Jump to content
PhilHibbs

Playing a trickster

Recommended Posts

Feel free to tell us about your best (or worst) ever trickster!

For me, it's like walking a tightrope. Fall off in one direction, and you disrupt the game, alienate the other players, and people don't have fun. Or even worse, everyone has fun except for one player who is deeply upset about something, sometimes something trivial like their character being eaten. Fall off in the other direction, and the character becomes a harmless jester, an occasional source of amusement, but without the frisson of danger.

The trick is to walk that line between being a dangerous sociopath and a fun character to have in the game. In the end, the ideal is for everyone to say "yes, it was an interesting experience, sometimes nerve-wracking, sometimes annoying, sometimes hilarious, but overall, looking back, I'd say it was enjoyable."

And, when it comes to an end, why not make it spectacular, with a farcical chase scene, a dramatic showdown, histrionics, and brutality.

 

If I post an example, it will probably be about Gribble, my most successful and notorious trickster character.

Favourite Use For A Lie Spell: "I killed the Crimson Bat, three times!" - this  just made the predicament worse, and directly led to being beheaded for serial murder.

Second Favourite Use For A Lie Spell: "He was an assassin, I saw a poisoned dagger hidden in his cloak", after pushing an innocent beggar down a well. Actually I have no idea if he was innocent, we'd only just met him. He might have been a vital plot NPC, I never did ask.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember a conversation with Greg when someone said they had a trickster in their group. He was asked how best to deal with them. His simple reply was “kill them”. It’s stayed with me ever since. 

  • Like 2
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, you introduced the equivalent of The Joker or Marvel’s Loki as a PC in your fantasy game?  What could possibly go wrong?

What about modeling a kinder, gentler trickster — Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, Brer Rabbit, Turtle from African folktales.  Annoying and selfish, yes, but they didn’t kill anyone.  Except maybe Daffy Duck ... multiple times.  🤨

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, PhilHibbs said:

Murderer is not the only kind of trickster. There are plenty of other kinds of sociopath.

No, but have you ever played an RPG Phil 🙂

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, PhilHibbs said:

Feel free to tell us about your best (or worst) ever trickster!

For me, it's like walking a tightrope. Fall off in one direction, and you disrupt the game, alienate the other players, and people don't have fun. Or even worse, everyone has fun except for one player who is deeply upset about something, sometimes something trivial like their character being eaten. Fall off in the other direction, and the character becomes a harmless jester, an occasional source of amusement, but without the frisson of danger.

The trick is to walk that line between being a dangerous sociopath and a fun character to have in the game. 

Wouldn't a trickster bounce between the extremes. Dangerous sociopath, fun character and character that disrupts game all in one

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Trickster" is a loaded term that conjures up different images for different folks.  I think it should be more of a spectrum...there are certainly trickster, Picar-esque characters that aren't disruptive in nature and more benevolent, but still through a off-kilter lens.  "Trickster" doesn't always mean "chaotic" either. There are as many variations to the Trickster motif as there are to a "Priest" or "Warrior" one.  I mean the most famous one today (for better or worse) would be Deadpool.  Violent and slightly absurd, but still somewhat aligned with a sense of altruism, however twisted.

To me it's like a talkative Zen Buddhist could be considered a "Trickster" via the use of koans...

I guess I would define the "Trickster" character arc as "being dedicated to the awareness of the inherent absurdity of sentient existence, and the perpetuation thereof"

(Discussions like this bring to mind the episode of Always Sunny in Philadelphia where they were discussing their group dynamic, and Charlie was "The Wildcard")

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, PhilHibbs said:

Favourite Use For A Lie Spell: "I killed the Crimson Bat, three times!" - this  just made the predicament worse, and directly led to being beheaded for serial murder.

DId the beheading hurt him, or did he manage to cast "Remove Head" before the executioner's tool met his neck?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, PhilHibbs said:

Feel free to tell us about your best (or worst) ever trickster!

