Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
🎵 The song for this post is DADDY, by PSY. 🎵
I've written up some characters I've developed for tabletop RPGs I play with friends (there's Homage for Dungeons & Dragons, Gorlif for Mouse Guard, and Ángel for Fate as well as some of the sketches that led to Ángel). My group is concluding its Mouse Guard run and bringing in a new Fate campaign in a different setting, which means — new character time! Meet Ralmahant, the newest character I plan on piloting.
It helps to know a few relevant details about the setting:
Voxxing is this world's version of spellcasting. The SRD describes it best:
The vox, as far as anyone can tell, is the divine language of creation. The words spoken by some creator god long forgotten that gave shape the world and its processes. Across the Divided Kingdoms, there are those blessed with the ability to speak this ancient language. Known as 'voxxers,' these privileged few can create and reshape reality to their will.
When a voxxer speaks or 'cants' the vox, their words tumble out in a whirl of glossolalia and unnatural sound. Voxxers will generally agree that they aren't so much 'choosing' the right words so much as giving sound to a concept or visualization of some kind. These words alter reality, causing fire to blossom, water to freeze, or a variety of other phenomena. Each voxxer has a domain or 'knack' that they are able to affect. This could be as simple as making fire, or the ability to make metal move and flow like water.
While the act of voxxing itself does not drain the user in any real 'magical' way, a voxxer must focus and cant to continue any sort of effect. It's roughly akin to being asked to read several dozen pages of text in a language you don't actually comprehend as fast as possible, and if you slip up you might explode.
The Xunvi are the race of creatures most known for voxing. Their description most reminds me of the Merchants race from The Innkeeper Chronicles, tiny Khajit from The Elder Scrolls games, or a little like Rocket Raccoon from Guardians of the Galaxy, all wearing Final Fantasy Black Mage clothing:
An average Xunvi stands somewhere four-and-a-half feet tall, with the largest members of their species peaking at about five feet and change. Rarely seen without voluminous and concealing clothing, they are covered in fine dark fur, with glowing yellow eyes and a wide mouth full of small sharp teeth.
Though Xunvi have traditionally worn robes and stoles with a complex pattern of sigils and colors denoting their rank, Ostian fashion, particularly hats, have crept steadily into their culture. Mainland Xunvi in particular have neatly adopted Ostian dress, with long coats and wide hats always being in fashion.
Their origin country is a magocracy:
Planned marriages to increase chance of voxer potential
Children without voxing aren’t allowed to inherit land or titles
Think "modern day Italy" — blatantly corrupt legislature that ostensibly provides regional representation from different provinces, but is merely an extension of the elite members of the magocracy
I know this could describe America, but has that certain loony bin 'circus of lunatics' feel that has dominated Italian politics for a long time.
Everyone cheats on their taxes, yadda yadda
"Hundrefolk" get a mention: they're trolls who can vox a bit.
With all this now established: here's Ralmahant!
Ralmahant Macad, son of mother Bhimi and father S'therra, is a rare Xunvi because he's an only child. With four in the litter coming out stillborn, two more dying in infancy, he grew up with only two siblings: sisters Danali and Anurzura. Danali was a prodigy voxxer with a knack for stone; unfortunately, she learned this after petrifying herself in an unsupervised and ambitious voxxing accident at the age of 10 (Ralmahant kept the largest pieces of the statue). Anurzura died in a duel over pride, when they were both 17.
All this to say, even by Xunvi standards, he's always felt a little special. He wears a ring for every sibling and parent, insisting that their memories (or spirits) are the source of his voxxing power. When warming up, just as he was first learning, he often begins by listing their names while touching his rings, as with a rosary.
His parents didn't react well to the losses of his siblings: S'therra grew ever more paranoid, insisting political backbiting or foul play was underfoot (he had no reason to have enemies: he was a court stenographer in a Xun courthouse); Bhimi devised a new Grand Reason for their misfortunes a few times a year. Both spent copious sums of money on, frankly, grifters: for S'therra, it was bribes and "detectives" who could investigate his enemies, for Bhimi it was geneologists, "doctors," and mystics.
