This entry is part 2 in the series Casual Opportunities

Casual Opportunities Series Logo

About the Casual Opportunities series:

This series seeks to offer opportunities for PCs to reflect their primary role within a campaign. Opportunities for heroes to be heroes, for villains to be villains, for geeks to be geeks. It’s easy to become so focused on the primary plot, or on the things that the PCs are contributing to it, that it’s easy to overlook these touchstones that remind players of who their characters really are when the chips are down.

Each part focuses on one particular character archetype and list at least half-a-dozen or more minor encounters for that major type of character that showcase an essential characteristic of the archetype, explain the significance to that character type, and make some attempt to get under the skin of the archetype and examine what makes it tick.

The series itself will be an irregular one, appearing every now and then – don’t look for it every week. And while it might have started with a D&D / Pathfinder character class, I intend to cover superhero, sci-fi, and pulp archetypes along the way – all in no particular order. In fact, I’m going to deliberately mix it up…

I found out with the first entry in this series that they are just too big to write as a single article – and that was before my recent computer problems and the ongoing headaches of writing with an overenthusiastic laptop. It may even prove necessary to make this a three-part article, though I’m trying to avoid that.

This part will analyze the basic character of the priest, consider the elements that they all have in common, and how to employ casual encounters to enhance and reveal the character’s basic role in a campaign. In the second part – if all has gone according to plan – I’ll take a closer look at the variations that are possible, and how to devise and utilize casual encounters based on their distinctiveness, before wrapping the article up with a heap of example encounters. If I have to split it into three [update: I did], it’s the latter part that will be removed from part 2.

Chalk the division up as yet another necessary evil. Which brings me neatly to the beginning of this particular two-part article…

Photo courtesy tome213 (Elvis Santana)

Photo courtesy tome213 (Elvis Santana)

So who is the Priest, anyway?

I want to make it clear from the outset that we are not talking about Pathfinder/D&D Clerics here.

I should also emphasize that the content below is not intended to challenge or belittle anyone’s personal beliefs.

The traditional Priest in a pulp, cthulhu, horror or modern-day setting is a character who fights the supernatural and evil. A variation on the standard Anglican or Roman Catholic priest, his very existence within the game is predicated on the notion that such evils exist, and that certain members of the clergy are blessed with the power to fight them.

For three reasons, such characters attempt to maintain a shroud of secrecy over these encounters.

  • They would not be believed by most. The claim that they are real therefore weakens the authority of the character, which he might need in future encounters. Or,
  • If they were believed, it would scare the public, resulting in panic wherever the priest went, which is also counterproductive. Further, lynch squads would target the innocent at the slightest suspicion. That’s undesirable, to say the least.
  • Some, however, would believe and see this as a road to power, increasing the workload of the priesthood beyond its capacity. It must be remembered that the real enemies of the priesthood are not the puppets and pawns of Evil, but the power behind them.
  • Priests are required to be humble. Within reason. It’s the priesthood that’s important, not the individual. The sort of publicity that would result from a genuine battle with the supernatural, properly reported in the press, is not permitted.

So there are all sorts of good reasons for keeping things on the QT – mostly because it advantages the other side too much, one way or another.

When the supernatural is not involved, the Priest is just another pulp character. He may or may not choose to employ lethal force in self-defense or the defense of others. He may be a polite public face, because most priests are good talkers. He may be the moral compass of the group, because priests are supposed to be experts in morality. He is usually a follower, not a leader – but he will take charge when events move into his domain, and expect obedience. He is usually a character of firm convictions, and often conservative in many respects – even retrograde.

And yet there are innumerable variations on this basic model.

Doctrine and Theology

The presence of this type of character within a campaign generally points to a difference between the doctrine that is publicly expounded and the true theology that lurks behind the scenes. The version of the Holy Book upon which their religion is founded is a carefully-edited (even fabricated in parts) to conceal things that Man Is Not Meant To Know.

Variations In Faith

The most obvious room for variation is to consider the difference between different faiths, even notionally similar ones. Roman Catholics and Anglicans and Protestants and so on are fundamentally different from each other in some respects; a player choosing an alternative faith for his character and making that difference relevant is an excellent way of making a character unique. Perhaps he’s Russian Orthodox instead.

