The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Written By Baron Munchausen (and transcribed by James Wallis)

Reviewed by Nicholas HM Caldwell

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen describes itself as "A Role-Playing Game in a New Style". It is a game that requires neither gamemaster nor advance preparation, with rules that can be learned in less than five minutes.

The concept was submitted to the BBC as a proposal for a light entertainment radio programme, but the "dullards and uneducated common folk" there turned it down. Undaunted, James Wallis turned it into a game, which whilst straddling the border between storytelling and role-playing, was nominated for the Best Role-Playing Game Award of Origins 1999.

As the title suggests, the game draws its inspiration from that legendary teller of tall tales, Baron Munchausen, and players must outdo each other in relating similar tales of outrageous exploits. The game is incredibly simple. The players gather around a table with a stake of coins and a supply of appropriate beverages. A player is nominated to tell a story on a theme proposed by one of the other players. Stories can be interrupted with the other players suggesting elaborations or objections which the storyteller must either add into the story or reject. Coins are exchanged in the process. Once each player has told a story, the players vote to determine the best story using their remaining stake.

The complete set of rules is written up as a single page of this twenty-four page booklet.

So if the rules only take up one page, what’s in the rest of the booklet? And where is the role-playing?

For this game to work, the players must imitate the master raconteur himself and that means they must think and narrate as if they were eighteenth-century nobles, possessed of gentle breeding, haughtiness, savoir-faire, contempt for the lower orders, and the ability to be gratuitously rude about the French! Doing this "cold" poses a real challenge for even the best role-players, and so most of the rest of the booklet presents the rules interwoven with varied and many digressions in the words and style of the great Baron himself. As such, it is very successful at helping the would-be player to get "in character". It is also very amusing. For instance, the section on character generation gently mocks other role-playing games. "Character generation" here is simply a matter of writing one’s name and title on a sheet of paper, and underlining it once or perhaps twice. Alternatively "character generation" can be omitted entirely! An appendix of over two hundred story seeds (such as Tell us Baron the story of How you escaped from the Turks on half a horse) provides initial inspiration.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen may not be role-playing in a true sense, but this is irrelevant. It is innovative, it is funny, and, in the right company at the right time, can easily provide a great evening’s entertainment.

Editor's Note:The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen is published by Hogshead Publishing. Their contact details are as follows:
Hogshead Publishing Ltd.
Nos. 18-20, Bromell’s Road,
London SW4
Great Britain
Tel: (+44) 0171 207 5490
Fax: (+44) 0171 207 5491

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Editor's Note

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