Medievia Mudslinger

July 4, 2001

Roles Reversed - By Rapscallion

The door to the clanhall creaked open, flooding the interior with the last vestiges of light from the setting sun. Several of the people that were huddled around the firepit blinked violently as they tried to figure out who had arrived.

"What the..." spluttered Azakan as he stood in the entrance. He stared around at the desks and tables littered with papers and quills and then stared at the people sat around the firepit. "Arranging a few trading expeditions are we? Or are you lot having a town meeting without me?" he asked suspiciously.

"Az?" came a voice from the far side of the circle.

"Yes?" replied a familiar voice to the right.

"Not you, Aznle - Azakan. Going to have to be careful with abbreviations I guess," came the original voice. The owner stood up and walked closer so Azakan could see who it was. Rapscallion, for it was he, coughed nervously as he continued. "We're just having a game here, no harm done. We'll even tidy the place up when we're finished."

"A game? Great - I've got a spare deck, Trellorian Whist?" Azakan asked hopefully. Rapscallion looked somewhat embarrassed as he shook his head.

"Er, no," he started to explain. "it's a fairly new game called 'Role Playing'. Just a quiet game between friends, you know?"

"Really? So, just how do you play it? Is it anything like herobattles?"

"Only in the vaguest sense of the word, I think," replied Rapscallion. "You see, what you do is work out a character and write down its attributes..." he continued, speeding up his explanation at Azakan's derisive sniff, "... and you have someone in charge of the world that the character is in and you have to overcome challenges and stuff." Azakan blinked violently as he tried to understand the concept.

"So... you write down what you are and then what?"

"Well, Whitebane is currently the RL Master and he says what sort of things we come up against, we say what we're going to do about them and he decides what happens with the help of some dice and the rules." Rapscallion pointed to a rather dog eared ream of paper which had been bound together down one side to form a makeshift book. Azakan wandered over to where it sat on a table and inspected the cover.

"'Da Roolz'" he read aloud. "This was the last bit you wrote - tired after doing all the rest I assume?"

"Indeed," lied Rapscallion quickly. "You see, I got the idea a while ago after a rather nasty misportal, and I've tried it out with a few clannies and townies. It rather grew." Several of the gathered friends seemed to be avoiding Azakan's gaze for some reason. Shrugging, he started to flick through the book.

"So, what sort of quests do you undertake? Perilous ones, no doubt." He squinted at the cramped and spidery writing inside, but it made little sense from what he could see.

"Er, sort of. You see, you're playing as a member of a futuristic society in big cities and things." Rapscallion stared at the floor, apparently embarrassed.

"What's all these lists for? Looks like some sort of equipment?" guessed Azakan.

"Oh yes," said Rapscallion as he padded over. He pointed at a few items on the page. "That's a double breasted suit, and that's an umbrella of rain protection, and that's a valise and..."

"Which zone does it all load in? What mob?"

"Oh - the zone is the "Shopping Arcade" and they're found in the same room as the Tailor."

"Got a walkthrough? Tough mob?" asked Azakan hopefully.

"Er, not really. What you have to do is earn yourself some money and give it to him..." replied Rapscallion miserably. He knew what was coming next.

"Give someone money? What sort of quest is this?" roared Azakan in anger. Several of the players hid their faces behind sheets of paper and peeked out in fright.

"Nonono - it's not real," pleaded Rapscallion desperately. "It's a game, see? Different rules and all that?" Azakan seemed to be slightly mollified, but glared back at him.

"And what does this 'double breasted suit' do for you?" he demanded. "Rechargeable sanctuary spell? Decent armor?"

"Er, it gives a plus ten bonus to impressing prospective employers," whimpered Rapscallion with tightly shut eyes.

"Really?" Azakan sounded impressed. "New one on me - how do you play it? I need to write down some... attributes you said?"

"I have a spare character sheet right here," announced a relieved Rapscallion. He thrust a slightly beer-stained scroll at Azakan and fumbled around for a quill.

