Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Character Concepts

Before the first session, I asked all the players to come up with a character concept. This was to be completely narrative. We would figure out how the mechanics would deliver on the concept later. I think the concepts turned out great, and I was really excited with the cast of characters that arrived at the table.

The thread in which these concepts were delivered, and in some cases discussed, is here. Below is each character's concept, some with an extensive history, and then a little "cut scene" I wrote based on that concept. These scenes were intended to help give the players an idea as to the motivator and the stakes of the campaign.

One note, I have not included Blatik, because that player left the game. I am including the character's cut scene, though, because it is very important to the campaign.

So, that scene first.
Vindonnus watched the spring, watched the sunlight reflect off the water. He gloried in it, gloried in the feel of the sun. It gave him power and it gave him hope. From out of the spring came weak laughter.

"You are as lost to this land as I, spirit of ancient Gaul."

Vindonnus frowned. "Show yourself, Trickster of the Ice Wastes."

That laughter continued, growing in strength. "Show myself? I dare not. Do you not hold a grudge for my trick with Sucellus?"

"Trick? You have doomed him, and in doing so may have doomed us all." Vindonnus' hand passed through the spring, disturbing nothing. He felt rage burn through him.

"Are we to be the only immortals to face death? I think not." In the bubbling water, a wavering image of a dark-haired, thin featured man appeared. "Did the whelp believe the note?"

Vindonnus' fist closed, touching nothing. "You soon will find yourself facing a whirlwind of your own making."

Loki's image began to fade. "Have you not heard? That is my particular specialty."
Audun was born to the great Viking Jarl Thorfinn Skull-Splitter. Thorfinn was known for his long voyages raiding the coasts of Ireland, England and France. While on one of these raids Thorfinn, who was now reaching the end of his youth and career of freebooting, sacked a small Irish town and monestary. The plunder was not great and his men were greatly disappointed so he decided to bide his time there and allow his warriors time to relax and enjoy the local “hospitality”. It was during this short visit the now middle aged Thorfinn met Ciedre a local dark haired beauty. He would allow no man to force her and even he did not take her as his own. He would not, however, let her be parted from him and when he and his longships took to sea Ciedre went with him, never to see her beloved Ireland again.

Returning to the his lands Thorfinn knew his jealous wife would not allow him to keep a concubine who had so thoroughly ensorcelled him. So he kept her aboard his flagship only staying at his longhouse for one night. He arrived late while his wife was still abed and ordered none to wake her. He left before morning light and set sail for the most northern island of his kingdom, the Isle of Unst.

It was on Unst that Thorfinn spent the entire winter trying to win the heart of Ciedre. Days ran to weeks and weeks to months but Ciedre was the daughter’s of Celtic Kings and Thorfinn was an aging warrior who had spent nearly his entire life at war. He had no skills at romance but he could never force himself on the beauty Ceidre. He would drink and rage swearing she would never leave the island lest she gave into his advances.

Ciedre was more than simply the daughter of an Irish King (really not much more than a chieftain) it had long been said her family had the blood of the faerie. Certainly Ciedre had always known she had the Sight and she knew that Thorfinn’s threats were real. If she did not give into his desires she indeed would spend the rest of her days on the windswept rock that was her new island home. She new the only way she would ever be free of her lonliness would be to give into the lustful urgings of the old warrior.

So as winter began to slowly began to loosen its grip on the Orkney’s so too did Ciedre loosen her resolve and on the holiest day of her people, Beltane she finally accepted Thorfinn into her bed. For many more weeks Thorfinn remained and in his clumsy way he loved Ciedre. It was with great reluctance that the old warrior prepared to return to the main island for the ice had finally broken and Thorfinn had a vast realm which required its lord.

For several more years Thorfinn continued to return to Ciedre’s bed and as time went on he came to value her advice and the power of her visions. Always Ciedre knew the best time to go a “Viking” and which landfall would result in the most booty. Thorfinn came to cherish her more and more and finally he came to the Isle of Unst for what he thought would be the last time. For this time he came to bring Ciedre back with him to his hall in Midenland and make her his wife.

When he arrived at the tower that had been her home for these past years and told her of his news there was no joy on her face. Yet she would not be pressed and said simply that she would be honoured to be his wife and accompany him back to his hall. All she asked in return was that he gift her something so she not arrive at her wedding day a pauper and Thorfinn agreed that she would have the Isle of Unst for her dowry so that she would not come to his bed a slave without house or home.

