07 April 2011

F is for Foolhardy, Fortibus, and Flind

The girl in the above picture has obviously never played the Tomb of Horrors. But it is a good lead-in to today's topic. 

An old proverb says, "Fools rush in where angels dare to tread." Caution is a laudable trait. Just running into the dungeon without any preparation is a surefire way to end up very, very dead very, very quickly, especially in "Old School"-style play. Rations can actually be used for an extended expedition into the "Megadungeon." Spikes have multiple uses (securing doors, climbing, vampires), as does rope, chalk, the ubiquitous 10' pole, small and large sacks, and many other dungeoneering items. Do younger gamers even know what all this is for? 

Part of caution also involves tactics. In my games, foolishly charging a gnoll shieldwall in a dungeon corridor will also get you very, very dead pretty damn quickly. When you hit the front of that formation, you will hit by at least 3 spears and 3 swords; if they're three deep expect a pike as well. And your charge will also allow the  few archers scattered among their ranks at least 2 arrows each at your eager ass. Scouting becomes a must. Any adventure can rapidly overwhelm a low-level party just like the classic B2 Keep on the Borderlands and T1 The Village of Hommlett IF the players are not careful, cautious, and conservative! (What can I say; I'm alliterative mood tonight!) This is not a "kill all" mish in the City of Heroes MMO. The fighters are not tanks drawing aggro so the DPS scappers and nukers can waste the target (although 4E seems that way at times...).  That kind of attitude can get you very, very dead as well. The wise man chooses his engagements and where they occur very, very carefully. And, just like in poker, the wise party knows when to cut their losses and run. Death is a Bad Thing (TM) in old school games.

That said, there is a thing as too much caution. If the party gets bogged down in the minutiae of combing through every room looking for secret doors and traps, if they spend time role-playing the acquisition of common supplies in a well-stocked store, if they flee when the slightest thing goes wrong, or if they throw a fit when "level-drainers" make an appearance, well, I would say that they are acting decidedly unheroic.

There is a related proverb to the one I started the blog with. "Fortuna juvet fortibus." Or, roughly translated from the Latin: Fortune favors the brave. Or the strong. Or the reckless. Or the foolish. Fortes is one of those Roman virtues like dignitas or gravitas or pietas that doesn't translate into English all that well. It has multiple meanings, depending on context and Roman cultural awareness. But fortes is a quality that a Roman noble was supposed to cultivate. Maybe not to the extent of the other three I mentioned, but still, especially in a military career, it was vital. Probably the best way to explain is with another proverb: In Bocca al Lupo ("Into the Mouth of the Wolf").

Fortes consists of a reckless disregard for one's own safety. The only way to achieve glory, fame, and success is to throw one's self into the wolf's jaws. It doesn't mean that one doesn't prepare; indeed, in its context of strength there is the implication of preparedness for any eventuality that arises. However, when the moment of truth arrives, strike and strike hard. Or, as G. Julius Caesar said at the Rubicon River: Alea jacta est ("Let the dice fly high"). It is time to let Fortune decide. 

And so it should be with the party. They should prepare and plan well, but never shirk from the moment of conflict. 


AC: 5 [14]                                                   Special: +1 to Hit, damage; flindbar
HD: 2+3                                                      Move: 12
Attacks: Club                                              HDE/XP: 2/45

The Flind are a felinoid race which some believe are relatives to the gnolls. Well over 6 1/2' tall, flind are very strong and gain +1 to hit and damage with all weapons. Although they typically fight with studded war clubs, about 1-in-4 of encountered flind are armed with flindbars; these are three iron rods connected to each other with chain links. The flindbar allows a flind to attack twice in one round. A successful hit only does 1d4 damage; however, if the target of the attack fails a save, his weapon is entagled in the flindbar and the hapless adventurer is thus disarmed. 

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