"What do I write down here, then?" Rapscallion handed him a few dice and let him roll them, explaining as he went.

"Now you have to roll for vocation - that's what class you are, right? Ah, you're a Double Glazing Salesman. Right, that means you have to track people down in their houses and sell them things to improve their homes, right?" Azakan nodded rather slowly. "Whitebane? Get a scenario ready for him please?" He motioned for Azakan to join the circle around the fire.

"Sure thing," said Whitebane cheerfully. "Right, your name is?" he asked Azakan.

"Azakan - have you forgotten?"

"No - in the game. You need an outlandish name like Jim Smith or Bob Jones or something like that." Azakan screwed up his face in disgust.

"Ewww - they sound weird!" he exclaimed. After a moment's thought he ventured, "George McDonald?" It sounded outlandish enough and everyone else seemed to nod encouragingly. "So, what now?"

"You have been sent out to sell double glazing by your employer," began Whitebane.

"What? Work for someone else? I'm a hero and work at my own whims!" shouted Azakan.

"Shhh, calm down. Game, remember?" reminded Rapscallion quickly.

"Oh yes, I had forgotten. Carry on." Whitebane nodded and continued.

"You are standing on the street you have been told to canvass for sales. There are several houses each with a door. What do you do?"

"Pick the locks, open the doors and cast Farsight inside," nodded Azakan thoughtfully.

"Sorry - no magic allowed," warned Whitebane. Azakan blinked. "Different world, right? Anyway, you walk up to the door, but it's open and a house owner is standing there, watering the porch plants. What do you say?"

"Remember - you have to sell them some double glazing," hissed Rapscallion. He tried to smile encouragingly.

"Er, I say, 'Wouldst thou perchance desire some glazing of the double, my lady?'" replied Azakan slowly. Whitebane nodded and looked around for a particular sheet of paper. He smiled as he located one with many small tables on it and pointed meaningfully at the dice. Azakan took the hint and rolled.

"Let's see, you got a five. No suit of customer impression, what's your charm and tact rating? Uh-huh - no modifier there. The house owner looks at you and says, 'Sorry, but I don't want any.'"

"I draw my dagger and backstab her, then loot the corpse, sacrifice it and check the tweaks on the equipment. Do I have to roll to see if I get an orb?"

"You don't have a dagger," replied Whitebane. "The house owner sees you looking at her dangerously and runs inside to slam the door. You hear the door being locked and she shouts out through a small slit, 'Go away or I'll call the police'. What now? By the way, the police are a bit like the Guards, right? They can kill you on sight if you give them reason."

"Well, an altar won't be that far away I'm sure," sniffed Azakan dismissively.

"Er, there's no resurrection in the game. When you're dead you are.. dead and you have to start a new character," interjected Rapscallion.

"Pah! That doesn't sound so realistic to me," declared Azakan, although he settled down to the challenge. He'd never been one to shirk the fight!

After being set upon by two angry husbands and a rather feral tomcat from three more houses (courtesy of the dice), Azakan finally took Rapscallion's whispered hints to visit the Shopping Arcade ("Bit like a zone") for some new and better clothing. Against the best advice of his fellow players, he failed to consult the latest fashion magazine and selected a rather dated outfit from the racks which caused a negative modifier on service from the Tailor. It took some time to explain the concept of credit cards, but eventually the idea of paying for things later sank in and Azakan started to enjoy himself.

"Right, Aznle, your turn," announced Whitebane. Azakan looked a little crestfallen, but held his peace. Maybe there would be some hints to aid his own quest there.

"Right you are," Aznle said smiling. She blinked a couple of times and sat quietly, staring into space. Azakan was baffled.

"What's with the silence business?" he whispered to Rapscallion.

"Aznle rolled and got a painter's model vocation," he whispered back. "Involves a lot of keeping still and quiet. She's really good at it - she's level twenty eight already."

"Level? How do you mean?"

