Thursday, September 15, 2016

Secret Covenants: NPCs from the Attic

Want to break your rpg-loving heart? Find materials in your attic from beloved campaigns ended before their time. Back in the late ‘90’s Sherri ran one that I loved. Rich, deep, full of interesting NPCs. We had some solid players but more than a few selfish and disruptive ones. Though we got far, the table situation forced her to cut the game short. No ending. While cleaning we found one of the NPC overview sheets she’d put together.

A ten-page overview. And going through I recalled nearly all of them vividly. The campaign offered everything I love: diverse characters, development vs. adventuring, and an overarching mystery. Below I present the first half of those NPC write-ups. It may be a niche offering, but perhaps you’ll find inspiration for new characters and NPCs.

This Rolemaster “Kitchen-Sink” game used all of the rules and supplements: base books, all RMCs, Alchemy Companion, Spell Users Companion, etc. It took place in the fantasy setting we’d played with over many campaigns. Divided into three isolated areas, Sherri chose to work with the third continent. That had lands awash with a long-running struggle between magic and divinity. It borrowed hugely from Glorantha. Long eras of dominance and destruction by various sorcerous powers had left most suspicious of wizardry. Mages had to hide their powers or go underground. The faithful usually regarded magic and magicians as inhuman or trucking with infernal powers. And nearly everyone followed one of the many pantheons.

In this setting I’d established that mages existed, hidden into Covenants ala Ars Magica. I say ala but I really mean I lifted the whole thing from there: terminology, structure, orders. I changed many of the names, awkwardly borrowing from a Polish dictionary. I added and subtracted, making it more fantastical. But it remained sketchy: a background detail from Rolemaster campaign set in Pavis. Sherri took that and made something unique and vibrant.

Here’s the short version. We began as young magi in House Rosbudwicz. On several expeditions to the outside world, we began to discover secrets. Following up on those led us to a hidden facility. There we discovered bags, dozens and dozens of them, human-sized. These bags kept their occupants alive and ageless. Though they resisted scrying we chose to risk opening one which seemed to hold a man we might communicate with. The freed prisoner revealed he’d been kidnapped on the way to negotiate a peace between two warring factions over a hundred years ago.

We returned to our covenant and told the head master, who seemed to have some inkling about this. We suspected he set us on this path. Since we couldn’t bring these people back to our house, we left and established that lost facility as a new holding. It would remain hidden from all of Rosbudwicz, save for a handful of trusted elders. Eventually we’d draw off additional help and personnel exchanging items, knowledge, and wealth we’d uncovered to repay that.

Over time we released more and more prisoners; many we had to subdue and convince. All shared the same story: they’d been vital in some way. They led, they negotiated, they supplied, they loved, they ruled. Over the centuries some group had stolen them away. The bags didn’t merely sustain and conceal them, they contained a ward against destiny itself. In effect it cut them off from the loom of history and changed the course of events. Slowly we gathered our forces and investigated this group. But we never stopped them.

Below is the first half of our NPC list covering the members of Rosbudwicz. I had to scan and OCR this. Eventually I’ll post the other half, the actual members of our secret covenant, Sniadosc.

Akeel: Arcane Master. Considered prime role model for young Arcanists; has accrued high skills in all realm skills and a dizzying array of spells. Plays covenant politics like no one else.

Amaril: Arcane Master. Specialist in "esoteric" magics, including crystal magics. Rival to Pettifog. One of the powerful female mages. Her friendship with Trinit made for a rocky relationship with Gwydion, but she seemed to appreciate Draeus' earnestness. Provided the group with a map of their true destination just before they were sent to Crystal Island instead of Horse Island due to one of those recurring "misunderstandings" that have been plaguing the covenant of late. Claims to have divined true destination after her conversations with John of the Gray made her suspect that they had been redirected to someplace dangerous. Finn's gift to her of crystal drake scales has prompted her to take a sabbatical to create an artifact-level item.

Anna the Blind: A master channeler of great power and a lay healer by profession, Anna is odd among covenant mages in that she never learned much about her realm skills. Instead, she concentrated on the healing arts. She is a consummate herbalist, physician and surgeon. Her magics allow her to carry on her work despite being blinded when she was a young adult. The origin of her blindness is the source of many rumors—the only substantial fact known is that Prummel gets very angry whenever it is spoken of. Anna's talents make her valuable to the covenant, but she is often treated like any of the mundane servants, useful but irrelevant to the important work going on here. She is currently working with Nadile Leeza, attempting to speed the recovery of Mil Rowan.

