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Art by somniturne. Click on the image for more of this artist work.

My cousin is once again at the helm of our gaming group and he has offered to run two different campaigns (alternating between them every few weeks). The first is a return to Scion, an urban fantasy game where the characters play demi-gods while the second is an offshoot of the 3E (D&D) Freeport campaign using the Rune Quest rules (Pirates, Guns and Cosmic Horrors lurking in the shadows). In order to get a feel for the characters, he sent us a series of questions:

Swords against Sorcery: Character Questionnaire

Character’s Name:

Nicknames, If Any:

What do you look like? Eye color, hair color, ethnicity, distinguishing marks or features, clothing, jewelry, and gear…

What are your hobbies?

Who and where is your family?Where are you from?

Do you have any secrets, and what are they? Why do you keep them?

What do you believe in ? Explain.

Do you live in Freeport? For how long?

If you don’t live in Freeport, why did you travel there?

What motivation do you have to stay in Freeport?

What was your Background event?

Did any other character tied to your Background event? How did he tied his fate to yours?

What is best in Life?

And I could not but answer in the form of a short story.

—–

From an article by Jonathan Jacob Tryst, for the newspaper The Swift

I made my way through the summer night’s haze inside the Salty Sailor, made all the more redolent by the thick smoke that clung to my clothes. Dodging wenches, sweeping tankards and puking drunkards I arrived at the back of the tavern. A cubbyhole sheltered a rickety wooden table, two simple wooden chairs and the subject of my piece. I convinced my boss that the paper needed an exciting story that didn’t come from the merchant side of the street. A peek at Freeport’s underbelly and to my surprise he agreed. I pushed aside the low hanging angler’s net.

“You’re late, mate,” said the stranger from under the hood of his cowl.

“Sorry about that,” I said.

“Well, let’s get on with it, shall we.”

I slid a small money pouch across the table, covered by my interlaced hands. In Freeport, few will pass the opportunity to snatch gold or silver if they see it. The bag disappeared into the folds of the stranger’s cloak. I took out a roll of parchment with a tiny ink bottle and pen, “Right then, you work for The Swift, eh?”

“One and the same, sir,” I said.

“Your money, your questions, your time, and your drinks if you’ll pay for them,” he said with a smirk.

“Oh, yeah.” I ordered ale for me, and rum for him. “Name?”

“K, just K.”

“Kay?”

“No the letter K.”

“But my readers will want to know who you are?” I protested.

He raised an eyebrow with a tiny diagonal scar that matched the light brown hair that spilled from under his hood, “Those that know me, will know who am I. Those who don’t, don’t need too.”

“K it is. Well how would you describe what you do?”

“What is it that you think I do?”

He was playing games, perhaps trying to coax a few more drinks from me, although he only sipped his rum, his grey eyes darting to and fro no doubt looking for trouble. “You are a thief.”

“Gentleman thief and explorer, thank you very much.”

“A gentleman thief? I didn’t know there were different categories to thieving?”

“Of course they are. Just like no two pair of tits are the same, so it is with thieves. You have your cut purses, your merchants, your pirates and your thugs and then you have me.”

“And what exactly sets a gentleman thief apart from the rest?” I asked.

His smile widened, “You are a writer alright! Well, I liberate riches from those who have too much too give to those who have too little,” he said pointing at himself, “and do so while leaving them with a smile. Smiling men rarely give chase, mate.”

“And besides liberating wealth, what else do you do?”

“Gamble, travel, read, and romance the loveliest women my charms, rum and gold can buy,” he poked the parchment with a gloved finger, “and you can quote me on that, in that exact same order, if you please, sir.”

“And where are you from?”

“Form where else but here. I learned all that I needed on the streets of Freeport and at the gates of the Temple of Knowledge.”

“And do you have family in the city?”

He squinted, “Now that is an awfully personal thing to ask, mate.”

“I don’t need any names, Master K, just something to give the piece some depth.”

“Well, The Swift is nothing if not thorough, eh? Not like that rag, the Captain’s Logbook, eh? Nothing but filthy gossip in those pages, wouldn’t wipe my arse with it even if they paid me.”