"You start at level 1 - a bit like the new adventurer's guild, right? If you do well in your vocation you get up a level or two. If you progress from level one double glazing salesman you may get better things to sell, like pyramid schemes or even door to door brush sales. Aznle's gone through a lot of levels really quickly. Her nude scenes were amazingly well done - got her a lot of credit."

"Nude scenes? You mean she..."

"Only in the game. Sshhh - look at the way she stares absently, a true mistress of her art." Azakan scratched his head, but sat quietly and watched. It was fascinating in its own way.

"Next player please," announced Whitebane as Aznle shook herself back to her normal state. "Bethica? You're in high speed pursuit of some teenage drivers that you suspect have been drinking. Azakan? Bethica's got a police - Guard - character. They're in chariot like devices, right?" Azakan nodded and listened with fascination as Bethica called in reinforcements ("Like clantalk?") and eventually cornered her quarry. The dice were produced once more and the teenagers were cornered by her and her colleagues ("Like clannies") and stopped at gunpoint ("Like wands"). They would be going before a judge ("Like a god, but without the bangs and flashes") and would probably end up in jail for some time ("Like frozen, right?")

The next player turned out to be Menthen who was something called a Stock Broker ("Like a trader without a wagon or freight or mount, understand?"). He'd managed to get something called 'inside information' ("Like valuing a catastrophe") and many dice were rolled to see just how useful and profitable the information was. From the looks of concern as the last dice were rolled, Azakan deduced that it was a close run thing, but Menthen came out on top of his dealing. With a broad smile he funneled his gains into a secret offshore account and was overjoyed to gain another level (and another credit card), whatever those were. Still, Azakan joined in the congratulations as Menthen gained the rank of 'Swindler'.

Skottie grinned as his turn was announced. "I shall begin to explain the applications of calculus," he said brightly as Whitebane consulted his tables.

"He's a teacher - bit like an Avatar, right?" whispered Rapscallion. "He explains things to young characters and he's already got to deputy principle - bit like coleader."

"Really?" Azakan was impressed. "How does he get levels?"

"Well, the more his 'pupils' learn the better his school - a bit like a training clan - does in the published leagues - a bit like clan rankings. He's not in the biggest school in the district, but it's got more funding - like a loan from the gods, but you don't have to pay it back, right? - and is expanding a lot. He's got a new sports center - like more clantown rooms - and another school has already tried to headhunt - poach - him. They offered him three credit cards, but he's holding out for more.

Eventually Skottie managed to gain his pupils' attentions with the aid of the overhead display ("bit like mindlink for a herobattle") and break up a fight between two boys ("like a duel in the arena"). He attended an awards ceremony ("great tactic - he's used the strong coffee of wakefulness! A bit like a refresh, yes?") and helped arrange some items for the school play ("A bit like the things I write for the Mudslinger. What do you mean you don't read it?").

"You know," Azakan whispered to Rapscallion as they worked out who was next, "This is fascinating, but I'm starting to get a craving for some really unhealthy food. I'm a hero and I'm not supposed to need to eat - what's going on here?"

"You'll get used to it, it's entirely normal. We usually send someone out for deep fried snacks every couple of hours or so." Azakan glanced around at the piles of food containers and tried to make a calculation or two.

"So how long have you been here?" he asked hesitantly.

"Since the third Day of Justice," replied Rapscallion, ticking off some fingers and thinking.

"That's three whole days!"

"Last month's third Day of Justice," admitted Rapscallion with a shrug. "You wanting deep fried Banelar or Spectral Man-Hound?"

"Either or both, whatever, but can you make sure there's some Fizzy Bubbles with it?" replied Azakan with an airy wave of his hand. "How long did it take you to write all this up? It's so unreal it feels true."

"A couple of solid weeks, truth to tell. Had to get it down quickly as it was all from a weird misportal I'd had - I may have mentioned it. Looks like Arias is next. He's the head of a global conglomerate - bit like a townleader."

Arias' character barely survived an attempted boardroom coup and a hostile takeover by a rival company. "He's done well, but he'll be weakened for next time. Bit like a clanleader being told what to do by other clanleaders and a banking all rolled into one if you know what I mean." Azakan could only nod slowly - it made a certain sense, but he couldn't have explained it.

