What does your group tell about your character?
Since I am the GM in our games more often than not these days, I tend to be more of a support character or a fifth man type of character. That is, even when I do get to be the player, my moments of awesome are few and far between as I work to enhance other characters' stories rather than have my own. It is actually a habit I have been trying to shake off, as lately I seem to have trouble finding stories that I want to tell for my own sake.
I could really go back to my college days and talk about my old characters again, but I already did that two days ago so let's try to go for something newer. And while I don't quite have a lot of newer PC stories that my group tends to talk about, I find that I still tend to have quite interesting NPCs that my players enjoy. So I will go with that.
An aside: One of the well-known GM traps is that of having a GMPC. Recently, when I introduced Kristom ir'Wynarn to a new group, I noticed that I can still fall into this trap, myself, if I am not careful. In the first session he was too awesome, too socially untouchable, so I had to scale him down for the following session. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that it's normal for GMs to want to insert a piece of themselves into the story. I think that in itself is okay, but it should be accompanied with the understanding that the story is never about the GM's characters. They are merely there to support the narrative that the players want. As awesome as they can be, NPCs should still be fallible; they should still be imperfect. So in a sense, I notice that having magnificent but flawed NPCs remind me that as cool as I want to think I am in REAL LIFE, the world does not revolve around me.
But anyway, this blog post is about an NPC other than Kristom.
My recently concluded Eberron game had a lot of competing enemy factions. One of them was the fiendish Lords of Dust. The players themselves represented a different (albeit not completelt united) faction. But the one I will talk about today is the Aberrant Dragonmark House Tarkanan. Incidentally, the house leader Lord Halas d'Tarkanan had an alter-ego that I wanted to keep secret for as long as possible. I also wanted to reveal Lord Tarkanan herself because recurring characters are boss. So I thought about how I will keep her identity a secret even as I give her one of her first moments.
I decided to make her look like Hunter X Hunter's Kikyo Zoldyck.
She already had that Eberron look that I was looking for. She also covered most of her exposed skin in bandages, which is a nice contrast to whenever her body-wide aberrant mark glowed. Finally, her goggles only needed some steampunk-ish changes in description, and voila! She was an Eberron character. (I would later use the goggles and describe it as a device that she uses to detect aberrant potential in other beings.)
Next, I needed to give her some stats. Earlier in the campaign, I introduced House Tarkanan with Lord Gadrot, a Githyanki Warrior that had a Sith-y feel to them, which included being able to psionically manifest a lightning bolt. While Lord Halas d'Tarkanan was human, I felt like it wouldn't be too much of a stretch if I just used a Githyanki Knight, and retcon the gith in general as humans who have embraced their aberrant marks. Finally, in true Sith feel I gave her Chain Lightning once per day and Lightning Bolt 3x per day.
I supposed that she would show up so that she can test any members of the party for aberrant potential. But I did not want her engaging the party directly yet, because she wanted to recruit them at this point, not kill them. So I looked into her Psionics... and found that she can do Telekinesis.
At first I was stoked because it fit the whole Sith theme that I was trying to achieve. I can see her using this to put herself onto a large boulder, maybe a piece of Sharn bridgeway. But as I read into Telekinesis more, I came upon this detail:
You can exert fine control on objects with your
telekinetic grip, such as manipulating a simple tool,
opening a door or a container, stowing or retrieving
an item from an open container, or pouring the
contents from a vial.
Screw the bridge, she'll gatecrash the soiree of the Sixty riding atop a piano, which she is simultaneously playing while killing nobles left and right with lightning. I went to ambient-mixer.com, included sounds for screaming crowds, magic lightning bolts, and fire, and overlayed it all atop this piano track:
Then during the game, I introduced them to one of their chief antagonists. They now talk about her in just about every RPG meet we have with other groups.