Sunday, August 3, 2014

Your Next Adventuring Party: The Funny Pages

A Sunday post?  What gives?

As much as I now realize I totally missed an opportunity by making this blog The RPG Reverend and only posting on Sundays, I stormed a brain about a week ago and this is what fell out.

Comic strips.

Your next adventuring party has been sitting in the Sunday comics for years, and I bet you never even noticed.  (I don't read a lot of comic strips, but I have vague recollections of Mark Trail, and when I thought about him being a ranger, this post congealed in my brain.)  Check this out:

Prince Valiant, the fighter


Prince Valiant, pictured here doing his best Conan impression
Prince Valiant is an Arthurian knight with a masterwork weapon, known as Flamberge.  In best Pendragon tradition, he eventually has a wife, five children, and a grandchild.  Very early comic strips include sorcery and pulp monsters, but this quickly becomes an anachronistic fifth century European setting mash-up.  For example, when Vikings capture his wife, he evidently follows her to America.  As the series progresses, he eventually lives up to his title, reinstating his monarch father to the throne of Thule.  In game terms, I guess he hits domain level.

Dennis Mitchell, the rogue


Dennis Mitchell, pictured here committing petty larceny
Dennis Mitchell is a modern-day boy whom, as he epithet "the Menace" suggests, tends to get into mischief.  Although hardly a malicious character, it seems plausible that his talent for mischief will some day give Dennis the tools he needs to become a master thief.  He always seems to have the tool he needs to annoy Mr. Wilson.  Despite his contemporary setting, he could easily be a mischievous boy in some pseudo-fantasy setting, assuming we're sticking with the traditional fantasy structure.  Players wanting a more malicious take on the character could easily use his British namesake instead:

Dennis the Menace, pictured here looking shady as hell

Little Nemo, the cleric


Little Nemo, pictured here awakening
Little Nemo is a dreamer on par with Lovecraft's Randolph Carter, save for the fact that he is roughly nine or ten years old.  As someone who can enter dreams and combat spiritual maladies, it makes sense that Little Nemo might act as the spiritual advisor of the party, particularly as an adult.  (Perhaps we can extrapolate adult Nemo having lost his dreamwalking abilities, but having retained his ability to navigate spiritual perils.)  Players wanting more interactions with the land of dreams could easily modify the cleric into something approximating the dreamwalker shaman kit from The Complete Barbarian's Handbook, making a more primal, shamanistic Nemo.

The Wizard of Id, the wizard

The Wizard, pictured here practicing alchemy with his spirit familiar
The Wizard is the vizier to the King of Id.  A potent magic-user, Wiz's spells still have a tendency to backfire, either due to absent-mindedness, the fact that he's in a comedy comic, or the fact that he's actually a Lamentations of the Flame Princess magic-user.  He is served by a spirit familiar, possibly summoned by use of the Summon spell.

Mark Trail, the ranger


Mark Trail, pictured here committing aggravated assault, possibly for the last time
Another contemporary character, Mark Trail is a wildlife photojournalist, environmentalist, and two-fisted pulp adventurer.  Although Mark is from a modern setting, he could easily be some sort of natural historian attempting to document the creatures of the wild.  And shooting people with arrows or stabbing interlopers with longswords.  Like Prince Valiant, he also develops a family as the comic progresses.  Unlike Prince Valiant, he apparently has an archnemesis named "Catfish."  Perhaps aboleths are his favored enemy?

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Readers no doubt have other comic strip inspirations.  If you want to run an entire campaign on the premise, just cull your plots from set pieces introduced in Ripley's Believe It or Not.

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