“Of course not, about that family, sir?”

“Oh yes. Eight brothers and sisters, Me Mum died young, Dad remarried twice and well he tried his best to provide for all us, but I have that many cousins, aunt’s and uncles too, so, oft I went, to the streets, to the Temple and then to sea.”

That was an interesting tidbit, “So you traveled beyond the Dragon’s Teeth?”

“Of course, can’t know the ways of the world unless you traveled them.”

“And how many enemies have you made along those ways?”

“Enemies…” he rested his chin on his right hand while twisting his half-empty mug with the other, “few, maybe. A rival here, a competitor there, but enemies, no, I’m not in the business of making enemies, mate.”

“Few people are, but Freeport being what it is, it’s bound to happen.”

“Indeed, but I take care of my enemies right quick, mate. That’s why I pack powder and blade. Slash keeps my enemies at bay, Hellhound shoots them down at ten paces and Kidney’s Stone silences the rest.”

“And those are?”

“My rapier, my pistol and my dagger, names are clear enough, I think.”

“Of course. But why do you stay in Freeport?”

“No better place in the World, none by far. Sure, you got your whores, your robber barons and your killers, but you got your gold, your ladies and your odds here too. Life is a gamble from the moment you’re born, mate. Don’t you forget it,” he said with a wink and a nod.

I was getting somewhere, “Have you met anyone of interest in your travels, Master K?”

“I met sailors, pirates and escape criminals, although it’s kind of hard to tell the difference between the first two and the last was wrongly accused, or so he claimed. The lady on his arm was oh so very lovely, by the way!”

Another evasion, but I had just enough to fill in the blanks, “And what do you think is best in life, Master K?”

“A life well lived, mate!” he raised his tankard and downed the last drops of rum.

——

And now for some music:

You heard about “raising the stakes” in your work.

But what are “the stakes” or should I say, what is AT “stake”?

Usually in speculative fiction it’s stuff like a life, a kingdom, a nation, a planet, the galaxy, the Universe, the whole of Existence. It’s what on the table and the reason why the characters do what they are doing. But the object itself is meaningless, it is the value that the author/character/reader give it that matter.

Stakes are like money in that money only has value relevant to what it gets you (what you can acquire with it) and the work you put in to get the money in the first place.

So what do the “stakes” need to acquire this “value”?

1)The stakes are real. Something that it’s quantifiable and observable. It’s hard to care when you don’t understand what your fighting for.

2)The stakes always rise. If you think the stakes are high on page 1 wait until you get to page 321. I mean it’s defeats the purpose of raising the stakes if they already reached their limit. Otherwise the character(s) (and the reader) will call it quits have way through. Thinks are always worse than you can imagine.

3)The stakes are personal. It’s always personal. Ties in with the stakes being real. There is got to be a reason why the character is willing to sit on the table and drop a wager. He may need the money to buy old grandpa’s farm from the bank before they foreclose or his waiting for the fellow who is drinking at the bar to let his guard down so he can drill him one on the head. What that bastard did to his sister won’t go unpunished.

4)The stakes are always constant. Seems to contradict #2 but if the stakes diminish, so does the overall tension that pushes the story forward. Not that the characters should not catch a break once in awhile, but it’s only a break before the story goes on overdrive.

5) The stakes demand sacrifice. Blood, money, life, it’s what your betting and there is always a chance that you are going to lose. You might think it’s a chew in, but it ain’t and before the day (and the story) is through you will lose some to win all. It’s the way the game is played.  Without the possibility of loss, the stakes are meaningless.

So that’s all I got to say about it. Now ladies and gents, the game is on.

By way of a visual explanation here is a short game trailer that will illustrate the above. Enjoy!

(Note: See if you can identify two of the voices in it.)

NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) is just around the corner, well OK, three months away. Still not too early to start the preparations.

As you probably guessed from my last few posts, I’ve been knee deep in world building, title writing and research. All of that leading to the NaNo kickoff on November 1st. I enjoyed last year NaNo (my first) although the stress was unbearable. Cranking 50K words in 30 days is not easy, especially when you have never done anything like that before.

