Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mount & Blade: Warband - 7/20 hours

I told myself that I wasn't going to do my usual rpg thing, where I start a character, play it for a few hours, and decide that my initial build choices were all wrong, and thus scrap the character and start from scratch. I've got a ticking clock here, and if I want to see the late-game content, I've got to tough my way through the early game.

That being said, the Floris mod was a little tougher than the base game, and I wound up getting myself into a hopeless situation. It's actually an interesting demonstration of the emergent storytelling that can come from these open world style games.

Rose was the daughter of a merchant, raised her whole life to be a shopkeeper, but she always yearned for adventure, so when she came of age she became a bravo, a hired sword who guarded caravans instead of running them, until finally, she made her way to the kingdom of Swadi, ostensibly to find her fortune, but really because the call of the road pulled her into this exotic foreign land.

Almost as soon as she arrived, she was attacked by thugs in a dingy back alley. Using her hard-won skill with the sword, she dispatched the mugger, only to discover that he was part of a larger organization. A fellow merchant offered her shelter while he explained his plight. This gang of outlaws had kidnapped his brother, and he has need of a dauntless band of mercenaries to recover him.

Drawn by the justice of the merchant's cause, and the promise of coin, Rose went on a tour of nearby villages, to recruit likely-seeming lads to a life of heroism and adventure. But before she had a chance to return to the merchant disaster struck. Her nascent band was attacked by a much larger force of bandits. They fought valiantly, but Rose was taken prisoner.

Once she made her escape, she limped into a nearby town. She needed to rebuild her fortune, so she decided to go back to what she knew best - commerce. Buying a selection of trade goods, she was able to make some modest profits while gathering a new bodyguard from the interlying villages. Unfortunately, the ruinous "tolls" demanded by the outlaw gangs ate into her already thin margins.

Eventually, she became fed up, and when a band scarcely larger than her own demanded a fee for safe passage, she refused. Sadly, they were a band of deserters. Desperate men, poor and starving, but well-equipped and veteran fighters. They made short work of her undertrained conscripts, and Rose once more became a prisoner.

When she finally escaped, she had only her sword, a few coins, and her merchant's ledger. The countryside was still thick with bandits, so she took refuge in a nearby castle. The lord was kindly, and gave her shelter, and in the course of their conversation, Rose learned that he had troubles of his own. His son was being held prisoner by a rival lord, who was refusing to even consider ransom. If Rose could secure his release, the reward would be 5000 denars.

That would be enough to rebuild her fortune, and then some. More importantly, there was a certain romance to being the dashing young swordswoman who stormed a castle to rescue the handsome prince. There would be only a few guards, and she was not entirely unbloodied, She felt like she could do it.

So she made her way overland, alone, dashing from village to village to avoid the roving gangs that had plagued her as a merchant, until she arrived in the town of Yalen. Forgoing subtlety, she opted to attack the guard and seize the keys directly. The man was no match for her skill, but his armor was thick, and though Rose could land many blows, none were telling. Eventually, another guard arrived, and Rose was taken prisoner once more.

She languished in the dungeons for quite some time, and eventually gave up all hope. Even if she was free, she would have no money, no reputation, and no place to go. Her girlish dreams of adventure had broken against the cruel rock of reality. Calradia had no place for heroes.

Or at least, that's how I'm going to frame my clumsy misadventures to date. I was warned against playing a female commoner, and I was going to start the mod as a noble, but it didn't give me an opportunity to choose a banner during character creation, so I had the strange notion that I would win a banner in-game, in order to be able to select one myself (I really liked the orchid banner I got in the vanilla game). I later learned that the mod had an option to change your banner while in your camp, and that this detour was unnecessary. You live, you learn.

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