In my old Imther campaign, tricksters were a recognized part of the society and expected to add the randomness in life that would keep society from either falling into stasis or devolving into 'violence is always an option'. A couple of my players ran tricksters, notably the aptly named Hysterious and Impetuous. My favorite event though was when I ran a one-off marriage in the village of Moonpost. Marriages in Imther were only truly blessed if a trickster actually played a good trick on the bride, groom, or whole ceremony. Lots of things kept getting messed up in the courtship, including one of the groom's best men being seduced by the bride-to-be. The backstory was that it was the bride who turned out to be the trickster. One of our most memorable sessions.

More recently in my HQG campaign, when the heroes were captured by the Lunars, stripped of their weapons, and sent to the stockade within the camp, one of the other prisoners turned out to be a trickster by the name of Rostoth Oakmoss. To help the heroes escape, Rostoth used his Great Swallow. The heroes did go along with this escape plan. I was expecting them to just wait until they were regurgitated, but they got scared of possible falling into the stomach acid, so decided to try the Other Door in the Trickster's gut. Led them into the Otherworld, of course.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I played a Duck Trickster in our Runemasters game at Continuum 2018. He disguised the Humakti Ducks and Storm Bull Duck as corpses, to hide them from the Crimson Drake, but they flew off to fight it, when the Humakti saw the Storm Bull as a flying corpse, they attacked him, so he fought back and all 3 died in the combat. I was so proud.

  • Like 1
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, Joerg said:

DId the beheading hurt him, or did he manage to cast "Remove Head" before the executioner's tool met his neck?

He didn't have any Remove spells. He had Become Pair of Smoking Boots, but he'd already used that in the obligatory farcical chase scene when someone cast Disruption on him.

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I ran a dwarf trickster named Digby for a decade or so. He had a bad experience in the mortar and pestle room, went mad, and fled to the surface. Somewhere along the way Eurmal began whispering to him and he became a devotee. Digby was convinced that he was supposed to personally fix the World Machine and would occasionally shove a character to prevent a piece of the world (that only he could see) from falling on their head. He only shoved someone off a cliff that way the one time and he didn’t mean to.He’d sometimes also eat random things left lying around, because he didn’t really know what was food and what wasn’t. You know, stuff like backpacks and weapons and a familiar or two. SWALLOW!

I played him as a sad, funny, confused lunatic rather than a sociopath. When threatened, he’d cast Conceal, hide, then cast Hallucinate on himself. Still, from time to time his old iron dwarf self would kick in and he’d craft something useful, pick a lock, or even charge into combat using his damage boosted iron pickaxe. Lethal with Strike. Almost never hit a PC with it. Almost never.

Digby was well travelled so he knew a lot of spells. On the whole he helped the party a lot more than he hurt it, and he was usually bonded to one heroic oaf of an Orlanthi or other, so no one ever executed him.

In my game, we usually give players a bit more latitude to be part of the party and not a total nightmare if they play a trickster. MGF and all that. Just so long as they screw themselves over a lot and their friends over a little. I like the idea of letting PCs play someone like Daffy or Bugs or Floki from Vikings or the Fool from King Lear or the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. Not every Eurmali has to be the Joker. 

YGMV

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a (relatively new) GM, I enjoy using a trickster as GMPC & Questgiver/Interference. Nothing quite like having someone ride up on an imaginary Griffon to make the players feel "something's fishy..."

A friend of mine played a trickster in our ongoing RQ3+ campaign. Hallucinate lets you do some crazy stuff; he used it as the "nope!" button a lot. Reggie's general character shape was a snake oil salesman. Lying, conniving, less direct pranking and slapstickery.

My highlight's more an almost-highlight. We played the Gyvreck Sodality Cult adventure from Daughters of Darkness, and ended up stealing the gem containing the god Gyvreck. Reggie didn't yet know Swallow, and to this day it remains one of the player's greatest regrets that he didn't get to Swallow a god...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Crel said:

We played the Gyvreck Sodality Cult adventure from Daughters of Darkness

And you admit it! 😲 Clearly a heretic! Naming one of the two forbidden books that all in the tribe of Glorantha have forever forsworn!

At this point you should be expecting the RuneQuest Inquisition and be prepared for … The Comfy Chair! (Or at least a pair of Moon demons to drag you to the deepest pits beyond the Adamantine Gates where Ikadz forever tears apart your soul.)

