Tricksters as Characters

Submitted by Mr Smith on Tue, 12/02/2013 – 18:47

Friends, Who out there has a Trickster as a character? How’s that working out for everyone else? ;-)I have a Eurmali as a character and he’s really fun to play. I could ramble on about his exploits, but I’m interested in other roleplayer’s experiences and perspectives on this. Especially stories! What larks and pranks and horrors have you Tricksters been up to? Just a couple of points though. I don’t play HQ, but I do play Runequest (not even 6, but 3). Also, I’ve been working on the limited cult description of Trickster and/or Eurmal from the Gods of Glorantha for the past few decades – and as such – YGMD? Yes, I bet it does. Firstly, in our version of the game, Tricksters aren’t initiates, but immediately acolytes. Priests are essentially acolytes that trade their anonymity for spiritual power, the custody of a shrine, but also the protection of a local Orlanthi Leader. Yes, Tricksters are outlaws, so this would necessitate a loyalty oath to a local Thane for protection. But would not the better option be anonymity? It’s always struck me as odd that the rules/literature suggests that most Tricksters are ‘out’ (to borrow gender slang) but if acolytes couldn’t have the luxury of anonymity, then how really tricky could a trickster be? If a Trickster casts lie (or in HQ uses a lie feat, or whatever) then the very fact that the lie comes out of the mouth of a known Trickster means the spell/feat becomes very limited. I’ve also always wondered about a Trickster shrine and the congregation: I mean, who are these people? Presumably not many, but I imagine people you wouldn’t expect.After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? But yeah: that ramble was a diversion. My main request is Trickster tales! I want to hear the Trickster gossip!

Regards, Innes

The Joker and some tales.

Submitted by RoM on Thu, 14/02/2013 – 14:21.

My narrator made a nice real world analogy yesterday. He said that Krarsht is Professor Moriaty, Lanbril is Danny Ocean and Eurmal is the Joker. While this is of course an Orlanthi All and only true to 80% it still makes sense 🙂 And the question remains if you would like to have the Joker in your group. Well, I would say if you are playing Batman and he is on your leash it can be fun.Since you have asked for tales, here is what happened in the series I am running. A player character started as a child. When she committed secret murder by killing a kinsman in cold blood I decided that this was the point when she instantly initiated into the Eurmal cult. The murder case was never solved, so it attracted the divine wrath of the gods. The Eurmali’s bloodline was later forced to leave the Orlmarth clan and settle in the shittiest land nobody else of sane mind wanted to to have: Snake Pipe Hollow. Meanwhile the Eurmali acted extremely selfish most of the time. She stole from her kin, befriended the Lunars, betrayed her new clan, lied to her family, and mainly only thought for herself. Sometimes though she actually helped her group. She sneaked into Snorristead on the Greydog land to steal the sword Wrath from Branduan, and performed other heroic deeds. However her Stonesnake clan hardly survived the first winter in Snake Pipe Hollow when she got a chaotic feature (wings) – and she wanted to keep it! When her clan tried to catch her she flew high in the air and let fire rain upon them killing many innocent clan members.I have to add that the player didn’t know much about Eurmal or Glorantha but she simply played an evil, selfish monster – and she played it well. The story is not over yet although the character became a bonded NPC in the meantime. Currently the group is on a Lightbringers Quest in hell and I can tell you the mayhem will continue.

Submitted by Tim Ellis on Thu, 14/02/2013 – 11:36.

As the others have suggested, while it might seem that the best policy for a trickster is to remain hidden, the very nature of being a trickster tends to make this difficult, and the longer he goes undiscovered the more outrageous and “grandstanding” he will become.And of course, in a “standard” Orlanthi community, the “public” will be (or become) aware that their problems are due to the acts of a trickster and will start to hunt them out in what will almost certainly become a lynch mob…

Submitted by Jeff on Thu, 14/02/2013 – 11:43.

Where Tricksters have worked the best in my games have always been where they were “bonded” to a powerful or rich Orlanth cultists who is also a player-character. That way the Trickster has some limitations on his anti-social actions and is protected from the local community.Editor-in-Chief, Moon Design Publications

Submitted by soltakss on Wed, 13/02/2013 – 17:57.

