Lankhmar: Carnival of Swords
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The Silver Eel bustled with pleasantly raucous excitement. Fighting men predominated and the clank of swordsmen's harness mingled with the thump of tankards, providing a deep obbligato to the shrill laughter of the women. Swaggering guardsmen elbowed the insolent bravos of the young lords. Grinning slaves bearing open wine jars dodged nimbly between. In one corner a slave girl was dancing, the jingle of her silver anklet bells inaudible in the din.
-- Fritz Leiber,
"The Bleak Shore"
  

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Characters
If you would like to play a character in Lankhmar: Carnival of Swords, simply answer the following Character Questionnaire and send your answers to the Gamemaster at smartin@library.ucla.edu by November 30. Players may join the game after that date, but your characters won't be as fully developed, with fewer plot connections and goals. If you need ideas, see the lists of Character Suggestions and of Current Cast of Characters. If you're unfamiliar with creating characters for a live game, see the section below on Plot Hooks. See the Background Tone page for tips about creating the proper mood and feel for a good Lankhmar character.

After getting all of the character submissions, I'll put them together into plots and send back a completed character sheet to you, hopefully at least a week before the game. This will include all the information you need to play your character.

Character Questionnaire

  1. What is your character's name?
  2. Describe your character in one or two sentences. This should include the basics of your profession, social standing, and current activities in Lankhmar.
  3. Describe your character's background in as much detail as you would like. Try to include lots of Plot Hooks.
  4. What are your character's goals? As this game will have no large, over-arching plots, try to create lots of small-scale goals. Goals are also a good source of Plot Hooks.
  5. In a few sentences, describe your character's personality.
  6. Do you know any of the already defined Cast of Characters? If so, what do you think of them? Are they friends, acquaintances, rivals, or deadly enemies? Make up one or two other characters in Lankhmar who you know and might meet at the game. Again, this is a good place for Plot Hooks.
  7. Name at least three interesting (and possibly scandalous or lucrative) pieces of information that your character knows. These may be about current or past events, people, places, or objects. As always, think Plot Hooks!
  8. On a scale of 1-5, how good is your character at combat? Stealth? Does your character have any special skills? Knowledge of sorcery?
  9. Does your character have any noteworthy possessions?
  10. On a scale of 1-5, how "active" do you want to be in the game plots? Bascially, 5 means that your character will be heavily involved in a dozen different plots and will probably not have time to handle all of them. ("No, I can't be the lost heir to your House of Angargni! I've already got to rescue my partner from the Overlord's dungeons, pay off my debts to Movarl, and recover the bones of Smelkin the Apostate, all before midnight and while trying to avoid three Thieves' Guilds assassins, a Mingol sorceror, and my ex-fiance. What? You say there's a death curse involved? OK, make it quick!") 1 means that you'll be connected to only 3 or 4 small plot lines, and can concentrate on role-playing or just having a good time, though of course you always have the option of meddling in other people's plots. ("Is that a brawl going on over there? Hmm, no one I know. Barkeep, another round!")
  11. Describe what types of things you (the player) want your character to do during the game. Do you want to engage in intrigue, fight lots of brawls, solve mysteries, dance and party, concentrate on solving goals, concentrate on role-playing, be public and boisterous, skulk and hide, lead a group, follow orders, or anything else?
  12. Now, create a second character for use in case your first character dies. Basically, go back through all the questions above but be extremely cursory. Answer questions #1 and #2 and enough of the rest to provide two or three plot hooks. Your backup character will not be as important as your primary character, and I'm not going to spend a lot of time and effort on them, so a single paragraph submission is acceptable.

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"There must be a few adventures left outside Lankhmar," the small man objected mildly, "if only little ones, suitable for cowards."
"Perhaps," the big man agreed, "but big or little, they all have a way of beginning in Lankhmar."

