Friday, May 26, 2017

The King is Dead: A Malleus Bildungsroman

We need to get back to watching Harlots, for that matter...


Robin and I are trying to get into the headspace needed to finally wrap up The King is Dead and we’re doing that the only way we know how: playing it. All my best world-building either comes from frittering about on the blog or actual play, and I need to maintain some mystery for the book, so actual play it is. This particular campaign is deliberately structured as a bildungsroman – a coming-of-age story – that will see our heroine traipsing all about Malleus as she searches for her place and grows in maturity. 
 
Our heroine is Rosalind Werner, the illegitimate dhampir daughter of a vampire duke; this marks the first time I’ve seriously tried to explore dhampirs as characters and was chosen so that we could see the vampire side of things along with the human. Rosalind was raised in a human household and scorned by her vampire father, so she has little direct experience with vampire high society. Schooled from childhood to contain – even fear – her bloodthirsty nature by a mother heartbroken by her vampire lover’s betrayal, Rosalind has an unusually strong conscience for a dhampir. One might even describe her as oddly naïve sometimes.
 
The goal is to bounce around the Mallean archipelago and hit some underexplored aspects of the setting. Rosalind is not a member of a secret society, so she currently has several competing for her attention (the Bluestockings most aggressively, but also Ananzi’s Web, the Illuminated, the Clann O’Naill, and Countess Erzabeta’s school for vampire temptresses – the latter of which I really need a name for besides “Erzabeta’s coven”). Freeing up Rosalind to travel around the countryside will undoubtedly require some sort of terrible family tragedy or reversal of fortune, but I’m hoping we can get her at least semi-involved in the revolution before that happens. 
 
(I like pro-active protagonists, which is why I often run rogue- or politically-oriented campaigns. People who work toward their own motivations and goals are more interesting to me than defenders of society or ideals who react to villains’ plots. While it makes sense for Rosalind to start sheltered and naïve – how else could we have a sympathetic dhampir? – I look forward to her taking her life in her own hands.)
 
Plotting out our duet campaigns too much in advance robs them of vitality and fun, but I do know some incidents and scenes I want to make occur:
  • A nightmarish masked ball at a country estate, where the attending noblemen’s daughters are trotted out as commodities for political marriages and favor-trading sexual liaisons, as an example of the truly inhuman depravity of the aristocracy.
  • A raid by the Holy Panoptic Church’s inquisition (and possibly a trial for heresy), as an example of the brutish terror the church wields. I usually tend to depict them as the weakest party in the ruling triumvirate of king, aristocracy, and church, but The Holy Panoptic Church should be equally terrifying. Their power is more subtle but no less real.
  • Fleeing the authorities across the moors of Lochland only to be captured by a band of Clann O’Naill highlanders. Rosalind, as a dhampir, will quickly evolve into a physical powerhouse once she begins learning to defend herself (and possibly learning some blood sorcery), so the highlanders will have to present a decent physical challenge (even if this is meant to resolve amicably). I’ve toyed with the idea of the Clann O’Naill having Highlander-like psionic highlanders, so this would be a good place to insert one.
  • Scenes in the Afari and Keltisch slums of Hammerstadt, possibly highlighting racial tensions and inter-society strife. We certainly need to have our heroine see firsthand the degradation some people endure, and the generosity that even the most downtrodden can extend.
  • A horseback chase in the company of Raubritters. Heck, I’d like a tavern crawl with Raubritters, for that matter; some sort of Beggar’s Opera interlude.
  • Some time deep in the mountains of Malleus, out in the wilderness where things are savage yet sane.
  • Really, I just want a chance to dig into the interiority of each secret society, so I want a highlight chapter for each one. A chance to inhabit a member of each group and articulate their goals in character should really help.
 
Any way… Things are going well for now and in the next week or so I should be able to spend more time directly writing that setting rather than other people’s, so we hope for serious progress on The King is Dead soon.

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