Arcalathe: A Grand Vizier and master Alchemist, Arcalathe is notorious for his ability to rope others into casting spells for his enchantments with flattery, wheeling & dealing or even, it is said, blackmail. He is Grimport's second and makes most of the day-to-day decisions for the Verditas order. As such, he wields a great deal of power in managing resources within the covenant. He seems to have no great respect for anyone other than Prummel—and that relationship often appears to be a not-so-friendly rivalry. Their relationship is even frostier now since a show-down prompted by Arcalathe's censure of Finn and Prummel's angry defense. While the hostility towards Finn makes Arcalathe the butt of many jokes among the mundane staff of the Order, it has cut off Finn's chance for a traditional tutelage in the order. It appears that Arcalathe's fury has only increased as Finn's relationship with his daughter Marabeth has encouraged her to travel and experiment. The wealth that Finn has brought back to the covenant has put further pressure on Arcalathe to prove that he is correct in his assessment of Finn.

Arno Draves: Arcane Master. Elderly. Has no apprentices and rarely teaches. Is rumored to be approaching senility, but his behavior in council is quiet, and thoughtful, but occasionally marked by an impatience for the slow process of covenant politics. Often fixes Pettifog with a glare when arguments break out among the younger arcanists. Grater defers to him and to no other.

Coral Breck: Master. A channeling-mentalism hybrid, he spends much of his time summoning in order to locate spirits for the Alchemists and Enchanters. His journal of true names is rumored to be about 8 volumes in length and minutely detailed—if only the entries could be decoded, he accepts only one apprentice at a time, and usually that is one of Mother Sharp's charges.

Darvil: The preeminent essence mage at the covenant, he is a researcher first and a teacher second. His sole interests outside of his researches appear to be his friendship with Prummel & Sharp and his role as bemused uncle to the charges of Mother Sharp. Like Arno, there are rumors of his approaching senility.

Dashiel: Preeminent Researcher; works closely with March Avers (non-mage!) and Darvil (essence) in "codifying"; of Arcanists, most in line with Pettifog politically. Dresses like a noble and lives among the finest of creature comforts. Apparently has a family fortune that he manages from afar.

Drindarin: Master Alchemist. A specialist in Daily items, he is renowned for his creativity in forms and effects. He has a large number of apprentices who he schools first in history and use of magic items. Students who fail to show imagination or aesthetic usually get quickly passed off to some other teacher. He is rumored to have requested Marabeth's hand in marriage at one time. He is also rumored to have sided with Arcalathe in his censure of Finn, but there is little proof and Drindarin's behavior has been neutral.

Dunner Angs: A channeling-essence hybrid who is apparently studying mentalism in order to petition for standing as an Arcanist; if he were to succeed, he would be the first such mage to do so. He argues that any of the three forms can be learned by anyone who is capable of one form. As such, he occasionally works with Dashiel's research group—but has been witnessed to storm away from the group angrily on at least three occasions

Evers: Master Alchemist. An alchemist specializing in potions and scrolls, he is an economic boon to the covenant. He has a cadre of apprentices who he keeps busy producing minor items for sale and trade. He is known to consider artifacts and major items a waste of time and effort, claiming that many small items are more potent if used creatively.

Grater: Specialist in offensive magics and directed spells. Has an annoying voice. Slow to anger but frightful when he gets there. Considered a Master Tactician in use of magics. Most likely to start a shouting match during council meetings, he is often accused of looking for an excuse to battle via Auras; others consider him a wily political tactician as well. A vocal cheerleader for his star pupil, Boshra, Grater is said to encourage too much rashness in his charges.

Grimport: Head Enchanter & Master of the Order (Verditas) associated with this Covenant; Arcanist. His apparent agenda is profitability first, followed by works which will prove his order to be the true source of the most powerful items created by contemporary magics. Thus far, he has excelled at the first part of his agenda, but fallen short on the second. This failure is often ascribed to his zeal for the first part-which saps the time and creativity from his alchemists. The major works completed during his tenure have primarily been powerful weapons finished by Londril. Some say that with the loss of Marabeth, Grimport's hope for great works is lost--and the major work which Amaril is engaging in will lower his status among the Covenant orders even further. Grimport remains calm despite this rising murmur from his peers.

Jared: Mentalism Master. A young mentalism master who is considered Prummel's lieutenant. Like many mentalists, he splits his studies between magic and mundane skills. However, while Prummel appears to be a master of arms, Jared appears to be of more scholarly pursuits. Jared is soft-spoken and patient; he rarely prompts Aura displays from his students, although he is known to be capable of it. Instead, he prefers to lead his students in a quieter path of self-discovery. His students are usually very loyal to him. He himself appears to still consider Prummel his mentor, and confers with him often. He is visibly miserable among large groups of people--which is ascribed to a peculiar sensitivity that makes him such an effective teacher in small groups.