What might make sense is that Eurmali operate somewhat like Cacodemon cultists, in that they get more trickster-like when they get near an Eurmali shrine. So, an Eurmali who approaches a Jester Shrine might start wisecracking and telling jokes. An Eurmali approaching an Eurmal the Thief shrine might become a kleptomaniac or might start picking pockets.  That might add a bit of flavour to the campaign.  Simon Phipp.

Going gonzo near a trickster shrine

Submitted by Herve on Sun, 24/02/2013 – 07:42.

Very nice idea. The mind shudders to imagine what happens when the trickster gets in the vicinity of a “Horny Eurmal” or, worse, “Eurmal the Fire-Farter” shrine. Couldn’t resist it.

Submitted by soltakss on Wed, 13/02/2013 – 17:50.

Tricksters can be fun to play, but they can be a real pain for other players, which of course if part of their appeal. In a HeroWars/HeroQuest Glorantha, Eurmali tricksters are bound to their clan/tribal chieftain in the same way as Eurmal was bound to Orlanth. This stops him running amok and means that he can be used as a weapon and the clan cannot be sued for something the trickster did (No, he couldn’t have done that as he is bound to me). That might be a fun way to play a trickster, but I am guessing that it isn’t. I wouldn’t play it that way, even though I like most of the new thinking on Orlanthi. Wandering tricksters would be fine in my game – they wouldn’t be automatic outlaws and wouldn’t be hounded by all and sundry. A trickster could be an entertainer, a thief, an assassin, a drunkard or the village idiot. All these are apsects of Trickster that could be played by a PC. A wandering trickster could do tricks for people, he could be a beggar, he could be a magician down on his luck, a lecher, a drunkard, a troublemaker or whatever. If he causes trouble for a clan or tribe, then he could be chased out of the tribe’s area and decalred an outlaw for that clan or tribe. If, however, he doesn’t cause any overt trouble, then I can’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be allowed to stay. For other cultures, tricksters aren’t that much of a problem. Raven followers in Prax are accepted by the tribes. Hyena worshippers laugh a lot and tell dirty jokes. Solar tricksters mock the pompous priests and seduce maidens.  So, let your tricksters behave how they want to. That may mean, however, that they are chased out of town, tarred and feathered, strung up by the goolies, beaten up by toughs and smiled at by maidens, but that’s the chance that you take.  Simon Phipp.

Submitted by davecake on Wed, 13/02/2013 – 07:10.

It really depends on your game. Want a unified party that works together for a common goal, in classic RPG style? Well, a Trickster is going to mess that up, unless they are a bonded trickster to an Orlanthi (and even then, they’ll mess it up a bit). But want a game that is a messy melodrama of betrayal and infighting? A trickster can deliver that. Or want a picaresque black comedy in which you spend half your time dealing with the terrible consequences of your Tricksters deeds, probably by constantly fleeing retribution? A Trickster can deliver that too. Both are perfectly valid styles of HQ2 play, though less common.I think the ideas about what Tricksters are like in rules terms haven’t changed that much from Gods of Glorantha, though ideas about their social role have changed a bit (and mostly emphasised their darker side a bit more). Your ‘tricksters are always acolytes’ seems to be pretty how to GoG rules work.I’m sure you are right that anonymity is the preferred option for tricksters, just not sure it works that well as a sustainable strategy, people work it out pretty quick so you’d have to keep moving. I’m not sure that there really is much of a real congregation for Trickster shrines, though I think some (mostly bonded) Tricksters participate in Lightbringer ceremonies.

Eurmali are scum

Submitted by RoM on Wed, 13/02/2013 – 02:53.

Hi Innes, I am in a rush right now, so I am sorry no tales at this point.Concerning your other question: A Eurmali works fine and can be great fun for everybody IF (and only if) there is a strong Orlanthi leader in the team. I think many modern players have the feeling that democracy is the only acceptible form of government. If you have such a group the Eurmali will eventually kill it, and probably one or two clans on its way. In my opinion it can only work if you have an Orlanthi who dares to punish and even kill the Eurmali to protect his kin from harm. Always remember that Eurmali are not jesters (at least not only). They are thieves, traitors and murderers. They are evil scum.You will also find a longer cult description in the Sartar: Companion.CheersRobin

similar effect but different cause

Submitted by Charles on Wed, 13/02/2013 – 09:03.