Or you can go even farther afield. A Confucian Monk who battles supernatural evils. A Voodoo Priest or priestess. An African. A character from the Bible Belt. A Mormon. You can choose any faith you want – provided that enough of the fundamental attributes line up, or can be made to line up, with those outlined below.

Doing so requires both the assistance and cooperation of the GM, and he has enough on his plate without a player demanding he undertake a serious study of comparative theology. The player should do whatever he can to make it easy for the GM to understand the character and the differences that the player wants to embrace.

Variations In Ethnicity

Once-Irish catholics in New York City have a particular ethnic stereotype. If you choose a North American Roman Catholic, you are likely to be assumed to be adopting that ethnic stereotype as a foundation as well. This can make the character easy to create, because it is a stereotype; and it also makes the character easy to make unique simply by choosing a different ethnicity. A Caribbean Catholic? A Brazilian Catholic? A Chinese Catholic? Why not?

The same caveats and prescriptions apply as were described for Variations in faith.

Variations In Culture

Even if you stick with the basic Caucasian Roman Catholic, there are people who fit that profile in many different countries, and even variations within individual countries. The variations and choices that you have available range from the subtle to the obvious. A minister from the Australian Outback will be quite different to a minister from Poland, who will be different to one from Denmark, who will be different to one from the Northeastern USA.

A unique character is one composed of many parts that harmonize with each other in a way that renders that character an individual and not a cypher.

Heck, a Clergyman from the lower east side of Manhattan is quite likely to be very different from one deriving from, say, the Boston countryside. The two would have certain things in common, but they would also have different perspectives and viewpoints and experiences, yielding slightly different attitudes and a differing emphasis on diverse parts of that common foundation.

Variations In Personality

Even with three parts of the foundation the same, there’s still a lot of room for individual variation, because now we come to the character as an individual. How did he come to serve whatever church he is part of? What was his motivation? What is the well-spring of his faith? Which temptations has he had to overcome, which does he struggle with, and which has he yielded to? What vices does he have? What is his attitude towards all the political, philosophical, and social issues of the day? Is he a conservative or a progressive – and what do those terms mean in his sphere of reference? Who are his usual Flock and what effect has that had on him? Is he a practical man, or a dreamer – or a zealot? How does he resolve contradictions between what he is required by his Ministry to do, and what most people would say he should do – e.g. privileged communications within the confessional? Is he puritanical, or more casual? Is he the type to lecture people, or does he hold fire until they come to him? Is he the missionary type?

Variations In Role

His role within the campaign beyond the confrontations with Spiritual and Supernatural Evil also bear scrutiny, because there’s plenty of scope there. While it might be traditional for Priests to be well-spoken, good communicators, they aren’t all like that. Some are blunt, some are outspoken, some are diffident, and some won’t speak up at all. He might have a terrible stammer – except when he is speaking about his faith or quoting the bible verse.

Does he rely on non-lethal force – even when attacked? Under what circumstances is he willing to use a weapon – and how good is he with it?

Is he a leader or a follower, outside of spiritual matters?

A Cynical View Of Catholicism

It’s fair to say that there have been blemishes on the history of the Catholic Churches. Dig hard enough into any of them and you will find that they are, or at least have been, terribly flawed, like any human institution.

Just some of the controversies and judgmental errors of the past include:

  • The Spanish Inquisition,
  • The creation of the Church Of England,
  • The KKK,
  • The condoning of Nazism,
  • The trials of Galileo and other scientists,
  • The Crusades,
  • The Witch trials of Salem and many more, elsewhere,
  • Wealth vs Asceticism, as highlighted in “The Name Of The Rose“, and
  • The relationship with the Italian Mafia.

