Master of Firin’ Sword CH1: The Art of Powerdice

By Rutskarn
on Nov 16, 2016
Filed under:
Lets Play

In Mount and Blade, you play an upwardly mobile and clinically indestructible side of medieval beefsteak. It’s a power trip of a game; through determination and self-actualization alone, you swizzle armies around you like cotton candy and personally slay the population of a modest kingdom. If you desire it, and play for long enough, it is an absolute guarantee that you can become the king of the world. Obviously, it was only a matter of time before someone adapted this franchise around celebrated works of Polish-language historical literature. Enter Mount and Blade: With Fire and Sword.

Very little has mechanically changed, but these changes have insidious effects on the greater experience. For example, there’s bullets. There’s rows of guys firing bullets. There’s rows of guys on horsebacks firing bullets at you. And the important thing, the crucial thing, is that you can’t duel the bullets.

Fans of the franchise who were used to exterminating entire castles of pseudovikings with nothing more than a caffeinated blocking reflex and a good fast battleaxe were quickly discovering just what 17th century Poland thinks of heroes. And many of them, it must be said, questioned the appeal of a mass combat game where you often die immediately and unavoidably. From a strategic viewpoint, it’s not unlike playing regular Mount and Blade during a thunderstorm.

Or so they think! Join me now as I relate to you my secret to success as an Eastern European warrior-poet: a terrible fear of being shot.

It`s not obvious, but all of these settings are at their most punishingly difficult extremes.
It's not obvious, but all of these settings are at their most punishingly difficult extremes.

March 23rd, 1655.

When you get right down to it, it’s the…whizzing.

Of course I’m not afraid of firearms. That’s an outrageous and pigheaded slander. It’s nothing to do with the bullets or flames or smoke or blood or defecation or danger, I promise you–I’m simply averse to that infernal buzz as a bullet thunders by. I find it odious. If I were afraid of bullets, would I have shot at so many people?

I`ll spare you the analysis. I am good at shooting people, taking things, and riding very quickly away. Modern pursuits for modern men.
I'll spare you the analysis. I am good at shooting people, taking things, and riding very quickly away. Modern pursuits for modern men.

Lamentably, opportunities are scarce for men of my refined sensibility. Europe being what it is, it can be very difficult to find work not being shot at. My last position was as a clerk in Riga. I was charged with reading the latest news dispatches and consulting an index of territories to determine, to the nearest estimate of modern science, exactly which nations Sweden was currently at war with. When I grew sick of my superiors casting aspersion on my calculations, I left to seek my fortunes elsewhere. I don’t see what the fuss was about. We’re certainly at war with Russia now.

These are dark days indeed–the days of dogs and wolves, as my grandmother would say (and her judgment in this matter was unimpeachable). Vile men pillage the countryside at leisure. I have heard much of their lootings, plunderings, and staggering fortunes. I won’t lie: I found these tales absolutely sickening. No longer capable of sitting idly by, I have sallied forth with musket and horse to deny those silver-hungry hordes their satisfaction. I will do whatever I must to keep the wealth of the people from falling into other, unrighteous hands.

Don`t call me a hero. I believe a true hero lets the songs and poems and light theater written about him speak for themselves.
Don't call me a hero. I believe a true hero lets the songs and poems and light theater written about him speak for themselves.

It is under these circumstances I have set out for Smolensk. Besides my trusty steed, Erik, and my faithful musket, Fanny, I have the clothes on my back and my life’s savings of one hundred thaler. From this grist will I mill the flour of glory.

All heroes come from humble beginnings--and humility is but one of my heroic qualities.
All heroes come from humble beginnings--and humility is but one of my heroic qualities.

I am weary, saddlesore, and filthy from the road. I have not a single friend in this foreign city in this wartorn kingdom. In a town like this, there’s only one destination for a fortune-seeking pilgrim such as myself: the local official’s manor.

I just wish there was somewhere else an adventurer could go to find work.

As it happens, the Warlord Fyodor Obukhovich has just the thing for me. He is owed a debt by Count Casimir Tyszkiewicz totaling four thousand thaler. He tells me that if I can find Count Casimir and convince him to give me four thousand thaler, that I will be able to keep eight hundred for myself. He is undeniably correct. Where might I find this Count?

Ah.
Ah.

So I have set out on the road to Castle Lodz. My way is littered with dangers, yes, but there is no danger without opportunity. In these troubled times there will be other warlords to treat with, other quests to be undertaken, other fortunes to be won. This humble highway shall be my river. The birdsong is my inspiration, the rustling leaves my companions, the heavy foosteps my–

Ah.
Ah.