Eurmali are deranged sociopaths, and otherwise broken personalities. They cannot hide. Their psyche, their magic, forces them to be self destructive and to act to destroy their own communities. And when the magic takes hold, for example, they can seduce their own brother’s newly wed wife and destroy the basis of their own family.
Except, occasionally, in those moments of deepest community despair, when all is lost, the Eurmali will turn everything around and make it right for everyone.
When known and bonded, the trickster can be the scapegoat for their community. And, if an Orlanth worshipper is strong enough to control a trickster and rich or influential enough to pay for the consequences of the trickster’s actions, then this brings him additional glory.

When an Eurmali successfully hides…

Submitted by Joerg Baumgartner on Fri, 15/02/2013 – 08:05.

is during an elaborate prank where he cons an entire clan or tribe, possibly for years on end.
Imagine a scholar or merchant character – not unlike Gringle, the proprietor of Apple Lane – who acts as a reclusive magical advisor and sometimes companion to chiefs and kings, especially in matters of HeroQuesting. He professes to belong to some very obscure subcult or better just within fringes of Orlanthi acceptable associated cult of either Lhankor Mhy or Issaries, at least as strange as Desert Tracker or that inspiration subcult of LM, but in an inappropriate place, and explains long absences with duties to this cult.
When taken along on HeroQuests, his presence makes crossing over a child’s play. Once on the other side, things usually get surprising – again, within the fringes of reason when taking an investigative or inspiration-driven character along. Certain things backfire, dramatically, other impossible things sometimes succeed.
What needs to be defined is the ultimate prank victim – the tribe? the kingdom? and the nature of the punishment. The motivation for this prank can be weak when dealing with a trickster, but getting even for some slight alway works.
Side effects of his activities might include a sudden resurgence of the Telmori in the region, increased Praxian raids, specific visitations of the neighboring clans or tribes by Lunar inspectors and questers, soured trade relations with an important and powerful trading partner (the Dwarf, the trolls, the Holy Country…), disappearance of holy items, a harvest of clearly bastard children, and whatever else disruptive yet (barely) non-chaotic mayhem you want to inflict. The stead of this reclusive character may prosper during this time, and if he has any, his normal followers probably are the real deal and as unaware of his nature as his neighbors. (They’re doomed to take the fall in his prank, though.) He may have a small host of special followers, too. E.g. a small adopted trollkin horde.
This character will be a ready source for bogus or meaningless advice, small magical favors with unexplicable bad things happening somewhere nearby, and magical assistance for a price.

In Batman terms, think the Penguin rather than the Joker.
If you introduce such a character as a player character, you need to bond that player if you let the character unbonded…

Submitted by davecake on Fri, 15/02/2013 – 03:54.

Sociopath is one of those words that is probably accurate, but also probably has implications that aren’t widely understood. Sociopaths are generally callous, irresponsible, self-centered, easily frustrated, and show little real remorse or guilt. Sounds like an Eurmal Trickster for sure. But sociopaths are also often smart, charming, and make friends easily (though they lose them just as easily). I’ve known a few sociopaths, and they were charming and fun to be around (for a while, until they did something wrong). I think those are usually true of Tricksters too. I think tricksters absolutely can hide their nature (after all, they are the home of deceitfulness) – just not for very long. They can be witting, charming, and hilarious, distract you with humour or charm. But they just can’t hold themselves back from doing something destructive and irresponsible eventually.

Brilliant Responses!

Submitted by Mr Smith on Sat, 16/02/2013 – 15:48.