In fact this blog was born out of last years efforts and will served as the platform for this years enterprise.

So are you ready for your NaNo 09?

Mine will be Age of Iron (working title) and to inspire me (and all those NaNo overachievers out there) here is a video for you.  Enjoy:

Another Tuesday, another story, (of sorts). I’m thinking of switching to Friday’s so I don’t crowd Amy’s stuff (please go check it out, it’s pretty good stuff). Maybe call it Flash Fiction Fridays. I don’t know, will see.

But now we rejoin our friend Jaymes somewhere in the Free City of Greyhawk, the Geml of the Flanaess:

—-

The Shady Dragon Inn was full, as usual, for this time of night. Pipe smoke, stale ale and nervous gossip roiled the air.  Strange happenings, strange even for the City of Thieves, had occurred in the past months. Rumors of kidnappings, attacks on trade caravans and Iuzian attempt to desecrate Rigby’s grave were just the tip of the iceberg.  The disappearance of two important people, Loris Raknian  and the chief priest of the Heirnonean order in Greyhawk merged with the raw nervous energy coming from the masses gathering around the temple of St. Cuthbert to mourn Rigby’s death.

This meant little to Jaymes, who found himself short on coin. Hopefully an old friend would come through with an good offer.

“A pence for your thoughts young man” said a man passing by Jaymes table.

“Your coin, your questions, although I really got nothing to say” quipped Jaymes as he looked up from his drink.

The other gave him a lopsided grin. Peralay sat down and ordered a round for both of them. “How about work then?”

“If you got something worth doing, speak.”

“Aren’t we a grouch this night?”

“No money and no Home will do that to you.”

“If you do this for me you could have both.” Jaymes stared back at his interlocutor and waited. “A friend of a friend is looking for men of skill. Evil is afoot.” Peralay’s tone betrayed no irony.

Jayme’s reply brimmed with it “Evil is always afoot in this world of ours. Got any particular person or thing in mind?”

“My friend has the specifics, but suffice it to say that what happened at Rigby’s funeral and Raknian’s disappearance are related, that much I know to be true. If you want further proof, you can stop by the hamlet of Diamond Lake on your way to meet our friend in Magepoint. Ask around and see what we are up against.”

“Work is fine, but you know what I really want” Jaymes said.

“Yes. Help us and we will do whatever we can to open the Ways for you.” He tossed a small pouch on the tabletop. It crashed with the sound of coins. Jaymes took it.

“That should cover your expenses. Time is of the essence.” With those words Peralay stood up and disappeared into the Inn’s noisy crowd.

—–

All copyrights belong to their respective holders. D&D, the Greyhawk Campaign Setting and all related copyrights belong to Wizards of the Coast (WotC).

Another Teaser Tuesday post. I’ll guess I will have to stop riding Amy’s coattails and create something original for a change, since I am not really teasing existing works but crafting new ones for this feature.

Anyway, this is part of another D&D character back story. I like making them, they are good practice and keep me writing. I hope you like them too.

Jaymes walked anxiously among the towering pines of the Welkwood. He could feel the change in the air. Something called to his blood, he knew what it was, Home. The Land and the Queen’s Fairy Mysteries were one and his blood ran with said power, infused with the ancient pacts of time immemorial. Once Elves ruled the pathways between worlds, not longer. That power had faded with the eons.

In most of his race that is.

An arrow cut through the air and landed at Jaymes feet snapping him from his revelry. A voice from above cried out “Brother, turn back. You are not welcomed here.” He heard the sadness in the voice that belonged to a man he once called brother, one Cirdan Tasardur. “Turn back Súrion.  The Ways are close to you my friend.”

Jaymes shouted back “By what right do you  deny me the Way home Cirdan?”

A tall figure, wearing gleaming maille, landed a few feet in front of him. Blue eyes look down at him from between wisps of obsidian hair. “By the same right that allows you to change your name and defy the will of our Queen. The Ways are closed.”

