Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: The Forest of Broken Wings

In the 1990s, Palladium Books hadn't quite yet gone all-in on RIFTS. The company's fantasy RPG, The Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game, never got past its origin as being a heartbreaker retread of Dungeons & Dragons, but it acquired and retained its fanbase and at this point it got much-desired supplementary material released regularly.

I enjoyed the game at the time, being in high school then, as it played to a rather common desire for more involved mechanical gameplay. I already played Robotech and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness by then, so this was a natural lateral move. (Especially since traditional monsters were default-playable character options, and magic did not make mundane characters pointless.)

Getting folks into this not-D&D wasn't easy until Adventures in the Northern Wilderness hit the stands and that's because most of that supplement was adventures- something otherwise sorely lacking, and necessary at the time.

While others are worthy of comment, for reasons both fair and foul, one stuck with me over the years and that's the one in the title: "The Forest of Broken Wings". This adventure was a true blending of horror and adventure, the sort that you would find in Howard's "Worms of the Earth", without once mentioning Cthulhu tropes. One isolated village deep in the wilderness, one dragon of a sort not seen in Pink Slime fantasy, and the PCs have a choice: risk their lives, under very real threat of failure and death, for the sake of a single child and the villagers wherein said child lives in a battle that will not be remembered by any but those who survive it- no glory, no treasure, no power, nothing but a clean conscious as your reward.

That struck me hard as a young man in high school. It stuck with me all through the years since. That's the sort of experience I'd been after in tabletop RPGs, and rarely did I find it; it turns out that most people are out for glory, treasure, and power for their own sake, and I've learned to cope with disappointment. I marked the man behind it--Jeff Gomez--and for the rest of his time with the company I found that he made the adventures I wanted out of my gaming experiences. (I'll talk about the other big adventure module he did for Palladium tomorrow.)

I still have my copy of Adventures, and that adventure module is why. Even though Jeff has since gone on to far, far greater things I still remember his time with Palladium Books fondly. Down the road I'll get more into this adventure module and break down the hows and whys behind it.

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