Barrels of Fun
Bonny Sundings to you, one and all.
What? I don’t update the site daily any more? I smell of poo and look like the wrong end of a Centaur? I know, I know. Busy. Honest!
What stirred me from my pit today? Barrels.
Some context, first. The other day, I was having a little brain party over Beamdog’s release of Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition. I know I’m not the only Baldite pleased by this; I’m as chuffed to bits as a deer on train tracks.
Okay, I haven’t finished BG1:EE yet, but it’s really just a casual game now. Gone are the days where I could devote hours to clicking my little blurry warrior across Faerûn, getting shouted at by peasants and Hobgoblins and searching every barrel ever (more on that shortly). When I do complete it, heavens to Betsy, you best believe I’ll be importing that shit right into BG2 for some high level continuity action.
I look forward to seeing how Beamdog have ported and streamlined the classic RPG and what extras they’ve squeezed in. Well, most of them are listed on the site, such as the two BG2 expansions (Throne of Bhaal and Shadows of Amn) and four new party members. I’m a bit hesitant to get new characters. I tried in in BG1:EE but found that I was really just in it for the nostalgia of my original party. Anyway, that shit’s out now for you to download.
Double anyway, I was going somewhere with this. BG2 made me think: Barrels! What’s with them? As an avid gamer (not to be confused with an Aphid gamer), I must have plundered thousands of virtual casks in my lifetime. They’re everywhere! From Baldur’s Gate to Far Cry, in other words RPG to FPS, barrels are a staple part of game design. They sit around, seemingly innocuous, waiting for you to come along and interact with them.
Sometimes, they contain treasure. There is no reason why. People do not store loose change and necklaces in barrels. They might put a sword in one at a stretch (no, wait, they wouldn’t). If anything, you should crack open barrels in games and find that out pours water, booze or grain! Maybe the occasional Oin, Gloin, Kili or Fili. Why did all these faux-medieval people go around storing their shit in barrels- in dungeons and warehouses, no less? ‘Hey, I don’t need this 10 Gold right now, I think I’ll open a barrel and put it in there. It’s my money barrel. Hope I remember where I left it and no sword swinging murderer comes along and just takes it. Nah, who would look in a random barrel?’
Sometimes, however, barrels are tricksy. Sometimes they detonate when mildly grazed. This is more often true of the barrels in modern-era games, the steel drums which, once painted red, become highly explosive. I tell you, if you see a red barrel, do not touch that shit. Explosive to fuck. It will not contain gold coins or arrows. It contains petrol mixed with nitro glycerine and hate.
I thought I’d do some barrel research and get to the bottom of this menace. Someone who makes barrels is called, according to Wikipedia, a ‘barrel maker’ (no shit) or ‘Cooper’ (better). It comes from Middle Low German word ‘kūpe’, meaning ‘cask’. So, next time you watch Hangin’ with Mr Cooper, if that ever happens, you can make a pun about his lack of containers made by binding wooden staves with metal hoops.
‘Pedia also suggests that the barrel as we know it was likely developed by the Celts in 350BC. The technique was borrowed from ship building, which obviously features bending wood and making it watertight. They used barrels for transporting wine, water, precious metals, food and definitely not loose fucking change. Obviously alcoholic beverages could be aged in barrels too. Maybe they also aged their money in them, hoping that it would become more flavoursome over time. Is this how banking was invented?
Something clearly went wrong with barrels. Perhaps a Celtic wizard (Merlin?!) cast a spell on one that went terribly wrong. Maybe it was so that the barrel could catch and bind angels. What? No, bear with me. Ever heard of the ‘Angel’s Share’? This is on Wikipedia too, though I’d heard it bandied about before. While wine or spirits are ageing in oak barrels, a small amount will inevitably evaporate over time. Hence, the angels get a little share of the booze.
So Merlin makes a barrel that can trap angels, using the lure of the Angel’s Share. The barrel does so, but actually traps a renegade angel. Let’s call him Lucifer. Merlin binds Lucifer to the cask of the damned and uses that power to make the barrel magically sprout small amounts of gold and general items, so that heroes can be replenished on their righteous quests.
Unfortunately, jolly old Satan eventually manages to escape, perhaps via the aforementioned evaporation. Barrel Zero retains the taint of dark magic and becomes sentient, going on to bite and turn other barrels. The lesser barrels scatter throughout the land, some helping lost heroes, some becoming overwhelmed by the evil trapped inside them and turning red before exploding. At time goes by they evolve to blend in with normal barrels, which is where the modern metal barrels come in.
Okay, getting somewhere now. A young, lonely girl one day meets a strange barrel with supernatural powers. He’s dark and mysterious but generally nice. He turns out to be an immortal barrel vampire, turned by one of the elder barrels of yore. He struggles with his inner need to explode, but the girl keeps him sane. He supplies her with small amounts of gold and sometimes chain mail.
True Barrel? Barrel Dawn? The Keg Diaries? Caskula? I haven’t settled on a title yet. Help a brother out.