Saturday, May 31, 2014

Talents in Hero's Journey: The "Second Stringers"

Last time we talked about Talents in-depth, we discussed those that fall under the Leader and Lover archetypes. Interestingly, a lot of players (of all kinds of games, not just this one) view people who can take on the leadership role and deal with NPCs as important to the group, and people who can fight off monsters as important to the group, but for some reason those characters who do other things tend to be thought of as "auxiliary" in some way - not nearly as necessary or important to the story. They get called "support characters" or "niche characters" or even "group filler", which can be depressing if you're being the best you can be and still not getting any RPG respect.

But one of the awesome things about mythology - and by extension Hero's Journey - is that there's really no such thing as an unimportant or unuseful character type. Cultures all over the world want different things from their heroes; some of them respect tricksters and their resourcefulness as the most effective heroes imaginable, others believe that only through spiritual enlightenment can a hero truly be great, and still others look not at the hero's fleeting deeds in life but at what they leave behind afterward. Which is why we're excited to talk today about the Talents of the three "second string" Aspects, which are really no such thing - the Creator, the Sage and the Trickster.

The Creator Aspect contains the Art, Energy and Vision Talents, as well as the passive Talent of Willpower.
The Sage Aspect contains the Knowledge, Mysticism and Perception Talents, as well as the passive Talent of Enlightenment.
The Trickster Aspect contains the Disguise, Legerdemain and Streetwise Talents, as well as the passive Talent of Determination.

Mythically speaking, Creators are among the most fundamentally important archetypal heroes across all cultures; without them, civilizations cannot rise, enduring monuments and artwork cannot be created, and the very world itself might not exist in its current form. Their Talents are geared toward creation and maintenance of the world at large, a critically important function that often goes unnoticed by their peers unless something goes catastrophically wrong. Art is the stat they use to actually perform acts of creation; it is what they roll to build something, carve something, weave something, or in any other way physically make something new. Energy, on the other hand, is the stat devoted to the repair and maintenance of the universe, allowing them to impart their awesome energies of cohesion and creation to both living things that need healing and inanimate objects that need to be fixed or protected. Finally, their powers over Vision are those of creativity and new ideas, allowing them to concieve of new projects and attempt things that have never been done before.

The Sage is the mythic gatekeeper of knowledge and important links between the strange, unknown world of magical or divine information and the human seekers of it who normally cannot reach beyond the veil to learn more. They roll the Knowledge Talent to represent their capacity for understanding, remembering and interpreting information, as well as for learning new things or testing their mental limits. Mysticism is the stat that governs understanding of those things beyond normal mortal ken - identifying and comprehending supernatural phenomena, performing magical rituals and even seeing into the mists of the future. Perception, the last of the Sage's formidable arsenal of mind-enhancing talents, is rolled to notice things, be aware of their environment, and glean information from what is happening in their immediate vicinity.

The Trickster is mythology's master of cleverness, wit and shenanigans, taking up the spotlight of the story when ridiculousness must be highlighted or revealed or those in authority taken down a peg. The Disguise stat is used to misrepresent the Trickster themself or other people, places or objects they're trying to obscure, in any way from impersonating someone else to camouflaging an object as a different item. Legerdemain is the Talent of thieves and magicians, and is rolled to steal, pick locks, perform street magic, or do anything else that involves sleight of hand or quick and nimble fingers. And Streetwise is the stat used for manipulating and interacting with humanmade environments - everything from operating machinery to scrounging for materials to hiding in a dumpster.

As for the passive Talents, these three Aspects control some of the most critical in the entire game. These particular passives are rolled rather than spent, but they're no less important or potent!

The Creator's Willpower represents their ability to force their body to keep going, no matter what punishing conditions they do it under or what outside forces try to break it down, and is an extension of the same creative and supportive energy they use to help others. It is rolled to resist the effects of bodily dangers such as poison, disease and intoxication.

The Sage's Enlightenment allows them to wield the formidable power of their minds and hearts to clear away any fog or shadow that might try to blind them. It is rolled to see through illusions, pierce deceptions and allow Heroes to resist the effects of any supernatural force that would try to obscure reality from them.

The Trickster's Determination is the Talent of the Aspect that fights authority, refuses to conform and does whatever it wants no matter the consequences. It is rolled to break free of the effects of supernatural meddling that would take a Hero's free will from them, including any kind of manipulation of their thoughts, emotions or actions without their consent.

Since I know someone is going to read these and panic because they're going to assume any character who doesn't invest in these Aspects is going to be automatically helpless, let me head you off: take heart. Even if you don't have a single dot of any of these Aspects, you can still get bonuses to these passives from the Web of Fate, allowing even those who aren't inclined toward these kinds of heroic deeds to still compete on the divine playing field (although of course those who dedicate themselves to these Aspects will have a leg up).

These three Aspects are more inwardly focused than some of the others, and often coexist with one another or others of the Aspects as complementary facets of the same Hero. They are present in gods and heroes all across mythology, including the trickster-creator Maui of the Polynesian isles, the wise sage-trickster Odin of Norse legend and the ancient, all-knowing creator-sage Ptah who built the world from his sacred words.

We'll cover the Talents attached to the Hunter and Warrior Aspects next time, and then move on to some of the more gritty mechanical details of the game!