquiesce or repeat the challenge. The challenge is the subject of an amount of wagering, with the winner naturally claiming all.
  • “Tertius – He might, hard as it is to believe, admit to eing in error. The speaker naturally forfeits the wager.

“It will not have escaped your damn, clerkly attention that I mentioned duelling earlier. This should not be done lightly, but if it is done then it may be settled according to dictates of the Code Duello or instead to a less deadly but no less cunningly vicious contest steeped in ancient lore. The winner of two out of three passes of blade or wits is adjudged to be the
victor in the duel.

“At the end, when all have delighted the company with their most extraordinary adventures, all of which are true, then the group should vote for the raconteur who’s story has been the most entertaining.

“Now, Hogg, I see questions forming even in your weaselly eyes. I have said that this game is more a parlour game than one of these ‘Role-Playing’ buffooneries. It becomes hard to admit but there are some gentlefolk whose imagination is not their most noted attribute, even in the League of Gamesplayers. Those for whom spontaneous recollection of amusing anecdotes is an unknown art should perhaps avoid this game, for they will not get the most out of it.

“In addition, the full enjoyment of the game involves circumstances it might not be possible to create in the home, for example the purchase of a round of drinks for the company, but the enterprising gentleman should not find the provision of adequate substitutes difficult., else they were best not playing this game.

“To conclude, it is is a fine diversion for good company, and is easily learned, but the more straightforward and prosaic folk would not enjoy it.”

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