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Author Topic: Character Conversion  (Read 3208 times)
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 336

aka Sean


« on: October 27, 2003, 08:53:21 AM »

This is a conversion of my namesake character, who I have played off and on (mostly with the same GM) for more than two decades, to Sorcerer. I'm open to and interested in more experienced players' reactions, if any. She's a long-running fantasy character, who has been converted across several systems in the past, but has for some while now been among the most powerful adepts in the campaign world she inhabits. Now I just need to convince my GM to switch over...


Lady Calithena Gildenclaw

Appearance: Calithena is fantastically beautiful in an alien, slightly disturbing way: her features and coloring bear no close resemblance to any known human race. Her skin is currently tanned and her hair lightened from time spent in the tropics; her eyes, as always, burn like emeralds. She often bears a rune-covered staff topped with a dull orange gemstone, and dresses according to local custom.

Telltale: Calithena’s left hand is completely encased in gold, the flesh seeming to have fused with the metal.

Stamina 3 (Weirdling)
Will 11 (Lover + Duty-bound + Pregnant)
Lore 6 (Intuitive + Heterodox)
Past 7 (Emperor’s Daughter + Last Survivor of Vanished Race + Seafarer)
Prices -1 (Unlucky in Love + Averse to Contacting and Summoning)  
Humanity 4

Kicker: Calithena is six months pregnant with the child of King Aarith of Hilidas, and he – along with the rogue sorceror Elros, the demon queen Azurella, and numerous others – want the child for their own purposes. Calithena intends to raise the child herself.

Demons:

Serbinyia
Object Demon (currently not bound, nor even present)
General Appearance: Runestaff
Telltale: Brightly glowing orange gem on top (currently dull)

The runestaff’s possessing demon is fantastically powerful, with the ability to compel service from certain Old Ones, bring down hurricanes or rains of fire, and much else. Her demanding ‘servant’ for much of her adult life, Calithena recently had to release Serbinyia’s full power (and the demon along with it) to win a temporary victory over her half-sister and tormentor Azurella. She knows the rituals to return Serbinyia to its vessel, but is sore afraid of performing them before her child is born.


Moonstone
Object Demon (Binding Strength +2)
General Appearance: Finely-crafted golden ring, set with a single pearl. Those who recognize it often refer to it as “The Witch’s Circle”; it is unclear whether this name devolves from its association with Calithena, or some prior history.
Telltale: The pearl has a highly unusual pale blue sheen
Desire: Mischief  
Need: Interaction with magic and other demons

Stamina 4, Will 5, Lore 4, Power 5

Abilities: Cloak (on itself), Deflection (physical missiles), Deflection (special damage energy discharges – all), Protection (hold)

New Ability Description: Deflection. As per Protection, but the attack goes somewhere after hitting the ring’s wearer. This can be good (as when it redounds on the attack’s originator) or bad (as when it slaughters nearby innocents, necessitating Humanity checks for the ring’s wearer). What the deflection is in danger of harming is highly situation-dependent, but a 1 in 8 chance of the attack turning on its originator, a 1 in 8 chance for it to hit some other foe (if any), and a 1 in 8 chance for it to harm something of importance to Calithena (again, if any such is present) seems a good rule of thumb.


The Child
Parasite (Binding strength ?)
Telltale: The swelling of Calithena’s belly seems to vary much more with the situation than is normal.
Desire: To stay in the womb   
Need: Sustenance (Calithena must take one-die penalties to everything (as with damage) at various points during the day; these can be avoided in times of dire need, but only at the price of two-die penalties later)

Stamina 1, Will 3?, Lore 2?, Power 3?

Abilities: Boost (stamina), Mark (host), ?


Other: For much of her recent history, Calithena has owned a mundane sailboat, which she built with her own hands and which she has piloted all across the reaches. At the start of her career, Calithena would probably have looked something like this:

Stamina 4 (Weirdling)
Will 4 (Lover)
Lore 2 (Intuitive)
Past 4 (Emperor’s Daughter)
Price –1 (Unlucky in Love)
Humanity 4

Her original bound demon, long since lost to her, was a black sword named Lyra, which needed men and desired blood. Calithena has almost lost her humanity at least twice in her long career: once in the course of her brutal first apprenticeship to the sorcerer Xerxes (now dead), the other when a careless summoning designed to test the limits of Serbinyia’s power called up far, far more than she could put down.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2003, 09:47:47 AM »

Hi there,

May I trouble you for your real name? First only, if you prefer. I tend not to push people for this in the main forums, but here, I vastly prefer to deal with people rather than personae. And now that we know the persona/reference, it'll be most helpful to keep you two apart.