Ciedre knew, for in these things she was never wrong, that she would never be Thorfinn’s wife. For on the crossing to Midenland Thorfinn took a chill and was so ill he too knew with the sight that men get close to death that he would never rise from his sickbed. It was worse for Ciedre told him she was with his child and he knew the son’s he had raised like wolves of his pack would not abide another, in particular one they saw as weak. Thorfinn had his shieldman of many years, Ulfgart, swear that he would safeguard Ciedre and tell all she was his wife. On the beach of Midenland Thorfinn gazed one last time on the beauty Ciedre, she would not leave the ship for she swore that the next land after Unst would be her homeland or no other.

In that year Thorfinn’s son’s struggled after his death and after a bloody year four son’s remain, none supreme over the others and content for now to share rulership of their northern realm. Within this context of intrigue, war and double-dealings none have noticed that the loyal Ulfgart has set up house from the dowry of a young wife from an isolated island.

Audun was born into this turbulent time but owing to the vigilance of his mother and the loyal Ulfgart (and in no small measure the isolation of the northern Isle of Unst) he has remained sheltered from the affairs of his bloodthirsty brothers. He left his island sanctuary several years ago and has traveled the extensive reaches of the Norse hegemony. While he has no specific desire on the lands of his father it is probably only a matter of time that the rumours about his birth become enough of a concern for whichever brother finally overcomes the others.

It is clear Audun is of mixed blood, to all his physique is that young Viking warrior. Tall and long of limb with clear blue eyes and chiselled good looks. However his hair is that of his mother long and pitch as moonless night. What is not apparent speaks even more of his mixed blood. Ciedre his mother knew from the beginning Audun too was born with the Sight and she also knew that somehow the dark grim gods of his father were at work at his birth. She saw that they too had gifted her son but these “gifts” were not ones she wanted him to have. She knew she could not stand between her son and the will of these Northern gods so she used her skills to protect her son and control the blood debt that the magic’s of the north normally required.

Audun simply goes by his first name though the men of the Falcon have come to call him “Ravenhair”. He is a grim warrior who speaks little of his past. He has an uncanny ability to sniff out ambush and Toste has come to rely on Audun’s counsel. While accepted by the crew (his bravery has been shown many times) it is not just his strange dark hair that keeps him from being totally counted as one of their number for in times of battle and sometimes during storms or rough water some of them have sworn they have seen glowing lines along the arms and chest of the young warrior.

Toste saw the tattoos, saw them glow. He hadn't believed it. Hadn't wanted to believe it. He valued Audun. A good man at the oars. A good man in a fight. But those marks? They weren't runes. Toste had travelled wide. Audun's marks? Celtic.

Toste wouldn't throw a man off his ship for being a Celt. What did he care? But glowing in the dark of a storm? That unnerved him. He had seen sorcerers. There was an old Laplander who wore women's clothes and had only one ear who could heal a man after three feet of iron pierced that man's chest. Such a man was certainly useful.

No, he didn't hate sorcerers. He just didn't want one on the Falcon.


They felt it. They all felt it. Something pulled at them, stole the very breath of the Tuatha de Danaan. It woke the Sidhe, woke them from a deep slumber. Slow to rise, they exchanged glances. A preternaturally long finger, with a nail akin to a claw, ran down a jawline.

"It draws on us, draws on our power." Golden eyes blinked. "Not from Eire. From abroad. Who would dare?"

"They forget." This one was a female, long and lithe, eyes of shining violet. "We sleep a century, and they forget."

He rose from the stone of his bed. "We should make them remember."

The sensation vanished as suddenly as it appeared. Only a whiff of it, the barest scent, remained. Her lids slowly drifted lower on her eyes. He held her arm, cold as fire.

"Do not sleep. Do not." He wasted his words. "You will wake. We will all wake. We are not to be used. We do not offer our gifts freely. This one will be made to pay. This one will be made an example."

The taste of it remained. Only a hint, but enough. His tongue slid out to catch it. He licked his thin, blue lips. "Ah, yes, Ciedre. I dreamt of you. Dreamt of you on your island. This tastes of you, but you would not dare. Your mother taught you that much." He frowned. "But to whom did you pass on your gift? You have no daughter."

