Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dungeon Siege III: Anjali

If you check out the Dungeon Siege III homepage, you may notice a woman on fire  with blazing hair and runes glowing about her apparently naked body. This is Anjali, an Archon of this setting.

While racial history does play a small role in the humans, such as Katarina being related to Lucas through the father, Anjali is the only non-human here.

Some of the things that makes her work though in terms of story and pacing and place, can also work for other esoteric races in fantasy games.

For one, she is human or at least human looking. When she uses her other form, her Archon form, she's still humanoid.

Two, she's been raised while not necessarily in secret, by those who know taht she is not a normal child.

Three, she is not the only one of her kind. The big bad of the series? Her mother was an Archon. The Archon's ages old origins and place in the setting? Important to the game, especially in their role as heralds to the old gods. The other Archons you encounter? Depending on how the initial encounters go, can either fight against you to the death, or provide you access to areas and put up a brief fight for the sake of a show.

Four, the Archons are rare. Remember when drow as players were rare? I'm not saying that they were 'cooler' back then, but the fact that they weren't meant to be a player race from the get go, as well as the other strange races that were introduced in the game, were rare. The disconnect some gamers have with more modern games that are fantasy based, is it's more like Star Wars and the Cantina scene where a thousand different aliens are mingling with the humans. There's nothing wrong with this appraoch. After all, some of the oldest takes on D&D, like Arduin, have some very strange races in them, but its not necessarily for everyone, especially those who grew up on Conan or Fafrd and the Gray Mouser or even Elric, who despite his heritage, didin't necessarily run into a lot of non-human character.

Five, because she's rare, she has questions about her background. She has questions about her role in the world. She doesn't quite know everything that she's supposed to be doing despite feelings she has. If she were a more common race, these questions are already answered. Its possible to play against type, but even that's playing type. How many noble drow, cambions or other evil races have we seen in addition to fallen angels, and other divine types?

By making the race of the character important and playing a role in the background and current adventurers in the campaign, you can add the unusual or the different. Beware of trying to including too much at one time or allowing players to step on each others toes with a thousand variants. Enjoy the rare character ever now and again if that's the style your going for but beware of the dilution of the default 4th edition assumption of "Yes."