1. So, how about that Moorcock influence, eh?

2. Which game systems has the character "moved" through?

3. Has playing this character ever coincided with real-life romantic issues, such as starting a new relationship, cheating into and/or out of a relationship, or a breakup?

4. What would you consider to be a (not the) viable death-scene for the character?

Best,
Ron
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Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2003, 11:01:18 AM »

Sean. No problem - I prefer going by my 'board name', but don't mind accommodating you on this - especially since it's not every day that you get the designer of an awesome RPG willing to talk to you about your character!

1. Yeah, how about that Moorcock influence? It's funny - this was very strong during the junior high years of our play, but faded a great deal over time in terms of the character's 'feel'. I didn't realize until typing up this very 'stripped down' (to essentials, that is) version of the character how much her core iconography (and some of her core drama, for that matter) still bears the imprint of MM. Funny, especially in light of our last discussion on this list.

On the other hand, some of that has to do with the translation to Sorcerer, too, where everything that is non-essential and/or can't be personalized gets stripped off the character sheet. Calithena's often been played in systems where she had 'her own' magic seperate from her items' magic, and where demonic presences were the consequence of specific conjuration spells or set pieces with monsters and nothing else, etc. But looking at her through the Sorcerer 'lens', I distilled most of that stuff, leaving: something that looks a lot like a female Moorcock protagonist. Very, very interesting. At least to me...


2. She started out as an AD&D character, written up before Dragon had hit the half-century mark. From there she got gradually Arduinized, and then adopted for two consecutive homebrews my friend ran: the first largely a synthesis of Dragonquest and the Thieves' Guild fantasy system, the second a simpler design (which might have been pretty good had it gotten finished) which kept some aspects of the previous but which also adopted a version of the first (I believe) universal task resolution mechanism, from James Bond 007, as its core mechanic. From there we gradually just moved into shared storytelling mode, conflicts adjudicated by long experience and hoary precedent. More recently when my friend/GM's kid started playing 3e at school, we tried to d20 her, but it didn't work - or rather, although I came up with some cool templates and items, the resulting 20-page, twenty-nth level monstrosity just seemed like a recipe for die-rolling dullness. So we stuck with the storytelling system, but I've been wanting a little more structure - and given the style of my friend's DMing, which has relied on the costs of success rather than success itself for a very long time, Sorcerer looks like it just might fill the bill.


3. Sort of. My old chum and I each have several characters going back to grade school days which were used (among other things) to explore a lot of our sexual fantasies in writing or even out loud over the gaming table. Calithena was one of those.


4. Well, there are many possibilities. She has a Destiny, which is not known to her (frickin' GM...), but death might coincide with the fulfillment of that, or lack thereof.

The character has had essentially four 'epochs' in her play:

a. A young woman entranced by the darkness, thrilled with the power she can command. Her experimentation and disregard for the humanity of others led to the destruction of her race, and cast her out upon the sea. This has been explored in writing over the last half-dozen years.

b. A wandering adventurer. This was what we started with as kids, of course.

c. She originally acquired Serbinyia during phase b. During an in-game romantic episode, when she had left Aarith behind, she 'activated' the rod to a much, much higher level of power, which completely transformed the character.

My cunning GM had, of course, set this up as a trap, and Calithena promptly fell into it by activating some of the rod's greatest powers to call up what she could not put down. This broke the skein of reality, leading to a several-year-long quest ("Nine Roads to Adventure", we called it back then) to repair the thinning veil between the world and the demonic hordes (the Jebli) beyond it. This quest ended in success: Calithena did not leave a second world destroyed in her wake. This phase ended about when high school did, during the eighties.


d. She discovered she was pregnant (and had been when she Bound Serbinyia), and is now trying to keep her child for herself. She wants to raise it and care for it herself, but I know this won't happen: too much is in motion. The question is, what will?


So anyway, she could die saving her child or because of her child; or as part of fulfilling her mysterious destiny, or failing to fulfill it; or perhaps the cycle of world-destruction will continue itself, and she'll realize that she is in some sense the locus of it, so that she'll throw herself on it to end the danger she herself represents, or perhaps succumb, slap some marmalade on that sucker, and wolf it down, accepting her destiny as a demon queen to howl into the void down the ages. I'm not sure: one reason I've kept playing her off and on over the years is that she has the perpetual ability to surprise me, like a few other characters I've had (the favorite ones). There's some evidence that she's actually a bastard, and that her real father is no Emperor of men, but of demons; it's unclear whether this is so, but Azurella Kalithenos wants her to believe it.