A low, cold chuckle rippled through him as he lay back on his slab. "A mystery. Amusing. I will find you, poppet. I will find you in my dreams. And then I will awake. Oh, I will most certainly awake."
(Toste ended up becoming an important ally for the group, and remains part of their warband, along with twenty of his crew that survived the fire in Balagard. While they seem threatening in this little scene, the Sidhe have not disturbed the group . . . yet.)

In his youth, this Viking warrior has been through a many of raids and battles. But each Viking horde he has ever fought with has been beaten or horribly crippled.

After years of this: He’s known to be bad luck to have in a battle. Oh sure! Others will still share a drink and talk to him, he has after all seen many things in his travels but no one is on his side when there’s a fight to be had.

After so many years of always being on the less favorable side of things. He swears he'll figure out how to never lose a battle again.

Now old and headed towards the end of his life. He found himself in a horrible storm that whipped up while traveling between two ports. The old Viking found himself shipwrecked on the shore of an island. He looked for any of his shipmates but couldn’t find any other survivors. He did however find an old man, who stood tall, and was far older than he was, dressed like a shepherd and with only one eye. The old man recognized him and commented on his bad luck. The old warrior said he would change that.

"AH!...I’d give a hand to rid myself of this bad luck."

At which point he held up a hand, and two ravens swooped down and took two fingers on his left hand (pinkie and ring).

“A price such as that wouldn’t be a whole hand” the shepherd said as he turned and walked away. As the old Viking is left failing on the ground with more pain in his hand then he has ever felt. The old Viking did see the two ravens that took his fingers land on the shepherd's shoulders.

The Old Viking sudden woke up in the woods. When he picked himself up he looked at his hand; the fingers look like they have been cut off and then the wounds cauterized, his hand is a mess of scar. He knew he’s only a short walk from a village called Ravenwood (a place he’s never been), he doesn’t know how or why but he knows he’s meant to be there.

Odin watched the old Viking rise and consider his now mutilated hand. Munin squacked.

“Bad luck?” The All-Father shook his head. “It held him by the throat through his life, but no longer. I saw the weave and I saw it plain--his ill fortune sank with that ship. He came to shore a man over whom the Fates have no power, save that which he would grant them.”

Hunin shook his wings. Odin nodded.

“Aye, such a man is dangerous, but better to have such a one in my hall at Valhalla, at my side when the End comes than have him die a sea-death. And now, with his sacrifice, he can grasp the Odinpower.”

Both ravens danced on shoulder of the Lord of the Aesir.

“Yes, this old one has given a sacrifice, perhaps not without compulsion, but it has been done. I have my reasons. Ancient enemies stir and this one may soon find himself embracing a destiny the Norns could not force upon him. When he dies, as all men do, I wish him to find a seat in my hall. Ragnarok comes, and we must prepare.”

The old Viking began to walk toward the hall on the shore--Ravenwood. Odin’s eye narrowed.

“He will know this place, though he will not know why. It will draw him, and in it he will be tested.” Odin stroked his beard. “We shall then see. We shall certainly see.”

I was thinking of being from a noble family or a family that has lots of land and is well off. Well I was growing I was training to be a fighter like all in my family, but I got severely injured and broke my leg. I was ok but bed ridden for months for it to heal. In this time to help my boredom my sister got me a book about some far of place from (now I'm right really sure where books would be, I know way back when most writings where stored in church's I think, but you can tell me where you would think). I would be more interested in writings about documentation of events and places from all over. So I devoured the knowledge wanting more and more.

Once my leg had fully healed and I had read everything I could find in my area I went out into the world to find more to learn. Because of my injury I have a limp in my right leg. My father was not very happy with me leaving and forbid it, but I left any ways. I travelled to larger populated areas to find more documentation to learn about the world. My father sent people after me to bring me back but I got any. After travelling and not finding much but still having so many questions, I decide to set out and learn things myself, first hand. Documenting everything in my books. Making new scripts for people.

I'm thinking of playing a scholar type of character. Me inspiration in early naturalist from the 1400's, where they travelled around learning and documenting the world. Be it animals, plants, cultures, geography, even medicine. They did it all. So like a bard scholar, I guess. I good example for what I mean is the Paul Bettany character in Master and Commander.