-- Fritz Leiber,
The Swords of Lankhmar














For the gods have very sharp ears for boasts, or for declarations of happiness and self-satisfaction, or for assertions of a firm intention to do this or that, or for statements that this or that must surely happen, or any other words hinting that a man is in the slightest control of his own destiny. And the gods are jealous, easily angered, perverse, and swift to thwart.
-- Fritz Leiber,
"Under the Thumbs of the Gods"














"Did I tell you that she once became an acolyte of the Wizards of Azorkah?--so that she might be trained by them to become a concubine of the King of Kings and their spy in the court at Horborixen. Aye, and eluded those dread necromancers most cleverly when she had gained the erotic knowledge she desired."
-- Fritz Leiber,
"The Snow Women"
  

Plot Hooks

Simply put, plot hooks are little bits of your character that can potentially link you to other player characters in the game. And any potential interaction between two or more characters becomes the basis of a game plot, ie. something going on in the game. The more plot hooks you can provide, the more chances I'll have of finding compatible hooks in other characters. Without such hooks, I have no way to link your character with other characters to form plots, and a character without plot connections doesn't have much to do during the game!

While you can simply list a lot of plot hooks for your character, you can also work them into your character's background, goals, and information, as described above in the questionnaire. You can design plot hooks that connect you to people listed in the Current Cast of Characters, but you're also free to make up potential characters of your own (referring to them as "Character A" or "my enemy") -- it's my job to find some other character in the game to fill that role for you!

Because of the nature of Lankhmar: Carnival of Swords, instead of having a few big plots involving many players, there will instead be lots and lots of small plots involving a few people. So I need all of the players to submit as many plot hooks as possible, remembering that I'll probably have to discard half of them along the way for various design reasons.

Here's a list of some sample plot hooks as they might appear in various parts of your character submission:

  • Background Plot Hook: "I was born into a large farm outside Lankhmar. When I was a child, my oldest sister left to make her fortune in the big city and we never heard from her again." [This creates the obvious possibility of running into your sister at the game, or at least some character who has information about her. If you'd just said "I was born on a farm" that's useful background info, but not a plot hook.]
  • Background Plot Hook: "For most of my adult life I was a respected member of the Thieves' Guild, but a few years ago I got into gambling and started running up huge debts. Desperate to pay my bookie, I stopped reporting all of my take to the Master Thief, allowing me to keep a greater share for myself. Eventually I was caught and forced to flee town." [This quick story provides multiple plot hooks, both to other members of the Thieves' Guild, potential enemies of the Thieves' Guild (who may want to find someone who knows the group), and your bookie (who probably still wants his money).]
  • Goal Plot Hook: "I want to acquire the bejewelled Crown of Tir before my rival." [A great hook both to the people who have the Crown or clues about it, and to an opponent.]
  • Goal Plot Hook: "I want to become a Lankhmar nobleman." [An open-ended goal that offers many plot hook possibilities. I can create multiple avenues by which you might achieve this goal (impress the Overlord, get adopted by a noble, buy a title), all of which involve interaction with other characters.]
  • Other Character Plot Hook: "Every day I pass by an old priestess on the Street of the Gods who never seems to preach or have a congregation, yet she never moves up or down the street. No one I've talked to knows why." [A minor mystery that I might be able to attach to some other character or, at the very least, just put into a few people's backgrounds as fodder for conversation.]
  • Information Plot Hook: "I recently heard a rumor that the Overlord is broke. He's planning to sell the Rainbow Palace to the highest bidder and become a monk of Aarth." [Again, this might be the source of an important plot about the city government or it could just be a red herring. As a game designer, I can always use this type of material!]
  • Information Plot Hook: "I saw Character A at a tavern yesterday, and he had a couple young girls on his arms, and they were obviously intimately acquainted. Yet just last week I heard his wife telling me that she would kill him if she caught him philandering one more time!" [A great plot hook, since some people (A's wife and her allies) will be trying to uncover it while others (A and his friends) will be trying to supress it.]
  • Possession Plot Hook: "As part of a trade deal in Ilthmar I had this bottle of Mingol ale foisted off on me. The stuff's undrinkable, but if I can just find the right sucker I can make a little profit." [A plot hook to potential buyers. It will be my job to make one or more characters who need Mingol ale for some innocent or, far more likely, nefarious reason.]
  • Ability Plot Hook: "My grandmother taught me a little charm that lets me find missing cats." [OK, I may have to change it to dogs, horses, or mongooses to fit the other plots, but there's hopefully at least one character who desperately needs to find Mr. Fluffy to achieve his goals, and once you hook up you'll be able to start negotiating salary.]

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