The more you dig, the more controversy you discover. These examples don’t even mention people like Jim and Tammy Bakker and other controversial televangelists. Even the modern-day church is not without its thorny social issues and attitudes which are considered conservative at best:

  • The role of women in the priesthood,
  • Gay Marriage,
  • The Right To Life Movement, and especially the extremists within that movement,
  • The vow of abstinence Priests of some faiths must make,
  • The sheltering of pedophiles within the church,
  • Creationism and its more recent incarnation, Intelligent Design;

…the list just goes on and on.

Sometime in the near future, we may have some hotly-debated new topics for that list:

  • Do Clones have souls? Is killing them murder? Can they be enslaved?
  • Same questions for artificial intelligences.
  • Same questions for Aliens or other Biological, Sentient, Non-Humans.
  • Same questions for non-human and semi-human artificially-created life forms,

They may belong to the future of the real world, but they can very much apply to the present-day in a roleplaying game, regardless of the genre.

I have opinions on all these subjects. Players and GMs will almost certainly have opinions on all these subjects. Priest Characters should have opinions on all these subjects, which may differ from those of the player responsible, the GM, or the other players at the table.

Where personal opinions can be accommodated or set aside, these all make great fodder for plotlines and encounters. Where there is no conflict between opinions, they can still make for great plots.

It would be remiss of me, however, not to point readers at an early article that I wrote here at Campaign Mastery, relating a real-life problem that derived from such a conflict in opinion, and one player’s unwillingness or inability to distance the game from his personal opinions on another, related, subject: Moral Qualms on the Richter scale – the need for cooperative subject limits. As that article explained, the conflict between his theology and the assumptions within the game cost me a creative and intelligent potential player. Even the brief contact that he had with the campaign left it considerably richer in new ideas and new concepts, and I still regret the loss.

Common Threads

There are seven characteristics that I regard as universal amongst all the different varieties of priest that have already been described:

  • Faith
  • Doctrine
  • Morality
  • Enemy Of The Supernatural
  • Ghostbuster
  • Representative Of The Faith
  • The Power To Fight Evil

Each of these illuminates a different, sometimes subtle, aspect of the character.

Faith

Some people define “faith” as surrendering blindly to whatever you believe in, in the expectation that it will save you – or has a higher purpose that is served by a failure to save you. Others define it (as I usually do) as belief beyond need of proof. That doesn’t need to imply a fatalistic surrender, an expectation that someone else will solve all your problems for you; it can be faith that you will be given the opportunity and tools that you need to solve your problems, and some religious doctrines demand that these be earned through pious actions. Which is something that a player with a good GM can reasonably expect, anyway, so it’s not a huge stretch. The player and GM simply have to treat whoever or whatever the character has faith in as an off-screen metaphysical NPC who’s there to help – on certain non-negotiable terms and with certain inherent limitations.

These factors are even more significant when contemplating the difference in relationships between this abstract entity and the priest, as compared to the relationship with the general public. Expectations of each other will be different. I once read (somewhere) that everyone’s true relationship with the God that they believe in is uniquely individual because everyone has slightly different needs (which may bear no resemblance to what they think they need), and their god fulfills those needs.

The Relationship between Priest and Divinity
It follows that the relationship between clergyman and deity is different for every priest, and uniquely characteristic of that clergyman – a central manifestation of the personality and appointed role of that man of the cloth. Appointed, not by others, and not by the character themselves, but by the deity in question.

What’s important in the context of this article is that the Priest has faith in something; that this faith manifests in unique form for every individual; that defining the shape of that faith is central to a complete definition of the character; and that once it has been defined, the GM can provide mini-encounters to explore, reveal, and demonstrate the uniqueness.

Metagame-level problems
Since the character has no idea of the “plan” which has been laid out for their future, this poses a particular problem in Game terms. The GM is normally responsible for the decisions and actions and metagame aspects of the campaign, but this is too central to the uniqueness of the character not to be in the hands of the player when we’re talking about a PC.

You can get along just fine for months or even years without addressing it, but sooner or later the player and the GM are going to have to get together and talk about the ultimate destiny that the player has in mind for the character within the campaign. The GM has to be careful in terms of what he reveals about his future plans for the campaign, but those future plans have to accommodate a mutually-agreed-upon direction in which the character can slowly evolve.

