Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Picking it from the Tree

One of my fellow Red Arrows (whose delightful blog you can read here) has developed a special project she calls a "Limited Play Group." The idea is to make a small group of characters who aim to always and only play together, and probably only once a week for a few hours. Of course, this being online, there are exceptions allowed, mostly allowance made for people who can't make it to the scheduled session and need to "catch up" during the week.

The most pleasant surprise in all this is that I did not know Veingloria was such a GM! While she will no doubt hide her head and insist it is the players who make any project come to life (a fact no less modest for being true), it has been wonderful to sit back and take direction from someone who knows what she wants. And get your mind out of the gutter.

Of course, this meant I had to come up with a character. Being a big fan of romance subplots, I was a bit deterred by the fact that half the group turned out to be dwarves. (Who may not pop out of the rocks full-grown, but who pretty much rule out a love story unless you like your women with beards.)

However, since we will be using fellowship chat so much, it also occured to me that this might be a good time to test out LotROs voice chat system, which is fully integrated into the game and easy to turn on. Of course, this means I will have to buy a headset, so if anyone has a low-cost high-quality recommendation for me, I am all ears.

I have long wanted to try the Loremaster class, and I decided to try it in this project. The trouble was that the only Loremaster idea I really had was my "Don Quixote of Midddle-earth" idea, an aging Man who has decided the world is just too unkind to be left as is, and he has exchanged it for a better, more magical, fantastic existence. Add some Emperor Norton in to your Cervantes, just for spice, and you have Romestamo the Blue, East-Helper and self-proclaimed Wizard. VG convinced me to try this humorous approach despite my misgivings that it will all wear pretty thin after a session or two.

I got the Wizard bug when reading through a part of "Peoples of Middle-earth," the 12th volume in Christopher Tolien's effort to publish all his father's drafts and notes in a readable form. To most, this History of Middle-earth is the ultimate sign of a lorehound gone overboard. Who in the world would want to read the rough draft of a book that is already out? But I have found these books to be wonderful for inspiring character ideas based on what "might have been."

Did you know, for example, that King Theoden of Rohan originally had a daughter? Yep, her name was Idis, and she appears to have had a lifespan measured in pages, since by the end of the chapter in which she was invented, she had already been written out. But I found this too good an idea to pass up, and so I made Idis, a Guardian and Shieldmaiden of Rohan, whose mother always told her that she was King Theoden's daughter. Of course, she has no proof of this, and it is probably one of those stories you tell a child who keeps asking where her Daddy is, but she clings to it desperately nonetheless as a kind of moral compass. (Ask yourself What Would Theoden Do?)

Lorehounds will recognize the idea of the Blue Wizards; we know from LotR that there are five wizards, but Alatar and Pallando are named only in Unfinished Tales. Of course, wise developers have banned those names for reasons of copyright infringement. I could not make Pallando the Loremaster on LotRO online even if I wanted to. But what only the most diligent lorehound knows is that before the Blue Wizards were named Alatar and Pallando, they were named Morinhetar and Romestamo. When I went to make my character, Morinhetar was already taken. I wonder if the player knows the history of the name he chose, or if he picked it out of a Sindarin dictionary because it meant "Darkness Slayer."

There are so many more character ideas in these books: Hamilcar Bolger, who was briefly abducted by Black Riders and rescued by Gandalf before the idea of Saruman had even come to Tolkien yet; Frana, advisor to the King of Rohan, whose name was changed to Grima only at the very last minute; would have beens, could have beens, and perhaps still-to-bes.

As my old Gaffer used to say, "If the fruit on the ground's gone bad, pick it from the tree."

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