Many Thanks to everyone that’s contributed! Much food for thought. Intrigued by the notion that there’s something ‘wrong’ with Tricksters in the first place, so that it’s not so much a teenager choosing a God that fits (Spiritual Tailoring?) but their very personalities already have set them down a path from which they cannot escape. It ties in with a particularly Calvinist notion (in this fantasy world) of God choosing you, not you choosing God. Also, I am interested that there does seem to be an acknowledgement between all contributors to this thread about the Trickster in Gloranthan Society: the tension between the bonded Trickster and the wandering Trickster. Both are enormously powerful and dangerous in their own ways. However, looking at being a Trickster within society: what Trickster wants to be bonded? Presumably the only motivation is protection, but what nut job cares about self preservation. I’ve really enjoyed all your thoughts and are interested in hearing more anecdotes of actual Eurmali antics in your campaigns.  I will leave you with something that I’ve thought about recently. Trying to understand the motivation behind people who become Tricksters and why there are accepted at all. And I think it all comes down to ‘being reactionary’. We all know people who are contrary and reactionary, and we can speculate why this is: for attention, for excitement, or due to disillusionment or disgust with the status quo. I think for those Tricksters who choose to be Tricksters, this is the primary attraction, for reactionaries to belong to a Reactionary God. And the reason this works in society is because we always need someone who not just thinks outside the box, but perhaps hates the box and always operates in non-boxy ways. I think this is Orlanth’s – and the Orlanth Pantheon’s – implicit acknowledgement that there is no such as a ‘complete system’ or ‘wholeness’ or ‘perfection’. In the same way that Mathematicians (Godel, etc), Philosophers and Social Scientists in our world have acknowledged that no one system can understand the system, we need a reactionary to help us cope with those moments when our ‘whole’ doesn’t comprehend what’s going on. This is why I don’t necessarily go along with Tricksters being evil. If they really were, then they wouldn’t exist. No society would tolerate a Priesthood or tradition that was wholly destructive. The point with Tricksters, for me anyway, is that they are complex and contrary, and the ‘aspects of Trickster’ reflect this. Indeed, I would go further, and say that there has to be a net benefit gain in having Tricksters within the Orlanth Pantheon and within the larger Gloranthan society. If there weren’t, then neither The King of The Gods (Praise be his windy quiff and electric beard) nor his people would tolerate it. Over to you chaps! Many thanks, InnesP.S – I know it’s impossible to compare this world and Glorantha, but my favourite this world Trickster was Anthony Shiels. His motivation was complex and may have been part of a deeper spiritual quest into discovering more about the nature of reality. For more on this subject, check out George P Hansen’s “The Trickster and the Paranormal”. Great book.

sink or swim

Submitted by RoM on Sat, 16/02/2013 – 20:30.

>>what Trickster /wants /to be bonded?>>Presumably the only motivation is protection, but what nut job cares about>>self preservation? Yes, self preservation is the answer. But not in an abstract way like “If I am not bonded I could get in trouble.” In my opinion it is more like “Trickster, we decided to drive you off our tula and then beat you to death in the woods. You will get no funeral and nobody will mourn your soul. In fact Old Brewer said that all drinks are on him tonight to celebrate your passing away. However, Hedkar Windsword declared that your life should be spared today, so that you can be bonded to him… Oh, by the way he also said that should you refuse he will crush your head with the rock you sold him.” >>This is why I don’t necessarily go along with Tricksters being /evil*/. If>>they really were, then they wouldn’t exist.I think that is exactly why Eurmali in Orlanthi society are such a unique concept. They *are* evil, they *are* destructive, but still they are tolerated. You will probably not find that in many other cultures, neither Gloranthan nor real world. I also think there is not “net benefit”. I am uncertain if the notion of a net benefit itself is valid at all for Orlanthi society. But if it is, it would be rather like taking hard drugs, gambling or getting married (sorry). You know that the odds that it works are high against you, and statistics tell you that it will probably end badly and ruin your life. Still you give it a try, because you think you can handle it.

Submitted by soltakss on Sat, 23/02/2013 – 11:15.

> They *are* evil, they *are* destructive, but still they are tolerated.They are not only tolerated, they are necessary.The LBQ would have failed without Eurmal and the Orlanthi know it, for all their boasting. Eurmnal is central to many of the myths and many a Wind Lord has used an Eurmali to do his dirty work. Simon Phipp.

Submitted by davecake on Sun, 17/02/2013 – 04:04.

