Friday, November 22, 2013

Pairing it down: The Princess Bride



                                               Picture by Gwendolaine and taken from www.deviantART.com

By Kiel Howell

Welcome and hello! My name is Kiel Howell, and I'm honored to be writing for you as part of this wonderful blog, The Flying Pincushion, that Frank and J-Man have put together. Let me talk just a bit about myself then we can move on to the good stuff.

I've been gaming in various forms my entire life, playing card games, board games, TTRPGs, MUDs, MMORPGs, and good old fashioned single player games. I'm an avid reader, science-fiction and fantasy mostly, as well as consumer of movie media. I entered Paizo’s RPG Superstar for the first time in 2012 with an item I loved at the time, but ultimately proved boring. Ever since, though, I've been actively writing items, archetypes, and stories during any moment I can spare.

I also got jackwagoned out of a PS4 preorder because of poor service from an unmentionable game store, but that's worthy of its own post.

So Pairing it Down! What is it?!

Very simply, I'm aiming to go through my process (important point which I'll get to later) of taking a theme and picking an idea out of the multitude of possibilities. Followed closely of course by bringing that idea into fruition by statting up the beasty, constructing the item, or whatever the case may be.

This week's theme: The Princess Bride, one of the constants in my ever-revolving Top 5 favorite movies. Which, by the way, if you haven't checked out; 


"http://flyingpincushion.blogspot.com/2013/11/mythic-monster-monday-rats-of-unusual.html"> the ROUS by Andrew, then do yourself a favor and read those now. I'll wait.

So what piece of The Princess Bride am I going to do? Let's kidnap that princess together.

Wait! Here is that important point I mentioned earlier. The process for coming up with a viable idea and writing it is going to be different for everyone. I won't pretend that how it works for me will work for anyone else. All I can do is hope that this series helps others to come up with their own process.
            
          What are the most memorable moments of that movie? Personally, I would start with the scene at the end of the Fire Swamp where Westley and Buttercup are so happy to have made it out alive. The joy of discovering her poor farm boy is alive, and he's now rescued her from quicksand and an ROUS. Fire has been no hindrance to their love. Then Count Tyrone Rugen and Prince Humperdinck (and several nameless soldiers) are there waiting for them.

There are many, many other scenes in the movie that are great, the series of hero's tests; strength, training, and intelligence. The "You can die too for all I care" hill scene or the final confrontation between a bed-ridden Westley and Prince Humperdinck, the list goes on.  And don't forget Miracle Max and his not-a-witch of a wife!
            
           How do I choose? I put myself in the story. I think of how the story affected me as I watched it through various ages. If I were writing this post a few years ago, then I probably would have chosen the Fezzik in a Holocaust Cloak scene. Don't try to capture a feeling from a time when you were a different person. Your passion now will result in a better item/archetype/monster/etc. at this moment. The captured after the Fire Swamps scene gives me goose bumps now. Perhaps it's because I'm a father of a 5 year old and am about to get married after being divorced a few years ago, but the love lost just after hope is rekindled gets me.

Ok, I've got a scene. What's in the scene to choose from? This particular one has a LOT. There's the aforementioned moment of lost love to use as inspiration for a story. There's the fact that there are these men (one of which is planning to marry and kill the love of the protagonist's life) waiting for the two in ambush. That's a pretty good encounter practically written for you! I like to look for something that's not so obvious though. Something where I can give a nod to the source by using, one that those "in the know" will get, yet avoids a “ripped off” feel.

Fine then, who's the most interesting character at that moment? Arguably, it is the six-fingered Count. We've heard about him from another character's (Inigo) back story, we've seen his character brilliantly portrayed by Christopher Guest, and he's the most mysterious at that moment. Westley has been revealed already. Buttercup's been old news for 20 minutes. Prince Humperdinck's also been featured enough by this point. Count Tyrone it is.

Here is where I will go to the obvious...his six fingers on his right hand. Now what may be the not-so-obvious thing I can focus on is his glove. I'll take an assumption that he's not actually six fingered. His glove adds the six fingers to his normal hand, which could also explain why he NEVER takes the glove off in the movie.

