Posts Tagged ‘Elric’

All four of us in my gaming group are serious, serious gamers, we like the same types of games, and we get along great.  But despite all that, each of us brings very different games to the table.  We all take turns choosing the game and GMing.  Mike is very plugged in to the online indie gaming scene, and brings us the new hotness.  Ryan is on a lifelong quest to discover or build the perfect story-gaming system.  Peter’s tastes run to the crunchy, and he loves superhero games.  And me, well…

When I look at the history of the games that I have nominated and run, there are both expected and unexpected trends:

I’m attracted to settings more than systems.  I know that system is vitally important to the gaming experience, but when I read a new game and go “hell yeah I want to play that,” it’s usually because the fictional content (or “fluff”) has grabbed me.  I find this especially when reading the GUMSHOE games: Trail of Cthulhu, Ashen Stars, Night’s Black Agents, et al.  I don’t even particularly like the GUMSHOE system, but these games have evocative, detailed settings that are ripe for drama and adventure.  Setting-rich games are kind-of a problem with my group, though, which tends to prefer games with a low barrier to entry (i.e. not having a lot of setting material to memorize before the game can begin).  When I run a game, I tend to spend a lot of time developing setting and backstory content, and then trying to figure out how I’ll introduce it all during play (without boring exposition scenes).

But system IS important.  I like systems that aren’t too crunchy; I don’t want to have to keep flipping through the rulebook during the game.  A system should have explicit mechanics for driving the story forward and in unexpected directions.  I want to be surprised, even as the GM.  We end up mixing and matching systems and settings quite a bit.  For example, I ran a game in the Elric! (a.k.a Stormbringer) setting using the Sorcerer and Sword system (with great success).  But paradoxically, reading setting-free system rulebooks (e.g. Fate Core) leaves me cold.  I need some sets and costumes with my rules, even if I’ll never use them.

Sorcery, ghosts and demons.  These are favourite genres of mine that I keep coming back to.  I feel like there’s something about forbidden knowledge and Things That Should Not Be Named that I haven’t successfully invoked at the gaming table yet; but I can’t say exactly what that is.  I’ll keep exploring these genres until I do.

I just finished my turn in the GM’s chair, so my next opportunity to pick the game is probably a year away.  Still, I’m always reading new RPGs and supplements, and of course I want to play just about all of them.  Maybe looking back at my previous selections will help me to narrow down on what I’m really looking for.  Or maybe I’ll decide to try something completely different.

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If this Elric game goes well, maybe for my next turn in the GM’s chair I’ll run an Apocalypse World hack in the same setting.

That would be…


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Here’s a page that identifies eight noble houses with significant roles in our Dictionary of Elric game.  Thanks to Ry for the layout idea.

(click HERE to download PDF).

Dictionary of Elric Melnibonean Noble Houses



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Lord Radric of Hekhem’a

He roams the young kingdoms to prove that Melnibonéans are still masters there. With his personal demon and small entourage of heavies, he goes where he will, expecting royal treatment, making outrageous demands, and severely punishing anyone who fails to comply. Leaves a trail of traumatized women and dead men. Twice yearly he returns to Melniboné – ostensibly for his children’s birthdays – to boast of his exploits, his power to subjugate, and his cruelty. 40s, meaty build, black goatee and shoulder-length black hair in oiled curls. His interest in Hekhem’a family affairs is limited.

Radric carries a demonic sword (object demon) named Grayfang, the Wolfblade. The hilt sports a red gem worked into an eye motif surrounded by silver etched to resemble fur. Its abilities include Hold, Boost (Stamina) and Perception (scent). It Desires alpha-male behaviour of its wielder.

(Edited 2011-Feb-21 — to move Radric to House Hekhem’a.  -J.)

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Prince Nuzan of Lormyr

Prince Nuzan takes no interest in affairs of state. His father’s careful style of management doesn’t hold a candle to Nuzan’s current passion, horse racing. In a country where chivalry and etiquette are the norm, he barges about like a Vilmirian pirate-lord with a rash, muttering thinly veiled insults at all but his own fairweather drinking companions. Those who are privy to the size of Nuzan’s growing debts are concerned for the safety of the nation’s treasury.

Lormyr was once the centre of a brief human republic that spanned the Southern continent. Ruling from the river city of Iosaz, plump King Fadan guides Lormyr with a cautious hand; but his sons are far more ambitious, and are anxious to take advantage of Melniboné’s decline.


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Duke Mirolorm Hekhem’a

Melnibonéan courtier and patriarch of the Hekhem’a family. Slight man with long wavy brown hair worn parted in the middle, and a sharply trimmed goatee. Favours leather vests and billowy shirts, riding boots, and is never without his sabre and elbow-length fencing gloves. His dueling skills are legendary. House Hekhem’a holds the taxation rights to Vilmir. Duke Mirolorm proudly proclaims that his house has not allowed Vilmir to miss paying the tithe in three centuries. He is impatient with others’ failure to bring their territories to heel.

House Hekhem’a keeps Vilmir in an iron grip, the young kingdom is rarely free of Melnibonean oversight. The laxity of other houses, and the freedom it accords Vilmir’s neighbours, is a growing inconvenience for Mirolorm. Vilmir too grows more insolent every year. Mirolorm petitions the emperor to give him the whole Eastern continent, in return for which he guarantees that all taxes will be paid, and on time.

