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October 8th, 2001 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Fictional devices

When >Clan Lord went commercial, almost two years ago, I felt there was one thing that was really missing. Stories.

Sure, there was some attempt at stories by players and by the game masters, but to me, they all lacked something essential. There were no good antagonists. Some of the “bad guys” played by game masters were one-dimensional. These characters didn’t have goals, or stories. They were just hostile psychopaths, attacking players and laughing maniacally.

To me, that wasn’t a story.

Player-based stories were better, but most player stories were set up to make the player a hero, and typically a tragic hero. This makes sense, because who wants to play a bad guy? It’s no fun acting in a way that gets you no friends. In a world full of heros, though, there’s no conflict. Drama needs conflict, and for that, you need an antagonist. Someone needs to be on the other side.

Though, really, who says an antagonist has to be a “bad guy”?

I wanted to try and push Clan Lord into a different area. To get away from fairy tales where you have “good” people and “evil” people. Real life is devoid of these black and white distinctions, and compelling stories tend to also be full of shades of gray.

It also makes for more interesting conflicts if their are difficult choices to be made. Instead of choosing between good and evil, what if you have to choose between two evils? Let’s say the death of a few innocents to prevent a larger loss of life? Now that’s more challenging stuff.

So how to bring this all to Clan Lord?

I poured over any and all back-story material for Clan Lord, and tried to come up with a subtext to it. I plundered other texts for inspiration. Frank Herbert and H.P. Lovecraft were two major influences. Emerging from world of Clan Lord as defined by Delta Tao were spaces for a forgotten faith to an ancient, primal but dangerous deity. The defining concepts for the >Nox Sorora became clear.

The philosophy and theology of the Nox Sorora was crafted to be a hothouse for dramatic conflict. Anyone who followed this faith would immediately find themselves in a place of tension. The beliefs are easy to misunderstand and misinterpret. But on closer examination, it becomes harder to dismiss the faith on the basis of good and evil. The religion itself is highly moral, but in a rather challenging, and often chilling way. Following the Goddess of the Nox Sorora involves difficult personal decisions.

So with this rich background crafted, all that is needed is a character strong enough and dramatic enough to thrust this upon the Clan Lord world, in a way that would be hard to miss. Something that would cause immediate conflict, but a conflict that would defy being simplified into good and evil.

Time for more plundering of myth and religion. And in the “Lilith” myth, I found a delicious overlap with the Clan Lord world. The undine cave, endless source of “demons”, would be a great gimmick to define the character. But her motivation would not be one of malice, but one of a mother’s love for her children. And thus, >Lilit was born. She would have been “Lilith,” but the name was taken.

Perfect.

Now, Lilit needs to be >in character all of the time. It’s not going to work any other way. The things she does may piss people off, but in order to be effective, she simply cannot break character.

Though, at some point, it’s going to have to happen. Because with people who start to work with and communicate with her, >out-of-character issues like coordinating time of event and things like that are bound to come up. If Lilit remains in-character all the time, it’s going to look like she’s hiding something. It’ll weaken the character.

So, I need a meta-character to be the person who “plays” for Lilit. There was one person that came to mind right away: >Midori. Who better than a woman that really knows how to embody feminine power and confidence? Fearless, strong and determined, she had all the right qualities. I’ll change the name a bit, and from this “Noriko” or just “Nori” was born. And the best thing is, it’s not much of a fiction at all. It’s based on a real person in my life.

But you see, Midori doesn’t play Clan Lord. She never has. The only person who has ever played Lilit is me.

I am Lilit. I am also Lilim, Lilit’s son. I am also Samael, Lilit’s betrothed. I am also Ripley, the first other Nox Sorora sister to come to Puddleby.

I spent a lot of energy crafting the illusion, and giving it depth. And for almost a year, practically no one knew. My singular motivation was protecting the integrity and effectiveness of the character of Lilit.

But the meta-character idea bit me in the ass in the end. Because Nori was a fiction, there was a buffer between me and people I wanted to be friends with. As “Nori” started interacting with a handful of people in an out-of-character way, I realized it was a big problem. And, playing a different gender in Clan Lord is one thing, but claiming to be a different gender for real is a big, big mistake. It’s one that’s bound to cause hurt feelings and a sense of betrayal.

It was a mistake. It was role-playing going a bit too far. It was ultimately a dishonest act, even if for innocent intentions.

So, I tried to right that. To those people who knew “Nori” I told them the truth. I’m grateful that all the people who were involved in my initial foray were gracious enough to eventually forgive me my error. And, going forward from that point, I stopped having Lilit do anything out-of-character with anyone, except perhaps talk about the game of Clan Lord itself. And this arrangement has worked pretty well for the past year.

In the sake of further simplification of my life, though, I’m dropping the last illusion. If this hurts the character, which I doubt, so be it. The goal with Lilit, and the Nox Sorora, has never been about advancing Lilit as a character, but crafting an interesting dramatic framework for other players to use and work off of. It’s not about personal glory, but about enriching the world of Clan Lord for everyone. People knowing I play Lilit won’t change anything at this point.

It’s been very hard for the past two years dealing with the periodic accusation that I do nothing but criticize Delta Tao and Clan Lord, and that I contribute nothing to the game, all the while, busting my ass doing a lot of role-playing content for the game. The reason I am such a loud-mouth about perceived design and management issues with the game is because I put so much work and effort into it.

The one thing that has made it all worthwhile is the great group of people who I’ve had the pleasure of playing with. The stories and fun that have emerged from the collaborative efforts of so many creative people is a sheer delight to me. And I’ve always been very grateful for the support that the game masters at Clan Lord have provided to help these stories move forward.

So, now, you know the rest (or at least more) of the story.

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