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[Paladin] Knights of Marduk

Started by morgue, March 02, 2005, 10:33:58 AM

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We started prepping a game of Paladin last night.

There are five of us, me, Steve, Brian, David and Lucy.  The four guys were all in the "Providence Summer 1961" game I ran, and Brian and I played in Steve's "Lose Yourself" Sorceror game after that.  Lucy is new to our group, which was recruited from the Edinburgh University Roleplaying Society, but she's played in a one-shot Pumpkintown with us before.

These past games were some of the best gaming times I have ever had.  Providence was pretty much the high point of my 20 years gaming.  (You can read the Actual Play of Providence over on  So we're all pretty excited to be doing more stuff together.

While we didn't actually get to any actual gaming, this chunk of world-development is part of the Paladin play experience so I'm going to talk about that in the hopes that I am motivated to keep writing when we get play proper going.

Steve is the GM and instigator.  None of us have played Paladin before.  Steve presented us with a medieval-style world and a basic scenario: we will be four Knights of Marduk, returning to our home town to investigate the corruption of Tiamat there.

We started with general conversation and brainstorming about the kind of world we were in, such things as the power relationships between Church, Crown and Trade guilds and the kinds of cultural activity engaged in by the wealthy.  This was generally set up to get our brains ticking over and get a sense of the environment.  We asked questions of Steve, who had the basics of the setting in his head and relied on our questions and our group decisions to flesh that out.

Part of Steve's setup for the game is the idea that the Knights – those who are born with the spark of divine power within them – are dwindling.  We were all to be young Knights, of the same age.  Developing this in discussion, a series of cascading suggestions decided that we were in fact the last of the Knights to be found, and we were all born on the same night, and each of us exemplifies one of the four aspects of Marduk.  This instantly gives our characters a particular importance, with all the good and bad that comes from that – we talked about how we would probably be given special treatment and thus resented, and we likely have an acute sense of our own importance, and also that we were probably zealously protected through our youth and training.  All these ideas we'll develop further when we create our individual characters.

This led seamlessly into the first rule-specific discussion, where we had to decide on Laws for the Knights.  (Paladin requires the characters adhere to a moral code, consisting of some minor laws, some major laws and one or two unbreakable laws.  These laws have a central role in the game's mechanics.)

We spent a while talking and shooting ideas around, mostly riffing off the suggested laws in the Paladin rules.  It took a while for us to get our head around the fact that the laws for the Knights of Marduk are not the same as those for the Church of Marduk; they reflect the particular purpose and methodology of the Knights rather than the all-encompassing moral code of the Church.  (For example, I initially didn't like the law 'shall not suffer a witch to live' from the book, because in my head we were talking about the church, which I thought should have wider concerns – and of course it does, I was just thinking about things the wrong way around.)

Once we'd figured that out, we were off.  

Some of the laws from the book made it into the list; others were widened or made smaller or given differing importance; several were developed in response to our earlier development.  

Throughout this, I got the sense that we were all trying to create laws that would lead to interesting conflicts in play, while balancing that with rules that would give us a lot of motivation for the kinds of action we want.  Also, we wanted the laws to create a feeling of coherence – that they all fit together and no obvious gaps remain in Marduk's moral code.

We were also very sensitive to ambiguities and wording, wanting there to be some space for interpretation in most laws but not very much.

We also soon settled on a 'Thou shalt' formulation as a good way of conveying the tone we wanted, without ever explicitly stating that's what we were doing.

We ended up with the following:

Minor Laws
Thou shalt not revere the aspect [one aspect of Marduk] above the whole.
Thou shalt endure trial without complaint.
Thou shalt obey the rule of man.

Major Laws
Thou shalt not judge from emotion.
Thou shalt not leave the works of Tiamat unanswered.

Unbreakable Laws
Thou shalt not suffer a witch [follower of Tiamat] to live.
Thou shalt not engage in [sexual] congress.

This gives us our Knights – chaste and stoic witchhunters who must always act from reason.  There are plenty of ways for human failings to cause problems there, which is good.

Some of the laws we ended up with we're not entirely clear on their meaning, like the 'revere one aspect above the whole' law.  It feels right, though, and we'll develop it in play.

I lobbied heavily for the addition of the 'no sex' law at the end.  I couldn't tell you why, but it demanded to be in there and I convinced everyone else somehow or other.

The rest of the evening we spent developing the ideas of the four aspects of Marduk.  Brian, who knows more than a little about mythology, produced four aspects (noted below) and led the interpretation of them.  We ended up with something with far more sophistication and depth than I expected, and I'm quite excited about it.

We ended up with two opposed pairs:

Pair one:
The endurance of the mountain (stasis force - connotes wisdom, experience, fortitude)
The retribution of the storm (change force - connotes destruction followed by growth, justice, might)

Pair two:
The light of the sun (life force - connotes birth, truth, community)
The tablets of fate (death force - connotes time, death, necessity, individuality)

Clearer and more complete meanings of these opposed pairs will be fleshed out by each of the players as we think more about the aspect we embody.

A final angle that we all like is making the abilities that we can perform with this divine power tied to the aspects.  Furthermore, the abilities will be fundamentally general, like (to take the best-known example) spheres in Mage – instead of "defy gravity" as an ability, we'll have "aspect of storm" and anything that relates to the retribution of the storm aspect will be within our capabilities.  (Each character will have a major aspect, two minor aspects and one aspect that is either off-limits or very weak.)  Exactly how we'll manage this mechanically is unclear, as only Steve's read the rules, but we'll figure something out as we go.

Some more questions present themselves, such as, if these four aspects of Marduk are developed into a coherent metaphysic whole, where do we fit in Tiamat?  I suspect giving Tiamat her own aspects that run counter to Marduk's will be a good idea, but we'll need to figure this out more clearly before we start.  There's no obvious opposition though, as Marduk is already composed of opposing aspects.  We need to be a bit more clever than that.

In any case, that's where we're at.  I hope this is of interest, more as it comes to hand, and any questions and suggestions are of course most welcome.
My given name is Morgan but everyone calls me morgue. (Well, except my beloved grandma.)
I contribute to
Gametime, a New Zealand RPG groupblog