Recently I finished reading Paul Creswick’s Adventures of Robin Hood, a turn of the century children’s novel that was one of many attempts of the era to reconcile a wide array of Robin Hood legends into a single cohesive narrative (something, which I gather, was in vogue at the time). Now, I’ll readily admit, most of my knowledge of Robin Hood comes from a handful of relatively recent movies (Disney’s Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Robin Hood: Men in Tights and various cartoons), so it was interesting to look back at one of the older 20th century interpretations.
Some of the many differences from more recent interpretations I noted are:
-The story starting with Robin as a child.
-Can’t say that I’ve seen Will O’ the Green in m/any versions.
-I don’t remember the Gamewell/Montfichet subplot in adaptations I’ve seen.
-The Sheriff’s ice-cold spiteful & jealous daughter as the root cause of conflict between Robin & Sheriff was new to me.
One of the main things I noticed, though, was that Robin Hood got his butt kicked. A lot. Time and again, he’d pick a fight, and get the poo knocked out of him. There were always at least one of two mitigating circumstances, however. 1) He would have backup who could come to aid before a truly dire blow could be struck. 2) He and his friends were often such jovial fellows that all but the most cartoonishly villainous fellows would decide that Robin & greenwood men were right swell folks, and swear eternal friendship at the least, if not altogether join up. (Truly, men bond best after some small bloodshed!)
How can this work in your game?
Large numbers of allies at beck and call can easily pluck a villain out of dire situation if he or she is defeated too quickly and soundly in an unlucky encounter. Don’t do this, though, unless it can somehow move the story forward in some sort of plausible way. Or, if the villain is more roguish chap than vile fiend, reward the victors with feast & friendship.
Not every fellow you randomly happen upon for an encounter is itching for a fight to the death. Maybe they’re having a bad day and just want to soothe their pride? If defeated, maybe they yield and offer allegiance. Or maybe they win. But having a rough day doesn’t make them a murderer. Maybe the victory has soothed their pride and your character’s charisma and charm is such that it can win them over to your cause?