legend of the Boss

Here’s how I remember it:

In January 2009 Tavis joined Eric’s on-going Moldvay Basic D&D campaign and rolled up a Cleric.

TAVIS: I think my character rejects the Church of the Builder and the Cult of the Trickster.

ERIC: Oh really?  Perhaps he worships the God of Magic?

TAVIS:  . . . No, he is convinced of his own incipient divinity, and has founded a cult in accordance with that belief.

OTHER PLAYERS: Neat!  You know first-level Clerics can’t cast spells under these rules, right?

TAVIS: Really?

OTHER PLAYERS: So you’re a god who can’t work miracles and [peer at Tavis’s sheet] you have 8 Charisma.

TAVIS: I never said I was good at it.

And so the Boss descended to Earth and walked among mortal men!

Five minutes later, on the road to the dungeon, our party encountered an aristocrat and his retinue who were leaving the dungeon.  We could infer from prior adventures that these were the rightful owners of the ruins we’d been merrily plundering, and I for one tried to keep my head down and avoid provoking them.  (I was a first-level Magic-User with 3 Constitution and 1 hit-point, named Immortus.)

ERIC: James, your character Immortus keeps a wide distance from the approaching party, clearly not wanting to antagonize these people.  A nursemaid traveling with the aristocrat’s group tries to silence a wailing infant wrapped in ornate blankets.  What do the rest of you do?

OTHER PLAYERS: Block their path!  Shake them down for money!  Mock the size of his wand!

JAMES: [moves mini several squares further away when no one is looking]

The aristocrat-wizard waxed increasingly wroth.  There was a shouting match between the aristocrat and our outspoken Dwarven companion Pog concerning the ownership of a certain magical sword.

ERIC: The aristocrat angrily demands the sword, a family heirloom.

POG’S PLAYER: Never!  It is, um, my family heirloom too!

TAVIS: [playing the Boss]  Where’s the nursemaid and the baby on the map?

ERIC: Here. . . . Pog, the aristocrat draws and points a wand at you.

TAVIS: The Boss rushes up, knocks the nursemaid to the ground, and seizes the baby!  The Boss holds the child aloft with a threatening glare at the aristocrat!

ERIC: The aristocrat whirls around, and points his magic wand at the Boss.

JAMES: [from a prudent distance] Sleep, centered on the baby!

I put the baby, the nursemaid, and the Boss to sleep–but the aristocrat Magic-User was immune due to being high level.  He picked up the baby with one hand, and with the other zapped the Boss with a wand of petrification.

ERIC: The aristocrat turns to face you, Immortus.  “Are you the ally of this fool?”

JAMES: Um, he just sort of tagged along with us when we left town.  We’ll be going now, it was nice meeting you.  Immortus withdraws.

[In the chaos, everyone escapes–including, though I’m not sure how, Pog and the magic sword.]

The Boss survived our campaign for about 10 minutes of play time.  His only deed was an insanely ill-advised act of  sociopathy ending in a Save-or-Die effect.  He was the perfect Dungeons & Dragons character.

Having just witnessed a koan in the form of D&D, we immediately understood that the Boss truly was divine, and erected a shrine to him on the spot.  Propagating this cult has become the central storyline of Eric’s campaign, much to his occasional chagrin.  I’m not sure what else he had planned, but that’s what we’re interested in.  (Or were.  I’ve missed a lot of sessions.)

We also created a new alignment system based on the Boss:

  • Bossful – you take insane risks just to stir shit up
  • Immortic – you plot and connive a way to accomplish your goals without any risk
  • Neutral – you are an opportunistic schemer

(Most of our adventurers are Neutral, because as Hamish the Dim observed, “The Boss isn’t someone you can just imitate.  You’ve got to work your way up to it.”)

The Legend of the Boss is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about earlier: there’s a richness of play that simply comes from being there.  We talk about the Boss pretty much every session, and if you missed out on that, it’s like a bunch of guys swapping an in-joke you’ll never really appreciate.  And it’s exactly these sorts of unexpected antics that make sandbox campaign play so richly rewarding.

16 Responses to “legend of the Boss”

  1. October 16, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Hooray! Can we have the Legend of Immortus next Friday?

  2. October 16, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Oh! You know, that’s a good Friday tradition.

    Eric, what’s the deal with the Boss these days? Do the newbies pay sufficient homage, or will his cult wither and die now that Tavis, Doug, Josh, Adrian and I can no longer bear witness?

  3. October 16, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Adrian and Doug have attended recently, but Josh has not, and without Hamish’s influence, Colin and Pog haven’t shown much interest in Bossly activities. Of course, you’re welcome to play one of Hamish’s new converts next time you can attend a session!

    Right now, the Company of the Crossed Swords is the big noise. It’s sufficiently viral that it’s outlived its founder; players enjoy the ability to immediately become a captain, even if that captaincy carries no real weight. And I believe your character is technically a founding member, or at least can claim to be. You can put the “legend of the company of crossed swords” somewhere in your Friday queue, after the legend of Immortus.

  4. October 16, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Tavis: has introduced at least four new PCs subsequent to the Boss.

    Thief knew the Boss from when he first blew into town, but played along with the wackos who swore they’d just witnessed a divine martyrdom. He died, like all my thieves, of engaging in melee.