This is normally a wise GMing policy anyway, but in the case of the priest character, it becomes essential. The primary events and adventures within the campaign (well, some of them) then become formative and transfiguring milestones in the evolution of the character, while the sort of casual encounters that this series is dedicated to advocated and enabling become checkpoints of this development.

The role of casual encounters of Faith
A more useful metaphor might be “crossroads” and “signposts”. Adventures which feature the priest character should present choices to the player, choices which evolve the character either a little or a lot, while the signposts give the player an opportunity to see the impact of the most recent choice on the character.

Of course, a character can be central to a plotline without such a crossroads; the character can slide, unaffected, through any plotline which is based on what they already are as opposed to what they are going to become. But this usually represents a wasted opportunity, because an adventure which is personally significant to the character always has much greater depth and engagement levels for the player.

Avoiding The Railroad
Whenever you talk about “grand plans” for a character and “crossroads in their evolution”, the risk of railroading plots escalates considerably. But this metaphor and approach offers a solution: The GM can simply offer the choices with no “grand plan”, but with an eye to the consequences of the character’s choices, and let the character’s destiny evolve however it evolves. The mini-encounter “road signs” give the player the chance to see the direction their character is headed in, enabling them to make a more informed choice at the next crossroads if they don’t like it.

It follows that adventures that offer especially significant choices to the priest character should always come with a pre-planned future mini-encounter to articulate the consequences of the last choice made, and/or a mini-encounter intended to foreshadow the choice so that the relevant subject is already on the player’s mind before they have to commit themselves.

Translating Choices into Casual Encounters Of Faith
This section of the article started with the very abstract and has worked its way from that beginning through metagame levels into practical application and advice, to arrive at the most practical question of all: How to integrate these opportunities for choice into an adventure, and how to derive from the outcome a casual encounter that articulates and highlights the consequences.

Unfortunately, the more practical the advice, the harder it is to keep it general in nature. Individual cases and circumstances become too relevant. So the general answer to that “how” is necessarily vague.

  • Give the character a choice that exaggerates or makes more extreme a trend that is already occurring within the character and his past choices. That choice should be significant to the outcome of the adventure.
  • Extrapolate and simplify that choice to a mundane level equivalent, something that is not life-and-death, but that has real impact on the lives of a few ordinary people.
  • Create a casual encounter which injects the Priest character into this mundane level situation.
  • Where the GM wishes to foreshadow the choice that the character will have to make, the casual encounter should precede the adventure with the critical choice, or at least precede the choice itself. Where the GM wishes to illuminate the consequences of a choice that has already been made, the casual encounter should follow the choice and should be derived from the player’s actual decision.

A little unsatisfying, isn’t it?

Maybe an actual example from the Adventurer’s Club campaign will help.

The Interfaith Prelude for Father O’Malley
It’s been an established premise in the Adventurer’s Club campaign that the farther you got from “civilization”, the more powerful and omnipresent supernatural forces tend to be, both good and evil. If you want “really weird”, go off the beaten path.

My co-GM and I had a major campaign event coming up that was going to take the PCs into the mountainous backwaters of China, in the “foothills” of the Himalayas. We knew that this meant that all the baggage of Chinese superstition and mythology would be available to us for encounters, and wanted to hint in advance to Father O’Malley that his abilities to Smite Supernatural Evil would still be effective, and to lay some philosophical groundwork for the adventure.

Father O’Malley, when he isn’t out adventuring, shares a`Ministry with another priest whose name escapes me for the moment. They alternate Dawn services, and deliver the services on alternate Sundays. One of the other activities of this NPC was to participate in a weekly radio show discussing the theological implications of recent news and performing an on-air interfaith service, sharing the studio and airwaves with a Jewish Rabbi and an Anglican Minister. The NPC fell ill this particular week and asked Father O’Malley to substitute for him.

The theme of this particular broadcast, as it developed, turned out to be Tolerance and Unity, and the general statement that the things people of the faith had in common were more important than the differences. This was obviously a well-worn theme for the participants, and they offered many statements under that heading that we wanted Father O’Malley to know. “Evil is Evil”. “What is in your heart is what matters”. “Caring for others is universal.” “The cloak of God will shield you, no matter where you go.” “All men are your brothers”. That sort of thing.