NEXT WEEK: THIS IS SOMEWHAT LESS GRIST OF GLORY THAN I’D MEANT TO GET ON WITH

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2020201979 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

From the Archives:

  1. Rutskarn says:

    We’re going to do this for a few weeks, then it’s on to the next long-form LP.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Is the next long-form one still planned to be X-COM, or have things changed?

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        REDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARDREDGUARD (continue as necessary)

        • James Porter says:

          Redguard is such an odd and interesting game, seeing as it was the start of Morrowind’s engine and its writer Micheal Kirkbride. From what I know about the game, it is far more well intentioned than Battlespire.

          Plus, while I only have seen screenshots, when I think of Cahmel my mind thinks of him in that pre-Morrowind Redguard look.

  2. Da Mage says:

    Is your character going to try and sell me a second hand horse-and-cart?

  3. Grudgeal says:

    So you’re playing a Swede during the Deluge? This is going to be a popular segment amongst your Polish audience.

    I’d start recording all the times you die. Screenshots included.

  4. Jarenth says:

    Next week: The Battle Of The Moustaches.

    Reasons I enjoy reading Rutskarn’s work, enumerated:

    1) High-quality writing
    2) Comedy
    3) Learning about the Polish literature influences behind a video games series installment that I previously thought was just ‘what if we make more of the previous game, but also guns’
    4) Terrible, terrible wordplay

  5. lurkey says:

    What’s the point of taking 2 in Looting with zero in Inventory Management — where are you going to put loot then?

  6. Kazeite says:

    Castle Lodz?

    (looks out of the window)

    We have a castle?!

  7. Incunabulum says:

    “LOOK! Up in the ditch! Castle Smolensk!”

    “‘Tis only a model.”

    Also – you passed on Rutskarn Gersgard?

  8. Orillion says:

    I will be Upset if you haven’t gotten control of Slutsk by the end of this, Rutskarn.

  9. John says:

    Despite the hundreds of hours that I’ve sunk into various Mount & Blade games, I have somehow never played Fire & Sword. I’m looking forward to this.

    • Leocruta says:

      I am in the exact same position. I must admit to some trepidation regarding bullets and their ability to wreak havoc on my glorious forward charge.

      • Loonyyy says:

        They do exactly what you think. During combat, you could randomly get massive damage from bullets, which will force a rout.

        Guns did not go well with the limited strategic options. And the new ones they added aren’t functional.

  10. baseless_research says:

    that stats screenshot is really small.

  11. Vermander says:

    I always found the mounted combat (which is allegedly the whole point ) to be incredibly difficult in Mount and Blade. I always have to dismount and fight on foot if I want to have any hope of actually hitting anyone.

    Also, I seem to spend the majority of every battle chasing my opponents in circles around the incredibly huge battlefields like we’re playing tag on horseback.

    • Henson says:

      That’s why bows are the only satisfying weapons to use in Mount & Blade. Landing a shot while galloping on horseback never gets old.

      • Loonyyy says:

        Are you by any chance playing the original, not Warband? Warband’s routs mean that you don’t have that chasing which gets so frustrating, particularly with horse archers. Highly recommend Warband over the original, and I’d say that WFAS has significant problems, and really should only matter to hardcore M&B fans. Unfortunately, the game was not well designed, took out a ton of QOL improvements from Warband, and makes everything way more complicated than it needs to be, and the impact of firearms really makes it, to me, a hardcore fans only experience. Not defending it. I think that’s poor design, personally. The studio behind this game were incompetent as hell. See their M&B mod “Caribbean” to see just how lacking in skill they were. I don’t envy whoever was forced to help them prepare for launch, because I don’t believe they were.

        If you can’t hit anyone reliably, what I suggest is positioning your own men first. The AI will always head to them. Charge alongside them with a powered up swing to get in a hit. Arrows are also great, and horse archery gets you the highest fire rate.

        Don’t worry if at first, the reticule gets too large. It’s linked to your skills.

        I’ll try to check back to this thread. Warband is one of my favourites ever, and M&B does take some getting used to, and I feel like helping anyone else work through some of the trouble to enjoy the greatness the game has is paying forward how much joy I’ve gotten out of it.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I always found the mounted combat (which is allegedly the whole point ) to be incredibly difficult in Mount and Blade.

      So just like in real life.

      Very little has mechanically changed, but these changes have insidious effects on the greater experience. For example, there’s bullets. There’s rows of guys firing bullets. There’s rows of guys on horsebacks firing bullets at you. And the important thing, the crucial thing, is that you can’t duel the bullets.

      Also just like in real life.

      • Son_of_Valhalla says:

        ” For example, there’s bullets. There’s rows of guys firing bullets. There’s rows of guys on horsebacks firing bullets at you.”

        Hmmm…. this game must involve bullets.

