• Arduin III: On Fantasy Races, Being the GM’s Girlfriend, and Seeing Your Love Interest Speared in the Head

    by  • September 2, 2014 • Essays • Comments Off on Arduin III: On Fantasy Races, Being the GM’s Girlfriend, and Seeing Your Love Interest Speared in the Head

    (Confused?  See parts I and II here!)

    The boy’s story confirmed Kyllikki’s fears.  The men in Mawfox masks broke into his family’s home and took them all, he said.  He escaped by hiding in the root cellar.  He’d been hiding here for days, he said, afraid to leave for fear that he would be abducted too.

    Kyllikki had heard from the seithmann had told her that masked slavers were breaking into the homes of Rothlings on a nearby manor. Entire families had gone missing.  Kyllikki brought his concerns to the jarles.  The jarles agreed that the matter was worth and sent Kyllikki and Rukkokainen (one of the household knights), to investigate.

    After speaking with the local lord (who wasn’t aware of any problems and doubted the seithmann‘s claims), Kyllikki and Rukkokainen went to the village to investigate the matter first hand, alongside the lord’s son, Laufric. The atmosphere in the village was tense and the villagers were quiet, but Kyllikki discovered a child hiding in the basement of an empty house and asked him what was going on.  Rukkokainen stayed upstairs and kept an eye out for anything unusual.

    Kyllikki began to ask the boy if he had some other relatives in town that he could stay with, when she was interrupted by an ominous sound from upstairs.

    “I tell the boy to stay quiet and stay hidden, and I run upstairs,” I say to Geoffrey.

    He nods.  “You climb up the stairs just in time to see…” He rolled some dice.  “Oh.”

    “What?” I say.

    “That’s a critical,” Geoffrey said. He rolled some more dice.  “In the head.  On Rukkokainen.”

    “Oh man,” I lamented. “Now I’m never going to get laid.”

    At the beginning of the game, Geoffrey explained that Rothlingsmark was going to play a bit like Pendragon.  Most of the game would be about buidling up a kingdom and watching things change over time.  This made me happy, because unfortunately, my other Pendragon game didn’t pan out due to scheduling issues.

    That meant that I would have to think about Kyllikki getting married and having children.  After all, her biological clock was ticking (in the sense that she had a four percent chance of dying outright anytime she was attacked by most simple melee weapons).  This meant that I needed to start scoping guys ASAP.

    There’s a complication to this. In my previous post, I mentioned that Kyllikki is Tauthra.  There are four basic demihuman races in Rothlingsmark:  the human-like Laumiren, the most numerous race in the kingdom and the sole members of the nobility; the dwarf-like Rothlings, the most numerous in the province of Rothlingsmark  (go figure); the goblin-like Draugir; and the elf-like Tauthra, who had an advanced society in the southern reaches of the kingdom that was destroyed and assimilated centuries ago by the Laumiren.  The Tauthra are long-lived, but have low birthrates, and are accordingly few in number.

    During the set-up of the game, we discussed whether there was such a thing as “half-Laumiren” or “half-Draugir” people.  We both agreed that half-whatevers didn’t make much sense in a fantasy world that supposed the existence of distinct races. Populations interbreed and comingle enough that if (say) Tauthra, Rothlings,Laumiren, and Draugir could all produce fertile offspring, then you wouldn’t have Harald the Rothling — you’d have Harald the guy whose Dad was mostly Rothling I think but his grandmother was half Draugir and his maternal grandfather was half Tauthra/half Laumir and his maternal grandmother died young so we don’t know much about her but I think she was mostly Rothling but she was tallish and looked a bit like some of the western Laumir folk and maybe a dragon, because you know how dragons are, I read the Book of Erotic Fantasy and those guys can and will mate with anything, but who knows really.  It wouldn’t be realistic to have separate “races”  with different gameplay mechanics at all in a world like that.  Although the concept of a “Rothling” might remain as a social construct, it wouldn’t make sense for them to have different gameplay mechanics than any other “race.”

    While Harald’s world is an interesting one, and I think it is the logical conclusion of every fantasy world that posits the existence of half-elves and so on, that isn’t the direction Geoffrey wanted to go with Rothlingsmark.  Distinct fantasy races are fun, it was posited, so it was decided that Laumir, Tauthra, Rothlings, and Draugir could not interbreed — though inter-species romantic relationships were common enough.