It was still with some trepidation that Father O’Malley first called upon his “Smite Supernatural Evil” when the party subsequently encountered a Chinese Water-Demon in the form of a ‘Giant Freshwater Kraken’, but his abilities were as effective as he could possibly hope they would be. When an ancient Emperor and Dark Sorcerer was resurrected, he was able to employ his abilities to defend himself and the rest of the party while they sought a solution to the problem. The underlying theme throughout was that there were more similarities at the core of the superstitions and mythos of East and West than expected. Later, they encountered a Chinese Vampire; some of the traits and vulnerabilities were as described in Chinese Mythology, other elements of that description were mere superstition, and in some ways, the foe resembled a traditional “Western” vampire like Dracula.

In all these encounters, Father O’Malley faced a choice between three options:

  • Staying true to his Western upbringing and dealing with the things he encountered on that basis;
  • Deciding that the local beliefs superseded his own because he was out of the Western environment in which his faith was dominant; or,
  • Being himself and employing the weapons of his faith, while respecting that the locals might know something about local conditions that his faith did not, and working within the commonalities between the two.

We were prepared to cope with any of the choices made. For the record, the character chose option three – but then struggled to reconcile the effectiveness of the local beliefs with his own faith, going into “full western priest” mode afterwards. The character was played in such a way that he felt he was compromising his own beliefs out of practicality – and the fact that they worked began to steer the character toward a crisis in his Faith.

Subsequent adventures have heightened these spiritual doubts; he has now reached the point where other culture’s faiths are given priority over his own in terms of his choices of action. When the characters recently encountered a Native Spirit Of Vengeance in northwestern Canada, he almost completely “went native” rather than trying to reconcile his beliefs with those of the natives. This made relations with the locals much easier, and the PCs won through in the end by following the native-faith strategy, but there was no thought given to the spiritual consequences for the character. Without doubt, his Faith is now at an all-time low. At the same time, the character has been cruising along, treating emergency situations on their merits as he perceives them.

Which is the perfect time for a major crossroads for the character, an opportunity to renew his Faith, or turn aside from it and become just another Adventurer. I can’t go into details for several reasons – including that we haven’t played the adventure yet – but suffice it to say that his weakened Faith will either emerge stronger than ever, or gone completely, to the point where he may turn in his collar afterwards. There’s no real middle-ground this time.

Naturally, with an event of this importance, we want the question to be on his mind, and – in a way – the entire adventure up to the crisis point will serve to do just that. The PCs will have won, and the adventure will be over – but if the player decides to renew Father O’Malley’s faith, and the other players have sufficient confidence in Father O’Malley, there will be an extra chapter to the adventure tacked on that will take them someplace they never thought we would dare take them. To some extent, this will also be a test of the player’s faith in the GMs unwillingness to completely destroy the campaign if they dare accept the challenge we intend to pose. We’re prepared, either way.

At least, we were – before the PC woes that I’ve been experiencing caused a systems crash in the middle of saving the adventure, completely destroying three month’s work, which we are desperately trying to re-create at the moment.

A Secondary Benefit
The example also highlights a secondary benefit to the casual encounters approach when employed in this fashion that is worth taking a moment to highlight. It lets the GM move some of the contextual narrative out of the time when the PCs are too busy to absorb it and shifts it to a less distracted moment – so that the action in the main adventure can move more freely, with less narrative interruption, and the relaying of important information can take place when the players are able to pay attention to it.

Doctrine

Moving on, we come to the subject of Doctrine. Every religion has a set of rules that their representatives must follow, and a set of official policies on various subjects. As explained earlier, some of these are controversial, conservative, or even regressive, while others may be controversial, progressive, or simply weird. Still others will reflect the general attitudes of the day. There will also be subjects on which clergy are forbidden to express an opinion, and some on which they may be forbidden to even have an opinion. Some of these doctrinary restrictions will be locally imposed, some will be national, and some may be supranational or even characteristic of the particular religious body that the priest represents.

