Rewarding Whimsy

I’m a big MST3k fan. A lot of times I like to code with background noise if I’m not playing my iTunes. The most comforting background noise I’ve found is an episode of MST3K. I’ve got some personal favorites: Outlaw Return to Gore, Puma Man, Anything Hercules, Fugitive Aliens etc. I’ve heard them so many times in the background that I can recite lines in my sleep. I’m odd. I know. Anyway, there is an old MST3K episode where one of the bits in between screenings has Dr. Forrester enamored with the word “whimsical.” The good Dr. uses the word quite liberally, almost whimsically.

A dictionary definition of whimsical might be: determined by chance or impulse or whim rather than by necessity or reason

An incident of whimsy while recently playing Medieval II: Total War got me to thinking about how game designers should reward whimsical choices. I had decided to try the Holy Roman Empire scenario and very early in the game a Great Crusade was called with the objective of recapturing Jerusalem. At this point my coffers were empty and I had a mission to capture some back water village in what is now Poland. I was planning exactly where my main armies were going to be stationed and they really needed some work. I was half tempted to let the rest of Europe worry about it and get on with waging war against my Christian neighbors. Then it hit me. Some whimsical mood that is. I aborted the siege on the backwater, gathered my best knights, some spearmen and archers and formed a crusading army. The Milanese were already making money demands but I would deal with them in due course. About 5 turns later the Holy Roman Emperor himself was sitting in Jerusalem, and the streets were running red with blood and a huge column of smoke was rising to heaven. I now found my self with a new epithet “Emperor Heinrich the Crusader”, Peter the Hermit as a member of my entourage, a holy relic and substantial holdings in a distant land. Acre and Gaza soon fell to my crusaders as well.

It remains to be seen whether or not I can found a Crusader Kingdom that lasts as long as its historical counterparts did. So the risk vs. reward outcome of the choice has yet to materialize. But I had fun all the way there. I also want to build these type of odd ball tangents into my games. Yes, you could make a great argument that Crusading wasn’t whimsical but had all sorts of social, political and religious underpinnings and root causes. But I had a strategy at one point that was jettisoned because something unexpected knocked on my door and offered me another path…..and that made all the difference.

Whimsical Dr. F

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