Sunday, September 19, 2010

That Thing We Gamers Do (17/30)

Here's a possibly amusing exercise. I have here a character I've written for an upcoming Dungeons and Dragons game. I wonder if you can guess what his class is? (hint: it's not in the Player's Handbook)

For your consideration, I give you Yssan Karais (uh-SAN Ka-RAY-us):

Yssan was born one cold winter's day, in the back of a wagon. His mother was a travelling acrobat, contortionist, actress, juggler, and ventriloquist. She never did mention a father, and none of the men in the troupe ever claimed the honour. Yssan supposes that he might have been a lord or baron who requested a “private audience”, which was not unknown. Venita Karais was a woman of considerable talent and beauty. Before her death, she instilled in her son a warm heart, and great reverence for Ithene, goddess of her people. Each night, Venita would enthral not only Yssan, but the whole of the troupe with tales of gods and goddesses, heroes and horrors, sages and savages. Yssan fell in love with Ithene - fastest, cleverest, wisest of all immortals.

Venita was accosted and killed by street thugs in Caer Cadren, just before the outbreak of war. Yssan was only 10 years old. With not a quarter of his mother's talent, he was of little use to a travelling act, and was abandoned by the very people who raised him. Yssan bounced back and forth from street gangs to the care of the church for some years. He was conscripted by both sides for service in the town guard during the war, as the city changed hands. He would often hide to avoid the draft, but did not always receive warning in time.

Yssan would always attend services and ceremonies at the Temple of Ithene. He would pray for skill in battle, and he would ask the priest for guidance. He courted a comely young peasant girl, Trieste, and married her there (paying her dowry with money he had stolen or won in battle) in the seventh year of the war.

In one of the final sieges of the war, the priest of Ithene was gravely injured. Though the defence could not hold, Yssan took up residence in the temple, tending to the wounded for weeks while the siege pressed on. He performed services and temple rights for the living and the dead. He sang and told stories. He washed his hands more than he had ever done in his life, and still they were stained red with the blood of the dead and the dying. In the end, he saved the lives of the priest, a local justice, and ten others. So impressed was the priest that he pronounced Yssan a disciple of the faith. For this service, and some distinction in the general defence of the city, Yssan was awarded knighthood at age 22.

Trieste survived the war alongside Yssan. They have one child, a two-year-old daughter. They lost a baby boy during the war to disease and starvation. As a couple, the two are in many ways happy to be leaving Caer Cadren behind; it holds many painful memories for the both of them. Trieste has seen the people of her hometown raped and brutalized ten times over; Yssan has seen his friends die in robberies and battle alike. But they are both of them aware that Crossroad Keep will be a rougher life than even they are accustomed to.

And there you have him. I'm really excited to play this character; I intend to explore some profound themes with this guy. Here's a guy who is (I think) good at heart, he's trying to leave behind a life of petty (and not-petty) crime and take up his newfound calling as a priest...but of course he's going to find himself trapped. He probably knows too much to leave the underworld for good. There's also the question of whether or not he himself can give up the sword. There's this scene in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, where Li Mu Bai (legendary warrior) has regained possession of the Green Destiny (suitably epic sword). He's practicing with it in a courtyard, and it is clear that the sword is an extension of his being, no matter how much he had intended to forsake it (and he *was* trying to at first). I think I found that moment more than a little inspirational for this character.

And, now that I'm invested in him, he's definitely going to die on some orc's lucky critical hit.


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