This article was originally posted on the now defunct Scrolls of Lankhmar blog:
One question that is bound to come up when starting a Lankhmar campaign is what to do with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser? Sure, it’s fun to read about their exploits, but will they overshadow the player characters if you have them in your game? So what are the options?
Having the PC’s timeline coincide with the stories is a natural option. One decision you’ll have to make is when in the stories do you want the PC’s adventures to sync up with. What can be fun here is the chance to either relate to the players events from the stories that the public would be aware of–you could even twist the events with rumors and mis-tellings–or to involve the players somehow in the stories even if only peripherally.
There are dangers here. If the PCs hear too much about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, their own adventures may become overshadowed. Also, by involving the PCs with the established stories, those storylines risk being altered. As a GM, you will need to decide how much change you are willing to allow.
On the other hand you can use the news of the two to help build the world in your players’ minds. Perhaps the characters are tailing a cultist through the market when they overhear some gossip about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser leaving Illik-Ving equipped with some mountaineering gear. Perhaps the gossipers even start to talk about glowing mountain gems and the dangers of Ice Gnomes.
It can be tempting to have the PCs meet up with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. There is nothing wrong with this, but questions do arise. Are they peers or are the PCs their juniors? What role will the twain play? How does everyone relate? Does a meeting make the game more enjoyable for the players? Does it add to the story?
Another way to run things is to never have them meet. Simple enough. Hopefully the players do not decide to meta-game and force a meeting!
One potentially entertaining option would be to have the PCs always coming close, but never quite meeting Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. There could be chance sightings across a market with plenty of pedestrians in the way. They might be spotted jumping from roof to roof one evening. On another occasion, they could be seen aboard a ship landing in the royal docks away from public access. And so on and so forth. Given enough permutations this could become a running gag and a way to lighten things up on any given night!
At the end of book six, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser sail off on a mission to Rime Isle where they end up in semi-retirement and mostly living the lives of responsible and monogamous men, even if the Lankhmarian public doesn’t want to part with its two entertaining heroes.
Rime Isle is sufficiently out of the way–never mind being a mythical island that most sailors swear does not exist–that the two are also out of way of our new heroes, the player characters, and their adventures. This is a most convenient option that not only has Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser out of the way, but also has the bulk of the story history already established. From here, everything the PCs do is new history.
Say it isn’t so, but it is a viable option. You could just take the world, pretend Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser never existed, and replace them with the PCs. You could either run entirely new adventures with the world as just a background or run the PCs through some of the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories and see what they do with them.
Whatever you do, hopefully you’ll find something that will work for your game and makes a fun time for you and your players!
7 comments to What to do with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in a Campaign?
Jon February 24th, 2010 at 12:56 pm
There was one AD&D module where the players can interact with the Tween in the Silver Eel inn, if not mistaken. I found it a nice way to incorporate Faf and Mouser, while they are inactive from adventures.
Risus Monkey February 24th, 2010 at 8:57 pm
Excellent post. I am in the early stages of planning a future Nehwon campaign and I was thinking about this very issue earlier. I especially love the idea of using near-misses with the famous pair as a running joke. I may have to use that idea.
I’d add one more option that you didn’t mention: setting the adventures in the time before the Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser stories. Dealing with famous characters in established settings is not uncommon. I’ve been running a Buffy the Vampire Slayer game for years, for example. In that case, we went with the prequel approach, setting the game in the time before the events in the TV show (and obviously featuring a different Slayer doomed to die at our campaign’s conclusion).
Lankhmar is ancient, but stories wouldn’t have be set in the distant past. Setting it just a few years before Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser arrive on the scene would mean that the setting would be quite familiar, with some characters being available for cameos.
Srith of the Scrolls February 25th, 2010 at 7:41 pm
@ Jon — Thanks for dropping in. I don’t remember which module that was. I’ll have to go back through them and see if I can find it.
@ Risus Monkey — I had thought about that option, but couldn’t come up with much to say about it. You’ve covered it nicely. Thanks.
Shane Mangus February 26th, 2010 at 6:27 pm
I say if you choose to run a game in an established literary setting like Nehwon then players will expect to find there what they are familiar with — characters, places and items. I would not shy away from peppering all of these elements into my game. Otherwise why choose Nehwon to begin with? I am not saying that the stories need to be reenacted on the game table, but that this rich tapestry of people and places are already there, so why not utilize them to the fullest? Imagine the players taking on a job that requires them to steal a fabulous item and they go and do just that, but somewhere along the line they realize that F & GM have their eyes on the same prize as well, and the players end up beating their competition at their own game… now that would make for a very cool moment! I guess that is the real trick. Always keep the player characters the focus, and always the most important part of the game — even if it is Nehwon.
Srith of the Scrolls February 26th, 2010 at 10:17 pm
You have a valid point, Shane. And without disagreeing with your point as a whole–because it is a very good one that has me potentially rethinking my approach–I still feel I need to answer your question, ‘Otherwise why choose Nehwon to begin with?’
Because that rich tapestry you speak of is still there even if you do not involve Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser directly. All the characters, places, items, as well as the stories that Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser weave are all still part of that same fabric that the players characters are now a part of. It is all there around them and colors their own stories. And well…adventuring around the streets of Lankhmar just sounds like a whole lot of fun!
I still think that you can capture that essence that is Nehwon in a Nehwon adventure even if Fahrd and the Gray Mouser are kept in the background. However I concede that we may indeed be missing a beat if we do not use them at the fullest. BTW, competing for the same prize does sound like it would be very cool.
In the end, the players should have a load of fun if as you say, we always keep the player characters the focus and most important part of the game.
Harald March 11th, 2010 at 6:19 am
I just found your blog, and I must say it contains a considerable amount of win.
I must confess that I’ve never read any of the stories about Fafhrd and the Mouser, although I remember them fondly from the ads in Dragon magazine back in the early 90s.
You raise a few good questions about running a campaign in a world with established heroes. Nehwon is far from unique here — how about Star Wars or Middle-earth? I ran a SW-campaign a few years ago and found that certain characters you cannont avoid bumping in to.
IMO the famous heroes (here F$tGM) are best left in the background as the last thing you want is to have someone upstage your heroes. I really enjoyed reading your models on how to do that.
One thing I’d like to add, though, is the supporting cast. Not being familiar with Nehwon, I’ll use SW examples. Characters like Jabba and Palpatine cannot be totally avoided, and if the PCs find themselves on Tatooine they will expect the Hut to be around. I’d reccomend that GMs give the matter of how to deal with celebrity NPC’s at least as much thought as the great famous heroes.
Srith of the Scrolls March 12th, 2010 at 11:07 pm
Good points, Harald, and thanks for dropping in and thank you for your kind words. Nehwon does have a large cast of supporting characters for the players to meet up with and for the GM to utilize. The GM will need to consider what time-line is being used to determine which side-characters would be around.
The first time I ran a Lankhmar campaign I used a character from the stories named Alyx the Picklock often as an NPC. I even had her team up with the PCs for an adventure or two. She of course had her own goals in mind.
I remember the players saying at one point how they liked how fleshed out she was. Even though her appearances in the books were brief, with her being a character that I enjoyed from the books I knew how to play her and it added to the game.
She and others could certainly be used to immerse the players into the land of Nehwon.