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The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Baron Munchausen
James Wallis
Hogshead Publishing, 24 pages

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Baron Munchausen
Additional Information
Hogshead is also the publisher of the Warhammer fantasy roleplaying game and the just released Violence: The Roleplaying Game of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed. Coming out of this year's GenCon are also Puppetland/PowerKill, a new edition of two critically acclaimed short games.

Terry Gilliam directed, and John Neville starred in the title role of, the 1989 movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen is designed to be a pick-up-and-play RPG: the short game you play while you're waiting for the rest of your gaming group to turn up. It's fast to play, cheap to buy and a great way of introducing new players to the idea of RPGs without having to plough through a 200-page rulebook first. It was nominated for the 1998 Origins Award in the "Best RPG" category.

Hogshead Publishing

A review by Don Bassingthwaite

24 pages? An entire roleplaying game in a mere 24 pages? Ludicrous! Insane! Impossible!

Sir, are you calling me a liar? There are a great number of things which I will tolerate -- Julia Roberts and nouvelle cuisine among them -- but if you are calling me a liar, I shall have to ask you to step outside while I defend my honour...

Wax your moustache or tighten your bodice, and call the potboy for another round of drinks. The year is 17__ and Baron Munchausen is tired of being pressed into relating the tales of his remarkable adventures for unappreciative hosts who seem to believe he is nothing more than a common storyteller, the scoundrels! To free himself from such mundane demands, he has created his own roleplaying game ("in a new style") called, appropriately enough, The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. And, my lords and ladies, he explains the entire game in just 24 pages. Really.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen has actually been around for a little over a year now, garnering a good deal of attention and a nomination for Best Roleplaying Game at Origins 99. It's easy to see why. The basic premise of the game is addictively simple and ridiculously fun. Players take the role of 18th century nobility -- no one in particular and, in fact, the game points out that it is possible to play without so much as assigning yourself a name (though personally I think a suitably grand name and title adds to the fun immensely) -- sitting around and regaling each other with stories of their astonishing exploits. Which, of course, is exactly what the players themselves do, creating tall tales on the spot. And the taller the tale, the better. The inspiration for the game is, of course, the famous Baron Munchausen, semi-legendary nobleman, soldier, and storyteller who claimed to have done everything from visit the moon to ride a cannonball over Constantinople, and while no one could possibly match the great man's accounts of his adventures, it is insanely fun to try.

One of the things that makes the game so wonderful is its simplicity. The cover copy refers to the book as a "Role-Playing Game in a New Style," that new style being a system (if it can be called such) that has no game master, no set adventures, no statistics, no encounters, no dice, no charts... in fact, it barely has any rules at all! Play simply proceeds around the table to right, with each player inviting the person on his or her right to tell the company about the story behind some incredible incident. 200 such possible incidents appear in the back of the book ready to be dropped into game play on a whim. "Tell me, my good sir, how it was that a mistake with your laundry saved the entire court of France from drowning?"

The player challenged with such an invitation then has about five minutes to relate the story and he had better make it good, because this is a game with a winner, and winning depends on telling the best story. Of course, what fun is a challenge without interaction? As a player's story unfolds, the other players are free to interrupt with wagers ("I can well imagine, sir, that it was at that very moment that Neptune himself rose from the seabed with your stockings tangled in his trident!") and objections ("Perhaps you are mistaken, sir, for I know the very laundress of whom you speak and I assure you that she would never apply so much starch to your smallclothes.") to complicate matters. In fact, the greatest number of rules in the game revolve around these wagers and objections, how they are made (a system of betting with coins), and how they are resolved (incorporated into the story, rejected, or, in extreme cases, taken to duel of rock-paper-scissors). The most serious rule, however, concerns what may be asked or said -- players must never call each other liars because, of course, all of them are nobles and would never claim anything less than the honest truth.

The other thing that makes the game such a success is the whole style of the book. This slim volume, in addition to simply explaining the rules, sets the whole tone for the game. Five minutes with the book and I guarantee that you will be speaking like an 18th century nobleman, cursing the servants, toasting the fairer sex, and saying rude things about the French. It is extremely well-written and lively in a way that longer gamebooks simply can't match. There is no need for a section on setting (although a short one appears anyway) -- partly because the entire text is setting and partly because you just don't need it. After all, this isn't the kind of game where you spend hours and days of playtime in an epic campaign. A full game takes less than an hour to play (once around the table, five minutes to a player, with slight delays between stories to fill glasses) and is more of an evening's light entertainment. A little knowledge of history and a smattering of the classics helps, but isn't totally necessary -- anachronism reigns supreme in this game.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen does come from Britain so it might be a little harder to find in North America, but the publishers do carry a section on their website describing where to get their games on the far side of the Atlantic. I would strongly advise reading the book behind closed doors and playing it well away from non-gaming folk -- they often misinterpret roaring laughter as something other than simply a sign of a game well-enjoyed.

Which puts me in mind of the time a good friend was mistaken for the village idiot while in a remote part of Austria and how it became necessary to rescue him from a gigantic wheel of herbed goat cheese... but that's a story for another time when you're not so busy going out and buying your own copy of The Extraordinary The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Step lively now!

Copyright © 1999 by Don Bassingthwaite

Don Bassingthwaite is the author of Such Pain (HarperPrism), Breathe Deeply (White Wolf), and Pomegranates Full and Fine (White Wolf), tie-in novels to White Wolf's World of Darkness role-playing games. He can't remember when he started reading science fiction, but has been gaming since high school (and, boy, is his dice arm tired!).

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