NPCs versus Player Heroes

Submitted by Claudia on Wed, 25/08/2010 – 15:17 

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. Jeff says Jorjeria Latish, a Lankhor Mhy 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 :)!

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