Jarl: Armorer whose large family serves in mundane positions throughout the covenant. Wields as much power politically in the covenant as any mundane can. Daughter Amalia Jarl.

John of the Gray: Planar & gating specialist. Not seen much, except to attend council meetings. Known to be neutral in politics. Rumors tying him with the young adventuring group have grown increasingly common, although he remains aloof from most covenant dealings still.

Kalavati Giasotto: Huntsman; quiet patient trainer; excellent climber, trapper and bow shot. Solitary by nature.

Keldan: Chief of Security. A small wiry man who goes wherever he pleases, confers with Pettifog and Prummel at his own convenience and seems to know everyone and everything. Has a small staff of equally unimposing people who are apparently trained to work closely with each other. Oddly, he also seems to have a number of maids, stewards and gardeners who report to him as well. Is very pleasant in demeanor and seems amused at the antics of young mages. Occasionally oversees training in unarmed combat.

Kifter the Librarian: He's the covenant librarian and the steward of magic items. An expert in artifacts, he often seems at odds with Pettifog—although it should be noted that he has always done whatever Pettifog requests. On the other hand, while Grimport and he appear to have parallel philosophies, Kifter often refuses a-import's requests. Kifter is rumored to show favoritism to the members of the most recent adventuring group, although no one has dared to intimate that he has released any artifacts or major items into their possession. This despite the fact that several of the members carry items of apparent great power is a testimony to the strength of Kifter's reputation as a miser of such permissions.

Londril: An enchanter of weapons and armor, he works closely with the mundane smiths. He also is known for keeping his apprentices busy producing items. He is usually personally working on major items which require weeks, months or years to complete. Where these items go is a complete mystery to most. He is notable as one of the few alchemists to publicly argue against the censure of Finn, although he knew him only cursorily as one of a batch of young alchemists apprenticing in his smithys.

Marcus of the Brown: A channeling-essence hybrid, he is noted for his devotion to the covenant's magical installations. Many of the continuing spells that keep the covenant comfortable and safe are constructed or planned and maintained by Marcus and his apprentices. He is credited with perfecting the Rosebudwicz traditional enchantment of "Bringing Down the Skies"--the preferred method of lighting the covenant which transfers the lighting conditions outside to the caverns within. It is perhaps Rosebudwicz's one claim to fame among the other covenants.

Marforth: Captain of the Guard. Former adventurer who settled in the covenant in exchange for having a nasty curse lifted. Loyal and efficient, he is also a weapons trainer.

Masters: A specialist in binding, Masters works unceasingly at designing forms conducive to holding spirits of different types. He is a perfectionist who makes life for the mundane craftsmen and smiths at the covenant difficult, since his drafting skills lag far behind his imagination. Lately, he has been taking on apprentices who have skills in mechanitions and animations, presumably to develop more adaptable forms for his bindings. He is volubly frustrated and angered by Arcalathe's recent behavior, which has led to the loss (in his mind) of both Marabeth and Finn, whom he considered the most promising talents for furthering the craft in his preferred direction.

Melissa: Daughter of Yancy, mastersmith. Erun met her at the YearTurn dance, dumped punch on her dress after dancing quite nicely with her, but managed to smooth things over with her by the end of the evening. She's about 13 and already quite pretty. Spends a good deal of time with the Jarl children. Among the group of girls who trade off crushes on Finn, Draeus and Knoyes.

Moravi: An essence-mentalism hybrid, he spends much of his time in research on defensive spells. His apprentices typically are left to their own devices, except for regular gauntlets that he schedules. He is acknowledged as the best teacher of basic frameworks, altho he rarely teaches Shelves or Security Systems beyond the basic levels. He has a dry wit which makes his lectures fairly tolerable, but is distracted in most one-on-one consultations.

Morningstar: Poisons specialist among alchemist order; like Rotruck, not particularly enamored of his order, although he does spend a great deal of time with Evers (Morningstar is perhaps Evers only rival for profitability via potions, as Momingstar's preparations of poisons in all forms and antidotes as well demand a high price). The two apparently conduct research in different delivery methods for effects and also in storage containers.

Mother Sharp: The preeminent channeler at the covenant and the self-appointed "mother" to the youngest apprentices and students here. She is fairly sweet-natured and notoriously protective of her charges. Few at the covenant would willingly attempt to second-guess her discipline. Professionally, she is the one person to whom Coral Breck always defers, and she and Coral often work together. Whereas Coral concentrates on summoning, Mother Sharp is the expert on maintaining bound spirits. Her own journal of true names is rumored to be somewhat lesser in number of volumes, but more potent in quality of spirits.

Neighbor Ferth: A channeling-mentalism hybrid who is the most politically active among the hybrids. He has aligned himself with Akeel, which means that where he stands changes from day to day. As a teacher, he is exacting and quick to anger.