      • Vermander says:

        Most things I do in video games would be difficult or impossible for me to do in real life. I can’t fly a plane, play guitar, shrug off bullet wounds, build skyscrapers, or play professional football either.

        Mounted combat in the game is not hard in a way that simulates the physical strain or raw terror of fighting for your life while trying to control a charging animal. It’s difficult in that “my sword is literally passing through this guy’s face and not hurting him at all,” way common in older rpgs.

    • John says:

      Attacking infantry from horseback isn’t so bad. It’s simply a matter of learning the proper timing. If you’re really having trouble, I recommend getting the longest lance or spear you can find. Swords and especially axes are a little trickier.

    • Retsam says:

      Did you figure out how to do couched lance damage? It’s not explained particularly well, but once you understand the idea, it’s not particularly difficult to pull off.

      Otherwise horse archery was always my preference. Not particularly easy, but usually not particularly dangerous either.

      • Profugo Barbatus says:

        Man, I remember how devastating lances were. I always thought of it as the best way to say “Fuck you in particular”, especially if you identified the enemy lord(s) on the field.

        I used to play a lot with polearms. Good range control, could prevent cavalry from cleaning my clock, and good damage potential. I did a couple horse archer/regular archer characters, but got too repetitive for my tastes. Too predictable.

  12. Christopher says:

    Mario has really fallen on hard times.

  13. Nixitur says:

    Smolensk, not to be confused with Largensk.

  14. stratigo says:

    150 men battle limit? Pffft.

    You need to mod that shit to like 400.

    No really 150 is really bad if you are seriously playing this game long term. You’ll end up fighting one battle for like 4 hours

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I usually play Warband with a battle size of 250 – 300, and late game battles still take forever. Especially when you meet a group of lords with a combined force of 1200 men, and have to face them with a hundred or so longbows (although I did manage to run away until I could face them across a river, and slaughtered the entire enemy force capturing two lords and still had around 30 men left over!)

  15. Edward Lu says:

    “Damage to Player: Normal”

    nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    For those who are unfamiliar with the franchise: this is suicide. The default is 1/4 damage to player. That sounds like easymode, but you will still get killed in battles as you are outnumbered and swarmed.

    • King Marth says:

      I’m reminded of one description of the hardest difficulty setting in a Dynasty Warriors game: Giving yourself the stats of one of the horde of nameless minions you mow down as an afterthought to get the area boss to spawn.

    • Orillion says:

      I genuinely wasn’t even sure if the game went up to 1:1 before reading this. It really is a bad idea…

      I can’t wait.

    • Retsam says:

      I actually tended to play Warband with full damage to player and full damage to allies. It blunts Rutskarn’s opening contrast between the original and Fire&Sword because suddenly dying to a bullet in the face isn’t too unfamiliar an experience if you’re accustomed to suddenly dying to an arrow in the face.

      It’s actually less awful than it sounds, since M&B Warband has a passable tactical map view where can order your units around, and impose at least some order on the chaos after you die. Arguably, I make a bigger difference to the battle by controlling my units than by being a single-unit killing machine.

  16. Droid says:

    Please tell me there is a mod that adds Vicky to Fire and Sword!

    Vicky is the name of the Virtual Intelligence / AI of the most brutal Mount and Blade Warband mod I remember, called Prophesy of Pendor. It absolutely slaughters your forces in “formation battles” or whatever they were called (only battles against lords and kings I believe) until you claw your way to getting a win out of a 2:1 situation.

  17. Loonyyy says:

    Oh my f***ing god Rutskarn.

    I didn’t even think of this. But Mount and Blade is one of my favourite series, and I am absolutely thrilled you are covering it. Like, the temptation to curse my head off with how much I am thrilled for this has made me deliberately censor myself. I haven’t even read this yet, but just the idea that you would cover Mount and Blade, even Fire and Sword, absolutely thrills me to tears. You have no idea the inappropriate language I am actively suppressing out of respect for this blog.

    I am so looking forward to this series, you are the greatest. Honestly, it’s like the joy I got from reading the Witch Watch from Shamus, and that got me through a blood donation despite my rampant haemophobia.

    Thankyou so much for what you do.

  18. Benjamin P Hilton says:

    This guy talks like the long lost cousin of the Blood Bowl coach…….before the alcoholism.

  19. James Porter says:

    I am excited, I have heard you talk about this game, and watched another lets player play a couple hours of the Game of Thrones mod, and I’ve been interested in a “what you do” look at Mount and Blade. A how and why would be good too, but I really do want to see the feelings this super weird game makes.

  20. Andy_Panthro says:

    I do love a M&B LP, even if they end after a few posts (the grind can be very entertaining for a player, but not so much to write about).