Edited by jajagappa
  • Haha 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, jajagappa said:

And you admit it! 😲 Clearly a heretic! Naming one of the two forbidden books that all in the tribe of Glorantha have forever forsworn!

It happened in a Trickster thread.

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, jajagappa said:

At this point you should be expecting the RuneQuest Inquisition and be prepared for … The Comfy Chair! (Or at least a pair of Moon demons to drag you to the deepest pits beyond the Adamantine Gates where Ikadz forever tears apart your soul.)

No, that's unspeakable... not that vile hell—the one reserved for horrible artists and their descendants (sounds of souls being torn apart forever, some screaming and whimpering and then an extremely evil voice breaks in

"Quit whimpering Dobyski, or we'll force you back to the design and illustration dungeons at Hasbro this time, Bwawawahahahaha!".

Whips cracking and hideous laughter follows...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, jajagappa said:

And you admit it! 😲 Clearly a heretic! Naming one of the two forbidden books that all in the tribe of Glorantha have forever forsworn!

Not gonna lie, it was a factor in why I brought the story up. :P

And you know what? WE HAD FUN!

Edited by Crel
  • Like 3
  • Haha 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've only played a trickster in a game of about six hours.

I didn't do anything big, but the other players were terrified every time I smirked. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's a document I made for my players about playing a trickster (warning, some salty language):

ON PLAYING TRICKSTERS:

Eurmal worship is not a choice.  It happens to people.  Usually to people whose parents were cousins.  If you worship Eurmal, there's no getting around it.  You are batshit crazy, mentally defective, or both.  Eurmal worshippers drool, set fires, bed wet, torture small animals, compulsively masturbate, and/or eat their own poop.  They don't choose Eurmal.  Eurmal chooses them, poor bastards.

Tricksters are universally reviled, worldwide.  In 95% of the cultures out there, there's one clear way to deal with a Trickster.  Death.  Find Trickster.  Kill Trickster.  Problem solved.

Orlanth-worshippers (including Sartarites) are one of the only cultures out there that have a cultural role (several of them in fact) for Eurmali.  So while they still kill most of the Tricksters they come across, they have several other roles that they can assign a Trickster.  Those roles, from least desirable to most desirable, are:

1.  Killboy.  This is the assigned role for firestarters and animal torturers.  The hopeless, low functioning psychopaths (High functioning psychopaths become Storm Bulls.  Very high functioning psychopaths become Humakti).  The Trickster is kept in a cage, fed scraps, and poked with sticks.  They are made very, very, very pissed off.  Eventually (after months or even years), the Trickster is released with a ritual binding and an assignment to kill, hurt and maim the clan's enemies.   The clan releases the trickster like a guided missile and prays that he dies while accomplishing his mission.  If he doesn't, he'll probably come back and there will be hell to pay.  This is a role that is only used under extremely rare circumstances.

2.  Scapegoat.  The assigned role for vagrants, sneak-thieves, those with hopelessly low INT, and low-functioning schizophrenics (mildly stupid people usually become Storm Bulls).  The Trickster is captured, tarred and feathered, ritually imbued with all the bad negative energy of the clan, blindfolded, taken far, far, far away and released.  This is the second most common way of dealing with an unknown Trickster who shows up in clan territory (hanging is the most common).

3.  Curse-eater.  The assigned role for the mildly impaired.  The town nut.  The guy who eats his boogers but is basically harmless.  The crazy old coot.   The compulsive.  Some areas or houses are cursed by bad luck or evil spirits.  Orlanthi desert these areas, mark them off with willow sticks, and give them to a Trickster as a dwelling area.  The Trickster is not allowed to leave the area except for important religious rituals.  But they are given food and shelter and treated kindly.  Since nothing works as planned with a Trickster, the curses or evil spirits usually don't work against them.  Or they do.  Who the fuck cares? Eventually, when the Trickster has sucked up all the negative energy of the area, they are assigned a new "home."  This is a pretty sweet gig for an Eurmali and probably the best most can hope for.  Bonded Eurmali or future Killboys are sometimes used as Curse-eaters while they're "in storage."

