Thursday, August 20, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 20 Investigate

I have made some off-handed comments here, and on Facebook and other social media platforms, but nothin solid or concrete yet.  So now is that time. I am pulling together several loose ideas and a couple more developed ones into a single narrative.  

All summer long I have been fairly focused on some "Basic-era" games.  In particular OSE, BXRPG, and BECMI.  I knew I was going to get a game together using one or more of these rules.  I also have a big campaign I want to do, War of the Witch Queens, which I have been going back and forth on; should it be Basic-Era (BECMI in particular) or Castles & Crusades.

The premise is simple really, deceptively so.
While our intrepid adventurers are doing their normal adventuring thing they notice that there are an awful lot of powerful, but low level, witches causing troubles.  Making power grabs and largely being a problem.  The adventurers discover, but some means not fully developed yet, that the problem is the witch hierarchy is in shambles.  Someone has murdered the High Queen of Witches.

I said this bit before, but every 13 years the witches gather to choose a new High Queen of Witches. While all the Witch Queens, leaders of their respective traditions, have a say in truth it is the current High Queen that chooses the new High Queen.  This year the witches have gathered and the High Queen has been killed.  Every Witch Queen suspects the others and the entire power structure is in shambles. 

That is the goal.  The characters have to investigate the murder and find out who did it.

Simple, right?  Well...the trouble is that for the most part I don't know who did it. At least not yet.

Here are the details.

Who was murdered? The High Queen of Witches.
How was she killed? It looks like a mundane dagger. But that can't be it right??
Why was she killed? Unknow, it is suspected that one of the out-of-favor Queens did it.
Are we sure? No. Witches are not allowed to harm each other.  This taboo gets more powerful as the witch increases in level.  The powerful the witch, the less able she is to harm another witch.  I call this the Pact of Baba Yaga. She demanded that no witch harms another or SHE will come in and do the harming. 
Ok, why was she really killed? To destabilize the power base of the witches.  The Witch Queens keep the lower level witches in line.  They can't harm them directly...but you can be surprised what they can do.

So, this puts me on an investigation of my own.  Essentially I have to go through the mystery myself and see where it leads me. But this isn't just a murder mystery.  This is a power grab.  Someone wanted the High Witch Queen dead to destabilize the witch power structure on purpose. Who would want to do that?  The other Witch Queens?  No. Can't be one of them. They can't actually harm each other due to the Pact of Baba Yaga.  Plus, why would they want too? Without that High Queen the witches will start warring, start causing trouble and basically doing all the things that got them all sent to the gallows and the stake the first time around.  Plus any new High Queen is going to spend most of her 13 years ruling just cleaning up the mess of the last 13 months.  No.  This is someone outside the hierarchy looking to weaken the witches.

But who?

Enter Kelek the Cruel.

Kelek has the notable distinction of being the first AD&D Toy Line product I ever bought. I thought he would be great as an antagonist, but in the end, I never used him.  In my investigations of Skylla, I also ran into more details about Kelek.  I learned that like Skylla, Kelek was changed to evil by the Heartstone. He also was a friend to Ringlerun, the good wizard. Skylla had been Ringlerun's apprentice, but now she works with Kelek.  Kelek seems more than happy to use her to his own ends.

Then I discovered two details that really sold it for me.  

First. Kelek was in the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, Episode "Valley of the Unicorns", where he unwillingly served Venger.  That is not the important bit.  The important bit is who wrote the episode.

Yes. Paul Dini. The same Paul Dini that invented Harley Quinn, wrote SO MUCH material about Zatanna and gave us the definitive Evil-Lyn episode of the Masters of the Universe, "The Witch and the Warrior."


I don't know about you, but for me, that is a pedigree.

Second, and this happened while doing my investigations of both Kelek and Skylla and BECMI related merchandise, I found that Kelek was featured a lot in the AD&D coloring books and in the D&D story books for kids.

In one, The Treasure of Time, Kelek is creeping on Charmay (the good magic-user, and subject of a crazy idea of mine) where he discovers a map to the "Treasure of Time".  Long story (ok it is not that long) short, he finds the treasure and becomes young again, but loses all his knowledge of magic. 

He is humiliated by Charmay who laughs at him while he cries.

The thought occurred to me. Here is a guy that obviously already has issues. Bullied by Venger, humiliated by Charmay, and wants nothing more than to be the Master of all Evil Magic according to his bio in the Shady Dragon Inn and has no problem destroying Skylla once he gets what he wants.

I have been watching a lot of the new Harley Quinn animated series lately where they have Doctor Psycho as a full-on misogynistic asshole.  Further strengthens that Paul Dini connection (I know. He has nothing to do with that show, but there would have never been that show had it not been for Dini) and make Kelek the same.  It's not a stretch really.  Plus it also allows me to play with current politics in my game.  Taking an old misogynistic white dude (and likely aging incel. he had to lure those unicorns in some way) and make him the bad guy in a situation were witches/women hold more power than he does and he wants. 

I have not decided though if Skylla is working with him on this.  Either he has promised her the High Witch Queen crown OR if he is manipulating her as well.


After his defeat at the hands of Charmay, a bitter Kelek had no choice but to go back to magic school and relearn everything.  Only this time instead of a bright young man who had a friend (Ringlerun) with him, he is a bitter old-man in a young man's body.  That also makes him extremely focused. He doesn't go for the types of fun that a young magic-school student might get into. Instead he is bitter, focuses 100% of time on his studies and plots of revenge.  In the process, he sees "enemies" everywhere.  Everyone is trying to stop him or mock him and he is SOOOO much smarter than these fools around him.  It is easy to think of someone like this in real life. He hates his fellow students because they are so stupid in his mind. He hates his teachers because in his mind he has already done far more than they have. Every day that they have to teach him something he already knew long ago, but can't quite remember, is a stinging reminder of his defeat.

Why is Kelek going after the witches? Well he hates women and his old friend and enemy Ringlerun died of natural causes, robbing Kelek of the chance to kill him. 

Sometimes I like to make villains that you can relate too. It's my Lex Luthor philosophy.  Lex never thinks he is the villain, he is the Hero, and that flying abomination is the villain. 

Kelek is just an asshole whose thoughts are so twisted in on themselves that he doesn't care if he is the villain or the hero, he is just going make everyone that laughed at him pay.  No one will stop him because he is so much smarter than everyone around him.

And those types of villains are really fun to defeat.

5 comments:

Brutorz Bill said...

Love the Kelek Mini, is that Hero Forge?

Timothy S. Brannan said...

It is! Love HeroForge.

JB said...

I wouldn't know Paul Dini from a hole in the ground, but the Valley of the Unicorns episode of D&D is and remains one of my favorites, specifically because of the writing and the portrayal of the mad wizard Kelek.

The motivations here, using the various "D&D canon" is interesting...except that I'm not a fan of the whole Heartstone plot, which seems to be a cornerstone of the scenario's premise.

Are misogynistic old white guys still a good basis for an archvillain? What if one of the Witch-Queen hopefuls was the real "Big Bad" and simply using Kelek as a pawn/fall guy? Maybe Skylla has taken the upper hand in the power dynamic of their relationship and she's calling the shots now, preying on poor Kelek's insecurities to turn him into a tool of her own? Players can still have fun stomping him, but it's a little less...um...trite.

Just a thought.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Misogynistic old white guys are always great for villains! While the thought crossed my mind it was one of the other witches I dismissed it as being way too obvious.
But I still have some more research to do so things very well could change.

Cross Planes said...

I just found my Kelek action figure but don't have his wand or staff :(

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