Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Misadventures of Mr. Foppish, Rabbit Extraordinaire

I've written a lot of LARP lore and in-game documentation in my time. I'd like to think that they're all reasonably good and interesting, but some of them are definitely better than others. Only a handful have made it into my favorites pile, however.

This is one such piece of lore. It's a series of several BGAs (between game actions), in which a player read several different chapters of The Misadventures of Mr. Foppish. Ostensibly a children's book, it can actually teach the reader advanced Viramancy (disease magic), if they know what they're doing and read between the lines. What follows are the silly stories I wrote--the special skills that the player could learn are in another document, to which I do not have access.

You can see that I got increasingly into writing the stories as I went along...

NB: The stories have been slightly edited for punctuation, spelling, and grammar, and also to pad out the running hat gag to it's natural conclusion.

BGA: Reading the Misadventures of Mr. Foppish

On the surface, this book is merely a collection of whimsical tales centering on the adventures of one Aloysius X. Foppish, Esq., a lepus of considerable means. The tales are simplistic, but engagingly written and entertaining. Much of the action revolves around the titular character’s preening self-importance and vanity, and how those character flaws tend to get him into a great deal of mischief. Fortunately for Mr. Foppish, he is surrounded by a number of animal friends of sturdier personality, who frequently assist him when his schemes come to their ill-conceived ends.

To the trained eye, the book is much more than a series of amusing anecdotes about a rabbit squire. Woven deftly into the text are instructions on techniques of advanced Viramancy. The first story, “Rompknoll’s Banquet,” provides a lesson on one such technique, which appears to be the basis upon which most of the subtler aspects of the Viramancer’s art are based.

At the beginning of the story, much is made of the strong bonds between Mr. Foppish and his rabbit friends. The author writes that Foppish and his cohorts have even developed a series of secret signs such that they can easily identify and communicate with one another.

This proves to be the key point upon which the story hinges. Rompknoll (depicted in one of the book’s many lavish illustrations as a cloaked and hooded badger), playing to Mr. Foppish’s considerable ego, tricks the squire into gambling away the rights to his estate. Mr. Foppish, cast into exile from his familial lands, can only watch in horror as Rompknoll moves into his posh warren and invites all manner of sycophantic hangers-on to celebrate in a decadent (and inheritance-annihilating) masked banquet.

Mr. Foppish, the reader learns, is not particularly clever. He does, however, have a number of friends who are clever. By means of his friends' secret signs (as described previously), he is able to locate and communicate with his loyal companions and infiltrate the masquerade party. Thanks to the strength of the bonds with his friends, the level-headed thinking of the fetching Ms. Stoat, the sacrifice of Mr. Foppish's favorite hat, and the timely inversion of a soup tureen, Mr. Foppish drives out the ne’er do wells, punishes the wicked Rompknoll, and reclaims his ancestral home.

BGA: Reading The Adventures of Mr Foppish, Rabbit Extraordinaire

The saga of Aloysius X. Foppish, lepus of means, continues in the second story, "the Kapelo of Kendello." The story opens on the eve of a most excellent party, hosted by one Mr. Vole, whose wealth and taste rivals those of our hero. Everyone who is everyone has gotten an invitation to the soiree, and all are expected to wear their very best.

Mr. Foppish, consumed by vanity, wants to wear something so fantastically fashionable that it will put the haberdashery of all the other party-goers to shame. After trying on everything in his considerable wardrobe, and visiting more than a half-dozen tailors, Mr. Foppish despairs of finding anything suitable. That is, until an owl apprentice-tailor of unsavory disposition reveals to our hero the location of the Kapelo of Kendello.

The Kapelo is described as a hat of singular appearance. The lavish illustration that accompanies the story depicts it as being utterly festooned with feathers, bells, gemstones, fans, lace, crenelations, and buttresses. It is locked away, of course, in the ruins of an old weasel warren. Mr. Foppish's quest to acquire the hat for his party costume takes him across muddy rivers and through thorny hedges, causes the absolute destruction of his second-favorite hat, and lasts a full eight pages.