Parnell: Keldan’s second (non Galistrian). A big man (6'7") who has an incredibly pleasant voice, he often appears standing just behind Keldan as if to accentuate their physical differences and to demonstrate the solidity of their intent. Many who find Keldan infuriating prefer to deal with the soft-spoken Parnell. Parnell apparently handles the concerns of the day-to-day logistics of covenant security, and leaves the "strange" stuff to his Galistrian staff. His relationships with the Galistrians seem to be one of mutual respect and polite distance, as Parnell is apparently a devout Humankti who chose to serve in the covenant as part of some geas. He arrived with Pettifog. The non-Galistrian security staff have carefully been discouraged from thinking that he will champion them in disputes with the ways of the Galistrians; as a result, the staff has avoided becoming factionalized.

Pettifog: Head Mage & Master of this Covenant; Astrologer; Arcanist. "Heads the secret college". Is the main force behind Rosebudwicz's eccentric choice to send out groups of mages as adventurers. Two groups before the present one have seemingly come to a bad end, although their fates are unknown. Was sent to Rosebudwicz to strike a better relationship between the Covenant and its sister order, Verditas. Is very concerned about the omens of the upcoming "change"--apparently the adventuring groups are his answer to this. Many changes occurred upon his arrival, including the agreement with Galistre that furnished so many of his security staff and a large number of transfers both to and from Rosebudwicz. He is considered even-handed by his mages, if a bit slow to answer to their concerns.

Prummel: The preeminent mentalist at the covenant. His reputation is that he is exactly what he needs to be to get done what he wants. Although not considered a political mage, he has always been able to extract the resources he wants from the covenant. He is married to Mother Sharp, known to be close friends with Darvil and Anna and is rumored to have close relations with a number of mages who belong to the covenant but do not reside there. Rumor has it that he once traveled "outside" for the covenant with Mother Sharp, Darvil, Anna and some others. Prummel is unique among the mages in that he deals directly and respectfully with the mundane population at the covenant.

Redith: Centaur smith who specializes in heavy weaponry. Rumored to have been kidnapped into service at the covenant. Rarely speaks.

Rotruck: Materials specialist among alchemists order; takes a certain pleasure in the horribleness of his name and pronounces it ROT-nick; specializes in preparation and storage of every imaginable magically or practically useful substance; no especial fondness for the personalities among his own order, seeing them as demanding. The materials and resources brought into the covenant by the group have been a real boon to him, and he is sympathetic to their aims (especially if more oddities seem forthcoming). More than anyone, is capable of locating obscure substances and identifying necessary storage and preparation procedures. Among the alchemists, most suspect he exempts himself from item creation by using his position as inventorist as an excuse. However, he can and does produce materials in the necessary form efficiently and reliably, so his fellows are hesitant to call for a replacement.

Samhi: A young boy (7-8) from Nowhere who was placed into the care of John of the Gray by the Undine herself. Shows a propensity for mentalism. Currently living with the Jarls and their extended family. Has adjusted well.

Silvestri: Woodsman; sympathethic (even protective) to Ginet; more outgoing and accepting of mages than most mundanes; likes animals and is quite good with them, despite little formal training.

Slakey: Provinder; former wheeler-and-dealer who ended up here under less-than-happy circumstances; nervous around most mages; not allowed to leave covenant; still has contacts on the outside whom he uses to get goods; claims to be able to arrange for "anything...anything you might possibly be able to imagine--but it'll cost you."

Stouder: Metal lore specialist; another specialist among the Verditas order, Stouder works most closely with the smiths and metal crafters. He is a voluble proponent of acquiring more powerful elemental forges, and has suggested on several occasions that a second smithing area should be pioneered on one of the islands with active volcanos. So far, he has not convinced any smiths to relocate to such a location. He keeps an inventory of specialty metals that he will occasionally mete out to worthwhile projects. The uproar about Amaril's new project was made somewhat more pronounced when he extended a small quantity of mithril to her that none of the other alchemists even knew he had in his possession. He remains tight-lipped about the source of the mithril and whether more exists.

Werth: Covenant steward, he takes care of all day-to-day mundane matters within the covenant. He is also charged with acquiring mundane personnel for the covenant. Until Finn took an interest in his situation, had virtually no magic items at his disposal for the large undertaking required to keep the covenant running. Considers himself indebted to the young mages that have worked to make his and his peoples' work so much easier. Has a powerful intellect spirit bound into a metal gecko animation that assists with inventory and accounting (called Hizeth).

Yeaves: Youngest of the Arcanists, he is burdened with most of the teaching responsibilities and has yet to develop a "voice" on the council of Arcanists. 

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