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Friday, 29 May 2020

Friday Fantasy: Brutal Imperilment in the Bag of Infinite Holding

Brutal Imperilment in the Bag of Infinite Holding is a short and clever, if slightly silly scenario for the fantasy roleplaying game of your choice. Published by Mottokrosh Machinations, it is nominally written for use with Hypertellurians: Fantastic Thrills Through the Ultracosm, but in terms of mechanics, it is all but systemless. Certainly, it would work with Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition and any number of Old School Renaissance retroclones or roleplaying games which involve high magic. The set-up is very simple. The Queen has lost her prized possessions—the crown jewels and her beloved poodle, Duchess—and she charges the Player Characters with their retrieval. She may even accompany them! That sounds simple enough, but nothing about this situation is so, for the Queen happened to lose both of them into her magical Bag of Infinite Holding!

Players and Dungeon Masters of a certain age will remember a certain adventure from Imagine Issue Number 15 (June, 1984)—‘Round the Bend’, in which the player characters, all Half-Orcs in the employ of a wizard, are shrunk down into miniaturised size and sent down the drain in order to retrieve various items on his behalf. Brutal Imperilment in the Bag of Infinite Holding is not dissimilar in that in climbing into the bag of holding, the player characters are shrunk down in size. What they discover is that the reason it is a Bag of Infinite Holding is because one Bag of Holding has been put inside another Bag of Holding or lost in another Bag of Holding, and then again—and then again. Thus once shrunk, the player characters find themselves inside a Bag of Holding big enough to be room connected to a series of Bags of Holding, each also the size of room. What you have then with Brutal Imperilment in the Bag of Infinite Holding is a dungeon, but not just any dungeon. Rather a dungeon made up of bags containing a completely random assortment of things, persons, monsters, traps, treasures, and more. As long as it could end up in a bag, or rather a Bag of Infinite Holding, it can end up being in this ‘dungeon’.

Barring the first three bags—or rooms—none of the actual locations in Brutal Imperilment in the Bag of Infinite Holding is described, although they are mapped. Even as mapped, they are simply a series of connected boxes, each box representing a bag or room across three levels—the Early Bags, The Weird Middle Belt, and The Far Depths. It also suggests how the Game Master can set up and map the adventure herself to create a different layout. Primarily though, what the Game Master will be doing is populating the dungeon herself and to do this, the scenario provides tables of random room or bag descriptions, for the Early Bags, The Weird Middle Belt, and The Far Depths. These are backed up with a Random Finds table in the first appendix.

What this set-up means is that Brutal Imperilment in the Bag of Infinite Holding could be run with a minimum of preparation—indeed barely any preparation at all. Especially if she has a handy book of ready-to-run monsters just in case the player characters run into them. As to particular system, only is Hypertellurians: Fantastic Thrills Through the Ultracosm is referenced, but no stats are given, for either the NPCs and monsters or the pre-generated player characters given in the second appendix. They include a fop, a Dwarven weremole spymaster, a merfolk skeleton necromancer, an avaricious purple octopus wearing a diving helmet, the queen’s highly sceptical maid, a Dark Elf cleric, and the Queen herself. None have any stats or skills, but all have strengths and weaknesses, a drive, a secret, and some gear, such that the Game Master could easily create them using the system of her choice. Or alternatively, the players could simply roleplay them as written and roll dice as necessary.

Of course, a Bag of Infinite Holding is a very Dungeons & Dragons thing, but the set-up need not involve that signature magical item at all. The third appendix suggests various alternatives, such as Fae Door Portals and Wells, even gives one or two ideas as to how the adventure could be used in different ways. The book also includes notes on roleplaying the various inhabitants of the labyrinth of bags as well as possible epilogues, including one suggestion that the complex of Bag of Holding upon Bag of Holding is actually not unlike a certain Christopher Nolan film. 

Physically, Brutal Imperilment in the Bag of Infinite Holding is a slim book. Whether cartoony or realistic, the illustrations are excellent, and the writing decent, if perhaps succinct. Overall, the adventure should provide a session or two’s worth of slightly silly, tongue-in-cheek fantasy roleplay, with very low preparation time. If you wanted to adventure to find out what is at the bottom of the bag, then Brutal Imperilment in the Bag of Infinite Holding lets you fall in and go beyond its limits.

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