The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen
THE FIRST AND TRUEST PURSUIT of every man—aye, and every woman too—is to attain an undeniable nobility. For though some are cursed by the invisible hands of fate to lie outside the bounds of noble family and noble blood, they need not be forever doomed, for noble deeds and right action are available to everyone. And once those noble deeds have been accomplished, it is only right that others should hear of them, for the improvement of the masses!
Through the aid of my dear friend and scrivener James Wallis and the gentry at Fantasy Flight Games, you and your bosom friends can share the tales of your own noble deeds—I present to you the third edition of my game: The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, being told in a new style of game termed Rôle-Play.
Part the First: The Play of the Game and the Distraction of the Baron
YOU MAY BE CURIOUS as to the purposes of a great and storied nobleman such as myself in choosing to design such a game. These questions serve only to show your ignorance of a gentleman’s duties, sir—for I am honor-bound to support all forms of art, and to my mind the design of a game with its elegant systems all working in conjunction is an artform surpassed only by the Song-Paintings of the Moon-people and the walking sculptures of deepest Ceylon.
You may not have heard of my adventures upon the island of Ceylon, for indeed, it was not an island before I arrived, but a peninsula. I had adventured thither on the invitation of the Divine Queen of that land, for she had heard tales of my adventures even on her far side of the world, and she earnestly desired that I should tell my stories to her in person. As it was, I was already quite close when I received her invitation (brought by trained butterflies), though I was some miles above the Earth in a hot-air balloon crewed by a team of unkempt Italians.
Taking a fistful of spaghetti from the ill-tempered cook, I immediately began my descent from the airship, tying noodles together as I went to create a line for myself. You can imagine my surprise when I glanced skyward and saw a great bird of prey, the mighty Rukh, swoop down—not on myself, but upon my rope of delicious al dente noodles. He immediately began eating from the top down, forcing me to tie and move faster than ever, and…
Hum. My mangy-headed editor, this d—ned Market Writer, is trying to bring me back to the play of my game. I shall not suffer impudence from a plebeian like yourself, sir, I may assure you of that.
Part the Second: The Play of the Game, Reattempted
IF YOU WISH TO ENDEAVOR the play of my game, you need only avail yourself of some stout compatriots with stories to tell, nobly born, of course. A manservant or two to provide provender and drink would be essential, and a few coins for each player will allow you to ultimately determine the winner of your contesting. You may also wish to set aside a green softly illumined by gentle moonlight for the fighting of any mighty duels, which do arise with gratifying frequency during the play of the game.
You and your companions must all sit around a table, and once each is fortified by drink, begin to play. To start, any one of you should turn to his neighbor and request to hear a story of his neighbor’s greatest adventures. For instance, drawing on my ungratefully interrupted story from above, my neighbor, the striking, dark-eyed daughter of Count H—, may turn to me and say, “My dearest Baron, will you not tell me the tale of how and why you created the island of Ceylon?”
Accepting this invitation with the grace and poise that are synonymous throughout the world with the Munchausen name, I say “Ah, yes,” take a draught of my port, and begin my story. (This impertinent boy is making frantic gestures, attempting to dissuade me from beginning my story anew. You shall have to approach me in more agreeable company, and you shall have it all from my own lips.)
And yet, the course of stories, like love and the arrows of the Persians, never does run true. Throughout the storyteller’s tale, every other player may wager their coins against the storyteller, attempting to break his concentration with all manner of outrageous questions and clarifications. Naturally, the best storytellers will not be at all thrown off their stride, but will accept each interruption as it comes, weaving it into the story to create a concerted whole, not unlike the fabulous feather robe that I created from live parakeets upon my arrival at the giant stone river dolphin that formed the source of the Amazon River.
As you can imagine, these coins are passed back and forth throughout the game, as each one at the table must tell his story in turn. Only at the end of the game, once all has been told, will each player vote with the coins he has gathered to determine which story you have heard is truly the best!
Part the Third: On Character
HERE, THE WRITER IN THE MARKET advises me that it may be advisable to say something of “Character Generation,” which he says is an essential part of all new games in the style of Rôle-Play. In truth, there is none such in my game, and the most important purpose of a “character sheet” would be for recording the calling-addresses and pedigrees of any especially charming ladies I may meet during the evening.
For character, as even the most oafish baronet’s son could tell you, is not generated but forged on the anvil of life. It is only when the blows of experience ring in our ears that we move another step on life’s path, becoming by stages more rounded or sharpened, our corners knocked off or our features more pointedly defined, and not by some artificial process of tossing teetotums or juggling figures like some ink-stained clerk in a windowless cellar hard by Threadneedle Street. Character generation? Pfaugh. I’ll have none of it.
Part the Fourth: A Question from a Lady of the Company
BUT WAIT, MY ATTENTION is drawn by twin attractions. A glass of finest cognac, the 17— vintage, and its bearer, the Empress of Russia, with a poignant question on her well-formed lips. I shall transcribe the question here, for the betterment of young women across the nation. “My dear Baron,” she says, “many of us are quite familiar with the play of your game and the hours of diversion that it can provide. And yet, you tell us that you are about to release a Third Edition of said game! Pray, enlighten us and tell us how you have expanded and enhanced this edition?”
Part the Fifth: The Baron’s Answer
A MOST PERCEPTIVE QUESTION! And I would expect no less from the one woman who has contributed more than any other to the development of my game. I am happy to inform both the Empress and the Company that, like the processes I used when I invented the tomato, I have taken my own substance and multiplied it through transformation. To wit, where one volume would suffice to describe my game, this edition of The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen contains no fewer than three.
The first volume describes the play of the game much as I have mentioned above, though with much more detail and also notes for the betterment of children and those ignobly born. In Volume II, I share two variants for my game: one developed among the deserts and oases of Araby by my fellow adventurer, Es-Sindibad the Sailor, and one developed by myself—a simpler variation of my game, called “My Uncle the Baron” and well-suited for children, the inbred, and the very drunk.
Finally, I am happy to announce that the third volume is entirely new to this edition of my game, and contains an even dozen variations, allowing you to enjoy my game with countless different characters and locations. I do strongly recommend my adventures with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Jekyll and my great contests with the Tentacled God that inhabits the Pacific city of R’lyeh. (I could carry on in this vein, but the Market Writer presses me to conclude, and more discouragingly, the Empress’s cognac has gone. Though I will mention I have included rules for playing my game through the tweeting of little birds or by inscribing records in the Book of Faces.)
Part the Sixth: The King’s 12th Hussars Arrive
YOU HAVE DOUBTLESS HEARD of my two prior duels with the entirety of the King’s 12th Hussars. Well, they have now returned for yet another bout, and I can see them beginning to bring up their artillery pieces, so for the sake of decorum I shall leave you here: the next few minutes will require me to extinguish the cannon-fuses by spitting fifty feet at them, an art of which I am unusually qualified, since according to the distaff side of my lineage, I am in small part cobra. But all this is a tale for another time, a warm fireside, good friends, and a bottle or two of excellent tokay.
With best wishes and fervent hopes that our paths cross soon and our swords never.