Sunday, October 14, 2012

Quite a Character

"I'm a character.  People are always saying to me, 'You know, you're quite a character'."
-George Costanza, Seinfeld

My little biography at the end of The Trinket Lord mentions my love of characters and how I've been creating them my entire life.  While that may not be as long as some other people, it's still a pretty good chunk (I think), and it's always my most favorite part of creating new worlds and stories.  As a child, I was always more interested in my lego characters than the buildings and ships I could build.  If I didn't have great characters, what was the point?

When I was a freshman in high school, I wanted my own RPG game with my own world and kingdoms.  At the time, I only played the Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game, and had no concept what Dungeons & Dragons really was about.  I also maybe had some ideas about 3.5 edition, but it seemed to crazy and complex that I opted out of playing it.

And so, my good friend P@ and I began creating a world of our own.  We only had the western side of the continent started, with an abbey (the Redwall books inspired me in middle school), an underwater kingdom (P@ is the water guy in my group of friends), and a great, vast forest simply known as the Sacred Forest in the common tongue (I named it as such).

I am confident in believing that this came about in the spring of my freshman year, as I would go running through the woods by my house during those times.  My teammates and I would pick up sticks and run around pretending we were mighty warriors or gods.  When you were running 8 miles a day, there were things you had to do to keep yourself entertained.  One of my teammates found an old lighter one afternoon and informed everybody that he had fire magic.  It might seem strange to the readers, but I'm sure my fellow runners understand.

Those woods (it was actually an abandoned gun range) became known to us as the Sacred Forest.  I dubbed it that one day, bringing my creative thoughts out, and the name stuck.  It was a code name to everybody on the team so that our coach wouldn't find out and get ticked.  For me, this place was truly the Sacred Forest.  Despite being kids growing up in suburbia, this place was far away and new.  Like a land outside of time.

By the time the fall of my sophomore year hit, P@ and I wanted to venture into this world.  He rounded up a couple of other people (another one being Robyn, who goes by Nybor), and we started writing third person accounts of our characters in a notebook.  The notebook would simply get passed around between people, and we would all take turns and create a story.

My first character in that notebook was an elf of the Sacred Forest.  I made him an elf of prophetic birth, calling him the Chosen One.  I named him Kurnar (his name started with a K, just like mine), and gave him the last name Leafbaum (baum being the German word for tree).  He was an archer.

P@ was basically a sea elf named Lunaki Sesh, who was a magic user.  Nybor played a half-elf vampire named Celeste Veron.  She was pretty much a ranger/fighter, as she used two swords, but she also took a level in badass.  There were some other people in the group, but after time, they either all fell out because of issues/commitments.

The story then was really more character driven, creating relationships between characters and really fleshing out these characters.  By the spring of my sophomore year, Kurnar had been exiled from the elves, having been named Su-Manakaiyu.  He appeared in a story I wrote later that summer, but after that, I have never wrote or thought much about Kurnar again.  His story just seemed complete.

I also never looked to play Kurnar in Dungeons and Dragons, as I couldn't ever seem to find a class that was suitable for him.  Nothing "felt" like how Kurnar should be.  However, with the playtest packet being offered, the Archer Fighter is exactly what I want for Kurnar.  I have found myself thinking about him more and more, and will probably be playtesting as Kurnar again soon, ready to dive into his world and his head, playing the proud elf warrior.

My second character for the notebook was a human druid named Ragnarok Senzez.  You may have noticed that I've written about him on here a lot, as well as shown many pictures of the miniature I use for him.  When I first started playing D&D, I really wanted to be Ragnarok at some point.  As time went on, the additional options for 4E have allowed me to fully craft the character.  Let me discuss some of his finer points.

Ragnarok was created in spring of 2005.  This was during all the hype for Revenge of the Sith.  Me, being the Star Wars fan that I was, could not wait for this movie.  It heavily influenced my creativity, as I started to take a lot of Star Wars concepts and turn them into fantasy.  For example, Ragnarok was from an order of druids, much like the Jedi Order and had it's own Druid Council.  Ragnarok revered nature in a way that Jedi would revere in the Force.  Even his appearance was based off of Anakin (along with certain aspects of myself).

My art skills aren't great, but you get the idea
I spent the whole summer writing in an online notebook with all my friends while school was out of session.  Unfortunately, the site closed down and we lost everything from that adventure.  Personally, I think that adventure would make a great D&D campaign.  It included a lot of awesome things, such as a ship battle, a masquerade/ball at an enormous castle, and then the ball crashed by servants of a powerful necromancer, with the final battle happening on the ramparts of the castle during a thunderstorm.  Visually, in my head, it was all stunning.

Ragnarok was not a hero without flaws.  He was jealous, prideful, and paranoid (somewhat like Anakin, and somewhat like my young self).  However, I loved his strengths.  He fought with a quarterstaff that he infused with Nature.  He was a werewolf, able to transform and fight in an entirely new way.  He was also able to wield Nature magic.  He talked to animals.

We all have heroes and characters that we have created in our heads at some point.  D&D is a great way to bring those characters back to life and re-visit the great characters of our past and bring them into the present once again.  Next time your DM talks about character creation, think about a character you used to know that you weren't able to do justice, and bring them back.  Or, re-visit an old favorite.

Despite not having played D&D in my middle school/high school years, I believe that the Notebook adventures help set up a solid foundation.  It made me understand shared storytelling (believe me, I wasn't always a fan), and made me focus more on story and character development than killing monsters.  If you think your group needs to re-visit its roots, take a combat-less session.  I ran one a few months back when the heroes met with the Council of Genkar (which, was a city that was created when Ragnarok was).  My players were really impressed, saying it felt different and that they enjoyed diving into who their characters were, with their motivations and personalities.

Let me know about your favorite characters in the comments below.  As always, be sure to follow me on Twitter @artificeralf

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