I do disagree. Part of the reason tricksters are tolerated is because their existence isn’t “Evil”, as such, usually, though they are often destructive. Tricksters are disastrous, but they aren’t Chaotic, they aren’t ‘unnatural’, and they can have a net benefit to the community if handled correctly. Of course, handled correctly may often mean that you tar and feather them and throw them down a ravine, but before you do that you make them part of the scapegoat rites and so the community gets a net benefit. Sure, Eurmal brought death to mortal man, but if he had not we wouldn’t have had Humakt to defend us, and so on. Tricksters are part of the system, in a way that all the things Orlanthi truly hate are not. Tricksters are hated as individuals, and individual Orlanthi hate individual Tricksters – but Orlanthi society knows how to deal with Tricksters just fine. And Tricksters aren’t motivated by evil like a broo or draugr, or even a cunning implacable foe like a Lunar. Rather, tricksters are grown humans with the self-centred and selfish moral maturity of a toddler, with no remorse, true compassion,  sensible judgement, etc. Usually also no sense of restraint, easily frustrated, an ugly temper, etc. But their motivations are understandable – mostly, they just give in to the urges most of us learnt to overcome as children. Whereas the Predark, Chaos, non-humans, etc have motivations that are simply unthinkable.Tricksters are like cow dung. Unpleasant, disgusting, no one wants to get it on them, sometimes it has its uses but mostly you just want to get rid of it. But you have to have it if you have the cow. But cow dung is still better than gorp, and Tricksters are still much better than true Evil.

Tricksters are like cow dung

Submitted by Herve on Sun, 24/02/2013 – 07:54.

That’s the best definition for tricksters I’ve ever seen! Tricksters are perfectly natural, a part of society, the last resort when things go very bad and a vital part of clan rituals (Resurrection, the LBQ, etc). Tricksters are normal (i.e. part of the norm). Yet they’re not.They are tied to Movement, Disorder, Illusion, Harmony (for sedution), Death and Fire – sometimes all of them. Indeed they are touched by Eurmal, they don’t choose this path (in fact there are ritual to “exorcise” people touched by the trickster).My favorite trickster was a manirian pigman with twins boars as sidekick. He turned up several times in our Fay Jee campaign with weird powers such as “Turn Blows Back to Attacker” (if you hit him, you were hit for the same effect) and my favorite “Bowel Scream (lifted from some other Glorantha fan), which, hem, made the PCs do exactly that and drove them nuts. Last time he crossed their path their threw him off a cliff into the river – he swore revenge.Eventually, the PCs went to Temples to all Tricksters (TTC) in Slontos, where I played the “Mask of Fools” scenario from one of the Pavis books. It had hundred of boggles, it was like adventuring in Looneytunes land.And let’s not forget Legitimus Lightfingers, from an old ToRM, the man who can conjure up a whole circus out of (almost) nothing and give the community a fantastic evening, before leaving with everything he could steal from them.I leave you with a terrifying thought : ever met a duck trickster ??

Trickster Scmickster over and out!

Submitted by Mr Smith on Mon, 25/02/2013 – 10:44.

I’ve enjoyed this little cul-de-sac, or twisted intestine, of tricksterous musing. I would say that a summation of our chat might be:Yes, tricksters are useful in an adventuring party, but as long as a strong Orlanthi Thane is there to keep him/her in lineYes, tricksters are useful in a society, but as …see above AND, yeah, as long as they sleep in your house, not mine, thankyouverymuch. Yes, there is something unstable and self-destructive about a trickster, so their motivations are not a character’s usual motivations, so it’s a challenge to roleplay. And a challenge for other players to accommodate such a random element in their campaign….  For the record my trickster lives a respectable life as a merchant, but disappears for days, weeks or even years at a time to get up to unspeakable mischief. A recent triumph was the poisoning of the Lunar High Priestess in New Pavis and the theft of the Seven Mothers Temple Treasury (long story, but it worked). Some might say this was reckless…His current plot is…well, he’s just used Agara Cream to turn into a woman*. He’s next plan is to seduce royalty and raise a creche of royal bastards, eventually interbreeding a King of All Blood Lines, a kind of Dribbling World Emperor. I mean, how funny would that be? Clearly, my trickster is a superior genius of a Trickster, one with vision**, and not one of those trivial market place farters. ;-)Thanks for all your comments and stories. All very well received and appreciated. Regards, Innes  * Oh, and the reason he changed into a woman in the first place is that he wasn’t happy seducing women, as he’s a feminist. ** Nothing embodies foolishness more than political ambition.