It’s generally not necessary to outline the actual doctrine that the priest PC must abide by; it’s enough to deal with occasions when doctrine requires the Priest to do:

  • Something he disagrees with as a character;
  • Something that would be considered out of step with contemporary attitudes;
  • Something that he would not normally do, and which is therefore uniquely characteristic of his character; or
  • Something that is controversial or unusual by the standards of the society within the game.

In other words, Church Doctrine is a plot device that the GM can use to put a Priest into an interesting roleplaying situation. It is limited to specific applications however, defined by the player’s choice of religion for the character.

Morality

Priests don’t have a morality that’s especially different from anyone else’s, but they are notorious for following that morality more closely than the man in the street – or at least (if you’re talking about one of the more despicable examples mentioned in the section dealing with controversies), pretending to.

As a general statement, they are required to be both conspicuously moral (regardless of their true natures) and a moral leader and educator. Which means that they can expect the thorniest moral issues and problems to be laid at their feet for resolution, without warning – just walking past can embroil the character in some difficult decision. “Is it wrong to kill my neighbor’s cat in defense of my budgie?” “Is it right to ruin the lives of the rest a family by making unprovable allegations of immoral behavior on the part of one family member?” “We both claim ownership of this cat…”

If you can think of a moral conundrum, there’s almost always a way to drop it on a Priest character without warning – to everyone’s amusement. A great source of ideas for this purpose are 1950s, 60s, and early 70s sitcoms – things like Bewitched, I Dream of Genie, Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best, The Brady Bunch, even The Partridge Family!

Enemy Of The Supernatural

Not every supernatural enemy is going to be first or even second-rate. Some problems can be nipped in the bud before they become a crisis. The presence of supernatural foes great enough to make the character significant as an archetype implies a number of these minor problems; in fact, you would expect more trivial encounters than serious ones, but the trivial ones would become boring if anything close to the correct frequency was maintained. So use these whenever you think of a good one!

Trivialized versions of a lot of the plots of Charmed can be a good source of these mini-plots.

Ghostbreaker

One of the most famous debunkers of the supernatural was escapologist Harry Houdini. “Ghostbreakers” were semi-professional cynics, sometimes called “Ghostbusters”, who sought out reported cases of ghost, psychics, mediums, etc, and tried to disprove the event or report.

The existence of an Enemy Of The Supernatural who nevertheless does his best to keep the public in ignorance concerning the reality of the supernatural creates some highly-interesting ambiguities.

The Adventurer’s Club campaign, for example, has an NPC who searches high and low for a genuine supernatural event, but whose luck always leads him to incidents with other explanations that turn into his adventures. This is something of an ongoing metagame-level joke within the campaign. He is quite convinced that the supernatural is sometimes real, but he can’t prove it.

It undoubtedly doesn’t help his cause that there are priests like Father O’Malley out there who are required by their Churches to muddy and cover up any genuine incidents to the best of their abilities!

In a recent adventure in Los Angeles, Father O’Malley had to confront a demonic presence terrorizing the offices of a Newspaper. An exciting chase developed through the different offices in the building an the air conditioning ducts. At the end of the confrontation, the “Printer’s Devil” – actually more of a “Printer’s Imp” was destroyed, leaving only property damage and a huge mess behind. Several reporters had managed to take photographs of the Imp; somehow, two bottles of developer were mislabeled, and the negatives ruined before any prints could be made. The Insurance Company who subsequently investigated the incident found evidence in the basement of someone cooking wild mushrooms on a portable camp stove near an inlet to the air conditioning and blamed the entire incident on staff affected by hallucinogenic fumes. Father O’Malley, who had been in that precise spot, was not reachable for comment, but would have (a) remembered no such stove, and (b) been required by his Church to say that it was there, effectively debunking the incident. He would probably suspect that the Church had some small squad on standby to follow-up such incidents by manufacturing and planting whatever evidence was needed to keep the reality a secret. Wouldn’t you, if your organization was responsible for keeping such things a secret?