So what could a glove that adds a finger to a humanoid's hand do? Why would it be created? The simple route would be a glove that gives a bonus to holding onto whatever is in that hand when something attempts to steal from or disarm that hand. That's a good, solid idea. But I want to dig a little deeper into the character for inspiration. It's hinted at in the movie, but Count Tyrone is responsible for developing the machine that sucks Westley's life out of him (another great scene and a great idea for a trap). He's interested in "scientifically" studying pain. So what if the six fingered glove enhanced the wearer's ability to create traps? I like that idea.

Now, I'll write this as a wondrous item for the Pathfinder system, which means that a glove can't give a simple Intelligence stat bonus. That's job is generally delegated to the headband slot. The first thing I like to do is come up with a good fluff sentence to use as the introduction to the item.

"These black, leather gloves are soft and easy to flex. The gloves are plain except for a sixth finger on the right hand. No matter how many fingers the wearer possesses on the right hand, the six fingered glove magically flexes and grips the empty fingers to the wearer's mental commands."

Alright, I've got a first sentence that describes what I am envisioning. A name is the next thing I tend to work on. The name is nearly all-important to me. It helps me come up with the powers and mechanical aspects of the thing I'm writing. Six-fingered Glove. Trapper's Glove (don't like it because it loses the references to the Princess Bride). The Count's Glove (this has promise, but it could be easily confused with The Count from Sesame Street or Count Dracula). The Count's Machine Gloves (Oooo, I think I'll go with this. It keeps the reference and has potential plot hooks to a count where a party could find it).

Now I have a name, The Count's Machine Gloves, and an introduction sentence. Now it's time to come up with the real meaty mechanical paragraph. I want to give a bonus to trap making, but not just a straight mechanical bonus. I also want it to be flavorful. Probably a generic "trap making" bonus would not be viewed as flavorful. That means I'll want to narrow down my focus to traps that require someone to operate it. I like that.

"Wearing these gloves allows any humanoid to create and place a trap much more safely. The count's machine gloves cuts the DC to craft a trap, those that require someone to operate them, in half. This applies to mechanical and magical traps."

Now, this feels like it has enough of a reference to The Princess Bride that some people would make the connection. It is still far enough away that it's not a blatant rip off. All that is left now is to come up with the standard wondrous item things like aura, price, and construction requirements.

To get an aura, we need a spell! Crafter's fortune seems like a good fit. It's a 1st level Sorcerer/Wizard transmutation spell that gives a +5 to the next Craft check. That puts it at a faint transmutation aura. The spell also gives us the caster level, in this case 1st.

I use the spell level as a baseline for pricing items. A 1st level wizard spell item is usually available relatively early in a character's adventuring life. Coupled with the flavor I want to give it (a Count's glove) this could easily be a pretty cheap pair of gloves. Looking at the wondrous item gloves in Ultimate Equipment from Paizo in the range of CL 1st gloves is between 1,000 and 3,000 gp. I'll split the difference and price it at 2,000 gp. That feels right, makes it cheap enough to be disposable at later levels, but expensive enough to be decent find at low levels.

Now I just put it all together! The weight is kind of arbitrary (I'll put these at 1 lb.) just as long as you don't make it obviously wrong. Gloves like these shouldn't weigh 30 lbs. and a wondrous 20ft. high stone shouldn't weigh 1 lb. (unless of course its wondrous ability was to be weightless).

The Count's Machine Gloves
Aura faint transmutation; CL 1st
Slot hands; Price 2,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.
 Description
These black, leather gloves are soft and easy to flex. The gloves are plain except for a sixth finger on the right hand. No matter how many fingers the wearer possesses on the right hand, the six fingered glove magically flexes and grips the empty fingers to the wearer's mental commands.

Wearing these gloves allows any humanoid to create and place a trap much more safely. The count's machine gloves cuts the DC to craft a trap, those that require someone to operate them, in half. This applies to mechanical and magical traps."

Construction
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, crafter's fortune; Cost 1,000 gp

           And there we have it, from a broad theme, to an idea, and finally ending at a completed wondrous item. Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope this served to help create or refine your own process for designing and writing.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment