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Performing as an opponent in a cult rite or this-world heroquest - any benefits?


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In the rites and this-world heroquests, members of the questing community will play the role of antagonists, like in a passion play. What happens to them, what do they get out of this?

 

At the very least, this should be a full-scale worship service for them, even if they aren‘t initiated to the cult whose rites they are helping (or initiated into a cult at all). At least with regard to gaining a POW check.

If these ritual helpers aren‘t initiated to the cult they are helping out, and are not in a position to renew (or acquire) associate magic from the cult, are there any other magical or non-magical benefits they get for getting beaten up, possibly to the point of requiring serious magical healing, or risking their lives?

 

I mean, if someone stands in as Kaldar, the fighting guardian of the Gates of Dusk, the rites re-enacting a westfaring will certainly benefit from some reak blood being spilled when re-enacting that fight. So the stand-in might e.g. lose a tooth in the shuffle.

What makes it worth standing in here?

 

Usually, the opponents in the rites will be outright enemy gods. What effects does it have to become said enemy god? Even if all you do is wear a mask and follow some form of choreography?

 

Does this give you any (Otherworld) insights? Does becoming the mask, or the entity depicted/summoned by the mask, create anything for the bearer?

 

If it does, is that a feature, or is it a flaw? If you take on the role of say a member of the Unholy Trio, will that aid you in achieving illumination? May it make you susceptible or more knowledgeable about Chaos?

 

What roleplaying and campaigning opportunities can there be in performing as enemies in a sacred rite? What was in it for the Morokanth acting as aggressors in the rite that Biturian Varosh participated in at the Paps? Did they know or expect that some part of the assault would be taken over by trolls, rather than others of their comrades in masks?

 

Could some Gloranthans make something of a career of aiding heroquesters in the roles of their opponents?

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Opponents are worshippers of enemy gods AFAIK. If you consider Kallyrs failed limited LBQ, in which a Lunar suddenly appeared and started killing everyone, surely that argues for actual people being drawn into quests, even limited in world quests.

There is also a reference somewhere to trolls using captured prisoners to represent enemy gods.

A worshipper of an enemy god who upsets a quest, all sorts of terrible powers are possible. If for the enemy quester who wrecks a LBQ, for them Wakboth is a dead god in hell, maybe they get a sliver of access to the Devil’s power.

A small trickle of chaos heroquestors who can communicate with Wakboth, because they mythically prevented the compromise - explains heroes like Ralzakark.

Edited by EricW
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54 minutes ago, Joerg said:

What makes it worth standing in here?

These occasions are a great opportunity for the community to humiliate nominal members who would otherwise be susceptible to the allure of the enemy so many of these "insider antagonists" function something like ritual scapegoats . . . picked by the priest and set up to fail. When people actively volunteer, the motive is often sacrificial. They know they're probably going to lose, they want to lose and they'll try to lose. (We say "take it for the team." Not sure if nimm es für das Team has the same connotation of accepting an unpleasant burden for the greater good.)

Someone who volunteers often tends to acquire dangerous experience of what it's like to be the enemy. This person becomes strange by community standards. Strange people become susceptible to the allure of strange cults. Do it too often, you end up either becoming the scapegoat or worse, winning the challenge and your (former) community loses the rite. In these scenarios, the enemy god can find ways to reward you. You get strong. Maybe that's your real goal.

I would not "cast" real chaos or evil from inside the village because you have to go back to work with that person tomorrow morning and there are too many chances for something to go horribly wrong. Make an effigy or use an animal in a costume. Dip a trollkin in something stinky. They're expendable and unlikely to take the pantomime too far. You just need a warm body.

I think volunteer antagonists recognize the dangers and don't enjoy participating often. You shouldn't do it every year. It's better to bring in at least a few relatively friendly outsiders now and then to give you a break and let you get back to the real work of worshipping your actual god once in awhile. You might not get anything out of it but the comfort that your performance made the difference between holding the rite and not holding it at all.

Smart priests only let extremely well trusted people do this and will then keep close watch on you to make sure you aren't getting too attached to the role. Maybe you get a special private worship session before or after (probably after) to (a) renew your runes and heal you (b) welcome you back to the community. There might be bonuses on your next promotion roll if you give them a good show while signaling everyone that you don't actually believe the awful things you're saying. 

But often, priests are more desperate than smart and mistakes happen. I think in many areas a kind of professional itinerant scapegoat exists . . . local tricksters, Donandar without too much of a stretch. In these relationships you get paid and they should remind the local talent to go easy on you, or at least provide free healing. 

Last thought, playing the antagonist might be an essential step on the road to being able to train local protagonists. You might be a junior priest or the equivalent learning how to manage the rite from all sides. Some communities probably institutionalize this and the No. 2 at the shrine will get dragged into the bad guy role when no real enemies present themselves.

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For a Heroquest that's low-stakes enough that one of your own people are playing the role of antagonist rather than doing a Summons of Evil thing where an actual enemy is drawn into the role, or going out and seizing some outsider to force into the role (never enter a Sun County near a Yelmalian holy day), the risks are probably quite low. The potential rewards for someone stepping up for that are thus also probably low, since usually they don't face much other than a bruised ego or some cuts and scrapes; if anything worse than that happens they might get commensurate compensation from the clan. But it's unlikely they'll get any magical benefit from it. It's likely seen as just an unpleasant job that someone's gotta do, either a volunteer or someone who loses in a drawing of lots.

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19 minutes ago, EricW said:

Opponents are worshippers of enemy gods AFAIK. If you consider Kallyrs failed limited LBQ, in which a Lunar suddenly appeared and started killing everyone, surely that argues for actual people being drawn into quests, even limited in world quests.

There is also a reference somewhere to trolls using captured prisoners to represent enemy gods.

A worshipper of an enemy god who upsets a quest, all sorts of terrible powers are possible. If for the enemy quester who wrecks a LBQ, for them Wakboth is a dead god in hell, maybe they get a sliver of access to the Devil’s power.

A small trickle of chaos heroquestors who can communicate with Wakboth, because they mythically prevented the compromise - explains heroes like Ralzakark.

Yes, bringing in the real thing will increase the magic, so replacing the weird uncle who usually wears the Darkman mask with a cave troll or a trollkin might be helpful. But then, doing so raises the ante - read the Sun Dome section of Biturian's Travels on how this practice may backfire if taken too far.

My example was closer to the Initiation of Argrath in Prince of Sartar. It is pretty clear that the Evil Uncles who fetch the boy are fellow clansmen. What happens during his deeper initiation, on the Other Side, is outside of what the clan prepared. The masks of the Evil Uncles are present for the victory feast, and then (ritually) leave.

When it comes to dealing with Chaos, the Orlanthi use the Summons of Evil. Not sure they can do that inside a practice quest, though, but then undertaking a quest where there is a chaos foe to overcome might automatically summon an evil, and you had better have an effigy prepared for getting first animated, then destroyed.

There is always a chance to summon ghosts much bigger than the ones you have been calling. Heroquesting is about identification with the protagonists of the myth.

Performing as an antagonist is more like performing some form of choreography. Getting a beating or even a scar out of it is more than a possibility, but that's a form of sacrifice. Or perhaps a form of austerity.

 

13 minutes ago, scott-martin said:

These occasions are a great opportunity for the community to humiliate nominal members who would otherwise be susceptible to the allure of the enemy so many of these "insider antagonists" function something like ritual scapegoats . . . picked by the priest and set up to fail. When people actively volunteer, the motive is often sacrificial. They know they're probably going to lose, they want to lose and they'll try to lose. (We say "take it for the team." Not sure if nimm es für das Team has the same connotation of accepting an unpleasant burden for the greater good.)

That's not really a phrase that is used in German language. Perhaps not even much of a concept, although there are concepts like Nibelungentreue (as steadfast and true to the oath as the Nibelungen warriors who died defending the Burgundians against Kriemhild's revenge) which capture this. Defending the bridge to allow the party to escape. Not quite being thrown to the lions, though.

Being chosen as a sacrifice, volunteering to be the sacrifice, those are stron themes, but practice quests don't usually invoke Ana Gor. Not even when caprive enemies are tossed to the protagonist lions.

 

13 minutes ago, scott-martin said:

Someone who volunteers often tends to acquire dangerous experience of what it's like to be the enemy. This person becomes strange by community standards. Strange people become susceptible to the allure of strange cults.

That's why I brought up illumination as a possible "reward". While not exactly leaving your community, you may begin to see things from the other side.

But then, something like this is already implied in many childrens' games of "us versus them" (say, cowboys and Indians, or "Räuber und Gendarm").  People do cosplay as Imperial Stormtroopers...

13 minutes ago, scott-martin said:

I think volunteer antagonists recognize the dangers and don't enjoy participating often. You shouldn't do it every year. It's better to bring in at least a few relatively friendly outsiders now and then to give you a break and let you get back to the real work of worshipping your actual god once in awhile. You might not get anything out of it but the comfort that your performance made the difference between holding the rite and not holding it at all.

That's actually something which needs to be asked: would those who take the masks of the antagonists be initiates of the cult worshiped in the rite, or would they be from allied cults, or non-initiates? How much personal magic do they have to bring into the rites?

The community is supposed to provide some form of communal support to the rites. Elmal/Yelmalio worshipers form the ritual guard for rites of Orlanth or Ernalda, and worshipers of Orlanth return the favor when it comes to the Sun rites. Some may take the roles of the antagonists instead.

 

13 minutes ago, scott-martin said:

Smart priests only let extremely well trusted people do this and will then keep close watch on you to make sure you aren't getting too attached to the role. Maybe you get a special private worship session before or after (probably after) to (a) renew your runes and heal you (b) welcome you back to the community. There might be bonuses on your next promotion roll if you give them a good show while signaling everyone that you don't actually believe the awful things you're saying. 

But often, priests are more desperate than smart and mistakes happen. I think in many areas a kind of professional itinerant scapegoat exists . . . local tricksters, Donandar without too much of a stretch. In these relationships you get paid and they should remind the local talent to go easy on you, or at least provide free healing. 

That was one possible campaign idea, yes - a motley group of outsiders and never-do-wells trained in taking those antagonist roles. Some like those beat-up price boxers, essentially the stuntmen of the passion plays. Others magically aligned with certain antagonist roles, lending the strength of their identification to the "realism" of the rite (or of breaking the barrier to the Otherworld).

Tricksters are known to facilitate such transit, but then, they are also known to cause more trouble than their aid may have been worth.

 

13 minutes ago, scott-martin said:

Last thought, playing the antagonist might be an essential step on the road to being able to train local protagonists. You might be a junior priest or the equivalent learning how to manage the rite from all sides. Some communities probably institutionalize this and the No. 2 at the shrine will get dragged into the bad guy role when no real enemies present themselves.

I wonder whether such practice will lead to a conflict of interests, and thereby of identification. Taking the role of an antagonist you hate or fear may weaken your identification, and thereby weaken the rite. Better to send in someone with less conflicting persona, and possibly a runic affinity to some aspect of that mask.

 

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14 hours ago, Joerg said:

In the rites and this-world heroquests, members of the questing community will play the role of antagonists, like in a passion play. What happens to them, what do they get out of this?

It depends on how it is done and the particular situation.

Mad Erik who always plays the Broo in Orlanthi HeroQuests would get a successful Worship and perhaps a POW gain roll. A captured Broo forced to play the Broo might get some collateral benefits, but only if it survives. A Broo HeroQuestor who comes in and takes the place of the Broo might get a lot of benefits by surviving and defeating Orlanth.

 

14 hours ago, Joerg said:

t the very least, this should be a full-scale worship service for them, even if they aren‘t initiated to the cult whose rites they are helping (or initiated into a cult at all). At least with regard to gaining a POW check.

If these ritual helpers aren‘t initiated to the cult they are helping out, and are not in a position to renew (or acquire) associate magic from the cult, are there any other magical or non-magical benefits they get for getting beaten up, possibly to the point of requiring serious magical healing, or risking their lives?

A POW check or automatic POW gain is probably in order, I have this as a reward for participating in a HeroQuest, in addition to any normal POW gain checks from overcoming POW.

Insight into the myths is also possible, so in increase of 1D6 or 2D6 in Cult Lore might be appropriate.

It might be possible to gain some Spirit Magic from the role, especially if you draw on the HeroQuest to cast it but don't actually know the spell.

14 hours ago, Joerg said:

I mean, if someone stands in as Kaldar, the fighting guardian of the Gates of Dusk, the rites re-enacting a westfaring will certainly benefit from some reak blood being spilled when re-enacting that fight. So the stand-in might e.g. lose a tooth in the shuffle.

What makes it worth standing in here?

Insight into the myth. By standing in as that role you see how the role works, you get into its mindset and start to see things from that point of view. If you stand in for the dame deity multiple times on different HeroQuests you learn more about that deity and the HeroQuests in general. Increasing Cult Lore or Lore (Cult) might be appropriate.

Also, playing a role to get your own back on one of the HeroQuest's participants might be possible.

14 hours ago, Joerg said:

Usually, the opponents in the rites will be outright enemy gods. What effects does it have to become said enemy god? Even if all you do is wear a mask and follow some form of choreography?

 

Does this give you any (Otherworld) insights? Does becoming the mask, or the entity depicted/summoned by the mask, create anything for the bearer?

It might do.

Playing Ragnaglar on a HeroQuest probably means that you need time out afterwards to be cleansed. maybe you need to be purified or are ritually unclean for a period of time. 

It is probably not a good idea for the same person to play Ragnaglar each and every time, in case it rubs off on the HeroQuestor. They are unlikely to gain Ragnaglar magic, as it is a deity not worshipped and does not grant powers, but you might absorb powers from the HeroQuest, although most sane people will simply not take the powers. 

14 hours ago, Joerg said:

If it does, is that a feature, or is it a flaw? If you take on the role of say a member of the Unholy Trio, will that aid you in achieving illumination? May it make you susceptible or more knowledgeable about Chaos?

Maybe.

Increasing Chaos Lore is a reasonable reward. Increasing Illumination, for me, only happens if you do something around Illumination, so playing Ragnaglar attacking Storm Bull won't increase your Illumination skill, but playing Ragnaglar speaking to Rashoran definitely will.

14 hours ago, Joerg said:

What roleplaying and campaigning opportunities can there be in performing as enemies in a sacred rite? What was in it for the Morokanth acting as aggressors in the rite that Biturian Varosh participated in at the Paps? Did they know or expect that some part of the assault would be taken over by trolls, rather than others of their comrades in masks?

I think that was a case of trolls using the HeroQuest to butt in and ambush them, as HeroQuestors performing a different but overlapping HeroQuest.

That is, of course, possible and is a known and well-documented aspect of HeroQuesting. 

14 hours ago, Joerg said:

Could some Gloranthans make something of a career of aiding heroquesters in the roles of their opponents?

Yes and it could have an effect.

Continually playing Yelmalio or Elmal might mean that you effectively become initiated into that cult, for example, despite never having been to their temples.

One good way of doing this is by having ringers on HeroQuests. You have friendly people playing the roles of the opponents and they throw the fight, losing on purpose. Sure, they get a possible little backlash for losing, but they also get the benefit of enabling and strengthening the overall HeroQuest.

 

13 hours ago, EricW said:

Opponents are worshippers of enemy gods AFAIK.

Not always.

Bituran Varosh played Orlanth, despite not being a worshipper of Orlanth.

The Red Emperor played Basko, despite not being a worshipper of Basko.

13 hours ago, EricW said:

If you consider Kallyrs failed limited LBQ, in which a Lunar suddenly appeared and started killing everyone, surely that argues for actual people being drawn into quests, even limited in world quests.

That was a surprise and was a result of a Lunar HeroQuestor directly opposing the HeroQuest. As mentioned above, this can and does happen, although not always.

12 hours ago, scott-martin said:

I would not "cast" real chaos or evil from inside the village because you have to go back to work with that person tomorrow morning and there are too many chances for something to go horribly wrong. Make an effigy or use an animal in a costume. Dip a trollkin in something stinky. They're expendable and unlikely to take the pantomime too far. You just need a warm body.

That is a danger, which is why I have certain people playing that role time and time again, because they are the ones who are cursed to play that role. Mad Erik who always plays the Broo is a good example of this.

And, yes, they need to be cleansed and purified afterwards.

12 hours ago, scott-martin said:

I think volunteer antagonists recognize the dangers and don't enjoy participating often. You shouldn't do it every year. It's better to bring in at least a few relatively friendly outsiders now and then to give you a break and let you get back to the real work of worshipping your actual god once in awhile. You might not get anything out of it but the comfort that your performance made the difference between holding the rite and not holding it at all.