------------

One observation I have about my own comments above is as follows. When you talk about 'authored play', it's clear that there are some respects in which I have had authorship, and some in which the character has been very much jointly authored by myself and the GM. I think one reason I'm excited about Sorceror is that I want to feel more of a sense of authorship for the character, and the system appears/claims to facilitate that.

Well, interesting. I'll see what you have to say about all this, if anything strikes you. I was running a more strictly S&S campaign last summer that went swimmingly well until the academic year started, and if I start that up again I'm definitely using Sorcerer, since the characters fit it. But Calithena's challenges seemed to fit pretty well into the model of play of your game, so I think I'm going to try to convince her old GM to run for her under your rules for a while and see how it goes.

Thanks for your time.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2003, 11:43:18 AM »

Hi Sean,

This is really interesting.

Yes, it was your characterization of the Elric-Stormbringer symbolism that struck me upon reading about Calithena - almost in the sense that you knew from very personal experience that "me and my dick" issues were rampaging in such character concepts. 'Specially that junior-high fantasizing bizness (wheeyew).

One of the nice things about Sorcerer is that the essential conflicts of the game scale nicely to power-levels; in other words, it doesn't matter if you have attributes totally to 20, you're still going to face all the usual hassles of demons and situations and whatnot. Kicker creation goes a long way for that purpose too.

Now, the above two paragraphs don't seem to have too much to do with one another ... except along the eigenvector of this question: What do you get or expect to get out of playing Calithena now? You mentioned that the character continues to surprise you, and I would be interested in hearing some examples of that from recent play. I'd also be interested to know what sort of Kickers you'd present, rather than waiting for whatever the GM throws at you next.

Minor advice: I'd put that Will at 8 or so, actually. Numbers scale very differently in Sorcerer than in most games; above 6 or 7, the scores are very unlikely to rise (meaning, they go up very slowly).

Best,
Ron
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Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2003, 01:31:04 PM »

Short answer: I want to work out her story. It's been an off-again, on-again issue for more than twenty years of my life, and it's still going on.

The long answer, which I will try to get to posting when I get done some RL work, and maybe after I think about it a little bit more, will involve giving you a feel for some of her recent adventures, and the conflicts therein; and then too maybe saying a little bit more about my current psychodrama than I can afford the time for right now.

The corollary to both answers is that 'wanting to see her story work itself out' puts my GM in the primary authorial role, which has not been working so well for either of us lately. I think it would help both of us if I took more of an authorial responsibility for the character; our storytelling system is not giving me enough structure to do this, while she's been so powerful relative to the more traditional fantasy systems that it really would cramp both of our style to go back to those. I think Sorceror might be just the solution.

More when I can,

Sean
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2003, 08:00:13 PM »

I say again: Kickers! That's your baby, right there.

...

I swear to God I didn't actually think about what I was typing when I typed that.

Best,
Ron
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Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2003, 07:29:53 AM »

Hi, Ron.

I think in light of our conversation about stat scaling I would reset her to 2/7/6/6/3/-1, in her current condition. Still got to work on 'Heraclitus' though.

I was trying to think of an informative way to answer your question without dumping huge amounts of stuff from our play sessions and writing about her on your company board, and I think what I've got to say is just this. The Balance of Power in traditional RPGs is such that over and over, 'Heraclitus' and I have created stories together in the following manner: one of us comes up with a character conception that both of us think is 'cool', and then the other one is primarily charged with making that character's story.

Why not let the person who made the character be a primary rather than secondary agent in crafting the story?

My hope is that 'Heraclitus' and I will be able to go back to the many wonderful characters and stories we've crafted over the years and find ways to roleplay which allow the authorial role to be distributed more evenly between player and GM. This isn't just about Calithena, either: he's come up with about five times as many amazing characters as I have, and I've let him down several times by not being able to generate good story material for them fast enough. Why not roleplay in a way that lets him follow his own inspiration and generate those stories for himself, with me playing bass?

Thank you very much for your time and help with all this.

Best,

Sean
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2003, 05:53:20 PM »

Wow ... I just had this sudden vision of a mutual player/GM relationship in which both people are GM and both people play characters, simultaneously.

Possible? Theoretically, yes. In-teresting.

Best,
Ron
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lumpley
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« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2003, 01:25:12 PM »

Ron?  Hi there.

-Vincent

Edit, on reflection: don't mind me.  I'm responding how pretty much everybody does when the way they play gets called "theoretically" possible.  I'm only surprised.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2003, 08:46:21 PM »

Hi there,

You know, I fuckin' knew that you'd do that. Because I finished the post, and then said, "Vincent and Em and Meg do this to some extent, but it's not exactly what I have in mind, but you know, he's going to get on me about it. I wonder if it's going to be here or in PM?"