    Insane dwarf was converted to the Bossful faith by Hamish, I believe. He achieved his own apotheosis by immolating himself on a hillock in the swamp in order to kill lizardmen and a deceitful NPC cleric.

    Era the Elf was primarily converted to belief in the Brotherhood of the Crossed Swords, but at a time when the Bossful faith was part of the package. He survived screaming challenges in Elvish while standing in view of all the Caves of Chaos, only to die from a security system malfuction at the caves of the Necromancers.

    Herve the Thief had insinuated himself in the East Keep trading on behalf of the Necromancers and smuggling things out to them. He became interested in Era when rumors of the recovered spellbook got around, and passed the legend of the Boss as related by the Crossed Swords company onto his own superiors. The Necromancers seemed existentially worried at the nearby emergence of a new cult, but Herve recognizes flim-flam when he sees it. Herve got hold of Francois’s +2 sword and attempted to take over the Crossed Swords under a Neutral ideology. Unfortunately, he yielded to the temptation of the sword’s curse and died of melee.

    Otic-Cha the Goblin was bought by Herve’s gold, dished out to his tribe by the sweet-talking Pog. Otic-Cha is impressionable and deranged, and hates humans almost as much as he does orcs. Unable to enter the Keep, I think Otic-Cha will go back to goblinkind and spread distorted first-hand accounts of the legend of Pog and the Crossed Swords as well as third-hand ones of the Boss.

    If no one else does, I’ll next play Yves, the old henchman fired by Francois and re-hired by Herve before his death. She’ll remember more of the party’s history than most, so I can do my part to keep the newbies along.

    Doug: still playing a halfling contemporary of the Boss’s who finds the whole thing ridiculous, I believe.

    Adrian: Still playing Pog the Second-Level. Doesn’t Pog have an orthagonal alignment axis all his own?

    I forget who your and Josh’s latest PCs are & what they can bear witness to (as separate from your own masterful recall of all this play-history).

  5. October 16, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Tavis, the NPC you’re planning to play is named Henri, not Yves. I provided the name, Pete provided her gender. I’m not sure how she wound up with a man’s name; maybe she took it to better fit in with the masculine society of the traveling mercenary, maybe it’s a swords & sorcery mirror of “A Boy Named Sue,” or maybe it’s just short for “Henrietta.”

    Shockingly, Josh is still playing Hamish; the dim-witted priest of the Boss still lives and has attained the dizzying pinnacle of the third level of experience! I believe that Josh’s plan for survival involves a cunning avoidance of all game sessions until the sun burns down to a cold, guttering husk in the future sky.

  6. October 16, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Tavis, we should get a Legend of Cherry Pie post in the hopper as well, to be used in some other slow friday.

  7. 7 Lord Bodacious
    October 16, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    As a “second generation” convert to bossdom – I really dug on this procedurally generated plot line.

    I remember my first session with the group when the Cult of the Boss (CotB) was at its scintillating apex. Bodies being buried, temples sponsored, sponsorships stolen, etc. At the time it seemed downright silly and I was resistant at first – and remember telling myself I’d never succumb to this stupid cult. I just hadn’t figured it out yet.

    As we adventured, a consistent string of Bossly miracles succeeded in converting Francois (my PC) to bossdom – not zealous bossdom, just a workmanilke beleive in his divine audacity. Perhaps it was just the terrifying un-wrath of Hamish using his mightly 3 levels to avoid combat at all costs – but I have to say, things went really well when he was around, having all of us cry out “praise the boss!”. (the following day Adrian indicated he was sick of the boss, and was contemplating renouncing the faith, I guess it just got too mainstream!).

    Anyway, this is exactly the kind of fun stuff that makes a sandbox fun. Honestly, the crossed swords came to be as a device to pool money and steal items from dead pc’s. It’s certainly fun to see it develop a life of it’s own.

  8. 8 Greengoat
    October 16, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    When I first joined the campaign, I rolled up a sickly cleric named Larissa and since practically the whole table was deeply steeped in the lore of the boss and arranging puppet passion plays on his behalf in the Keep square, I was totally in the dark about what the hell was going on. So my character took on this narrative that she was investigating this new cult to report to her more religiously established superiors. Kind of like the opposite of meta-game knowledge, where my character had to respond to a my lack of information of the story.

    My current character {Larrissa died at an ill-advised picnic) has never known the grace of The Boss, but is currently a core member of the Glantrian faction of The Crossed Swords.

  9. October 16, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    We never did stage that passion play, did we?

    Man that would be awesome. Let’s get some of the Orc heads from the first cavern, mount them on poles, and have a little puppet show at the Keep on the Borderlands to convert people to our faith. PRAISE THE BOSS!

  10. October 16, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    The more play time we spend doing puppet shows at the Keep, the more chances I’ll have to break Herve’s record of surviving one full and two half-sessions – or, at least, the more likely it’ll become that we discover why all the Keep inhabitants are listed with armor class and hit points instead of names…

  11. October 16, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Greengoat, don’t think too badly of Larissa’s fate. I can think of exactly one PC death in my game to which I cannot reflexively add the qualifier “ill-advised.”

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Past Adventures of the Mule

October 2009

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