Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In which I talk about my character

Yeah, I know I know..it's taboo, so I won't do it too often, but here goes.

When we started playing S&W back in November, I asked if I could still play a half-orc even though halforcs did not become PCs until 3rd edition and if I recall rightly did not even exist in the monster manual until 2nd edition.

The GM, likely fearing yet another rant about oppression, green-rage and "the man", said he'd allow it, so long as the character could be expressed in Oe terms..that is to say, she had to be a fighting Man Orc-ette with emphasis on Strength and de-emphasis on Intelligence and Charisma. She would get no advantage for her orcish blood..not even Darkvision. But that was alright by me. After all, the game should be about playing the role of a character rather than playing stats and special abilities, right? Also, due to the fact that the six attributes can grant at best a +1 bonus and at worst a -1 detriment, having even the proverbial "minmax" character does not make you a window-licking Terminator.

Surprisingly, it did not take too much getting used to, even though Janara (you might say she has achieved the status of recurring franchise) was originally created for 3e D&D. Okay, so she kept forgetting to light her torch at first,... as did our Dwarven cleric...but that's neither here nor there. On a completely unrelated note, the GM has more recently decided that in his games, demi-orcs and dwarves get darkvision just the same as their later counterparts. I mean, why should Elves get to have all the fun, huh?

Actually, in the game setting Janara belongs to, Elves would be as yet unknown beings. They might just be legends..or they may be (as Dunsany would say) 'beyond the Fields We Know'. Orcs, on the other hand, are based on historical barbaric tribes from the east of the big continent (Europe, actually) who were brought to the isle (Scotland) by the Latins (Romans) to provide a buffer against the northmen (Vikings). Half-orcs might be more properly called orc-blooded, since their kind has been left alone and to their own for a few centuries by the time our adventure begins. Janara only knows that she is different, that she comes from a people who are different, (but no differenter than the picts or that crazy yellow-haired berserker NPC her party had originally hired...may he rest in peace). She's never seen an orc, and is curious about the stories she has been told about the eastern warrior tribes. For all intents and purposes, she was raised human... Christian actually... and has no doubt that she is one of her God's creatures too... as are the people of her ancestry if she should ever happen to meet one.

Well..that's how it started at least. Janara and company did a bit of low-level romping around in the highland hills, but as such things happen, they eventually boarded a longship and went to a place suspiciously Norwegian in topography, custom and outragiously exaggerated accents. It was there that they encountered their first halfling and their first elf. The halfling was, of course, trying to unlock a treasure chest, and the elf was quite deceased.

I won't go into too much detail, as you may find yourself in this same adventure some day...as I highly recommend you should. Stefan Poag's work is top-notch adventuring

So imagine what poor Janara thought the first time she came across actual orcs. Of course these orcs were hostile and attacked first, so being a loyal fighter who stands by her friends, she helped slay the ever-lovin' doggy-doody out of them.

But this time after the fighting is over, rather than help the others toss the room for hidden treasures or loot the bodies for useful weapons or coins, she carefully looked over the dead orcs' bodies for any jewellry, regalia, totems or other such items that she would think to be culturally unique to orcs. She did the same with the next two orc encounters as well, eventually collecting one rather odd-looking dagger and a little medallion made of bone.

She really cannot quite explain her recent interest in orc-anthropology, and she is really starting to suspect that orcs as a collective group are generally and deservingly disliked by everybody. The Dwarf in the party has shown no hostility toward her, but then again the Dwarf is a man of God..even though he sometimes calls God by the name Thor. Janara is almost certain that God has different names and aspects for different people in different lands. This might account for why her Christian education was cut short and she ended up becoming a fighter...but that's yet another story.

Yeah..she's a complicated orc... can ya dig it?


Oh... and then there's the point, which I almost went right past without getting around to.

Don't let the lack of a Bard class or Ranger class or the absence of Tieflings keep you from enjoying the older edition roleplay games. All it takes is imagination and a bit of flexibility on behalf of the player and dungeonmaster to make things possible. The old Oe rules are only there as a toolkit and house-rules are practically encouraged and in some spaces almost necessary. Even the retro-clone rules encourage the concept that the DM and players run the game, not the book.

By the way, Janara's newly-embued darkvision was "discovered" by her halfway through the dungeon adventure. She will likely explain it away like this. "I never tried it before. When it was time to put out my fire, I'd just shut my eyes and go asleep."

That's her story, and she's stickin' to it.


Chgowiz said...

That's a fantastic concept that I think many people who dig on "old school" miss ... just because the rules don't *say* you can be a half-orc doesn't mean that you can't be. I think the vast majority look at rules and accept it as the limit. Your DM sees the rules and says "What can I do now?"

I liked your character's backstory and it'll be interesting to see if she's challenged by the blood that runs through her.

Atom Kid said...

Great backstory!

The best thing about old school gaming is that you don't have constricting rules that limit your imagination. Even OD&D stated that you can be what ever character you want, even a dragon, provided you start out at beginners level.

Although, I've got to say that I don't want Tieflings or Dragonborn in my gaming worlds. :D

Spike Page said...

@ Chgowiz, thanks for the compliment. Janara was originally made for a different game setting, but I've "reencarnated" her twice since. She turned up in a Warhammer Fantasy game two years ago, and again here. I like adapting her and putting in subtle changes for different games, but she gets to keep a few quirks..like mangling names. She might meet you and call you Chiggerwhiz. :D

@ Atom, We're definitely on the same page where rules and Oe are concerned. I think we can also agree about Tieflings and Dragonborn. For some odd reason, I picture all tieflings as being a bit emo..perhaps even metro...and when I think of Dragonborn, I just can't get the Trogdor song out of my head.

Trogdor was a man..no..Trogdor was a Dragonman...err... maybe he was..just a dragon. :D

Herb said...

New reader with a desire to be pendantic:

Half-Orc PCs have existed since 1st edition AD&D but were removed from 2nd edition.