Ysabell sat up straight for her turn. "I'll continue digging for another five minutes then have a break for a cigarette," she announced brightly.

"Digging?" hissed Azakan for he was perplexed.

"She's a navvy," Rapscallion explained quietly.

"What - sits at junctions and directs people around? A boring, but worthy task, I suppose." Azakan smiled as he was on familiar ground.

"No, not really. A navvy digs up roads to mend them - a bit hard to explain, but you know the potholes we bounce over when trading? Her character mends them." Azakan frowned, but nodded slowly. "She's managed to gain a lot of respect from her fellow workers by holding up a lot of traffic - like caravans of covered wagons - for just one repair. Sssshh - Whitebane's doing something..."

Whitebane rattled some dice and consulted another table. "Your request for supplies was granted," he announced ("Bit like praying..."). "You've been awarded three more barricades and five hundred more cones." ("Bit like traps, I guess...").

"Wooo!" grinned Ysabell. "That's enough to block off another lane - yes?" Whitebane nodded thoughtfully. "I'll block the next lane off and then I think it's time for lunch," she announced brightly.

"Good move - it's a bit like a trading mob faction, but even though it doesn't attack it's more vicious," Rapscallion explained to Azakan.

"Back to Azakan," announced Whitebane. "So, George McDonald, you went to the street next to the one you'd failed on. You have nearly reached the limit on your credit card so you need to make some sales. Again there are houses with door and pathways. What do you do?" Azakan smiled - a challenge again. For some reason he felt a yearning to advance so he too could sell those quality brushes from door to door.

"I go up one path and knock on the door," he replied confidently. He'd been taking careful note and had managed to work out how he should behave.

"The door opens," Whitebane began as he rolled some dice. He peered at the dice and frowned. "Instead of a human there's a snarling, large dog, foam dripping from its teeth. What do you do?"

"Er... I draw my - no, cannot do that. I cast - no, not allowed." Azakan's face drained of color as he started to panic - failure was not usually an option.

"It tries to bite your leg."

"I kick at it - can I do that?" Whitebane nodded and reached for a table. Azakan reached for the dice. The dice clattered and the sheet was consulted.

"The dog has your shoe in its mouth and is scratching it badly."

"But I paid extra to have the polish of customer charming applied!" protested Azakan. "Right, I try and shake it off and run from the house." He grabbed the dice and threw them with rather too much force. Three sixes.

"Oooooh! Special table," announced Whitebane ominously. "Roll again please." Azakan frowned, but did as he was bade. "Hmm, a five and two sixes... You run into the road and are hit by a passing vehicle..." Whitebane rattled the dice and consulted them. "... driven by officer Evans here," he finished, pointing at Bethica who blew him a kiss.

"I take it I have no green potions? Thought not. How badly damaged am I?" Whitebane consulted another table and looked mournful.

"Nasty," he muttered. "You have three broken limbs, bruised ribs, a nasty gash across your forehead..."

"Rather like paling visibly," noted Rapscallion helpfully.

"...and a broken fingernail," finished Whitebane. "You've got a temporary loss of 20 to your girlfriend attracting rating, but it may be a gain if you get a really fancy scar from it. When Rapscallion wrote this table out I don't know what he was thinking of, but some scars can be quite beneficial." Rapscallion grinned weakly and shrugged.

"I'll call for medical assistance," declared Bethica cheerfully. More dice were rolled.

"The medical services were in the area, it seems," announced Whitebane with a smile. "They arrive on the scene quickly." Azakan looked around as Rapscallion pressed a small square of card into his hand.

"What's this? Are you part of the cleric equivalent?" he asked.

"Oh no. Level 30 Shyster, Alan Thompson, at your service. Ambulances chased by appointment." Rapscallion stuck his pipe between his teeth and puffed cheerfully. "Stick with me, my lad, and we'll take the police department for as many credit cards as you could ever want!"

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