Smart priests only let extremely well trusted people do this and will then keep close watch on you to make sure you aren't getting too attached to the role. Maybe you get a special private worship session before or after (probably after) to (a) renew your runes and heal you (b) welcome you back to the community. There might be bonuses on your next promotion roll if you give them a good show while signaling everyone that you don't actually believe the awful things you're saying. 

Yes, it is possible to gain insight and powers from playing the same role over and over again, until you effectively become the role and become an initiate of the cult through HeroQuesting.

You also get good insights to the HeroQuests by playing the enemies.

It is also possible to play an enemy when disrupting a rival clan's HeroQuest. So, you could play Gagarth attacking a rival clan while Orlanth is away on a HeroQuest, for example. You are Orlanthi playing Gagarth, opposed by Elmal, for example.

 

Edited by soltakss
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14 hours ago, Joerg said:

In the rites and this-world heroquests, members of the questing community will play the role of antagonists, like in a passion play. What happens to them, what do they get out of this?

We have an excellent example of this in Pavis GtA, in the Red Moon Rising adventure. It's clear to me that, it's the level of identification that the participant achieves that determines the effect on the performer. It will range from, just going through he motions - scripted to the other extreme of being the god. The key in this ceremony is that the masks have been identified magically with a particular god and have as such their own agendas. The participant can choose to identify with the mask and under RQG likely gain a bonus to becoming the god. I think the key here is that the person who is going to assume the role with have some connection already. For example someone chosen to play one of the Seven mothers in a ritual, could be an Ernalda initiate playing Dezola. 

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5 hours ago, soltakss said:

Playing Ragnaglar on a HeroQuest probably means that you need time out afterwards to be cleansed. maybe you need to be purified or are ritually unclean for a period of time. 

I like the idea of "ritual cleansing" or purification of those who have taken on other roles in the ceremonies.  For some roles, perhaps the Wicked Uncles, this is not difficult - it is simply meditating on "how it was" and their own initiations to see the flaws of the "Old World" and why Orlanth had to change things.  For others, it may be a day of fasting, or standing out upon a nearby hill until the Winds and Rains of Orlanth have washed away the impurities.

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On 2/21/2021 at 4:53 AM, Joerg said:

In the rites and this-world heroquests, members of the questing community will play the role of antagonists, like in a passion play. What happens to them, what do they get out of this?

The community require several of these roles and performances for their ongoing defence and ongoing growth/maintenance, so it can't be disastrous for the individual chosen / volunteering. Any personal consequences will balance (in the long-term and in the average) as a positive for the individual volunteer.

Some of the benefits might be the insights gained into the behaviour of the enemies.

 

16 hours ago, soltakss said:

maybe you need to be purified or are ritually unclean for a period of time. 

Maybe the benefits come from the purification? What if the only way to enter the purification is to have become unclean by performing as an enemy?

 

That's not to say that there are no scapegoats used where the consequences are awful. It's not often discussed, some of Greg's trickster write-ups suggested that the crippled, insane, and other unfortunates with no powerful sponsors were forced into Eurmal and then horribly abused. Most die quickly and unmourned but some are empowered and become a danger to the community. And very rarely a terminal disaster for the community.

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On 2/20/2021 at 9:53 PM, Joerg said:

Does this give you any (Otherworld) insights? Does becoming the mask, or the entity depicted/summoned by the mask, create anything for the bearer?

If it does, is that a feature, or is it a flaw? If you take on the role of say a member of the Unholy Trio, will that aid you in achieving illumination? May it make you susceptible or more knowledgeable about Chaos?

...

Could some Gloranthans make something of a career of aiding heroquesters in the roles of their opponents?

There’s an analogous situation that I like, from WH40K of all places. Eldar Harlequins are a kind of travelling performer-warriors, who do two things - wage wars and put on theatrical performances about their people’s heroic but mostly tragic history. This is difficult and demanding in the best of cases - the performance is also a ritual and halfway to a heroquest - but there is a special problem that someone has to play the role of the Chaos God Slaanesh, and only one particular kind of Harlequin, The Solitaire, can manage this (anyone else who tries will simply have their soul consumed by Slaanesh). And even then, only centuries of training and total dedication and self-control suffices. Solitaires take their name because unlike the others, they have to travel alone, only linking up with troupes for the special performances.

