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26 August 2010 @ 12:27 pm
Breakfast and Games: NPCs versus Player Heroes  

As I wrote in my last blog today I will discuss characters (you know – the thing when somebody tells you about his or her character and what famous thing they did and it is sooo boring for you! ;)). I blame Jeff for this topic; he wrote a cool NPC for the Pavis book and he told me this is a typical character I would like to play. I got curious and asked him for the relevant paragraph:

Elarona the Bull Priestess

Elarona is the rare female Bull Priest. A Pol-Joni, she was a wild, problem child and grew up to be a fierce fighter. Elanora expects deference from others but gives them none. Strikingly attractive and fair in appearance, she is lusty, energetic, fearless, and crafty. Anyone who can best her in battle will earn her respect. Elanora has a passion for gems, liquor, and honey. She and her band of Bullmen roam the plains searching for Chaos. Elanora greatly enjoys setting traps – both physical and intellectual – to bedevil strangers.

Elarona is typically accompanied by her own personal band of Bullmen recruited from amongst the Pol-Joni and Bison tribes. They are foul tempered and dangerous – the town watch discretely follows them when they leave the Farmers District or Oldtown.

Hmm – when I read it I thought that’s more like the characters I usually play in a freeform – you have the goods she likes and you can bribe her with, her back stepping temper and her goons. I would love to play this character in a freeform but in my opinion it would not work as pen and paper player character - only as an enemy or ally. Why? Because she is not really adventurer-party compatible. She would have to be the party-leader and would never accept a no or a different idea from another character. Who likes to play in a party like that? Of course from time to time it’s fun to play a servant of another character. But a whole group? And because she is a very tough fighter-priest she fights the others down if they do not do what she wants. She is too tough for a gaming group. Playing tough characters is OK. But especially the tough ones need to have good weak points to fit into the player party.


[Jeff comments: Elarona is a NPC after all! A great enemy or ally for your party. But she is based on how you play freeforms….]


How boring is it to play an honest Humakti killing all evil. OK – you can boost him so he will win every fight but without a bit of insanity or a cool weakness it would be so boring (of course - when you were 16 you liked these characters but today as an experienced gamer?). I play a female Humakti in our Dorastor campaign. Oh – she is very useful in battle but most of the games the important thing for the other players is to maximise the sheep or to marry the players as best as they can (means getting more wealth in form of cows and sheep’s and getting more influence). A Humakti is NOT very useful in raising sheep (she has to stay away as far as possible from the livestock) and you can’t marry her because she is already officially dead. I still can play her because she is not only strong in the death-rune but also in darkness and eternal battle – means if it gets too boring for her she drinks with some Stormbulls and goes out for a Broo – hunt or kills a Telmori. But this is one of this characters you sit around a lot in a game without doing anything (good if you have a one year old son who demands entertainment) until the fight starts. Than you are in the centre of everything and burn hero points like pizza vanishes with gamers immediately (had the Pizza even touched the table before it was eaten?).

The sister of one of my characters made it into Sartar Companion. Jeffs says Jorjeria Latish, a Lankhor My Priestess, is much nicer and useful as my character Gorgor Latish is. I can’t believe it…   

Aristocratic, commanding, and beautiful, Jorjera is a member of the powerful New Pavis Latish family. Her father is the Chief Librarian of the New Pavis Knowledge Temple. Jorjera is a remarkable librarian with a remarkable knack for finding the right scroll. Ambitious and a skilled politician, it is widely believed that Jorjera seeks to succeed Garangian Bronze-Guts as Chief Librarian and has lined up support from powerful sages including the great Minaryth Purple.

Jorjera came to Jonstown Temple about five years ago and has become a specialist in the genealogical records kept by the Temple. Her knowledge of old clan and tribal disputes is second to none in the Temple

But it seems that one of those abilities is a family thing: “
finding the right scroll”. Combined with “remember something out of a scroll” and you have the main abilities of my character Gorgor Latish, her brother. And Jeff gave him the flaw “shift the blame” – Gorgor is now very good in that! However – this character is actually the total opposite of my Humakti. He can not fight at all (always telling the others “the feather is stronger than the sword!”), is a total wimp, likes to drink and go into brothels, hates his cousin because she puts him always in dangerous situations (an other player character), has noble manners, runs around with fine cloth and a lot of beard wax (he is a priest after all and the beard has to look good!) and always loses his mules in adventures he never wants to do but is always dragged into by his cousin, an assassin and thief. This character is a lot of fun to play and no – really – he can not fight or heal at all and still can be useful (in my opinion)!

Oh – and there is my third character – Shiny – my sun-worshipping-want-to-be-Yelmalio women who loves everything shiny and fights excellent with a shiny weapon. Yes yes yes… I stop here to talk about my characters before it gets too boring.

When I discussed my characters with Jeff he told me that they are untypical for women. I asked why? He said in his experience many women play characters that empower women. Strong, tough, excellent in their way. I thought about it – these were the characters I liked to play when I started with role playing a long time ago. But now in my job, I have to be strong, tough and excellent and so on. And not only in the job. From an emancipated women it is expected to be strong, tough and excellent. I don’t want to have it different! But maybe this is one thing why I like role playing games – this is a good possibility to test something totally different or totally weird. In the last years my characters differed more and more from each other. The thing they usually have in common is that they are extreme in their ways. And that’s a lot of fun as long as they are still group compatible and playable. To play them is like holidays for the brain. Maybe that is also a reason why I like one-shot-adventures a lot - you can be extreme and if your character does not survive it’s fine. Or if it does not work out for you its fine as well because next time you can play someone else.

Hmm – I don’t know if there is a higher meaning in what I wrote but I let my mind drift – make something out of it – or not :)!


