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Saturday, 7 August 2010

What a Legend warlock really looks like

Friends or Foes is Magnum Opus Press's book of NPCs designed for Dragon Warriors campaigns but equally useful with other fantasy RPGs. You can buy it and other DW books here.

I was recently given a copy of Friends or Foes and while leafing through it I got to thinking about the cast of vivid and memorable characters I've encountered in games over more than thirty years. I'm sure everyone reading this will have had similar experiences, interacting with or playing characters whom any novelist would be proud to have created. And yet, because they are incarnated in the ephemeral milieu of a roleplaying game and not in a novel, few people get to appreciate them.

And so, excruciating as this may seem, I thought I'd run a few write-ups of our own game sessions. I don't always record our sessions. That'd be a bit of a busman's holiday, after all. When I stop work for the day I want to play in fantasy adventures, not write about them. But this particular campaign "Redemption", run by Tim Harford, was so brilliant (surpassed only by Tim's earlier, desperately gritty "Iron Men" saga) that I wanted a record of it. The write-ups only lasted a few sessions and unfortunately did not record the final, doom-laden session when we reached the Day of Reckoning. But if you haven't played in Legend and want a sense of what it's all about, come back on Monday for the first instalment.

To put the write-up in context (and to tie in with the Friends or Foes reference earlier, because we care about that segue stuff in these parts) here is the backstory of my character in the Redemption campaign, one Gaius of Tamrac. Not that he's one of those amazingly memorable characters (I've played my share of them, not to be falsely modest here, however Gaius wasn't one) but he is the narrator of the adventure so you might find it helpful to know a bit about him. Incidentally, his meagre magical abilities are the closest we ever come to having player-character sorcerers in our Legend games.

Gaius of Tamrac was a baronet in service to Earl Montombre. He studied a little with Montombre's wizard, Cynewulf Magister, who claimed he recognized Gaius's magical aptitude, but really the wizard wanted to get close to Gaius's two young twin sons. When the boys started to sicken, Gaius knew enough to realize the wizard was draining off their souls to make himself a doppelganger servant. Gaius tried to counter the spell, but had no real magical training and could not hope to dispel the magic of such a powerful sorcerer. Left with no other recourse, to save their souls he smothered the two lads.

Gaius's noble rank saved his life, but for the crime of killing his own sons he was stripped of his rank and cast out of Montombre's lands. His troubles didn't end there. Cynewulf put Gaius's wife, Abbasia, under a sleep spell that allows him to send her spirit wherever he chooses. He can threaten to send her sleeping spirit to hell, and so has leverage to make Gaius serve him.

Gaius tried again to counter the wizard with magic, but this time his attempts created a backlash, scarring his right eye and leaving it as black as jet. But the eye gives Gaius certain enhanced (if unreliable) abilities: finding lost objects, discerning auras and so forth – even, at times, seeing glimpses of the future. The balance of his skills reflect the kind of man used to performing unsavory tasks in the dead of night: sword, knife, climbing, stealth, lockpicking.
I left it undefined whether the fate of Gaius's family was done with Montombre's knowledge or whether Cynewulf was acting for himself - that's something Gaius himself wouldn't know. Every so often, he receives a sending in his dreams in which the wizard instructs him what service he must perform to spare his wife another night of hellfire. Each such task increases his tally of sins. As the campaign opens, the Archbishop has charged Gaius with a pilgrimage to atone for slaying his sons, but Gaius also perhaps hopes that he can expunge all his sins and, by earning God's favour, win his wife's release from the wizard's power.

Was he destined to succeed? Find out next week - maybe.


  1. An authentic Dragon Warriors afterplay report including Cynewulf sounds *very* cool. I'm really looking forward to this!

  2. Oh dear - I hope I haven't built it up too much :)

    (Cynewulf did indeed make his presence known in the game, in Gaius's prophetic visions and in the form of a white owl, though I can't remember if those bits made it into the write-up. Possibly not, as I wouldn't have wanted the other players to know about it.)