4.  Bonded Trickster.  Lightbringer.  Firestealer.  Heroic companion.  This is the plum.  The best and worst job for a Trickster.  This is the role for the inspired lunatic.  The guy who sees things that aren't there but might actually be.  The high-functioning delusional schitzo.  In order to fulfill this role, the Eurmali must ritually attach himself to a powerful Orlanthi leader, preferable one who aspires to heroism.  Every really studly Orlanthi hero needs a Trickster.  But they only need one.  And it’s a necessary evil.  Once ritually bound to the Orlanthi, the Trickster must obey his master... until he decides to utterly betray him.  The Orlanthi is betting he can get good use out of the Trickster and kill the little bastard before the betrayal.  The Trickster (if he can think this coherently, unlikely) is betting he can suck off the Orlanthi’s tit and still pull a ton of bullshit.  The wannabe hero extends his protection over the Trickster and the Trickster finds himself acting slightly less crazy.  Crimes committed by the Trickster (cause he's still a little shit in the end) are paid for by the Orlanthi.  Having a Trickster is expensive.  If the little shit doesn't earn his keep, it's hanging time.

In myth, Orlanth was betrayed by Eurmal three times.  The first two times, Orlanth maimed Eurmal.  The third time, he killed him.  Most Orlanthi hero wannabes skip the maiming.

--------------------------

So what was the Eurmal festival in Prattstead?  How does it work?

Approximately twenty or so genuine Tricksters show up in Prattstead once a year for the Eurmal festival.  Each of them is either a Curse-eater or a Bonded Trickster and brings with them a large gift (bribe) from their sponsoring clan for the local Chieftain.  Maybe a few strays slip in.  The other 500+ celebrants are normal people using the festival as an excuse to get a little crazy.  Think Mardi Gras.  Harmless fun.  The real Tricksters who pay their bribe are given a little extra leeway when it comes to acting like little shits for the week.  The ones who don't pay are jailed (the PCs from the first run) and then punished in some way.  Usually, they are Scapegoated and released.  The town puts up with it because they get big bribes, the Trickster sponsoring clan owes them a little karmic debt, the town accrues some magical benefits (specifically, protection against ogres for the year), and they almost always have a Scapegoat for the next day’s Scapegoat Festival.

So what have we learned from this:

1.  The two stray tricksters who ran away after the first run are gone.  They went back home.  Or betrayed the adventurers to the Lunars.  Isn't it strange that you got attacked by broos on your home territory?  That never happens.  Hmmm.

2.  The little psychopathic Killboy trollkin in the second run never allied himself with the party, has no Lightbringer bond, and ran away after the barroom brawl.  He's probably also gone.

3.  Playing a Trickster is hard.  Your life expectancy will be short.  Like playing a Humakti, you can do it, but don't expect me to make it easy on you.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
  • Haha 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, Crel said:

And you know what? WE HAD FUN!

And that is what counts! It did sound like a fun game (but couldn't resist responding 😉 )

On 2/25/2019 at 5:14 AM, Crel said:

Hallucinate lets you do some crazy stuff; he used it as the "nope!" button a lot.

Oddly, despite having the old gods book for many years, I could really never make sense of why anyone would want or use the Hallucinate spell. It's only been with a couple recent posts (including this) that it's hit home how a Trickster can utilize and take advantage of it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, jajagappa said:

(but couldn't resist responding 😉 )

...

I could never really make sense of why anyone would want or use the Hallucinate spell.

Likewise. :) And we've mostly used Hallucinate for movement and utility, or recreation (the latter seems especially relevant in RQG; who wouldn't blow their last few RP to have a wild night when you get back to town?). If you're really creative, it's a fantastic spell since it lets you imagine things so wildly. Most uses I've come up with involve getting the party's Trickster into some impossible place while there's a rope attached.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/25/2019 at 5:48 PM, jajagappa said:

one of the two forbidden books that all in the tribe of Glorantha have forever forsworn!

Can't help but ask now--what's the other book? :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×