In my last few posts I’ve been creating the little hamlet of Halewater – a hometown for a hypothetical fantasy PC.
I’ve been proceeding on the assumption that our hypothetical PC is the classic “child of the village blacksmith.” Now, finally, it’s time to create the blacksmith! Hooray.
So let’s head over to the people system and get started.
- Name: Sanrum Elmborn
- Role: Smith
- Situation: Typically has a cold
- Bodily appearance: Awkward movements
- General appearance: White hair
- Memorable mannerism: Rests his chin on his palm
- Interesting fact: Surprisingly good at something trivial
- Hope or Fear: Afraid of failing prey to moral temptation
Ah, that came out as quite a surprise to me! I was expecting our smith to be a big, burly fellow in the prime of his life, and here we have a sickly, white-haired old man, who is physically awkward. Unexpected!
Well, this is good, because it makes for a richer story. Halewater’s blacksmith is old and frail – does this cause any problems in the hamlet? In particular, what does it mean for our (hypothetical) PC? Perhaps our PC will feel a need to help their father at the forge – or even to replace him as blacksmith one day. That ought to be a good source of moral quandaries for them.
Ok, let me work up a description of Sanrum:
Sanrum Elmborn is Halewater’s resident blacksmith – when you need a hoe sharpened or a horseshoe mended, you go to him. He was once a strapping young man, but these days he’s old and frail, with bad lungs caused by years of smoke inhalation – and lungs that keep getting infected now that he’s old. These days he has trouble working the forge without assistance, though he is reluctant to admit this even to himself. Sanrum is a kind man, and he prides himself on his moral courage – his greatest fear is to end up as a moral failure. While working at the forge, he likes to sing old songs, and he’s surprisingly good at it: he’s never had anything like formal musical training, but he has a fine natural baritone.
Right! I like this guy a lot – a perfect father-figure for our PC.
All this has made me curious about the other members of the family. Let’s ask the Solo 8 to flesh things out a bit…
Is our PC’s mother still alive? (Rolling…) 7: “no”.
Ah, that’s sad.
Did she die in childbirth? (Rolling…) 8: an emphatic “yes, and…”. So she did indeed die in childbirth, quite horribly and unexpectedly, and it was specifically while giving birth to our PC.
Our PC’s story just keeps getting sadder!
Let me double down on this by trying out a classic story trope. Did Sanrum, our PC’s father, come to blame the newborn child for the death of the mother? (Rolling…) 4: “Yes, but”. Ok – at first Sanrum blamed the child for the death of the mother – he just couldn’t help it, in his grief. But once the first wave of grief passed, he came to love the child with all his heart.
Did Sanrum ever marry again? (Rolling…) 2: “Yes”.
Ok: is his new wife still around? (Rolling…) 1: an emphatic “yes, and…”. Ok – so Sanrum’s new wife (our PC’s stepmother) remains a very important figure in the family.
Well, since we have a stepmother, it might be time to really lean in on a classic fairytale trope here. Could she fairly be described as a wicked stepmother? (Rolling…) 3: “Yes”.
Ahah! It looks like we’re heading down a very old path here… At this point I think I ought to issue a big apology to loving, warm, hard-working stepmothers everywhere. (But it’s fun to give our PC such a classic fairytale background…)
It looks like it’s time to make this Wicked Stepmother figure. To the people system!
The Wicked Stepmother
- Name: Cambria Elmborn (previously Cambria Pitbranch)
- Role: involved in the underworld (perfect!)
- Situation: Typically has a cold (like her husband)
- Bodily appearance: Sharp, staccato movements (story checks out!)
- General appearance: Insinuating speech (yup!)
- Memorable mannerism: Foreign accent (ha! Of course! It’s that kind of story…)
- Interesting fact: Makes odd decisions on the spur of the moment
- Hope or Fear: Afraid of being powerless
Well, those rolls turned out almost too well! The witchy name Cambria Pitbranch; the involvement with the underworld; the sharp, staccato movements; the insinuating voice, and that dastardly foreign accent! A perfect villain. Plus she’s impulsive, and afraid of being without power – perfect!
But I still wonder what is so villainous about her, exactly. Let’s hope the Solo 8 can tell us.
Is Cambria genuinely in love with Sarum? (Rolling…) 6: “no”. She’s just been using him. Wicked!
But what’s she been using him for, and how? I notice that they both have chronic colds – could they be connected? I know (and here’s an idea that could come straight from a “wicked stepmother” fairytale…) – let’s say that Cambria is somehow draining Sarum’s life force, to add to her own. That’s very wicked! And it certainly helps explain why Sarum is so frail and white-haired, when he used to be so strapping.
Is she some kind of sorceress or witch, then? (Rolling…) 4: “yes, but…” So Cambria is a witch, but she’s nearly without power – the only real magic she can perform is to drain Sarum’s life force.
Has Cambria been using this kind of magic for a long time (i.e. multiple generations, long before Sarum), trapping many young people and using their life force to extend her lifespan beyond mortal limits? (Rolling..) 2: “yes”. Ahah!
Excellent! Now we have a really obvious plot hook. This could be used right at the start of a campaign; it could also be a stunning revelation during a campaign. Either way, it’s a very reliable old hook on which to hang a tale. Great!
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