A Rumination on Another Roleplaying Game Character

I have written before, at least once, about my experience playing a character in an ongoing Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) campaign. I spent two games playing one particular character, thinking I was bumbling about with him, and only realizing after that others had appreciated his story immensely. That story reached an ending, although the character did not die; rather, the “interesting” part of his narrative is over, and he is off doing other things that may be important in the setting but are far less so in terms of making for interesting stories to tell. The campaign continues, however, being just about to start up again, and I have a new character for the new game.

CaptainBeard
The character in question.
CaptainBeard by alrikmerc on DeviantArt, used here for commentary.

As before, there is little of me in the character, at least as I envision him at the moment. (They change as they are played, as many players can tell you, and while it is always good to have a background in mind, it is also good to be flexible; characters’ voices surprise us at times.) I am, as I have noted elsewhere, a staid and stolid person, even if I am less flabby now than then, and my character is and has been an adventurer in, not quite the D&D sense of the term, but not far off from it. He is a more commanding, imposing figure than I, by far, and far less intellectually inclined. (Whether he’s more capable or not, I am not sure; I didn’t exactly cover myself with glory in that line, after all.)

Too, he has underlying goals and overt goals, and while I have a few of the latter, I do not have the former in quite so much supply, anymore. I used to, of course; when I was pursuing the doctorate, it was a goal, and it was a goal in service to the goal of securing a continuing-line academic position. Anymore, though, I do not have the sense of direction that my character does–with more and less figuration; he does have the (perhaps informed) attribute of always knowing which way is north. I am not looking to use the character to suss out goals of my own; I have other venues in which to do so. But having the character have some such reminds me that I am not as firm in my own as I feel I probably ought to be (and whether that feeling is a good one or not can be argued, of course, perhaps even usefully).

I suppose that’s another of the useful things in the collaborative, extemporaneous, rules-assisted storytelling Mackay describes RPGs as being; not only are they escapist, with the values therein, but they are also revelatory, since what emerges in the character has to come from somewhere, something that the person animating the character has taken in along the way. And that allows more agency over ourselves for those of us who play such games and pay attention.

I don’t suppose you’d like to send me some support, would you?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 184: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 5

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The next chapter, “Paragon and Piracy,” opens with Althea tending Clef, who has been on the receiving end of Lavoy’s anger. Althea tries to remain outside the conflict, but she muses on its circumstances and the near-confrontation between the first mate and Amber about the incident. After Clef is finished and heads off to his rack, Althea muses on her situation and her thoughts about her family’s. When, still musing, she speaks with the ship, she is surprised to hear the figurehead speak eagerly of confronting Kennit. It disquiets her somewhat, and she is soon joined at the railing by Amber, with whom she confers about Clef and Lavoy. Althea notes that Amber seems unwell, and the carpenter notes it is an occasional, non-contagious malady; Althea directs her to inform Brashen, which prompts consideration and conversation of the Paragon‘s captain.

Elo Hold On Tight GIF - Elo HoldOnTight ElectricLightOrchestra GIFs
Like the song says…
Image from Tenor.com, used for commentary.

The talk is interrupted by Jek’s arrival at the railing with the other two women; Althea considers her and her freedom briefly before talk returns to Brashen by way of the rarity of people fulfilling and enjoying their dreams. Some good-natured teasing of Althea ensues, although it does not necessarily all land well. Amber gently rebukes Jek for pushing the jokes farther than they ought to go, and Lavoy interrupts the conversation with a summons from the captain for Althea. Althea tries to defuse the tension between Amber and Lavoy before she reports, but she is unsuccessful.

Althea considers the ship and the captain as she reports, and Brashen confers with her regarding ideas Lavoy has put across to him, seeking to verify them before pursuing them. Between them, they suss out Lavoy’s biases, that his advanced plan to play at piracy as a means to get close to Kennit to attack him and forcibly retake the Vivacia is a ruse for him to take the Paragon for his own. The two confer about the likelihood of violence, Althea considering her lack of experience in that regard, and Lavoy arriving to report Amber unconscious on the foredeck interrupts them; Althea hastens off in worry to see to the carpenter.

As I reread the chapter, I found myself taken by the comments about how few people are able to live out their dreams, and how few of those find that their dreams are what they wanted them to be. I know I am being an affective reader again to think on it in the terms I do, but I cannot help but consider my own abortive dreams once again, my having wanted to be first a band director, then an English teacher, then an English professor, and succeeding at achieving and retaining exactly none of those positions. I was unable to achieve them, and I found and continue to find–because I remain in contact with a number of people in the field, not only because I continue to do such occasional bits of scholarship as this and continue to participate in the Tales after Tolkien Society–that the life of the mind that I had thought to follow is not at all what I had thought it would be. I know I am better off where I am now, but I continue to have trouble adjusting to life outside the ivory tower, despite never really having done well in it; I do not know that I will ever be free of the folly.

Can you spare a bit for me?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 183: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 4

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The following chapter, “Tintaglia’s Flight,” opens with the titular dragon on the wing, hunting and exulting in her own importance and beauty. She kills a doe and eats it greedily, exulting in the sensation of it, before recalling the nagging feeling of debt to the puny humans that freed her; she returns to the air to begin to discharge it.

The Tawny Man Book 3: Fool's Fate - Tintaglia
The titular dragon…
Source in the image, used for commentary.

Selden huddles against Reyn, who considers their ongoing dilemma. He resigns himself to death before Tintaglia returns, taking the two up as they marvel at her, and she flies them to Trehaug. There is tumult in the city as the dragon descends into it, depositing Reyn and Selden upon the ground; Keffria runs to her son’s side, assuring herself of his safety, and calls for Malta. Tintaglia affirms that Malta lives and makes to depart in annoyance; Reyn bids her by her name help Malta. She reluctantly agrees, but she cites the wrongs done her kind by the Khuprus family as she takes him aloft in haste and power. They spot Malta, who remains in a boat on the caustic Rain Wild River, and the dragon rebukes Reyn for his presumption as she takes him back to Trehaug to see to her rescue. Jani tends to her son after the dragon leaves and he calls for the liveship Kendry to be put to sail in search of Malta; some take heart that the Satrap yet lives, and Reyn bids himself be taken aboard the liveship to join in the rescue.

The chapter is a brief one, serving as more of a bridge than as a discreet narrative chunk; it seems meant to bring characters where they need to be rather than to develop them or to unfold more of the story, as such. With one exception: Reyn notes a peculiar extravagance in Selden’s speech as he speaks of and to Tintaglia, words that read to me as not apt to come from the mouth of even a precocious child. (I have one such, after all, and she is fierce, indeed, but I doubt she would be quite so sanguine faced with a dragon in the flesh. Not that I would, either.) From the perspective of a reread, I can say that it is foreshadowing; what it foreshadows will, of course, have to wait until I get to that point in the rereading–assuming, of course, that I remember to note it. I am not so young or deft of mind as I used to be, and things crowd against one another and show each other out of my too-swollen head anymore…

Can you spare some change?