So yes, I could easily imagine that there are heroquest roles, especially among the Chaos gods, that are simply too demanding to perform for most people. Wakboth springs to mind - is this really something the regular Vargast could depict without getting his mind blasted? Perhaps it’s just a manniquin in most cases. But then, there could be itinerants willing to put on such a ”bad” role, either because they’re experts or because they’re just that desperate (compare sin-eaters). It seems likely that the heroquest would benefit from having such a performer.

 

Edited by Akhôrahil
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On 2/21/2021 at 12:08 AM, Joerg said:

That was one possible campaign idea, yes - a motley group of outsiders and never-do-wells trained in taking those antagonist roles. Some like those beat-up price boxers, essentially the stuntmen of the passion plays.

Someone has to play against the Harlem Globetrotters and lose in a theatrical fashion.

On 2/21/2021 at 12:21 PM, David Scott said:

We have an excellent example of this in Pavis GtA, in the Red Moon Rising adventure. It's clear to me that, it's the level of identification that the participant achieves that determines the effect on the performer. It will range from, just going through he motions - scripted to the other extreme of being the god. The key in this ceremony is that the masks have been identified magically with a particular god and have as such their own agendas. The participant can choose to identify with the mask and under RQG likely gain a bonus to becoming the god. I think the key here is that the person who is going to assume the role with have some connection already. For example someone chosen to play one of the Seven mothers in a ritual, could be an Ernalda initiate playing Dezola. 

In that scenario, I love the (SPOILERS!) utter obliviousness of the Lunars in dumping the PCs into imprisonment among strangers while still well identified with the Orlanthi gods. What could possibly go wrong?

Edited by Akhôrahil
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I think there is a question of perspective:

A) (prince of sartar) the initiation of an orlanthi must be done, it is good for the young.

Thepeople who take the roles do it for good reason with kindness.

They take the role as uncles not as old lords who want to eliminate a further opponent. And after the success, they (always with the mask) welcome their nephew, happy to see him as an adult, forgetting (not playing) the original purpose.

B) clan member playing a clan ennemy. The ceremony is good for the clan, the ritual must be a success. The unfortunate opponent can play the role as the defeated one, not as the opponent who will try to succeed (and lose in the myth) because it is too dangerous. So the actor accept to be beaten (normaly softly) and not give to much dammage.

C) strangers forced to play a clan ennemy. The ceremony will probably not be good for the opponent. He has no reason to let it go (or maybe some, depending how he can escape after the ritual)

 

then there is the flow of god time. You play a role but at the end you may be not you but the god (or like) you are.

In mundane quest you are (you: 90% / god 10%), in godly quest you are (you: 10% / god 90%) so maybe you will kill the good guy even when you want his success. And there are the flaw, then you can earn some power of this god (and of course "touched", if now you are able to spit a gorp, probably you are chaos tainted)

 

10-90 is just a picture, I m not proposing a rule here

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17 hours ago, Joerg said:

Orlanth faced his own sister. Fortunately it wasn't kinstrife because she belonged to the Darkness Tribe.

I always saw her as one of Valind's clan.

To be honest, I hadn't thought of her as being Kero Fin's daughter.

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On 2/23/2021 at 11:20 AM, French Desperate WindChild said:

They take the role as uncles not as old lords who want to eliminate a further opponent. And after the success, they (always with the mask) welcome their nephew, happy to see him as an adult, forgetting (not playing) the original purpose.

I would posit that one thing that helps with this is that stuff like "motivation" is one of the easiest parts of a myth to change without ill effect, especially compared to "action." When the sons of Umath emerged from the pits as full-fledged gods, the Evil Uncles threw them a feast. That this was them essentially trying to cover up their attempted assassination is fairly immaterial to the myth or the quest, and it isn't a problem if the people playing the Evil Uncles are genuine. If the actions don't change, then your motives for them differing from those of the role you're playing is usually not a problem.

5 hours ago, soltakss said:

I always saw her as one of Valind's clan.

To be honest, I hadn't thought of her as being Kero Fin's daughter.

I tend to see Inora as pretty proudly independent, albeit sometimes willing to ally with her various kin as it suits her (but just as willing to oppose them).

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