The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen: A Game of Tall Tales and Playing Roles as told by James Wallis [DriveThruRPG, Amazon, Publisher, Local Library], art by Gustav Doré and calligraphy by Paul Antonio.
This Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a rule book for a game I haven’t played. In fact, I might never get around to playing it, but I don’t regret for a moment reading the full 130 pages, which are hilarious all the way through. It is not necessary to have familiarity with Rudolph Raspe’s original Munchausen stories from the 18th century in order to appreciate this book; even a secondhand acquaintance through the Terry Gilliam feature film will be sufficient.
The game described is one of competitive yarn-spinning, sort of like a table-top roleplaying game with a minimum of rules constraint and a retrospective rhetorical style. A frame-story relates author James Wallis’ ancestor’s encounter and collaboration with the original Baron, as well as his own rediscovery and continuation of the work of publishing the Baron’s game. The rules are digressive and somewhat confusing, but helpfully summarized “in brief” in a two-page appendix. Another appendix lists hundreds of play prompts or story challenges.
This third edition includes two expansions with a host of variants, including adaptation for younger players (“My Uncle the Baron”), thematic inflections (Arabian Nights, science fiction, occult horror, prehistory, 007-type espionage, cats, and others), and suggestions for online play, “whilst one has a sky-fish hooked on the line … using the vibrations of the fishing line to resonate with one another at a distance” (124).
- “Desirous of leaving the powers of fancy at liberty to expatiate through the boundless realms of invention, and thence of creating more interesting situations, he wished to conduct the mortal agents of his drama according to the rules of probability; in short, to make them think, speak and act, as it might be supposed mere men and women would do in extraordinary positions.”
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1910
- “It was a splendid discovery, and the clarity and purity of the solution was even more extraordinary in light of the confusion it had emerged from, as if I’d unearthed a shard of crystal from the floor of a dark cave.”