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Let Me Tell You About My Character

Kaadior Viadi, Wilderness Avenger

by Chad Underkoffler
Nov 20,2002

 

Let Me Tell You About My Character...: Kaadior Viadi, Wilderness Avenger

by Chad Underkoffler

Scout Kaadior Viadi (Genre: Fantasy)

The Viadi family thrived on the frontier, a hardy breed knowledgeable in woodlore. They counted elves among their distant ancestors. While they carved their niche from the wilderness, they always held the divinities of nature in reverence. They prospered, becoming a large and comfortable clan.

The year Kaadior began studying with the druids, the orcs came again, as they did every five years or so. They were easily beaten off, like so many times before. However, the year after that, they swarmed again -- an event with no precedent. A second time, the men of the territory repulsed them, perhaps not as handily. In the third year of Kaadior's apprenticeship, the orcs struck silently and without warning, in many small, fast groups rather than a single large force. Throughout the territory, the orcs slaughtered whole homesteads with their swords; burned entire villages with their torches; and felled all the sacred groves with their axes. Whole communities were erased from the map by their depredations. Only a fraction of the human population got away safely. Soon, however, there would be no safety, as the warbands of orcs pooled into a true army, one closer to civilization than ever before.

All of the Viadis died in the attacks, except for Kaadior, his older brother Keth, his younger sister Aryna, and his Uncle Socheth. The Viadis made their way to the ducal seat, following groups of other refugees. Socheth enlisted with the Duke's men-at-arms, mostly to provide for his niece Aryna. Keth disappeared somewhere inside the winding streets of the city. Kaadior wished only to quench the burning rage he felt for the orcs.

Unwilling to root himself in one place and simply wait for the beasts to come (like his Uncle Socheth), Kaadior turned to the mercenary companies the Duke hired to harry the orcs. He signed up with one -- the Nighthawks -- as a scout, trading on the woodlore gained from his family traditions and his druidic instruction. Already a dab hand at archery, he learned to fight with fist, sword, and spear during his time with the Nighthawks.

His outwardly easygoing nature conceals the hard oak underneath. Patient, thoughtful, and determined, he never complains, preferring to suffer in silence. He refuses to ride, and instead lopes along like a deer, easily keeping up with horsemen for long distances. Kaadior's druidic training, remarkable endurance, and hatred of orcs impress even his hard-bitten comrades, and have made his renown as a superior scout.

Pseudo-Stats

Kaadior is:

  • A Good combatant (Expert with a bow).
  • An Expert at woodcraft (hunting, tracking, survival).
  • An Expert runner, both distance and speed (even through dense undergrowth).
  • Average at minor druidic magics (nature, plants, animals, weather).
  • Good at getting along with people (but Poor at expressing himself).
  • Widely known as an Expert scout.
  • Poor at dealing with his utter hatred of orcs.

Goals

  • Hero: Kaadior seeks to rid the land of the pillaging orcs, and heal it from their ravages, but won't ever hurt another human to do it -- even if that human has turned traitor and is working with the monsters.
  • Star: Kaadior wishes to drive out the orcs, and reclaim his family's homestead, and will class humans who are helping the orcs as enemies as well.
  • Villain: Kaadior wishes the orcs gone, by whatever means necessary, even if that means hurting innocents who are in the way.

Adventure Seeds & Plot Hooks

  • The PCs meet Kaadior when they are hired by a powerful noble to retrieve a "family heirloom" from a country manor in overrun territory. Kaadior is known as one of the best scouts in the local area, which is why the noble retained him. In pursuit of his revenge, Kaadior may "accidentally" lead the PCs along a more circuitous path to the manor, in order to intersect more orc warbands than is actually necessary.
  • The PCs have (or have had in the past) dealings with Kaadior's lost brother Keth, a mid-level street thug. (One of the PCs could even be Keth.) If he's screwed them on a deal and skipped out, perhaps they'll interact with Kaadior while trying to track Keth down.
  • Maybe one of the PCs is a former neighbor of Kaadior's, who also successfully fled in time to the ducal seat. Such a character would, no doubt, be interested in joining Kaadior's crusade to reclaiming their home from the invaders.

