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In the past month, I’ve had Robin Hood on the brain. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing some sort of Robin Hood supplement for QAGS for several months now, so when I found a copy of J.C. Holt’s book, Robin Hood, which attempts to find the historical Robin by tracing the character’s literary history, I bought a copy. I’ve also been watching the second season of the recent BBC Robin Hood series starring Jonas Armstrong, which is lots of fun despite (and occasionally because of) its quirks. Last but not least, I went to see a Ridley Scott movie starring Russell Crowe that is called Robin Hood but doesn’t actually seem to be about Robin Hood. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate the fact that characters like Robin Hood change over time, but certain core aspects of the character need to remain. Otherwise, the character ceases to be a character in any meaningful way. As a public service to Ridley Scott, here are The Rules of a Robin Hood story.
I’m reasonably sure that everyone but Ridley Scott already knows these, but just in case:
1) Robin Hood Is an Outlaw. Robin and his men are wanted by the authorities and are forced to live outside of regular society. While their default home is Sherwood Forest, they work equally well in any locale where the forces of law and order have very little power–the remote edges of civilized space, the American frontier, no-man’s land, or whatever. They do not, however, live as lords in warm, cozy manor houses under a stolen identity.
2) Robin Hood Robs From the Rich and Gives to the Poor. The “giving to the poor” aspect wasn’t really part of the earliest tales, but over the years it’s become one of the things for which Robin is best known. At the very least, Robin Hood should occasionally, you know, rob somebody. Preferably while wearing a hood.
3) Robin Hood Is a Hero of the People. In the real world, people who operate covertly keep a low profile. While Robin and his men do in fact do a lot of medieval cloak and dagger stuff, in most cases the end of result of their activities are made very public. Like Batman, Robin Hood uses the legend surrounding him as a tool: it inspires the common people (motivating them to stand up to the sheriff or help the merry men when necessary) and it intimidates (or at least infuriates) the enemy.
4) Robin Hood Stories Are Adventure Stories: Although Robin does occasionally get involved in large, epic battles, he is not the hero of a war story. The focus of a Robin Hood story should be on swashbuckling adventure. Robin is not a great general who leads armies, he’s the leader of a rag-tag band of heroes who wins the day against all odds through amazing feats of daring and skill.
5) Robin Hood Is a Patriot: In some stories, Robin merely fights against the corruption of the sheriff of Nottingham and the church. If the bigger political picture comes into play, however, Robin and his men nearly almost end up fighting for England, whether that means fighting the Normans or preventing the rightful king from losing his throne. Although Robin Hood and his men have a lot in common with guerrilla fighters, revolutionary politics is not generally one of them.
1. The sheriff’s men are terrible at seeing through disguises.
2. A single archer on the city walls can usually intimidate the entire Nottingham guard force into inaction, at least temporarily.
3. Despite the shortcomings of his men, the sheriff manages to capture members of Robin’s band with alarming regularity.
4. In most cases, captured Merry Men are sentenced to death. Robin and the others usually manage to save him. If the death is to be by hanging, the rescue is traditionally carried out by cutting the rope with an arrow.
5. Archery in the world of Robin Hood does not conform to our laws of physics. A skilled archer can do nearly anything with a bow and arrow.
6. If the sheriff sets up a trap specifically to catch Robin Hood, Robin is obligated to play right into his hands, then escape.
7. New characters can only reveal that they are on the side of good only after they have fought Robin or one of his men.
8. Always be extremely polite when robbing a victim, especially a lady.
9. Priests are almost universally greedy and often immoral.
10. The sheriff’s ambition is matched only by his ego.
New Word: Outlaw
All members of Robin’s band begin the game with the Word “Outlaw.” If using the Qik-Start Rules, make an additional d20/2+6 roll. If using the Yum Yum character creation system, the Number for “Outlaw” starts at 10 and may be increased using the rate for increasing a Job Number. The Word functions primarily as a Job, allowing the characters to do basic Merry Men type stuff. In addition, the Word works as a Weakness and is used whenever the character risks being recognized by the Sheriff’s men or otherwise might suffer ill effects due to his association with Robin Hood. It can also function as a “Code of Honor” type Weakness, but hopefully players in a Robin Hood game will not need this kind of prompting. Lastly, the Word can be used as a “Local Hero” Gimmick when the character needs help from those who have been aided by Robin Hood and his men.
Suggested Jobs: Archer, Barber, Beggar, Bowyer, Bounty Hunter, Butcher, Carpenter, Crusader, Fallen Noble, Farmer, Forrester, Friar, Hermit, Highwayman, Knight, Lady, Lord, Maiden, Manservant, Midwife, Miller, Minstrel, Peddler, Potter, Priest, Saracen, Shepherd, Sheriff, Squire, Tanner, Tinker, Woodcutter, Yeoman
Suggested Gimmicks: Ambidextrous, Born Leader, Charming, Direction Sense, Escape Artist, Friends In High Places, Friends In Low Places, Giant, Hide In Plain Sight, Implausible Swordsmanship, Informants, Ladies’ Man, Secrets of the Orient (Specify type: Alchemy, Engineering, Medicine, Weaponsmith, etc.), Trick Shot
Suggested Weaknesses: Alcoholic, Always Gets Captured, Can’t Turn Down A Bet, Chaperone, Compulsive Liar, Danger Junkie, Giant, Greedy, Hot Temper, Impulsive, Kid, Outsider, Superstitious, Victim of the Past
Suggested Skills: Acrobatics, Ambush, Archery, Axe, Beekeeper, Brewing, Camouflage, Climbing, Cooking, Disguise, Distraction, Dodge, Eavesdropping, Falconry, Fast Talk, Fencing, Foraging, Gambling, Healing, Hunting, Literacy, Looting, Lute, Pickpocket, Poaching, Quarterstaff, Riding, Shield, Singing, Stealth, Survival, Tracking, Trap Setting
WWPHITM? Mark Addy, Keith Allen, Richard Armitage, Joe Armstrong, Jonas Armstrong, Nick Brimble, John Cleese, Sean Connery, Johnny Depp, John Derek, Alan Doyle, Archie Duncan, Erica Durance, Cary Elwes, Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Robert Frazer, Morgan Freeman, Lucy Griffiths, Alan Hale Sr., David Harewood, Audrey Hepburn, Gordon Kennedy, Anjali Jay, Keira Knightley, Harry Lloyd, Clive Mantel, Mike McShane, Martin Potter, Basil Rathbone, Alan Rickman, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Sam Troughton, Alan Tudyk, Nicol Williamson, Ray Winstone