(Warning: You’re going to end up taking a brief trip down memory lane with me on this one.)
A while back, Sean made a post about Taurens, and how they would issue a challenge, which got me thinking… how would other races handle slights? Perceived insults? Revenge? I felt that this was something that needed to be investigated, and I tried to dig through my personal experiences: in game, from my past games, from my friends, my acquaintances, and my “enemies” (for lack of a better word) in order to bring some more life to these quasi-three-dimensional characters that some of us play on a regular basis.
After a lot of reflection, a lot of research, and a few phone calls to some old friends I haven’t spoken to in years, a series of posts began to come to life in my mind. Throwing Down the Gauntlet was born. So what does this all have to do with Blood Elves?
I’m getting to that.
There are some facets to Blood Elves that have to be taken into account when determining how they would issue a challenge.
- Blood Elves are long-lived, like their High Elf and Night Elf relatives
- As a result, they are patient and willing to see something through to its ultimate outcome
- Partly because of Kael’thas’ influence, Blood Elves tend to be a cruel, vindictive lot
- Immense egos: they don’t want to just kill an opponent; they want to crush them utterly.
Back in 1990, I played a little RPG with a few friends that was set in a future semi-post-apocalyptic world. The name of this RPG was Shadowrun, originally published by FASA (though these days, published by Catalyst Game Labs). In 1992, my regular gaming group was involved in a series of adventures collected together in a single module, called Harlequin.
This was an adventure that was awarded the Origins Game Award in 1990 for Best Roleplaying Adventure, and for good reason. Allow me to share an excerpt:
From the focus of my heart, I call the words
Of anger spoken and desire revealed
By my Challenge of word and deed
By my blood consecrate the name invoked
Thy shape and form decreed never was
On thy Physical form, I call the words of rendering
On thy Hates, I invoke Justice, thy anger unappeased
On thy Past in shadows, I shine the light revealed
On thy Loves and joys, I gift separation
On thy Spirit, I speak abandonment
On thy Future, I bring fear and grief
On thee I invoke all
The winds shall erase thy name
The sands the traces of thy path
The sun the coolness of they shadow
And unto the waters I command they essence
Thy Shape and Form decreed never was
These were the words attributed to an ancient game known as Chal’han, and played by the Theran Elves (which would relate fairly well to the Blood Elves, I think). For lack of a better explanation, Chal’han was a formal duel, the challenge itself being issued through many different forms of vengeance. Chal’han is incredibly elaborate, immensely expensive to pull off, and requires one thing that Blood Elves love to use most: Pawns. For this reason, I think this form would translate well to the Blood Elves, and would be incredibly fun to pull off in the game (though would take a lot of work on all parties involved). What do I mean by elaborate and expensive? We’ll break this down.
On thy Physical form, I call the words of rendering: This particular portion of the challenge involved the theft of something materially valuable from the person being challenged. In the original adventure, this was a handwritten manuscript. As far as the online game goes, this portion of the challenge doesn’t really translate well. In the end, it would be likely that the “stolen item” would need to be some intangible thing. Obviously this would require some level of imagination, but we’re roleplayers, right? That shouldn’t be hard.
On thy Hates, I invoke Justice, thy anger unappeased: This portion of the challenge, oddly enough, was sort of a backhanded assistance to the challenged. What it means is that the challenger will target something that the challenged absolutely despises, and destroy it in such a manner that the challenged becomes the suspect of the crime. Sure, the challenged now has one less antagonizing thing in their lives, but now… now it’s worse than it was before. In the original adventure, this portion of the challenge involved invading an opposing political group and assassinating every member in it, then sending their left ears to the challenged. (There’s a certain symbolism here, which I’ll gladly discuss in private should anyone be interested, but I won’t bring it up on Blogatelle – it’s not really relevant to the post.) Quaint, no?
On thy Past in shadows, I shine the light revealed: The goal in this part of the challenge is to steal something from the target’s past, something that they treasure emotionally. I don’t remember the particular item from the original game itself, but this could be the locket of a loved one, or something along those lines. This one also doesn’t really translate very well to the game, but it can be worked around.
On thy Loves and joys, I gift separation: The goal here is probably apparent; the challenger must deprive the challenged of something they hold in high regard, like a teacher, an organization… This one may or may not be complicated. Your mileage may vary.
On thy Spirit, I speak abandonment: The idea here is to desecrate something that the target finds solace in, where they most often find inner peace. In the original adventure, this involved breaking into the target’s personal greenhouse and stealing a rare, prized flower.
On thy Future, I bring fear and grief: Here, the challenger wants to ensure that the target has nothing to count on to ensure that his or her legacy will live on beyond their life. This portion of the challenge could be the most fun to roleplay, and for a fairly simple reason: in the original game, this portion of the challenge was the kidnapping of the target’s daughter. (Plot thickens!)
On thee I invoke all: By this time, we have reached the culmination of the actual duel itself. The target has nothing left. Their life is falling apart, their honor is in tatters, and now, at the time of their despair, the challenger has finally presented themselves and revealed their identity. The fight now begins, winner take all, and the loser goes home in a casket.
Now, the writing of the ritual implies that some sort of order is involved, and that’s the beauty of it – any of these steps can be taken in any order. The important thing to remember here is that up until the point of the actual duel, the target is completely unaware of who is issuing the challenge, which only increases the number of concerns they may have.
Personally, I feel that this sort of challenge fits the blood elves perfectly: it is elaborate, devious, and best of all, puts others at risk in the event something goes wrong. The challenge is designed to utterly crush the target with worry and despair, showing that they have such little control over their own lives… that one single force can sweep through and destroy their world as they know it.
The catch? There are a couple.
First, this probably only works well against other Blood Elves. Challenging another race among the Horde would be met with mixed results. The Forsaken would probably understand this, but an Orc wouldn’t get the subtlety. A Tauren would not appreciate the underhandedness, believing that a challenge should be issued face to face, not with emissaries, and certainly not by undermining your opponent’s spirit; that does them a dishonor. A Troll would probably understand the purpose of the challenge being given the way it is, and would likely have less issues than others; their history is one of oppression and despair already, and nothing a Blood Elf would do could possibly be worse than what their people have suffered at the hands of Hakkar, etc. etc.
Also, this would be VERY involved. All of the players would need to be prepared for an event that could feasibly span several days; several weeks for the most hard-core among us with the desire to build a lot of suspense over time. Again, your mileage may vary.
But that’s a little food for thought for now – we’ll visit some other races another day.