Monday, December 21, 2015

High Fantasy - Invisible Allies

The easiest way to give a character in a FRPG more power is to give them more allies. Since these are high fantasy games we’re talking about, how about giving them an invisible ally? I am not talking about an invisible assassin who sits in the corner with a cross bow, I am talking about supernatural allies.

Is the character a necromancer or in some other way in league with the dead? Would some manner of ghost or haunt stay nearby? Religious? whether a priest or not, those who benefit the gods are likely to have a minor angel or demon hovering around them at all times. Mages? Are there spirits of magic in your game? how about sprites or pixies? Hunters or other nature dwellers could have dogs or something more like a dryad.

Am I suggesting that you dramatically increase the ability of the character to fight battles? Oh my God NO!! If that is really how you took that, you’re probably in the wrong blog. What I am suggesting is that having unseen supernatural allies around serves a number of incredibly powerful purposes. For instance - The spirit of the dead or the magical spirit might be able to sense things like clairvoyance or other snooping spells. A dog, especially a supernatural one, would sniff out invisible assassins as they were moving in (even if the dog was useless in battle afterwards - still hugely valuable). Depending on the god or devil who sent the “minion” they could do just about anything, from warning of impending dangers to healing to casting some manner of defensive/protection spell. It seems perfectly reasonable for major landowner (Count or Duke) who encourages his people to worship a certain deity to have an angel who can cast a “summon armor” type spell on the nobleman, or a devil who can do the same. Of course the appearance of the armor would be dramatically different, but the effect would be the same.

A couple of examples in one of my campaigns: There is a warrior who has inadvertently done several missions for one of the major war gods. Because this warrior had never “declared” that they worshiped this god, he cannot wrap them in his full protections, but he did assign a messenger type angel to follow them around and report back what they do. (My gods are not all knowing; they need to have agents.) Not only does this angel spy and report, but it serves a guardian of sorts. Should any other god try to get their hooks into this warrior, the angel is there to warn them off. Eventually they did “declare” for this god, and a more powerful messenger showed up, as well as some rather serious “markings” of the war god’s “territory”.

One of the characters married the local baron. As Baroness, she gets involved in all sorts of issues in the city and region. One thing she did was suppress the racial bigotry against what is effectively the gypsies. Not only does she have a fortune teller (with real magic), but she has made a point of bringing guards into their neighborhood when there were people looking to terrorize them. In return, they gave her an incredibly artistic deck of cards. There’s no extra magic on it, other than the standard fortune telling magic (that the gypsy herself has), but only the baroness is allowed to handle the cards. The fortune tellers know that one of the spirits of fortune telling will detect the deck and latch onto it. The fortune telling spirits (in my campaign) can be incredibly vain, so only a powerful spirit will be able to claim this deck as its channel to the mortal realm. That pride will work in the Baroness’ favor as that spirit can then be manipulated using its pride to find out things that lesser spirits might not be able to learn, thus making the deck more powerful.

This is the kind of crazy stuff that needs to be in a high fantasy campaign. Can a fortune teller tell fortunes using tea leaves? Yes, but when you introduce a fancy ebony wood deck with gold and silver leaf and its own personal vain spirit, that’s when it is not only cool (from a role-playing POV) but also has some impact in the actual playing of the game. How often was the war angel useful? Never. Well, once - a priest of the same god wasn’t trusting the party, but he noticed that the angel was there, and immediately changed his tune. The players didn’t get it at the time, but that’s OK. I may rant against a certain author who is the darling of novels and HBO, but he has reminded us that supernatural things happen, and not everyone needs to understand them for them to still be both fun and memorable.

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