Jaymes pulled a scroll from his pouch. “I returned as instructed and I present to his Majesty my qualifications and heraldry. By the laws of the Land I demand access to the Ways so that I may return Home.”

Cirdan looked at his friend with tired, sad eyes “Your family has lost their position, your actions run contrary to the wishes of the Fey Court, you know that your request will be denied. Has the impatience of humanity infected your soul as well?”

“I ask. You deliver” Jaymes replied.

“Very well.” Cirdan called out to the members of his patrol “We will set up camp. Calmacil, takes this note and deliver it post haste. We will wait here for you.”

The younger elf looked puzzled by his leader instructions but obeyed. The other rangers set up camp. Tári, a golden hair lass approached Jaymes with an offer of food. “Thank you Tári, how are your parents?”

She blushed, as she always did in his presence since he first spoke to her in Master Amroth class. “Doing well. Father wishes to join  the pilgrims in their journey to the Isles.”

Taken aback Jaymes chewed on the strip of venison. “He will not take the Gate?”

“No.” Her voice lowered to a whisper “Divisions among the clerics are spreading. Something stirs in their divination. They are starting to question—“

“Tári! How about a song!” shouted another member of the patrol. Jaymes had also know Fëanor from childhood and apparently a century of life had not changed his loutish ways.

“Why should she bother, your ears can’t tell the difference between her dulcet tones and a boar’s grunts” Jaymes shouted back.

The others laughed. Cirdan smirked, casting a sidelong glance at Jaymes.

“His ears are not that bad, once he remembers to clean them” Tári added with a wide grin of her own.

Fëanor eyes gleamed with anger. He opened his mouth to speak but saw Jaymes hand rest casually over his dagger.

“I am sure the rest of us will certainly appreciate a song or two, if you do not mind Tári” Cirdan said.

“Here, here!” echoed the others.

“Very well! If you insist Captain.”

A pang of jealousy hit Jaymes in the gut. Was there something between Cirdan and Tári? Fëanor’s barbed smirk showed Jaymes that he had read his expression like a book.

Tári stood in front of the fire and began to sing:

There’s a coldness in the air
but i don’t care….

Travelling somewhere
could be anywhere
there’s a coldness in the air
but i don’t care
we drift deeper
life goes on
we drift deeper
into the sound

Travelling somewhere
could be anywhere
there’s a coldness in the air
yeah but i don’t care
we drift deeper into the song
life goes on
we drift deeper into the sound
feeling strong

so bring it on so bring it onnnn
we drift deeper into the song
life goes on
we drift deeper into the sound
feeling strong
so bring it on so bring it onnnn
we drift deeper……..

we drift deeper life goes on
we drift deeper drift deeper
we drift deeper into the song
life goes on
we drift deeper into the sound
feeling strong
so bring it on so bring it onnnn
we drift deeper into the song
life goes on
we drift deeper into the sound
feeling strong
so bring it on so bring it onnnn

Jaymes joined the clapping of the others as she finished. The night passed without further incident. On the morning of the third day the runner returned bearing two scroll cases. He saluted the Captain, spoke a few words in his ear and then handed the tubes . One bore the Royal Seal, the second the Súrion family seal. Jaymes opened the first. As Cirdan had predicted, his request to enter Celene had been denied, yet again. He tried to open the second but it he could not break the seal. An inscription on the rim of the lid read:

This will not open until the appointed time and place.

Jaymes recognized his father’s handwriting and the runes that covered the bronze tube spoke of powerful warding magic. He would have to wait for the appropriate time and place to open it, whatever that may be.

Cirdan approached him. He extended a hand “Good luck in your path Jaymes, I hope that the Ways are opened to you when you return. Until then we will wait.”

He shook the offered hand “Thank you old friend. Take care.”

He waved at the rest of the patrol as it took the trees. The last thing he saw over his shoulder was a swish of golden hair. He heard a distant, lilting tune that lifted his spirits as he made his way back to the lands of Men.

Here is the video for the song included above.

All rights belong to their respective holders. I do not own or claim rights over D&D, The World of Greyhawk campaign/game setting or associated material.