Mr. Foppish emerges with the Kapelo squashed firmly down on his aristocratic pate. Buoyed up by the opulence and uniqueness of his new accouterments, he hopes to be quite the sensation at Mr. Vole's party. And he is. Alas, far from being the belle of the ball, Mr. Foppish is reduced to a laughingstock--the Kapelo being so hideously ridiculous that the entire populace of the gala is reduced to hysterical fits.

Mr. Foppish's plight is further magnified by the fact that he cannot remove the Kapelo. This is illustrated by means of a humorous drawing, in which the lepus attacks his hat with a fire poker, to no avail. After the laughter has died down, the other party guests seek to help Mr. Foppish with his problem. The levelheaded Ms. Stoat soon discovers that if she offers her own hat to Mr. Foppish, she can remove the Kapelo and put it on her own head.

This leads to a scene reminiscent of a fire brigade, in which the party-goers all line up to exchange hats, passing the Kapelo out across the dance floor, and through the doors to the garden. It comes to rest, at last, on the statue of Mr. Vole's late father, which dominates the garden. Mr. Vole himself must briefly contend with weight of the statue's stone hat, but otherwise, the tale ends on an positive note.

BGA: Reading my bunny book again.

The chronicles of Aloysius X. Foppish, distinguished lepus and squire-about-town, continues in the third story, "Mr. Foppish's Pocket Watch." The eponymous watch is a treasured heirloom of the Foppish family, handed down from father to son for generations, and quite highly prized by the current Mr. Foppish.

The story opens with Mr. Foppish bored of the staid pursuits of polite society. Desirous of action of a rougher and more common fare, he journeys to a tavern down by the wharves that is frequented by a "certain class of individual."Though initially wary of the salt-of-the-earth types that frequent this establishment, Mr. Foppish finds himself quickly accepted into their ranks. Within half a page, Mr. Foppish and a company of weasels are carousing and drinking by the fire.

Talk soon turns to gambling, and Mr. Foppish finds dice pressed into his manicured paw. The steady flow of drink, along with a string of quite improbable luck, puts Mr. Foppish into such high spirits that he bets every bit of wealth in his possession on a final throw of the dice. He loses his wallet, his fine ascot pin, his third-favorite hat, his riding cloak and, of course, the pocket watch. Left completely destitute, and without funds to pay his considerable tab, Mr. Foppish is ejected into the streets post-haste by a pair of badger dock hands.

Mr. Foppish slogs home, only to be discovered on the roadside by the winsome and charming Ms. Stoat. With some wrangling, she coaxes the whole story from him and, infuriated by the cunning of her distant, lowborn cousins, concocts a plan whereby Mr. Foppish might regain his family honor and heirlooms.

After a whirlwind tour of a late-night haberdashery, as well as by a convenient encounter with a troupe of mummers, Ms. Stoat disguises herself and Mr. Foppish as two lowborn weasels of sullen demeanor. This is, of course, much easier for Ms. Stoat than it is for Mr. Foppish, but so long as he keeps his watch cap tight upon his ears, none shall be the wiser.

They return to the dockside tavern and infiltrate the sneak of weasels, finding them still laughing over their easy victory of the foolish young squire. It is here revealed that the weasels have conned Mr. Foppish by cunning use of a pair of loaded dice, which are hollowed out and inhabited by two dormice of the criminal underclass, who, by virtue of a cunning system of pulleys, can make the dice roll however they desire. The two dormice and their dice disguises are illustrated.

This admission so enrages Mr. Foppish that he lets fly with fisticuffs at the rapscallions! A move which, as anyone who knows of the ferocity of weasels can tell you, is extremely ill-advised. His disguise in disarray, himself pinned against the crude, stone hearth, it is only the timely intervention of Ms. Stoat, a lantern, a pair of tin forks, and the noble sacrifice of Mr. Foppish's third-favorite hat that saves the day.

In the aftermath, the squire and his lady friend flee out into the rising dawn, the pocket watch restored to its rightful owner.

