James Mallard -needs to snap out of it

29 April, 2016

I mentioned my blog on another website, and just spent a little time re-reading it. In particular, the events at the node in Ebony Watch.

Deep down in a layer of James’ mind he was not fully aware of, the cloak posed him a question: “would you die for the empire”? And in that same layer, his training and its cameraderie, the histories he had studied – stories of valour and sacrifice, his commitment to make the best of his father’s decision to place him in the army, and perhaps even his childhood storybook lessons that the noble must protect the common people, together formed a wordless reply: “I am a soldier of The Empire.”

Sort of reminded me what James is about. He’s been in a bit of a funk since being suspended from duty. The whole “screw it, let’s go to Anvil” is a bit of a sulk, and he needs to snap out of it. Seeing the politics has disillusioned him a bit, but ultimately there are illusions we all have to grow out of.

My goal for the character, of course, has always been that one day he would be archmage. It’s pretty obvious – that’s why I gave him the “One Unique Thing” that I did. Hidden, locked-away arcane talent. Duh. But he doesn’t plan to be archmage one day – that’s my idea. He will do what’s best. He will serve if he is called.

Which is why I refused the shortsword that the DM offered him (obviously it was for James – no-one else uses a shortsword). James actually is good, and loyal, and responsible and all that. Heroic, even. He’s not going to take some proffered shortcut to a goal that he doesn’t even have, and he’s intelligent enough to know that you are cautious with magic items. After playing a string of bad guys (I re-read Korgul’s stories: funny as hell, and I wrote them), I want James to really be the kind of person you would want in the job.

Having said that – this is not something that could possibly happen in the game. The way I see it, 10th level is when you start being a serious wizard. A bit like a black belt – all it means is that you have learned all the forms of your school. It’s after that that a martial artist starts getting serious.

So, there’s been politics, and he’s been relived of duty. He’s beginning to see what a tangled mess life mostly is. Nevertheless it remains the case that there being an empire is better than there not being one, it remains the case that the emperor is warden and guardian of civilisation and all the people in it. It remains the case that, as Hobbes suggested,

During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.

“To this war of every man against every man, this also in consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the cardinal virtues.

“No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Snap out of it, man. Being a soldier of The Empire is still the worthwhile thing that it always was.

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LOTR: The great cover-up

13 April, 2016

Has the climax of Lord of the Rings, the destruction of the One Ring, ever seemed a little anticlimactic to you?

Has Sam’s role in book three ever seemed a bit – I dunno – superfluous? I mean, he carried Frodo at one point. Ok, and rescued him from the orcs. But the story might be a little stronger without a sidekick. Is he just there as a comment on the great british working class?

Oh incidentally, you know how Frodo tells Sam the ring will destroy him? Why? Why would it destroy Sam and not Frodo? Because Sam is lower class – like Smeagol – whereas Frodo is a property owner. Oh Britain, thy name is snobbery!

Getting back to it – why is there that scene where Frodo is just finishing up transcribing the record of is adventures, and it turns out to be the book we are reading? Isn’t it a bit awkward? Wouldn’t it have been better if that coda hadn’t been there?

Well, I’ll tell you why it is there. Whenever an author takes pains to let us know that a book is narrated by a character in the book, that is telling us that the book is not written from a neutral, third party perspective. It’s telling us that not everything is as it seems, that not everything is to be belived.

Smeagol/Gollum. What a survivor! Centuries old. Walked across middle earth. Survived. Spent centuries in goblin caves in the Misty Mountains. Survived. You know how Boromir said “one does not simply walk into Mordor”? Gollum walked into Mordor. Several times. And out again. He knew all about Shelob, and fully expected to be able to retrieve the ring from the lair of a demon spider that had lived since the end of the First Age.

And in the end, he just tripped off a precipice in a moment of sheer inattention and “Oops!” into the lava.

Do you believe that?

Why was Sam there? In that moment, in that scene? Why had the fates conspired to put him there, trailing Frodo all the way?

He had a job to do. A destiny to fulfil. Because at the end of all things, Frodo could not destroy the ring. Just couldn’t do it. It fell to Sam to do the necessary. Motivation? Hell yes – that business with the Lembas on the way in, on top of everything else. He was primed for his moment.

Read it again. Sam destroyed the great ring. Sam brought down Sauron. Sam ended the third age of the world. Sam – it was Samwise Gamgee, a simple gardener from the Shire, who finally made that decision, who acted. Who did the thing.

And Frodo wrote it out of the book, because when all’s said and done, it was murder. Oh yes, layers of motivation. But one of those layers was simple spite.

And that’s how it went down, there on Mt Doom, that morning at the end of the Third Age. That’s what happened, and why.

So don’t believe everything you read. Not when you are warned that the narrator might have an agenda.


Secret, secret, secret

12 April, 2016

So, Andy held another contest, and no-one entered but me. Well, normally I take a bit of a back-seat because I write a fair bit; but his time no-one but me even bothered. So screw you guys, I will take the prize and not be even a little bit ashamed of it. I got two choices from a short list of special, special rewards.

First choice: re-jig your icon points a bit. Which fits with what I was attempting to do anyway in the previous (and did I mention prize-winning?) post.

Second choice: introduce an NPC into the campaign. There are, of course, a whole range of possibilties. But as we arrived in Newport and Andy described the place, this kinda gelled for me.

–EDIT–

You know what, guys? I won’t actually post the story. It’s way too awesome. I’m going to send it over to Andy, and leave what I wrote as a draft post on my blog (titled “Secret Skills”). At some point in the future, I’ll publish it. But for now, the NPC can be a bit of a secret.

So there! Bwahahahaha!