October 06, 2011

Hillfolk Characters and Their Dramatic Poles

As an example of the sorts of characters you’ll play in Hillfolk, the first DramaSystem game, here’s the roster from the in-house playtest. They are stalwarts of the Horsehead clan, highlands-dwelling raiders at the dawn of the Iron Age.

The most important element of any DramaSystem PC are her dramatic poles—the two contradictory emotional impulses she’s torn between.

Redaxe (played by Paul) is the clan’s bad-ass war champion, a confident berserker with axe in hand, but an often confused man in the confusing realms of love and politics. Poles: man of peace vs. man of war

Thickneck (Justin), Redaxe’s brother and the clan’s most accomplished shepherd. His desire for himself and the clan is tranquility; so far, events have given him little of it. For the first season, he served as self-appointed conscience and advisor to the chieftain. Now he is the chieftain. (He’s also for the moment become a GM-run recurring character, as Justin has had to bow out for the fall semester.) Poles: ambition vs. loyalty.

When we first met Twig (played by Lisa) the clan’s willowy young hostler, her lack of confidence led her to seek the approval of others. She started out as Redaxe’s girl, then realized her true feelings were for Thickneck. As last season closed, her confidence issues seemed to disappear, as she sought power for herself and Thickneck. For the first season, her poles were conformity vs. adventure. Now, as she becomes more political and materialistic, she’s shifted to selfishness vs. altruism.

Skull (Christoph) was, for the first season, the brash and maneuvering village headman, who by fits and starts negotiated the Horsehead clan into vassal status with the northern kingdom, only to be set aside by King Goldenthrone. Skull’s search for a new place after losing his authority will doubtless drive much of season two. During the first season, Christoph expressed his poles as assimilator vs. protector. As GM, I would have asked him to adjust these to something more personal and less abstract—were he not in practice playing the more gripping set of poles: arrogance vs. wisdom. In his new renegade state, his poles have shifted to vengeance vs. the people.

Farhawk (Chris) is a young firebrand, and a burr in the saddle of the other main characters. His father, headman of the defunct Lavender clan, was slain by Redaxe, who has sworn to train Farhawk in the art of combat, so they can fairly fight to the death later. Though generally distrusted and disregarded, Farhawk may have the keenest political instincts of any Horsehead. His poles: becoming a Horsehead vs. destroying the Horseheads.

Chris started out playing Roll-the-Bones, the clan’s wise woman. But after she proved dramatically inert—her sole tactic in dramatic scenes was refusal—he was dragooned into playing the powerfully double-edged Farhawk, first introduced as a recurring character (an important NPC.) Roll-the-Bones then became a recurring character, where her obstructionism suits her for the role of nemesis.