Proteus, published in 1992 by Bruce Gomes Industries, boasts an ‘exotic’ take on High Fantasy Roleplaying. Which we took to mean as an MSWord copy of Lord of the Rings with the Find/Replace function used liberally; but fair point to it– there were a number of concepts and systems that were unlike any thatw ould have been found in 1992 and some that wouldn’t have been found even today.
Whether that is a good thing is what the group would discover…
Plucked from the depths of Adam’s library, all we really knew about Proteus was that it employed a system and dice mechanism that was just too exotic to be calculated by mundane polyhedrons. No, the potential amount of randomness could only be contained within a 30 sided die! Of course, 30 sided die are somewhat too exotic for it to be necessary or, for that matter, profitable to be fabricated and sold at game retailers, but Proteus had thought of that and proposed if you rolled a D6 and a D10 – treating 1-2 as 0, 3-4 as 10 and 5-6 as 20, with the D10 being used as units of 1 – it would all work out and you too could sup from the goblet of exoticness.
So, with notions of abandoning this idea at the gate and getting into a pick-up game of Shield Wall, we put pencil to character sheet and commenced our exotic journey into the world of Proteus.
First thing to decide wa what race we would be, and this is where we learnt how exotic Proteus really is. No Elves or Dwarfs in this world, oh no. Our choices were:
Humans (taste the exoticness)
Centaurs (Might have been exotic except that Rhys has conerned the Centaur market in his game system)
Drulk (Take a guess. If you guessed the All Muscle and No Brains race, then Marvel lawyers want you in a courtroom. It’s described as ‘Neanderthal Race’ in the book)
Ti-Chu (The bird race, which is the first race everyone writes up when they don’t want to use Elves or Dwarfs)
Neraki (The cat/weasel/monkey, um aboreal race that is the second thing everyone writes when they don’t want to use Elves or Dwarfs)
Rhat (oooh, what possible mysteries could lurk behind such an enigmatic and clever name…)
Albino (Okay, there was actually a name for this but I’m blowed if I can remember it and really all it entailed was albino humans, who are apparently numerous enough to constitute a race)
Already the smack-talk was flying thick and fast and, after I yelled out ‘Drulk Smash’, I knew I had my character. Rhys decided that the Ti-Chu could work for him, namely because he kept saying ‘I’ll Ti-Chu’ to all of us. Ness orginally went with the Albino race but threw that away when she learnt that she wouldn’t get to roll on the Mutant Abilities table. So she decided to try the Neraki and, as it turns out, none of us were mutants after all. My dreams of making my Drulk an X-Man (The X stands for eXotic) were dashed.
Attributes in Proteus are made up of 6 primary attributes, 5 of which have 3 secondary attributes attached to it. The 6th, being Appearance, didn’t for reasons unknown but were likely exotic.
As for the others:
Fortitude (Strength, Stamina, Mass)
Coordination (Dexterity, Agility, Speed)
Intellect (Memory, Reason, Cognition)
Wit (Craft, Personality, Empathy)
Psyche (Spirit, Willpower, Luck)
As each race had a different die set to roll, I began with Appearance.
A brief aside: You may think that I began with Appearance because it’s alphabetical and that would make logical sense, but it wouldn’t be exotic. In fact, alphabetizing was what ALL the other roleplay systems did and Proteus isn’t like that, oh no! So each page was an undiscovered country of information in exotic and unlikely places and what characters rolled for attributes was only gleaning the surface.
Attributes are rolled and already I was having flashbacks to last fortnight’s Cringeworthy experience. I rolled. And got a 15! Awesome, my Drulk was a pretty boy! This concept was further cemented when I rolled a strength of 4 on 2D10. Fortunately most races have a minimum value that you can’t roll under and so I got 8 instead. My Drulk had a purdy mouth…
As painful as that was, I actually didn’t do that badly on the rolling attributes bit and, after having Cringeworthy purge all the bad karma out of my dice (and promptly hand it over to Ness), I did rather well on Coordination, Intellect and Wit with high scores in Empathy. I was the lead singer of a Drulk Boy Band! Still, that 8 Fortitude rankled at my otherwise respectable character. Fortunately we had the option of rerolling one of our primary attriubtes and all of the secondary attributes attached, which we all employed. Trading my D10’s got me a Fortitude of 11 and a Strength of 19 as well as significant secondary attribute enhancements across the board. Ness rolled better (which wasn’t hard) on her Coordination, but unfortunately luck abandoned her on the secondary attributes roll, making two of them lower than previous. Rhys didn’t gain anything significant but did field an impressive score in Spirit and, surprisingly, Stamina. In fact, it exceeded my score by a value of 6.