BGA: The Misadventures of Mr. Foppish, Rabbit Extraordinaire

The escapades of Aloysius X. Foppish, Esq., a lepus of means, continues in this next tale, entitled, "Madam Stuffley-Ermine's Annual Garden Social and Tea-Tasting Extravaganza." It opens with our eponymous squire boarding a carriage, bound for the party of the year. Seated across from him is a huge and lumpy parcel, enmeshed in canvas and lashed into the carriage with taut cords. As Mr. Foppish urges the coachmouse to greater haste, he gives his parcel a loving pat. This, he is sure, will simply dazzle Madame Stuffley-Ermine and her esteemed guests.

Mr. Foppish arrives fashionably late and begins making the rounds. The author spends a great deal of time describing the exquisite arrangements of flowers, all put together by Madam Stuffley-Ermine and the lesser, unnamed members of the Garden Club. Fully a page is dedicated to the description of the tea-tasting gazebo, with its porcelain pots arranged in such a way that the jets of steam issuing from their spouts fill the air with a complex tannic bouquet.

These florid descriptions are accompanied by a two-page illustration showing the garden grounds, with the gazebo in the center. Two working-class rats dominate the foreground as they haul Mr. Foppish's mysterious package to a central table.

The parcel, Mr. Foppish proudly exclaims, is a rare, succulent plant that grows only in a far-off shard. With thumbs in his lapels, he struts before the heavily laden table, informing a now rapturous crowd that he has spared no research or expense in bringing the wondrous plant to his estate. With a flourish, he slices the restraining cords and whisks off the canvas, to reveal a monstrosity of leaves, tubers, thorns, spines, spires, fruits, barbs, and rhizomes. The crowd oohs and aaahs in appreciation.

Mr. Foppish, lost in the praise of the crowd and his own exposition, swats the body of the strange plant with a proud paw. At the impact, the plant begins to quake and tremble, to such an alarming degree that the now fearful party-goers begin to take cover behind ribbon-covered tables and decorative hedges. Our beloved squire, alas, is oblivious to their retreat, and slaps the plant once more as his speech reaches a crescendo.

At that, the plant detonates, firing volleys of spines and barbs in all directions. Teapots shatter. Flower bulbs explode. Guests scurry to the deeper parts of the garden, while vicious thorns hiss and buzz all around them. Several, alas, find their mark, ruining fine garments and causing any flesh that they penetrate to both swell to hilarious proportions and turn a fetching shade of magenta. Mr. Foppish's fourth-favorite hat meets an ignominious demise, first perforated, then impaled upon the breast of a garden statue.

Whilst cowering tactically beneath the gazebo, Mr. Foppish discovers the hiding place of the fetching Ms. Stoat. The always present-minded Ms. Stoat enlists Mr. Foppish's aid in a daring plan involving a biscuit tray, sugar tongs, a chafing dish, and two heaping fistfuls of Dyrel's Lace. In a climactic, enchantingly-illustrated scene, Mr. Foppish's left arm and right leg are wounded and double in size and the troublesome tuber is reduced to harmless pulp.

In a satisfying denouement, Madam Stuffley-Ermine puts on her most regal airs and, with the help of her dozen amphibian tea-butlers, brews a soothing draught that takes the sting out of even the most embarrassing of the wounds, restoring everyone, including Mr. Foppish, to normal.

The story ends on a sad note, with our favorite lepus banned from all major social gatherings for the next year. As illustrated in a final picture, Mr. Foppish sits at the curb outside of the Stuffley-Ermine estate, riddled hat upon his head, a wreath of ruined flowers crammed down over his shoulders. The lovely Ms. Stoat, immaculately coiffed despite the trouble, offers him a hot cup of tea.

BGA: The Misadventures of Mr. Foppish, Rabbit Extraordinaire

The adventures of Mr. Foppish, our much-beloved squire, conclude in this final tale, entitled, “The Marriage of Mr. Foppish.” Herein we learn that the goodly folk of the town have decided that Mr. Aloysius X. Foppish, Esq., being a single lepus in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. That such a thing has never occurred to Mr. Foppish proves to be no barrier for the elderly Widow Stellarmole, whose proclivities for matchmaking are known to all and sundry.

