Friday, January 2, 2009

Life and Death

An American Dad episode I watched yesterday was about how Agent Smith had never actually killed anyone. His family thought he was cool for being a stone-cold killer and so he kept up appearances.

The part that got me, however, was that his wife was turned on by the idea of him killing someone. She told him not to wash his hands off after the killing and enticed him to their bedroom. I saw in this a curious duality. I pondered this.

A husband and wife are typically fecund in their relationship. But what if the woman desired that the man with whom she would create life should come having ended one? Why? I figured that she saw some mystic connection in the act - her man would end the life of another and thus bring that life force to her in the marital act so that they could together create a new life. Rather than a fact of alternate biology ("I can only conceive if you bring the soul energy"/"there can only be 1 billion people so any pregnancy must be preceded by a death"), I saw it as a certain arrogance ("that life energy is wasted on others; only our offspring deserve to have it").

This, of course, grew into a fantastic relationship that at the extreme consisted of an alien entity (more fey creature or far realms entity than extraterrestrial) that gathered soul energy for a living black hole (a 1-3 foot orb of darkness rather than a singularity). The creature would venture forth to kill people with the requisite energy type to then feed to its beloved mistress. The creature's entire world would be the safety and propagation of this black hole. The mysterious black hole, on the other hand, would show no signs of sentience/consciousness/volition while still seeming malevolent. The whole idea gives a sense that neither the humans investigating the creature and its mistress nor the creature itself truly understand the origin, nature, and aims of the singularity. It is beyond their ken, much as the Cthulhu mythos draws its horror from the mystery of things the human mind is incapable of comprehending. A silent, brooding, incomprehensible black hole with a tinge of malevolence despite a complete lack of activity.

How they met Candle Jakk

This post will explain how each of my other three warlords met Candle Jakk and came to be candlekeepers in CJMAC:

Wick - Wick saw Candle Jakk in Cormyr right before Jakk explored the Haunted Halls in search of the Princess. Their meeting was brief and not at all intimate, as Jakk was proselytizing a sizeable group of young adventurers as Wick's carriage passed by, but his message and his passion for the cause lit a fire in Paelias Melianome's soul. He unsuccessfully argued with his father to be allowed to leave Myth Drannor and join Candle Jakk in Cormyr. He snuck away later that night but was unable to locate Candle Jakk as the latter had been transported to the Elemental Chaos in the portal chamber of the dungeon. Wick set out across Faerun to track down the genasi warlord, along the way picking up bits and pieces of his exploits. It was then that Wick took the name Wick in homage to Candle Jakk. Wick has never met with Candle Jakk since that first glimpse but he has constructed an elaborate persona within his mind. Whenever he fails to live up to what he feels is Candle Jakk's standard, he cuts himself as punishment. He became a Candlekeeper by popular decision. Candles in the area thought he actually knew Candle Jakk and they attributed to him an intimacy and authority he lacks in actuality.

Qhaeless - Fought beside Candle Jakk in Tymanther against a young dragon that was driving bands of goblins and kobolds out of the ruins and wilderness and into the towns. During the fight, Candle Jakk noticed that Qhaeless was trying to do everything himself. He showed no trust in his companions and nearly died after being surrounded because no one was watching his back. Jakk taught him to complement his allies' fighting styles and how to turn his pride and bravado into a weapon rather than a hindrance. Qhaeless took big risks and left himself open to attack. But with cooperation and trust, he could turn his risks into openings for his allies. Candle Jakk gladly takes risks to benefit his friends but such risks must always be tempered with wisdom and caution. Giving a fighter an opening at the cost of your life is not a good trade. Candle Jakk's parting words as he left Tymanther behind him were, "Your's is a light that will pierce the darkness." The Candles he left behind in Tymanther heard this and began to look up to Qhaeless.

Unnamed Tiefling (Shiqoheleth?) -

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Candle Jakk's Mercenary Adventuring Company

Candle Jakk's Mercenary Adventuring Company (CJMAC for short; also known as the Candle Corps) is an organization of do-gooders established by my Living Forgotten Realms character, Candle Jakk.