(Edited 2011-Feb-21 — changed Mirolorm to House Hekhem’a. -J.)

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Duke Daikoon Kleodas’a

Patriarch of the Kleodas’a family. Elderly fellow who favours simple black robes and a priest-like deportment. Short white hair and very pointy ears. Speaks with a voice like a creaking door. Since the emperor’s withdrawal from society, Daikoon has taken to interjecting ominous oracles into every conversation, as if he knows more than he is telling. Maybe he does. Daikoon is one of the strongest proponents of re-summoning the Demon Lords.

The secretive Kleodas’as are the self-appointed loremasters of Chaos. The emperors may be the high priests of Chaos, responsible for maintaining the pacts with the Demon Lords, but their minds are most often on earthly matters. The Kleodas’as are dedicated scholars of Chaos: its demons, its legends, its prophesies, and the history of its interactions with mortals. Val’demarna, the tower of house Kleodas’a, is one of the oldest in Imrryr, and the contents of its private library are the subject of much speculation. Emperors consult with the Kleodas’as on cosmic matters.

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Melnibonéan noblewoman.  Her husband died searching for the runeswords, attempting to satisfy her ambitions for him. Now she has no position at court and is dependent on her relations. The stigma chafes her – powerless wife of a henpecked fool whose reach exceeded his grasp. She has sworn that her sons (now teens) will surpass their father in power and importance. She teaches them pride, and to never let an insult go unanswered.

Drotar. One of the sons. 15 years old, big chip on his shoulder. Always challenging people to sabre duels. Has killed a few peers – he’s actually pretty good. Adults don’t usually accept his challenges and mock him instead, which drives him into fits of rage. He trains at arms obsessively. Plans to join the imperial guard when he is of age – if he lives that long.

Nrothar. The other son. 17 years old, enormous, ambitionless brute. A terrifying bareknuckle fighter but has no interest in weapons training. Bullies other youths into doing things for him. Likes wine and any other sort of intoxicant.


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A good Sorcerer game needs interesting NPCs: complex people with their own motivations and hang-ups.  I need to generate some Young-Kingdoms rulers, Melnibonéan potentates and loose cannons, and supernatural agents with agenda.  But I don’t feel that I can really nail down any interesting characters and their motivations until we’ve had the player-character generation session: until I know the PCs’ kickers.

So in the meantime, a compromise.  I’m going to send out NPC character sketches, one a day until our char-gen session. For inspiration.  The players can set up their characters in alliance, opposition or imitation of any of these.  Or just ignore them if they have better ideas.

This is definitely not “required knowledge.”  I don’t want to overwhelm the players with stuff that they “have to” learn in order to play.  If a player ends up using one of these NPCs in their backstory or kicker, then great, it’s in the game.  The rest can be forgotten.

Here’s the first one…


Duke Senodjar of House Jifar’a.

Melnibonéan courtier and patriarch of the Jifar’a family. Oiled bald head, stocky build, indeterminate middle age. Confident stride. Grandly styled clothing with built-up shoulders and giant curving collars that reach up to his ears, highly illuminated with gold thread (even at orgies: heavily brocaded floor-length vest, worn open). Always at court, has his fingers in all the pies. House Jifar’a owns the taxation rights to the whole Western Continent, but doesn’t collect the taxes itself, the family doesn’t maintain the ships or man-power anymore. In the spring, each kingdom is assessed and informed of its tax obligation by a single assessor (a family member). Come autumn, should a kingdom fail to deliver its taxes to Imrryr, no matter the reason, Duke Senodjar sells pillaging rights to another family (as often for political favours as for gold or goods).

House Jifar’a is wealthy, and Duke Senodjar’s family is a large one. He is a sorcerer, of course. The family heirloom demon is Herpios,The Ring Of Serpent-Kin, a big gold ring with an iridescent green gem like a snake’s eye. Abilities include: Shapeshift (conveyed; giant green snake); in ring form, Boost Lore; when user is in serpent form, Special Damage (constriction).

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The game starts in 10 days, with the character-generation session.  Here’s my introduction to the world of The Elric Saga, in three parts.  This is taken verbatim from my Dictionary of Elric (link to full document at the end of this post).


Melniboné, The Dragon Isle, once the centre of an empire that spanned the known world, grows decadent and senile like a doddering old senator. Her emperor, mourning these last ten years, no longer leaves his apartments. Her people, the oldest mortal race, assured of their continuing dominance and wealth, occupy themselves with orgies and luxuries and casual cruelties while the world slips from their grasp. The emperor neglects the prescribed rituals and pacts, blaming the demon-gods for the death of his wife and child, and compounding The Dragon Isle’s woes.

The Young Kingdoms of Man openly defy imperial decrees. Without a strong emperor on the Ruby Throne, no Melnibonéan noble dares send his navy abroad for fear of weakening his position at home. A few recognize their empire’s decline and counsel remedies – a new and bloody age of conquest, a return to the old rituals – but the emperor does nothing. There is talk of regicide, a change of leadership. The emperor has no heir, and mutual mistrust prevents any consensus as to who should take the throne. The noble families of Melniboné are sharpening their knives. The emperor’s ban on bound demons is increasingly ignored. (more…)

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