Ultimately, Bhimi's brother Solmabud watched in alarm as the family crumbled over the next 10 or 12 years. He saw them approaching a breaking point: S'therra was certain of a conspiracy on the order of QAnon, and was going to "lift the veil" on the entire ruling class in a way that required procuring several beehives; Bhimi was arranging her two living children to marry Hundrefolk "for hardier children who can still Vox." Before they could follow through on any of these plans, Solmabud arranged a job and living situation for them in Ostia. They moved when Ralmahant and Anurzura (still living) were 12.
Ralmahant, ever a sponge, absorbed his mother's charming mysticism and his father's self-importance and paranoia. He felt he had room to do this because his sister Anurzura responded to these traumas by being the grounded, pragmatic, responsible sibling. The two were closely bonded, and Ralmahant was the only person Anurzura trusted with her preference for Runology over Voxing. So it was with great sadness that the family learned she'd died, at 17, in a duel with another student (a human, no less) after school hours.
It didn't help the paranoid family that they weren't given a body ("there wasn't one to give"), nor were they told what this duel was about. This was the final trauma from which the Macad clan could not recover, leading to:
Ralmahant's desire to go into the Scoula Arcanum. He'd learn to be dangerous with his voxxing, and he'd chase down the dueler who took his last reasonable family.
S'therra's and Bhimi's deaths: Bhimi, tired of her husband's conspiracies and rather fed up with a lack of agency in her family's curses, made an apricot wine with copious poison and served it at her last dinner with S'therra. Ralmahant came home to find them dead next to their half-eaten dinners.
Ralmahant has now been a student at the Scoula Arcanum for 2 years, and is currently on sabbatical when an opportunity arises…
He wears 10 rings for each of his fallen family members:
- The Raw Materials: Bhimi (Mother, left thumb), S'therra (Father, right thumb)
- The Stillborns (middle and ring fingers): Gendi (M), Caburhant (M), Hasslani (M), Pilalya (W)
- The Weak (infant deaths, pinky fingers): Do'amla (W), Girkita (W)
- The Fools (both index fingers): Danali (Voxing petrification), Anurzura (Duel)
He has tongue, septum, and several eyebrow and ear piercings.
He carries a cane, adorned with the head of his petrified, 10 year-old sister, mid-scream.
The knack of his voxxing is dessication, thematically tied to death, entropy, and (dry) decay. At home, there are plentiful maggots, beetles, cicadas, grubs, slugs, plants, and vines that he frequently voxxes the moisture out of. He dreams of sculpting crop circles.
High Concept: Scoula Arcanum Xunvi Assassin
Trouble: Stability's only purpose is to to lead to more instability
Aspect: I'm better than you, you just don't know it yet
Aspect: It's not paranoia if you're right!!!
Aspect: Death's reluctant jinx.
I'm doing a few things differently here:
I've never played a magic user. Mouse Guard and our other Fate campaign didn't really allow for this, but even in my D&D games I usually preferred the simplicity of a martial fighter. I look forward to seeing how this feels!
This is also my first high-status character. Homage was Cantinflas-esque, Gorlif and Ángel were attempts at more sincere characters, but like I mentioned in the "traveling alone" section of my Asia post, centering myself and feeling entitled to enjoyment is something I still need to work on. Ralmahant will feel like an asshole to me. He'll strut into rooms (at 4 feet tall) with swagger and make demands. He's wealthy. I feel like I frequenly lean into underdog status when I role-play and I won't have that crutch this go-round.
The big one was a story I read in the Washington Post way, way back in 2003 (when I was in 10th grade lol) about a man whose entire family had committed suicide, one-by-one, at various points in his life.
I didn't mean to do this, but reading it over, Ralmahant losing a sister (who's one of their closest friends) suddenly, pointlessly, and unsatisfyingly has obvious connections to my life.
S'therra acquiring beehives (and his parents' breakdown, more generally) might be a bit inspired by the watermelon scene in Russian Doll. The mother's "we'll have them marry trolls" might have a bit of a thread to those experiments they did in the 20th century where a chimp would enter a family of children as just another sibling.
Great magic power while having your hands covered in rings is right out of The Broken Earth trilogy. It's fantastic, give it a read!
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