I'm not sure what area I would be from, I figure you can tell me what would make the most since. I wanted to all about travelling, seeing new things and learning new skills. Using all that I have learned to continue on my adventure. I wanted to be like a walking encyclopaedia, I would not know everything off hand. But I would have info on many things in my books I would carry. My main book which I would write many of my discovery's would be a large book with metal plates to bind it and I would use it as a weapon. Another major piece of equipment is my walking stick. I wanted it to have carvings all over it of places and things I have seen. It would not be any great piece of work since I would have done it myself, but I want it to be hollow in the middle and the ends come off to make a blow gun. For the blow gun I would like to know (or be trying to learn of, as it could be a work in progress) a poison to use with it. Preferably a sleep or paralyze or just weaken poison as I would not really be to interested in fighting, more talking my way out of it.

So as for getting to Ravenwood, well I'm not sure if you said it was a Viking city. If it was, then I figure I would have just gone there to learn about the Viking culture. If not then I would have gone to learn about the people and lands in the area.

The dark-haired, thin featured man with the silver chain, baldric and sword frowned. "That scholar saw the runes in this? Copied them?" His finger tapped the book, its covers dark leather and worn, a metal lock with sturdy straps binding it.

A short man in a monk's robe and cowl bobbed his head. "Yes, milord. He had the abbot's favour. He were a bright young one come from the Greeks."

"From Constantinople, actually." The dark-haired man, whom the monk took to be some great Northman noble, smoothed his long moustache. "And travelling into my domain, I think. But if he has this . . ." His fingers drummed along the book. "He copied the comments and sigils into another book, you say? Did it appear similar to this? A large book with metal to bind it?"

The monk nodded again. He avoided the dark-haired Northman's eyes.

The book disappeared into the Northman's cloak, its bulk and weight gone. "No one else saw it? Please assure me no one else copied it."

"Only myself and the abbot ever knew of it." The monk laughed nervously. "And it's scribblings meant nothing to me."

One of the Northman's eyebrows raised. "Indeed? And the abbot?"

The monk swallowed--loudly. "I can't say if he ever read it."

"In these matters, it's best to err and remain safe rather than court regret."

The Northman slid on gloves of supple leather. As he did, long arms thick with muscle reached from out of the shadows to take the monk by the neck. With the sound of a cracked walnut, the neck collapsed under the massive hands. Out of those shadows stepped a woman, tan of skin but with long fair hair and a sharp face. She easily stood two or three hands taller than the Northman, and he stood almost six feet himself. She dressed much as he, though she bore no weapons.

The powerfully built woman let the body of the monk fall. The Northman knelt beside the corpse. "Give my regards to my daughter when you see her. I doubt your saviour will forgive this treachery of yours.” He rose. “Well, Angrbotha, it seems we have an abbot to kill as well, then a Byzantine whelp to hunt.” He sighed dramatically. “Five hundred years ago, this all seemed so amusing, but it has quickly become tiresome.”

Angrbotha’s voice came deep yet still feminine. “How is it that you can’t easily find this whelp you want us to hunt?”

“I wish I knew.” The Northman paused. Again an eyebrow shot up. “Do you hear it? Do you? I swear to you, I hear Vindonnus’ laughter. This game of gods has proven much less profitable than I assumed. If my father learns of it . . .” The Northman closed his eyes and a slight tremor ran through him.

“Or your brother.”

The Northman’s eyes shot open, but Angrbotha was already through the door, her back to him. He glared, but then the look of anger softened. He glanced around himself, at the shadows of the dark and Spartan cell. “No, that would not do at all.”
Nimet is a skilled Magyar horseman and scout. For over 18 years he served with distinction on a number of Magyar raids across Eastern Europe. In all that time he never questioned the wisdom of his leaders and commanders. But in recent years things had slowly begun to change. A new religion, Christianity, was gaining a foothold with the Magyars, indeed his lord Vajk, or Stephen as he was now known, and other leaders had converted to this new faith.

He was not afraid of losing the pagan traditions of his homeland, he was never much of a religious man to begin with, nor was he opposed to the new tenants of the new faith, some seemed to have merit in his eyes. Nimet felt that this Christianity and its ruling pope were usurping control of the Magyars from their rightful rulers. The wisdom of his elders seemed to be failing and with it could destruction be too far behind?

For Nimet the only solution was to get out and see what he could make of himself away from his homeland. Thus, early one morning he took his horse, what possessions and provisions he had and left. For a few years he moved around Europe, hiring himself out to mercenary companies as a scout and messenger.