(Anonymous) on August 26th, 2010 11:22 am (UTC)

Interesting post! :)
I guess Elarona's Bulls ride on bulls rather than horses, so as not to enrage their comrades from the bison tribe?
Another question: how can there be a Storm Bull temple in New Pavis after the Lunar invasion? Don't the Bulls get in too much trouble with the Lunars? How's this handled in the new book?

Well, apart from this, I find it very interesting to read your thoughts on the kind of characters you play and the problems that playing "weird" PCs may bring (namely: getting bored while the rest of the group does something else that your PC can't do). Before playing a PC that is different from the group, you always have to think if the fun of playing it will outweigh the boring periods when it becomes useless. This has always been a difficult dilemma. Maybe a solution is that the player creates more than one PC and uses each one actively depending on the situation. Or what you suggest: playing this character knowing that you won't be able to be at the table the whole time. :)
Moon Design Studiosvingkot on August 26th, 2010 12:19 pm (UTC)
Here's another snippet from the forthcoming book:

"The Storm Bull temple is often closed by the Lunar military government because of violent disturbances, but always reopened. Storm Bull may be feared by most civilized folk, but he is a necessary part of survival in Prax."

Members of the Storm Bull spirit society (or cult of Urox) operate outside Waha's taboos (just as in Orlanthi society they operate outside of clan and tribal law). As a result, Storm Bull bands can combine otherwise incompatible groups - horse riders and Praxians can work together when inspired by the Bull. Weirdly enough, this cult of crazed violent psychotics acts as a bridge between Praxian and Orlanthi society!

(Anonymous) on August 26th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)

Hey, thanks a lot for that snippet!!!

So the taboo on horses only applies to non-Bull Praxians... OK! I'd always thought it came with the Praxian culture as a whole.

It's details like these that I miss in the current "Pavis & Big Rubble" book. As, for example, the Orlanth cult in Pavis County. Do the Lunars open and close the Air temple periodically like the Storm Bull temple? What about the temple of Vinga?

Would you mind sharing another snippet about this? Please? ;)
Moon Design Studiosvingkot on August 26th, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
Bull worshipping Praxians might hate horses, but the Bull does not demand their death. If a powerful Bullman rides a horse, few Bullman will care. If a weak Bullman has the temerity to ride a horse, then he is probably in trouble!

The Orlanth cult is persecuted under the Lunar Occupation. Nonetheless the cult still has enough influence to keep the Air Temple open and support four priests. The Lunars watch these priests carefully but do not molest them.

A full description of the New Pavis Air Temple will be in the forthcoming book.

(Anonymous) on September 5th, 2010 04:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks a lot!

We have two Gloranthan campaigns going on in my group. A friend of mine is running all the Sartar-related material, from TotRM's Greydog scenarios to the Colymar campaign (adapted to the Greydog). The one I run is set in Pavis and the River of Cradles. He buys everything Sartar-related and I buy everything Pavis-related. So when the big fat Sartar Book came out, I felt some envy at not being able to read the Colymar Campaign (though I bought and read the rest of the book), so you can imagine how eagerly I am awaiting the big fat Pavis Book. :)

So what's the situation of the cult of Orlanth in the orlanthi villages of Pavis County? Are there no Orlanth temples there, then? Does everybody go to Pavis to worship Orlanth? Do they go to the temple at Garhound too?
Moon Design Studiosvingkot on September 5th, 2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
Here's a little blurb from the book that I suspect answers part of your question:

"With the coming of the Lunar Army, the Orlanth cult has been repressed and his worshippers subject to reprisals from the Lunar invaders. However, because Orlanth is needed to bring the rain, his worship – although officially discouraged - continues at the New Pavis Temple (albeit under the supervision of a priest appointed by the Lunar Count) and at various small shrines and temples throughout Pavis County. Within the walls of the Big Rubble is a long-deserted temple which is occasionally used for services by the more adventurous and devout worshippers."
(Anonymous) on September 9th, 2010 02:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks a lot again! :) Now I remember you already had said so some time ago on the Glorantha Yahoo list!!!

In my campaign, the orlanthi PCs experienced an orlanthi High Holy Day in New Pavis. Thanks to your information in the Yahoo List (and Greg's), what they saw was this: They noticed that Faltikus skipped the parts dedicated to Orlanth Rex and Orlanth Adventurous, and focused only on "Orlanth Rainbringer", so the myth experienced was that of Orlanth meeting Heler and how he included him in his tribe (and the only magic that could be gained was the one related to Rain). Krogar Wolfhelm does not like it, but can't do anything. He just teaches some "combat magic" in secret to special rebel heroes outside the Air Temple. He is being watched, but he risks it sometimes. Faltikus does not take any risks.

And as far as the Big Rubble goes, in my Glorantha there is no long-deserted temple where adventurous orlanthi worship, or if there was one once, the Lunar spies found out and is now constantly watched. Instead, Orvost Tintalker leads a band of rebels that move every week from one secret location in the ruins to another, with portable shrines. They leave some magic marks on the walls of the ruins that lead worshippers to the actual location of the band. And these magic marks can only be used by initiates, of course.

So I guess in the villages of Pavis County there must be also minor secret temples that the Orlanthi use when the Lunars are not looking... Because the Lunars can't be everywhere at the same time, right? ;)
Moon Design Studiosvingkot on September 9th, 2010 02:49 pm (UTC)
There is an old place holy to the storm gods within the Rubble but it has been abandoned for at least four centuries maybe longer. However, there is still powerful magical associations there.

Faltikus refuses to allow more dangerous or assertive ceremonies at the Pavis Air Temple - effectively focusing the temple's diminished strength on fertility and rainfall only.