    This is all a very roundabout way of saying that if Kyllikki wants to have any children, and if I as a player want to continue playing her legacy, Kylllikki would need to find herself a Tauthra man.1

    Only one male Tauthra has appeared in the game thus far: Master Rukkokainen2, one of the jarles‘ household knights.  He accompanied Kyllikki on her latest adventure: investigating some local rumors that slavers were abducting local Rothlings on a nearby manor.  While Kyllikki and Rukkokainen were traveling to the manor, she started to chat with him.  He seemed like a nice guy, after all — not all of the household knights were — and he was willing to provide advice and martial support during her previous adventures (which not all of the household knights were willing to do).

    The two of them chatted amiably about various happenings in Rothlingsmark, gossiped about other knights, and talked about themselves until they arrived at their destination (at which point it was getting late, and the session ended).

    It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized I had been flirting in-character with an NPC, and I didn’t feel anxious about it.  If that statement sounds strange to you, let me explain:

    I love romance stories.  I love melodrama and stupid soap opera bullshit.

    I also like magic and swords and dragons and pointy ear bullshit.  (This is probably why I love the Dragon Age games.)

    You’re so cute when you’re covered in the gore of our enemies.

    But I always tread carefully with romantic subplots in tabletop games. I don’t want to be percieved as being the Dungeonmaster’s Girlfriend, and I don’t want invoke any out of character drama over in-character flirtation. In other games, I know that I’ve hidden the relationship if I was romantically involved with another player, or I’ve gone out of my way to treat my significant other’s character harshly to pre-empt any accusations of bias (which sometimes still happened, because I’ve had some kind of lousy groups).

    In this game, none of that was a problem.  I didn’t need to worry about managing the sexist expectations of other players or hogging the spotlight.  Since the GM was my husband, there wasn’t any worry that I might flirt with him innappropriately.3

    There was only one important question that I had to ask Geoffrey:

    “So is Rukkokainen hot?” I asked him one afternoon.

    Geoffrey thought about this for a moment, and said, “I don’t know.  I haven’t rolled his stats yet.”

    A few days later, he wandered into my office and announced, apropos of nothing, that yes, Rukkokainen was in fact, “hot.”


    In the next session, Kyllikki and Rukkokainen discovered that the local lord’s son, Laufric, had been collaborating with some slavers and selling his own people off into slavery.  Kyllikki discovered this through magic and investigation; Rukkokainen discovered this when one of the local lord’s men tried to spear-murder him.

    Kyllikki discovered the ambush a moment too late; Laufric’s spearman had already struck, and Geoffrey had rolled a critical.

    “Hold on,” Geoffrey said, trying to intrepret the results he rolled.  “All right,” he said.  “Presumably, this spearman had some second thoughts about stabbing a knight in the back with a spear, so he just clubbed Rukkokainen in the head with the butt of the spear.  Rukkokainen slumps to the floor, groaning.”

    A concussion!  I remember that result… or do I?  There were multiple editions of Arduin.  The original Arduin Grimoire had a brutal critical hit table, including one result where the sufferer gets hit in the head and then appears to be fine, but then dies in 1d6 hours or something.  Was that in The Compleat Arduin? Which one was Geoffrey using, anyway? Was Rukkokainen going to die in 1d6 hours?

    First things first: got to deal with this angry spearman.  A Captivating Gaze spell subdued him without any further fuss, and then the questioning began.  Laufric had a lot to answer for.

    Does Rukkokainen die in 1d6 hours?  Is Laufric really selling his father’s people into slavery?  Will Kyllikki ever get laid?  Find out in the next installment!4

    1. Geoffrey did suggest that there were many ways to continue Kyllikki’s legacy and continue playing if Kyllikki prematurely died.  I could take over playing one of her apprentices, for example, or Kyllikki could just as easily adopt children. Yay for a game without compulsory heterosexuality!
    2. I’m sure you’ve already figured out that he’s Tauthra, because he’s a man whose name ends in -nen.
    3. I put on my robe and wizard hat.
    4. Many thanks to Jeffs Gameblog for the amazing header image.


    Dymphna posts frequently on Google Plus as Dymphna C.

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