Saturday, November 27, 2010

In Which The Warlock Creates a...Well, a Warlock!

Elric of Melnibone
 One of my favorite characters--and the subject of my senior thesis at Wittenberg--is Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone.  So, when trying to build a character for Chaotic Frederick's upcoming Dark Sun game, I couldn't pass up the opportunity for an homage to such a vivid, tormented sword-and-sorcery character.  As such, let me present my own take on a pseudo-Elric...the fallen Prince Actorios of Theleb Orethia!

The Ten-Minute Background: Actorios, Prince of Theleb Orethia

Step 1: Write 5 background and concept elements that you feel are important to your image of the character. These can be a concept overview, a list of important life events, a physical description, a personality profile...whatever you need to get an image in your mind. 5 is just a minimum...more elements are encouraged!

1. The Chosen One… Actorios was raised to be the savior of his people. The kingdom of Theleb Orethia (The Dreaming City), hidden away amidst The Lands Within the Winds, was maintained by a generational ritual, which imbued its ruling scion with immense arcane and psionic power. Actorios, the entitled only son of Mathrion, was chosen to become the next “gekozen”, renewing the fey pacts that gave the city its might.

2. Storm-tossed on the Seas of Fate. Actorios, however, cared nothing for this role or his obligations. Rather, he used his title, wealth, and considerable arcane and psionic training to delve into forbidden lore, to refine his swordsmanship, and for other decadent ends. Despite the pleas of his family (and even his arranged-betrothed, Caelyn), Actorios chose himself over his kingdom…

3. Pacts Made, Pacts Broken. Instead of relying on the Court of Stars, as eladrin traditionally do when committing themselves to the warlock-arts, Actorios instead sought power with the infernal lord Yrkoon the Ever-Dying. Yrkoon gifted Actorios with a rune-etched black blade, which tears forth souls from its victims, feeding the always-hungry daemon. This act was near heresy in the eyes of the eladrin, which led Actorios’ cousin Thibault to rise up against him.

4. The Fall of Theleb Orethia. Thibault rose up against Actorios in a battle that none won. The eldritch powers of both ever-ravenous Yrkoon and the mighty Court of Stars ravaged Theleb Orethia, leaving it as bleak and blasted as the rest of Athas. As Thibault confronted Actorios in his throne room, the usurper confronted Actorios as Caelyn pled with him to surrender. In the ensuing struggle, Caelyn was slain…not by Thibault, but by a careless blow from Actorios. Guilt-ravaged and bereft of influence, Actorios left in self-imposed exile.

5. A Lesson in Self-Disaster. It seems that nearly everything that Actorios touches turns to ash. Loved ones die, compatriots are betrayed or killed, towns and villages are burned to the ground. Actorios has a difficult time believing in anyone or anything, much less himself, yet clings to his infernal practices as the source of his power. It may be the one thing in life he can ‘control,’ yet even that is truly in the hands of Yrkoon.

Step 2: List at least two goals for the character. At least one of these goals should be one that the character has, while another should be one that you, as a player, want to see developed over the course of the game.

1. (Character) Atone for the death of Caelyn or, “better yet”, find some way to bring her back.

2. (Player) I’d like to walk through Actorios’ descent into despair and, if possible, find a way to bring him out of it. Actorios is truly a guy who’s had everything, and lost it by his own hands. It’d be very fitting to see him change pacts at some point during the game, should the Court of Stars ever forgive him (and if he can forgive himself).

3. (Player) I’d further like to traverse the line between corruption and atonement. Certainly, Actorios is a ruthless, unpleasant individual, but I’d like to see him use those ends to (maybe someday) become a just person. Or, at least, one who can look himself in the eye again.

Step 3: List at least two secrets about your character. One is a secret the character knows, one is a secret that involves him but that he is not actually aware of yet. This will help me in creating plots that center around your character. I will also be creating a third secret which you as a player will not be aware of, so expect some surprises!

Stormbringer, the black runeblade
1. (Known) The black hell-blade that Actorios uses literally steals souls. It’s not a figurative term. The blade is literally a conduit into the void that is Yrkoon’s bottomless maw. Each creature that Actorios slays feeds him some power, but that astral energy works towards freeing Yrkoon from The Gray. Actorios is literally addicted to this power, and will sicken to the point of death without it.

2. (Unknown) Caelyn is alive. She survived the accidental stabbing, and is currently “head consort” in Thibault’s harem. She hates Thibault as much as she mourns Actorios, and wants to see him return to The Lands Within the Winds, even if he cannot return to Theleb Orethia.

Step 4: Describe at least three people that are tied to the character. Two of them are friendly to the character, one is hostile. If you like, you can include an enemy of yours here as well, so I have an instant NPC nemesis to throw at you.

1. (Friendly) Rackhir the Red Archer—an old adventuring partner of Actorios, he knows what magicks that Actorios is capable of. In an incident that he still won’t speak of, Actorios lost control of a lesser daemon, which slew everyone in the group aside from Rakhir. Rackhir currently lives in Urik, acting as a smuggler.

2. (Helpful, but Indifferent) Balaan the Grim (daemon of law)—When Actorios uses any sort of divination ritual, Balaan is typically the first to answer. Balaan is an associate of imprisoned Yrkoon, and has an uncanny ability with riddles, wordplay and contracts. He also knows much of what happens in Athas on a daily basis.

3. (Actively Hostile) Ayarkan Shalod, Warrior of Orethia—When Actorios went into self-exile, his lieutenants and followers were almost-universally put to the sword. Ayarkan Shalod was the exception. Escaping from his cell the night before his execution, Ayarkan swore vengeance on his once friend and commander, whatever the cost. Ayarkan foreswore The Lands Within the Wind, arriving in Balic, set to hunt down Actorios.

Step 5: Describe three memories, mannerisms, or quirks that your character has. They don't have to be elaborate, but they should provide some context and flavor.
Elric, in all his decadence...

1. Actorios is arrogant, entitled, “mentally superior”, and generally an utter dick. However, he has a massive guilt-complex, making him pitiable. He’s something of a fatalist, but will go through the motions of helping his friends. In some ways it makes him feel better, but little helps to relieve the sting of everything he’s lost.

2. The mark of the “gekozen” is Actorios’ albinism. Actorios has pale white skin, near-white hair, and pinkish eyes. In The Lands Within the Wind, this isn’t as big of a problem, but in Athas proper…well, let’s just say that Actorios is very, very careful when he’s going to be in the sun.

3. At his heart, Actorios is entitled and lazy. If there’s a way to do a menial task in a showy arcane/psionic way, he’ll find it. If that means using his low-grade telekinesis or telepathy rather than picking up a drink or speaking to someone he thinks is beneath his station.

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