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Words from the Wise (Guys)

An Editorial Rant


To the nineteenth issue of The Guild Companion.

This Month’s Theme: High and Low Adventure on the Open Seas

Take a deep breath. Smell the salt tinged air and the slight whiff of fish. Listen. Do you hear the gull’s cry, the splash of water on the boat’s prow? Feel the sun on your skin. Then open your eyes to see the vast expanse of deep blue. The sea.

The sea has always been a powerful source of mystery, romance, and adventure. It calls to men in a way perhaps only Jimmy Buffet could fully explain. But really, how could the sea not call us? Most of our planet lies within the sea’s embrace -- hidden from prying eyes. While the beach can be a wonderful way to pass a holiday, the sea’s calm is temporary as anyone who has lived through a hurricane can attest.

The ocean has often been compared to a lady. Its tides are regulated by the moon. It nurtures life, but when aggravated it can devastate everything in its path. A wonderful comparison as long as my wife doesn’t hear me repeat it. But the comparison is actually a rather simplistic tool for trying to understand the complex ecosystem that is the sea. Men have always tried to make sense of their surroundings in one way or another and the sea was a favorite subject for wild guesses. The old maps that show dragons and sea beasts in the waves reflected a fear of the unknown and a fear of the sea’s secrets.

Today, that same fascination and fear is alive and well as represented by the popularity of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and the success of movies such as Jaws, The Abyss, Waterworld, Lake Placid, Deep Blue Sea and The Perfect Storm. Granted the Jaws sequels were silly and the Superfriends only accepted Aquaman because he provided free catering, but the less said about those topics the better.

Anyway, the point is that the sea is a mysterious setting that strikes a chord in the hearts and minds of ancient and modern man alike. It is an alien environment with which we are all familiar. The perfect source for a roleplaying campaign. Think about it. Most GMs spend an inordinate amount of time developing unique worlds that primarily deal with people on land. Sure, most people are familiar with the land and prefer walking on their own two feet. But imagine setting the characters adrift in an alien world that the players can quickly grasp - a world where the rules are familiar but certainly not mundane. Whether this alien world is the deck of a ship, inside a sea bubble, or under the sea, the campaign or adventure will certainly leave a vivid image in the minds of GM and players alike.

The primary benefit of this setting is that while the players are very familiar with water and the sea, they will constantly be finding new ways of thinking. Travel, cooking, weather, combat – all will take on new meaning at sea. The old standbys just don’t apply at sea. Characters on a ship must either be self-sufficient or reliant on ports. Characters under the sea must discover whole new sets of survival skills and ways of thinking. For example, combat underwater is not a two-dimensional experience. Anyone trying to treat it as such will soon become fish food.

The secondary benefit of this setting is that it can tap into deep emotions and images of the players. This goes double if any of your players has expressed a great interest in SCUBA diving or sailing. The sea symbolizes movement (action), change (adventure) and life (realism – or escapism, take your pick) which seems to summarize the main reasons we roleplay.

You know, according to a popular theory on life, we all came from the sea. Perhaps that explains the lure of the ocean – an archetype of sorts. Tolkien certainly recognized this when he depicted the elves sailing to their afterlife across the sea.

So dive into this issue and see if the sea calls you home as well.

For the Guild Companion,
Rich Kirkland
RMSS/FRP and Bladelands Editor

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