    The early game is often the best part anyway, where you have to scratch around for whatever men and equipment you can, before trying to climb your way to the top. The late game grind though can be terribly boring (endless castle sieges).

    Oh, and is everyone excited for Bannerlord? They even have a Steam page now! (I mean, no release date or anything, but I can dream…)

  21. Jsor says:

    The only thing I know about Mount and Blade is playing 20+ hours of Warband on a female character. Do not play Warband as a female character. Characters will flat out say things like “while you were instrumental in the war, I cannot give a woman a holding, it would look bad.” Glass Ceiling Simulator Deluxe.

    • What, they don’t have an option for “summon the largely useless stay-at-home husband to accept honors in your stead, then banish him back to the castle”.

      Games that try to do some version of Ye Olde Patriarchy always screw it up in the dumbest possible way.

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        It makes things much harder at first, sure. But it can be satisfying to finally carve out your fiefdom. Also when you get married I think you can order your husband around, so you always have at least one lord who will back you in a fight. Very useful that.

    • WJS says:

      It’s not like they don’t warn you up front that the game would be like this for a female character. Didn’t it say in large red letters “Warning: Here be assholes”?

  22. Miguk says:

    It looks like the hardest part of this game must be learning how to pronounce Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz.

  23. CrushU says:

    Oh yeah, M&B… Wait, Fire and Sword? … So this is ending in like three posts when he gets shot, then?

    Yeah, bullets end your career *real* fast. Now, they don’t actually kill you, but they do cause you to lose your men, horse, equipment, food, money, respect, and a bunch of time during which everyone else gets a whole lot of men, horses, equipment, food, and money. (They already had respect.)

    I love M&B, like, I bought it while it was in early Alpha, before this ‘early access’ thing really existed. I’ve followed the series through every iteration, and we don’t talk about the Fire and Sword times…

    (And for mounted combat: Get a lance. Seriously. Even a freakin staff works if you have to, though that’s a pain to actually couch anyone with. After you have a lance and you gallop around picking off that one unfortunate guy with every pass… Then you can get a bow and start picking off mobs of people at a distance as you gallop past, until you get down to the one unfortunate guy and then run him down with your lance.)

    • Dirigible says:

      I remember my first character for Mount and Blade used a… Shortened War Scythe, I think it was. About as much (if not more) damage than a couched lance, and not useless when not on Horseback. Also it was really easy to aim your hits with… just as long as you dismounted to deal with the Rhodoks.

  24. Kerethos says:

    It’s my duty as a Swede and as a person that generally enjoys pointing out linguistic errors that this travesty cannot be allowed! For if you are to truly get immersed in the role of an exiled Swedish hero then by God man, spell his last name right! :P

    It is spelled “Skarsgård” (pronounced “Skarsgord” – with “o” like in “oar”).

    I’m not serious about the first two sentences, spell it and play it however you like. But hey, I figured it might amuse someone to know the whole replacing “å” with “a” that English does is just… so wrong… so very wrong.

    Also, I’m not sure of the history of the name but as “Skars” is the passive preteritum of “skära”, meaning “cut” (as in with a sharp object) it should mean something like “cut farmyard/courtyard”. I don’t rightly know why the famous Swedish “Skarsgård’s” took that name though, since they were “Nilsson” before that (“Nilsson” = “Son of Nils”).

    Anyhow, that’s some useless trivia for you :)

    • Rutskarn says:

      Don’t worry, I’ll spell it that way in text (it was originally in the body of this post, but that line was trimmed). I’m not aware of any straightforward way to employ the “å” in Mount and Blade, though.

      Also, apologies to all Swedes and Poles for what’s going to inevitably happen in this series.

      • Kerethos says:

        No apologies needed to us Swedes. We were warmongering, conquering bastards until we figured out just how few of us there actually are, compared to other countries populations.

        We were all: “Yeah, us millions of Swedes will conquer the world!”. Then they did a count and realized: “Yeah, so us million of Swedes… are fucked. Were are rapidly running out of people!”.

        Thus we eventually lost or returned the vast majority of what we’d conquered and transitioned into the neutral diplomacy of: “Please don’t conquer us and continue enjoying our wondrous exports; like IKEA, Absolut Vodka, Saab, Volvo, Battlefield games, Minecraft and so on”. :)

      • Kazeite says:

        And no apologies needed to us Poles either. I mean, you’ve already started near Smoleńsk – it can’t get any more insulting than that :)

      • WJS says:

        The way I would try to employ unicode characters in games would be via copy and paste. Bearing in mind that a lot of games insist on ASCII, of course…

  25. Cuthalion says:

    I am so happy right now.

  26. Von Krieger says:

    “Skarsgård”

    IT’S A DILAPIDATED BOAT!

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