They began as a meta-organization designed to make fun of the administrative quirks of playing a Living campaign in the RPGA. At the beginning of modules, PCs are typically given their objectives and an offer of treasure/payment as an incentive. LFR modules always offer the same amount of gold, so no matter where Candle Jakk might be in Faerun and no matter what his task, he can always count on getting 75gp for his troubles at levels 1-4. The running joke, then, was that 75gp was the standard rate for hiring that region's branch of Candle Jakk's Mercenary Adventuring Company (which, in turn, always consisted of Candle Jakk and the other characters at his table).

In time, however, the joke grew on myself and the other players at our RPGA meetings. I sat down to tables with players I had never played with before and they would recognize Candle Jakk (having heard stories from other players who had shared a table with me). With a bit of popular recognition, and dare I say support, I decided to make CJMAC official. The RPGA allows for players to create meta-organizations. The rules have not yet been released for these organizations but the clues so far point to them granting a minor benefit (such as a bonus to a skill) when two or more characters at the table are members of the organization. With several months of established presence, I think CJMAC could gain a substantial foothold in our RPGA group simply because you will likely always sit down with someone who is also a member.

Before I found out about granting actual in-game benefits, I worked a little on the group's founding and purpose. In keeping with the metagaming joke that is its origin, Candle Jakk described each member of CJMAC as "a point of light in a world of darkness" (a play off of 4e's default points-of-light setting). Candle Jakk does not expect to solve all the world's problems with CJMAC. He recognizes the need for more localized groups like, presumably, the other meta-orgs will be. However, he also recognizes that a multitude of local organizations just leads back to points of light. The Purple Dragon Knights may patrol Cormyr and the Flaming Fists may patrol Baldur's Gate but who patrols the area in-between?

So Candle Jakk's grand scheme is an entirely de-localized organization. Each Candle (as members are called) of CJMAC is responsible for himself and his immediate area. All Candles are encouraged to wander across Faerun, heading to areas of trouble like moths to a flame (but with less dying). Candles thus form diverse, dispersed points of light that banish the darkness in between the local groups. Where the Purple Dragon Knights do not go, CJMAC will light the way.

Now for some disconnected facts:

1- Each region of Faerun has its own "chapter" of CJMAC. Any member in that region is a member of that chapter until he passes into a different region. No Candle is tied to one place.

2- Candlekeepers are the internal affairs officers of CJMAC. They are senior members who, in addition to doing good deeds and fighting against evil and injustice, investigate the actions of other Candles. Those who claim membership in CJMAC are held to a loose but definite code of conduct - they must work towards the common good, refuse to directly aid evil, and uphold the good name of CJMAC. It is these last two points that Candlekeepers investigate. Rumors of a Candle besmirching the reputation of CJMAC through bad behavior or aiding evil invites a visit from a Candlekeeper. They determine if the flame needs guidance and protection or if it should be snuffed out.

3- An individual member is a Candle; Candles join with other adventuring companions to do good deeds and light up the dark areas of Faerun where men fear to tread. A group of members is a Torch; Torches come together when several Candles get the bright idea that a group of like-minded individuals is better focused that a single Candle amongst others. A group of Torches is a Bonfire/Brazier; these groups are exceedingly rare and typically come together to accomplish some great task, often at the behest of Candlekeeper or Candle Jakk himself. A full gathering of the entire CJMAC is called a Conflagration. It is rumored that Candle Jakk with convene a Conflagration when the company's reputation has spread to each corner of Faerun and its numbers swell beyond counting. They will then sweep across the earth like a wildfire and consume the darkness whole cloth. This is the belief of the young, the idealistic, and the sensational.

4- "No man or woman has ever served under my command. I do not lead by order, be decree, by intimidation, or by right. I try to lead by example. And I proudly choose to stand beside any man or woman who wishes to serve the people of Faerun by ridding the world of evil, as I hope they will stand by me."

5- Candle Jakk plans to construct several regional towers to act as waystations and garrisons for CJMAC. The home fortress will be Candle Keep in Akanul.

Right now, before the official release of the rules for meta-orgs and, thus, CJMAC, the candlekeepers are solely my own characters:

Candle Jakk, founder, proprietor, and chief warlord
Wick (Paelias Melianome)
Qhaeless, son of Morath
Unnamed Tiefling