A super-strong hero needs to save his girlfriend—it’s the most important thing he has ever done. Problem is, she’s trapped under a bus that’s heavier than anything he’s ever lifted.
What happens next?
In a realistic scenario, the hero has a finite and quantifiable amount of strength. Either the bus is too heavy for him, in which case he is unsuccessful, or it’s not too heavy, in which case he is successful. End of story.
In a dramatic scenario, the hero’s actual strength is not what matters. What matters is whether it’s dramatically appropriate for the hero to save the girl, or not. Perhaps the hero is supposed to save her, in which case he flexes his muscles and strains with all his might and he barely lifts the bus enough for her to crawl to safety. Or, perhaps, he is supposed to fail, maybe learning a lesson in the process, or becoming a haunted and dark hero. In the latter case, he flexes and strains but it’s just not enough and he watches her expire before his very eyes, knowing that he couldn’t be the hero this time.
So, you just brought a thug to justice. Go you! But what is in that thug’s belt pouch (or otherwise tucked away on this particular unsavory individual)? You can roll randomly for a result below, or use the handy number provided with each entry to figure out your result on a d12. You can also pick the one that works for the area in which your characters currently linger.
Do you remember when you first came up with Gaunt and Bone?
I was writing longhand in a coffee place in Menlo Park, California, in the ’90s. I was doing the second of a planned series of stories in a dreamlike fantasy world, taking cues from Dunsany, Lovecraft, and Leiber. (The first one, “The Lions of Karthagar,” eventually appeared in revised form in Black Gate 15.) I wanted a classic Dungeons & Dragons style thief, and played around with names resembling Indiana Jones and Inigo Montoya, coming up with Imago Bone. The inspirations suggested a lot about his character. Next, I needed a reason for him to do something dangerous, so along came his “Goth” girlfriend and her stolen book of poems. Her name, Persimmon Gaunt, was meant to suggest a love of life and a fascination with death. They clicked with me, and when I went on to do a third story in that sequence, they ended up answering the “want ad.” So, I just ran with that and wrote more stories about them.
Chris, you have spent time as a librarian, a job that most people think would be great for an author. Is that true or false and why?
True, especially if your job covers fiction. It helps keep you aware of what’s been written, what’s popular, what people enjoy about certain writers and genres, and what the possibilities are. Meanwhile nonfiction books can spark all kinds of ideas. I mostly handled children’s books and programs, and even though I’m not currently writing for children, there’s a lot of fantasy and science fiction being written for kids. I found all that exuberant storytelling inspiring. One word of caution if you’re interested in public libraries, though—it’s not necessarily a “quiet” job from the librarian’s perspective! There’s a big customer service component. You need to be able to talk to people, and listen, and be patient.
“Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars…” —Robert E. Howard, “The Phoenix on the Sword”
Well met, intrepid reader! If you’ve seen my other work for Kobold Press, there’s no hiding the fact that Weird Tales and the writing of Robert E. Howard have been a huge influence on my lifetime of gaming. So, I wanted to honor Howard by briefly studying the most cohesive world he ever built—the world of Conan the Barbarian.
Howard termed Conan’s time “The Hyborian Age.” And its place was the prehistoric realms of Hyboria and the outlying “savage” lands. The map of the Hyborian Age isn’t too dissimilar from what we imagine the pre-cataclysmic continent of a unified Europe/Asia/Africa to look like. It’s a time of young civilizations and forgotten kingdoms—a time of high adventure! Thus, the Hyborian Age becomes one of the best playgrounds imaginable when it comes to tabletop roleplaying. There have been many notable adaptations throughout the years of the Conan mythology for pen and paper RPGs. And the Cimmerian’s influence is no stranger to the core concepts of D&D itself—heroic adventure in the face of thrilling adversities, among them.