Palladium Fantasy: My turn behind the dice ~ The Palladin

The Palladin:

Yes – I, like most Palladium players, am aware that the real-world word, ‘paladin’ has but a single ‘l’. As soon as the world presented in this fantasy game becomes real, I will consider that extra ‘l’ a serious threat to the sanctity of the English language on a par with hip-hop lyrical approaches, I promise. Until then, I will just treat it as poetic license and let it lie.

Runeslinger

The first character I generated for my upcoming return to a Player’s spot in Palladium Fantasy as Kyrei’s sacrifice petitioning for a rebirth of his imagination on the tie-dyed Altar of Story, is a palladin. He is an honest and upright man, egalitarian in outlook, and unflinching in the face of evil.

I named him Ysterwald.

Long-term players of Palladium Fantasy will recognize this name as a former and somewhat infamous King of Timiro, an evil Summoner who ruled that country…harshly. He, his line, timeline, and much interesting Timiro history were excised from Book II for the update to 2nd Edition, but he stuck in my memory. As the character of this palladin began to take shape, and as I began to contemplate things like origins, characteristics, family, and habits, I had this idea come to me quickly, “What if he were from a disgraced noble line, which has, by dint of hard work and natural talent, risen once again to privilege and rank in their adopted homeland – the Eastern Territories?”

To  help pin down this idea, I moved on to the random background generation tables, which as I mentioned earlier, I tend to use for a combination spark to inspiration, and delineation of what I do and do not want to be a part of a character’s history or persona.  Going through the tables I got nothing but decent ideas which augmented what was forming in my mind. Within a very short time, I had a clear sense of the family, especially the father, sister, and brother, what his childhood must have been like, what anecdotes and life-shaping events I would have to begin to detail, and had tied the whole primordial mess into the dimly remembered information from the original Palladium Fantasy Book II, about Ysterwald the Summoner. It was a quick but detailed concept, left room for expansion in play, from suggestions of the GM, and from my own later musings, plus it was a lot of fun.

To be clear, I know that Ysterwald the Palladin is starting from some well-worn approaches to character creation, and at this point there is really nothing of interest or showing real creativity about him. That said, I think the character has some value in two particular areas, and it is for those two reasons that I find myself really looking forward to playing him. It is also for these reasons that I am writing this entry, not to gush about my zillionth character for an RPG.

Point Number One:

The first point which gives the character some value is simply that I have not played a character like this before. If I were writing a book, and trying to sell yet another predictable character as original and compelling, I would be the first to volunteer to be crushed to death by hundreds of volumes of the collected crap of Terry Brooks. I am not, however, I am playing a character, and in play the experience of this character will be my exploration of the archetype, and my attempts to both fit and shape the figure he cuts will show me things I have not yet seen in my gaming. That others have already done so in their own gaming, has no bearing on its value to me as a player.

Point Number Two:

Playing a dedicated defender of good with no doubts or moral ambiguity will be a refreshing and fun challenge for me. As someone who tended toward cunning characters, magi, and those of darker leanings, and who liked his heroes to come with a serious amount of ‘anti,’ I have to ask myself:  Can I maintain this sort of hero? Can I find in-character motivations for action which are not caricature or hand-waving excuse? Can I guide him through a character arc befitting the character, not the player?

If I cannot, then I have found another area in which I still need to develop and grow as a player. If I can, then I can take satisfaction from that in addition to the fun gained from the game itself.

I think these things have weight and worth.

Finishing Initial Character Development:

I am one of those who believes that a character is never really finished the development stage until they reach Final Death. However, there comes a time when any further tinkering with a character concept before play starts will just be a mistake.

Once I had tied down his skills and sorted out his equipment, it was time to wrap things up with a close examination of his attributes and what sort of effect they would have had on his personality and approach to life situations.

Three things stuck out: the character’s Mental Affinity score (Charisma) is low, as are his Physical Beauty, and Speed scores. These scores, particularly in counterpoint to the average and slightly better than average scores which round out the rest of his traits, gave me a very clear image of the character as a child.

Having had my fair share of dour, unpleasant/arrogant characters, I wanted to avoid that set of stereotypes with this character. In the end, I decided the low MA score (counter-pointed by the good physical ability scores) showed his seriousness, and his focus on the goals of the future, not the pleasures of the now. He doesn’t attempt to make friends, he seeks out useful alliances. He sees all men as equally worthy to be potential allies or enemies, and they choose which one they are to be. He does not have common interests in sport, drink, gossip, games of chance, etc. He is polite to a fault, and strongly believes the strong should protect the weak. He quite simply does not have anything frivolous or fun to talk about. He trains incessantly, and every waking moment is a chance to further his agenda. In short, he holds uncommon beliefs to an uncommonly high degree of intensity, and to many people would seem dull or aloof. He will never be a leader, but there are some who see something they value in his dedication and tenacity, and those men will work with him toward a common goal for their own reasons.

The low Speed score became the source of an anecdote for how hard he trains. He will never be as fast as others, but the trait has been improved over time in training, and I will keep the exercise regimen required for those improvements as a part of portraying the character.

The last part of the puzzle was the appearance score. As I now had a clearer sense of his personality than I had had at the start, I wanted to reinforce that idea if I could with each of the three low traits. To me there is nothing special about a warrior with a strong arm, and skill with a weapon. What interests me, is how he got to that point. How did he develop that strength, and how does it manifest in his less violent interactions?

I decided that, pending later revision, that I needed some sort of anecdote to flesh out his relationship with his trainers, and maybe with family. I initially started out with a theme relating to the family’s dark past, and how some members of the family might prefer to follow the route to power and reputation that their disgraced ancestor had followed, but after a time realized that this was not showing me Ysterwald’s character, but the family’s. What  I needed was something personal, that showed me something special about him.

What I decided upon was this: As a boy, Ysterwald was not fast enough nor agile enough to suit his trainer – an uncle. The uncle’s own son had died in a stupid accident, and the man was bitter, often taking things out on his trainees… for their own good. While this harsh treatment did force Ysterwald to improve and learn to be resolute in carrying out his promises, it also meant that he and the others being trained came away with scars and beatings they need not have endured had their instructor been teaching out of love.

I got the image of a young Ysterwald being coached in jousting, and being told to yield after being unhorsed. By this point in training, and by virtue of the uncle’s own teaching that a man, a knight, a palladin, and most definitely no one of this family line should ever yield, that was not an option for our dedicated man-at-arms in training.

Not a handsome boy, he was of average looks until that particular day. When told to yield, he said, ‘No,’ and proceeded to fight from the ground versus his mounted uncle. The encounter ended with pages having to pry Ysterwald’s fingers from his uncle’s bootstraps, and the padded mace from the uncle’s fingers as the latter beat the youth into unconsciousness, with a shattered nose, cheekbones, and jaw. His face never really recovered.

Worse, as Ysterwald did not consider such things as beauty or fear to any great degree, he took risks in training which ultimately ended in scars, burns, and other injuries which have left him… serviceable, hardened, but… not pretty.

End Thoughts:

So, this is how I took a few random die rolls, and constructed a new character for myself to play. As I have mentioned in earlier entries, I do not consider random generation systems to be superior to point generation systems in general; however, they do have advantages in the type of creativity that they spawn when you are starting from nothing. In a point-buy system, I would simply never have entered into the mental space where a character like Ysterwald would have occurred to me.

I made two other characters that day, the Druid, and the Mercenary. I shall detail them later. I am pretty sure that many of you may be bored by the Druid (but I bet he will be a blast to play) and that some of you will really hate the Mercenary…

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