Let me say that again: The hollow-boned birdman had more ‘go’ than the Incredible Drulk!
This, as you may expect, was taken with good grace and comradery between myself and Rhys and the fact that he wrote ‘Ben’s Mum on his hit location table under Wings, Head, Torso, Arms and Legs, is simply an example of this, albeit be it an exotic one.
He hit that a lot.
Skills, spells and further attribute points could be purchased by way of character points. Ignoring the opportunity to bump my stamina to its racially rightful place at the head of the party, I took the opportunity to raise other lesser attributes to a minimum of 10. Ness did the same, spending more points to do it, though. Rhys, with his high Spirit and Intellect stats, decided to pour his points into Spells instead. Ness focused on Archery and Climbing. I would concentrate on hitting things with heavy things.
Knowing that this was going to start out as a brawl/test of the combat system, the idea of distributing points to skills that weren’t going to be useful in combat seemed, well, stupid. It also demonstrated a fault in that characters can poweer game in Proteus like it’s going out of style. By the time all was said and done, Ness had archery, climbing and brawl at about 25 each, I had club at 30. Rhys, who had been regaled with the full list of spells by Adam, and then harvested it to ‘What lets me blow shit up at range?’ – which turned out to be 4 – chose all of those and a swordplay skill with values no less than 25. To pass a skill check in combat, all we had to was roll under our values on a 30 sided die. Piece. Of. Cake.
Each of us were given our starting capital: Ness had 200 gold. I had 20 gold. Rhys had 4 silver.
We need to talk about the currency because that is what’s competing against the 30 sided die for ‘Most Exotic Part of the Game’. Copper is the lowest in terms of monetary value, but in a shocking and, dare I say, exotic twist– silver is WORTH MORE THAN GOLD!??! Absolutely NO REASON is offered for why this is the case but it meant that while I had 20 Gold and Rhys had 4 silver, he was, in fact, the Daddy Warbucks of the group! After much expletive laden debate, we decided that it was a Goth Economy, with pewter being the next most valuable and Latex Ingots being the rare equivalent of Platinum in the more mundane fantasy games.
So I, not having the currency to afford anything else by way of clubbing weapons, shelled out 10 copper for a 2×4 while Rhys bought shiny chainmail armour and fancy swords.
After that came various calculations to do with weight limits, damage bonuses (such as they were) and critical statistics for each item on the Hit Location table. Which led to the following exchange:
Adam: Take your Stamina and Mass, add them together and then subtract eight for each category of damage.
Ben: So I’ve got 48, then 40, then 32…
Rhys and Ness: What’s the stats for Ben’s Mum?
Ben: 36, 24, 36…
Finally we came to the unenviable task of naming our characters. Rhys had already leapt ahead with this and called his Ti-Chu; Ah-Choo. While he waited, Ness and I bandied about name ideas:
Ness: Gorilla, Orang-utan… But female.
Ness: What did you name your character?
Ben: It’s short for ‘Deuce Danner’.
I think it was either this, or the Latex Ingots that almost killed Ness laughing. It didn’t help that we settled on naming her character ‘Orang-Aileen’. Or that if you say ‘Orang-AileenAh-ChooDanner’ that it sounds like on of those made up words in a Spice Girls song.
After making sure that we were going to end up with as many players as we had started with, we turned to the adventure proper.
Learning about a mysterious circle of standing stones, said to be the resting place of the mighty wizard, Bruce; the party sallied forth in seaarch of fabled treasure, said to be buried with hte mundanely monogramed mage. Approaching the stones, there emerged some debate in the party as to who should be the ‘Torchbearer’.
Rhys: I’m the smart one, so I just get one of you two to do it.
Ness: Well, I’m smarter than the Drulk so he can do it.
Me: Err, Danner agree.
Me: Actually, how much smarter are your characters?
Rhys: By a lot. I’ve got 10 in Memory, 11 in Reason and 16 in Cognition.
Me: You’ve got me beat in Cognition, but it’s only by one or two points for the rest.
Rhys: How about you, Ness?
I don’t remember the scores for Orang-Aileen but…
Me: Oh my God! Danner is smarter than you!
Ness: Gasping for breath
Me: Why the hall am I playing this guy like Grimlock! (switches voice to something approaching a fusion of David Niven, Peter Lorre and C3PO) I convince your character to take up the torch. I won’t bother explaining how. It’d just go over your head.
Ness: Drulk Smash!