Once the Widow Stellarmole has set her sights upon the bachelorhood of Mr. Foppish, there is nothing our poor lepus can do to shake her off the scent. Every garden party turns into a series of interviews with hopeful ladies. Every walk in the park leads to ambush by the Widow, armed with a sachet of headache-inducing perfume and an armload of ladies’ visiting cards. A short trip to a haberdasher’s to claim his newly-blocked, fifth-favorite hat turns into a convoluted chase in which several young ladies, spurred on by the Widow, endeavor to be the first to invite him to the Autumn Ball.

Midway through this chase, which is charmingly illustrated across the bottom of two facing pages, Mr. Foppish happens to bump into the fetching and clever Ms. Stoat. This has the unfortunate effect of scattering her parcels and his hat across the lane, which necessitates a brisk and comedic retrieval in the face of the advancing horde of potential paramours.

The end of the chase finds Mr. Foppish and Ms. Stoat (each wearing the other’s hat) hiding in the stables on his estate. Despite both their heightened emotions, the pair’s mutual respect for one another, and the repeated mention of both the Autumn Ball and Ms. Stoat’s complete availability to attend said Ball, the obvious questions go unasked.

A short time later, we discover Mr. Foppish out on a very careful walk in the early morning hours, the better to avoid the machinations of the Widow Stellarmole. On his sojourn, he happens across the path of a Ms. Larkpeak, a gentlerabbit of bewitching demeanor. He is so entranced by her presence that he spends hours in the park with her, too enchanted to flee at the first sight of a happily sighing Widow Stellarmole.

Several pages are devoted to the courtly romance of Mr. Foppish and his new paramour. A gown for the Autumn Ball is ordered. The social scene is taken by storm. The winsome and cheery Ms. Stoat is by turns less cheery, for she sees something rather untoward in the blossoming relationship. Ms. Larkpeak is not at all kind to Mr. Foppish, frequently upbraiding and mocking him when she thinks no one can hear. Curious, concerned, and driven by emotions hitherto unexplored, Ms. Stoat does some investigating on her dear friend's behalf. She discovers Ms. Larkpeak has taken steps to gain control over Mr. Foppish's finances and holdings. All that remains to seal the deal is for him to take her paw in marriage.

Despite being confronted with these accusations and piles of accompanying evidence, Mr. Foppish seems only too ready to discount the advice of his levelheaded friend. Gravely concerned now, and suspecting the most despicable of sorceries, Ms. Stoat prepares to go to war. Her plan involves nothing less than a peach-colored gown, a diamond hair pin, pretty but extremely comfortable dancing shoes, an invitation to the Autumn Ball, and a pouch containing fine dust that is proof against all enchantments.

Another pair of facing pages is given over to a lavish illustration of the Autumn Ball. Everyone is there in their finery, including the teary-eyed Widow Stellarmole, who has caught the attention of a stammering elder frog. Dominating the picture are the handsome lepus and his paramour, dancing beneath a sky full of strange stars.

After the first dance, our beloved lepus tinkles his knife upon his glass and asks for everyone's attention. He proclaims that, after much thought, he has asked Ms. Larkpeak to join him in matrimony. The guests are agog. The Widow Stellarmole cannot leave off of joyous weeping. Ms. Stoat, pragmatic as always, takes this opportunity to approach the blushing bride-to-be and upend the contents of the pouch upon her head.

The lady vanishes in a puff of smoke, standing revealed as the duplicitous badger Rompknoll! There follows a brief digression, refreshing the reader's memory about the first story in the book, in which the villainous Rompknoll makes his initial appearance. Then, chaos! The villain attempts to flee, widows clutch their hearts and implore the gods to mercy, scandalized guests scream and point, a diamond hair pin is wielded to good effect in a desperate duel, and a young squire of means drinks down several glasses of wine in too-rapid succession.

At the end of the most memorable Autumn Ball in a century, the villain is carted away in chains, leaving the very sheepish Mr. Foppish standing quite close to the blushing and vindicated Ms. Stoat. After a fumbling of courtesy, the two come together for the final dance, a gesture which makes the Widow Stellarmole faint with joy. The book closes on this final scene, with the future of our dear lepus unknown, but decidedly bright.

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