And that’s the template for encounters that fall into this province – Character encounters some minor supernatural event, character investigates, character deals with whatever caused the incident and then character does whatever is necessary to cover it up. If the character is distracted by something more urgent that comes up (as was the case in the Los Angeles adventure in question), the church’s “disinformation squad” handles the clean-up – and never admits doing so, even to the Enemy Of The Supernatural who dealt with the threat.

Representative Of The Faith

Whether he likes it or not, the Priest is the public face of the Faith, the target of every resentment, complaint, and reaction to controversy, the recipient of every public trust and confidence, however misplaced or out-of-his-depth he might feel.

If someone has a beef with the church, and the Priest walks by, he becomes the subject of that anger. If someone has a problem, they will often tell it to a Priest. If there’s an argument anywhere in the vicinity, the Priest will be sucked into it.

And heaven help the poor Priest who gets a reputation for actually solving people’s problems; leeches and troubled personalities will crawl out the woodwork.

The Power To Fight Evil

The presumption made throughout this article is that the reason the Priest is a viable archetype is his Power to Fight Evil. But that is only the tip of a very complicated iceberg. What are his specific abilities? How do they work? Where did they come from? Were they inherited from a predecessor? We’re only starting to explore this territory with Father O’Malley, because for some reason it took us a long time to realize that these are important questions.

Because we don’t have yet have all the answers figured out for Father O’Malley (and it’s worth mentioning that we are working in collaboration with his player), I can’t give a lot of guidance as to what the answers might be in this section. We have worked out that his “Detect Occult Evil” ability is the ‘whispering’ of a guardian Angel, and have discussed with the player the identity of that Angel. There are five basic options:

  • An especially holy figure who has chosen to serve;
  • A child or cherub who was never given the chance to be baptized into the church, but who has nevertheless been given the chance to earn their way into the afterlife – the “innocent” option;
  • A generally good person who had a singular flaw that went unconfessed/unforgiven in life and who must now redeem themselves – the “John Q. Public” option;
  • Someone who did evil in the name of the Church, and who must now redeem themselves by helping someone else do good in the name of the church – the “Redemption” option; or
  • A genuinely evil person who is now being punished by forcing them to perform good works – the “darkness” option.

What these all have in common is that they mean that the PC is carrying his own personal NPC around with him, with whom he can interact. An NPC who will show up, not in the form of direct dialogue between the two, but by influencing the personality of the main character, just a little and just for a moment. The things that NPC was interested in, when the PC comes across them, will hold an inexplicable (and brief) fascination for the PC – a fascination lasting just long enough to get him involved in an encounter.

The things that the NPC dislikes will also be reflected in momentary passing dislike or distrust by the primary character – again, lasting just long enough to get him involved in something interesting, or complicate what might otherwise be quite a straightforward situation.

We put the question of “who” the the player, and he chose to rule out option five, option one, and the most extreme versions of option four – so his guardian spirit is not going to be Torquemada, or a former Pope, or anything like that. Beyond that, he’s left the choice in our hands, so that he – as a player – can interact with the spirit, whoever it is, in the same state of ignorance that his character would be in.

The question of how his other abilities work remains unresolved, but for the first time, it’s on all our radars. We’re thinking about it now – for the first time in… how long HAS the Adventurer’s Club campaign been running? Four years? Five? Six?

In any event, the “Guardian Spirit” gives us a whole new way for the campaign to interact with the character, and exploring those capacities for interaction is the subject of this particular set of encounters.

Conclusion to part 1

So, there are lots of encounters that can derive from the fundamental standards of the archetype. Specifics may vary in individual cases, but the general descriptions remain.

Post-Surgery Status Update: I’m still finding sleep difficult, post-surgery, and as a result concentration is in short supply. It probably doesn’t help that the painkillers I’m using to manage my back pain, worsened by an awkward sleeping position, also induce drowsiness. I tried doing some writing today but wasn’t very successful. In fact, I got less than 500 words done in a time that should have been enough for three or four thousand. Fortunately, anticipating this possibility, I had already written the first two parts of this three-part article, and made extensive notes on the third – so I still have a week to get the last part written, which hopefully will be enough…

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