And here you are. Like a sweetly smiling little sunbeam, only not.

Seriously, though, I had a slightly different image in mind. I was thinking more in terms of, Bob and Pete are playing, and in session 1, Bob is GM with no switching or sharing, for Pete's character. And in session 2, Pete does the same for Bob's character. More formal, and not about the same stories. And, in line with what Sean's talking about, with a very strong focus on player-authoring via Kickers and similar, but not in terms of Director Stance or scene framing.

Best,
Ron
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lumpley
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« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2003, 06:14:11 AM »

Okey dokey.  Sunbeam: on!

-Vincent
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Mike Holmes
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2003, 12:42:45 PM »

And I guess that I shouldn't pipe up either, because, after all, Universalis isn't about association with particular PCs, which the hypothetical is (unless you use a PC Gimmick, which I won't mention).

Sean, where does the baby come from? I wasn't clear on that. IOW, why is it a demon? I mean, it certainly could be, I'm just curious as to your rationale. Maybe more importantly, what is Humanity in the game envisioned? And relatedly, what are demons in that context?

Mike
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Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2003, 07:47:29 PM »

Mike, if you don't know where babies come from, it's not my place to tell you. ;-)

A little more seriously: that backstory is all in play. At the time it first emerged, the child came from Calithena's adventure with then-Prince Aarith of Hilidas, questing for the Spear of Longinus, not long after the (original) Fiend Folio (which was a letdown) came out. (Fightin' Slaad for the first time - o to be alive again when the world was young.) Calithena turned down the chance to be Queen out of loyalty to another, but that went nowhere, and she was left Elros' slave by the end of it all; in the meantime, Aarith married Cal's best friend, but he didn't mean it, and now he is mad with desire to possess his firstborn. (He rationalizes it in terms of not wanting any dispute over succession, but that's not what he's really all about.)

As to why the child is a Demon: first, ask some mothers about the hunger of their children. Calithena's is hungry like a hippo, and it's not even born yet. Second, the question of Cal's paternity is wide open; a terrifying being who claims to be her half-sister is clearly a 'demon', at least some kind of agent of the Outer Dark, and Calithena is in any case a Weirdling, to use Hargrave's old terminology.

Why is anything a Demon? There be Demons. If I weren't strictly wedded to a rational-scientific paradigm of explanation I might even explain some of my own experiences in demonological terms.

The question about Humanity is a really good one, and in a way I think it's been the focus of my GMs whole twenty-five year campaign to find out the answer to this question, at least in Cal's case. (He ran a wonderful version of the Swords of Lankhmar for some other PCs, but that's not relevant to the present issue.) She destroyed the world she grew up in, and somehow lived, and vowed never to do it again; she Cares. Without descending into the tropes of existential analysis any farther than I have to, humanity has something to do with this Caring. Serbinyia is a fearsomely rigorous agent of what Moorcock would have called the Balance, and this is not always an easy thing for Calithena to cope with. "With what measure ye mete, so is it meted out to you."
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2003, 06:22:29 AM »

Hi there,

Sean, I think when Mike asks,

Quote
Why is anything a Demon? There be Demons. If I weren't strictly wedded to a rational-scientific paradigm of explanation I might even explain some of my own experiences in demonological terms.


... he's asking in terms of aesthetics and theme, not causal mechanisms. To rephrase it, what do "demons" in this character's saga look like, smell like, act like, and move like? Can they talk? Do they know stuff, or are they all "what is this 'sword' you speak of"? Do they appear by themselves, or lurk in caves, or must they be summoned with much rending of Reality?

That sort of thing.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2003, 08:33:25 AM »

What Ron said. You're response seems to be, "well, in Sorcerer, anything could be a demon, and a child is appropriate." Which is true, but indicates that in the world in question that the answer to "what are demons" is "anything".

Now, you might think that I'm being arbritrarily restrictive, but I'd suggest that "anything" isn't nearly as fun as having a more specific concept. And it doesn't have to preclude the baby or the magic items; it just has to include them both.

In general terms, it seems to me like you're trying to figure out how to play your game world using Sorcerer rules. Which I think won't work. You have to have a Sorcerer world with all the normal stuff worked out to play Sorcerer, IMO. It's not a toolkit for simulating whatever setting you like, it's a thematic game that can be played with the trappings of any setting. Subtle difference, but definitely there.

When you play Sorcerer, generally we encourage what we refer to as the "one-sheet" description of the game, which indicates what all the tailored parts are about. I'd suggest that you try building things up from there. Starting with Humanity. If you don't have that, then you really can't play. How do I know when to roll a Humanity check if I don't have a definition of Humanity?

Mike
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