Alternate Worlds

  • Horror: Kaadior could be possessed by all the souls of his deceased family. The voices are slowly driving him mad, through their incessant pleading for justice.
  • Post-Apocalyptic: Replace "druid" with "mechanic," "orc" with "radioactive mutant," and "Duke" with "Mayor," and you could set Kaadior's world as slowly recovering from the massive nuclear exchange that left it a wasteland.
  • Superhero: Kaadior would probably work best as an alien refugee, fleeing the invaders that conquered his world. He's come to Earth to learn how to fight incalculable odds with his alien powers... and perhaps even recruit allies to free his people.


Inspiration(s) & Miscellany

Inspirations for Kaadior:

  • Kaadior is based on a D&D3 character I ran briefly. All I knew was that the campaign would involve fighting a lot of orcs and we needed to come up with 4th level characters. The most intriguing bit of his backstory to me was the interrupted druidic training; this was my attempt to justify a Druid 2/Fighter 2 multi-class.
  • Some of the more legendary aspects of Davy Crockett had input into the way I reworked this version of the character.

Okay, the character half is a bit shorter this time, which lets me spend a little space talking about some thoughts I've been pondering.

Orcs. Zombies. Nazis. Stormtroopers. Mooks. Henchmen. Faceless enemies that take a hit or two, then fall down.

Compare these to fleshed-out antagonists, who are fully realized characters. Not necessarily all of a piece, containing good and evil, noble and ignoble, angelic and demonic elements. A challenge for the protagonists, either as foes or rivals.

Is a rounded villain a priori better than a horde of undead barbarian skeletons? Is there something wrong with preferring the black/white dichotomy to the shades of gray? What's the draw for either side?

I think that the difference in taste, especially for those of us who like both flavors, can be likened to coffee. On the one hand, you've got your basic, good diner coffee, and on the other hand, you've got shade-grown Ethiopian Sidoma (or whatever frou-frou java rocks your world). Sometimes, you just want the basic coffee -- maybe for the heat, maybe for the acrid bite, or maybe for the raw caffeine. Other times, you want to linger over the more flavorful brew, exploring its nuances, and gauging your reaction to it. Neither is better or worse, they're just different. And you can like both.

What it comes down to in my perception is simply this: how much (and what kind of) work do I want to put into this right now? Even play takes effort; the key to fun is maximizing the enjoyment from the labor you put in. People's tolerances for how much energy they feel they can put into play differs over time and individuals: for some people, suspending their disbelief to support a strict division of black and white morality is hard work. For folks who can tote that bale without breaking a sweat, untangling the white and black from 256 shades of grayscale might be exhausting. And for those of us who could go either way, perhaps events in our day-to-day influence what we're hankering for.

It doesn't matter which side of the gaming table you're sitting on, GM or player; either flavor of enemy takes work. They key point here is to make sure the GM and players are on the same flavor page and willing to expend whatever energy is necessary to achieve the same flavor. As GM, I might decide it's fun to explore an Operation Paperclip'd Nazi rocket scientist's politics and secret agenda, and how it impacts the American space program, while my players are looking forward to mowing down a platoon of SS space-troopers with their rayguns. The result of this disconnect will be no fun on either side. A knowledge of one's personal limits of "work for play" and the ability to strongly communicate one's preferred taste in foes will go a long way in keeping disconnects to a minimum.

There's a final point I'd like to raise, one that's probably completely obvious: the nature of the opposition NPCs alters the nature of the protagonist characters. Take Kaadior, for instance. In a world of black and white, where orcs are simply evil and faceless, he can easily be heroic. If he's completely around the bend, brutally dispatching legions of monsters, he's still possibly on the good guy side of the equation. However, if those hordes of orcs are made up of individual, rounded characters (perhaps driven from their homeland by famine, and repulsed by the humans out of ignorance and fear) and they exist in a world of shades of gray, his position as paragon of good falters. What makes him any better than they? Heroism may become purely reacting to events... but which event do you choose as the "initial action"? The slaughtering of the Viadi, or the slaughtering of Gronk Toebiter's father when he came to beg aid a year ago?

More discussion is needed on the nature of heroism, but I think I'll save that for a later column. 'Til then, let me know what you think.


Chad Underkoffler is a freelance RPG writer. His "Campaign in a Box" column appears bimonthly at Pyramid Online.

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