For a while Nimet made a good living scouting for different companies, but his fortunes turned sour about a week ago. After returning from a scouting missions he had given his report to the leader of the mercenary company he belonged to, a disagreeable German named Klaus. Klaus did not like the news that Nimet brought back, and refused to believe that his enemy was so well armed and armoured. Nimet did his best to convince the general that his attack would be folley but Klaus wouldn’t listen. The attack proceeded and ended with Klauses army thoroughly routed. Enraged and blaming the defeat on Nimet’s Magyar tricks he ordered his men to find Nimet and bring back his head. Nimet just barely escaped, but lost his horse and much of his belonging in his flight from Klaus’ men. Stumbling through the dark he happened upon the lights of Ravenwood and headed in to seek shelter and food for the night…

The soft churchman in the expensive clothes spoke quietly to the Empress. “We have nothing but the vague murmurings of a witch. I understand your need to make examples, but frankly this seems more like Klaus’ mistake than an actual betrayal.”

Klaus took a step toward the dais at which Empress Theophanu sat and on which the Archbishop of Mainz stood. “You have done good service to the crown, I am told, but I’ll not have a clerk impugn my honour.”

Willigis quickly turned on Klaus. “You will be silent.”

His sword had only moved a hair’s breadth out of its scabbard before five of Willigis’ men had spears levelled at Klaus’ heart. A short man with swarthy features and a broad chest sauntered from the side of the dais to stand between Klaus and the archbishop.

“They tell me you are an important man.” The short man wore the archbishop’s colours over his mail, and had a sword at his side. “They tell me you’ve got titles and lands and a voice at the court. I don’t have any of that. I never will. I have the archbishop.” The short man smiled as a wolf would to a deer. “And that means I value my life less than his. You do not ever threaten him. Ever.”

“Call off your dog, Willgis.” Klaus’ hand moved away from his sword.

“He’s no dog, Count Klaus of Erpesburc, but he is my prefect and my captain.” Willigis nodded and his men moved away from Klaus. “You will find that Captain Theodulf is not a man with whom to trifle.” He turned back to the Empress. “Mistress, I beg of you, let us focus on items of greater import. One lone scout, some barbarian Hun, means nothing against the danger posed by men like Henry of Bavaria.”

“I cannot ignore the witch’s vision.” Theophanu covered her eyes. “Otto is so young. We have seen already the danger this world holds for him.”

“If I may.” Klaus did not continue until both the Empress and the archbishop had their eyes on him. “I agree that the Empress has more than a simple wandering Magyar to worry about. Your captain thinks I am an important man, though I am not. Give me twenty men, seasoned soldiers, and let me find this traitor. If he poses a threat to the young Emperor, I will end that threat. If he does not, what is the life of one bootless barbarian?”


The woman leaned close to Theodulf. “And they agreed?”

Theodulf considered the woman. Tall and lithe, she came of Norse stock--her parents came to Germany as merchants. He had known Tora all his time in the archbishop‘s service, and had loved her as long.

“They did, but my master fears Klaus has some other reason for this. Henry’s attempt at holding the young Emperor still worries him. He wishes for me to follow Klaus, watch him, and see to it that he does what he says.”

Tora’s eyes widened. “How long will you be gone?”

The question pleased Theodulf. “A few months at the most. Not even Klaus could be so feckless as to lose track of one lone scout. Though we will be in the lands of the Wends, the Abodrites as these Germans say, and that may cause some delay.”

“I’ll pray for you, pray to the old gods.” She touched his cheek. “Luck in battle and a good homecoming.”

Theodulf wanted to take her up in his arms, pull her to him, but he did not. Could this be sisterly affection? He hoped something more. When he returned, then he would see. “I will think of you.” He took her hand and kissed it, the most he would chance, then turned and left.

In the darkness of the kitchen, alone, Tora began to blur and shift. Where a moment ago a young Norse beauty had sat, now a dark-haired, thin featured man with the silver chain, baldric and sword filled the chair. The dark-haired man smoothed his long moustache. “A Magyar scout destined to shake an empire? It seems my game has called forth pieces from far reaches. It does add some spice, some interest. If only Angrbotha had thought of some more entertaining prophecy with which to frighten the Germans.”

The dark-haired man shrugged and he began to fade. Soon all that remained were the echoes of his final words. “This will do. This will do nicely. What move now, Vindonnus? What will you do to save your brother?”

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