Seven Realms: Notables & Personalities
Every game world needs notables and personalities. The former are big bads, and plot motivators. They are sometimes quest givers, but more often they shape events because they have plans. Most personalities are just there to add more to the setting. The key difference between the two is staying power. If the PCs can easily dispatch and never hear from again one of your non-player characters of great interest, then they are personalities. If it is harder to dispose of the character due to sheer strength, circumstance or plot related luck, the character is a notable.
So in the Seven Realms I too have such characters. I don’t believe in powerful mentors and more powerful heroes littering a setting. Your heroes have to matter, and if they have competition for that crown, those are rivals, not mentors. Mentor characters should be more personal, not just a powerful magus who has given the heroes quest after quest, but when the doom descends upon the city and it very well may fall, that magus can’t save the day by himself. That’s how I view the disparity between benign Notables and Deus Ex Machina.
The list is fairly short, but overall each of the notables is a mortal or an unaging but living being. You can set a demon lord against the heroes, and his plans and vengeful behavior can be truly petty. It doesn’t change the fact that the heroes can’t realistically dispose of him permanently because he is a demon lord, just like they can’t dispose of a heavenly immortal or a god. Some of these characters are like hornets nests: they exist, you know they exist, and you may not want to poke them. Others are like Napoleon: they exist, and you may or may not know of them, but by the time their plans come to fruition you will wish you had the opportunity of blissful ignorance.
The Black Emperor is the troll-king leader of the dominant nation of the Unbounds. Troll-kings are abominable undying beasts which tower over trolls just as trolls tower over humans. Their skin is proof against almost everything known in the Seven Realms and their savagery unmatched. Still, the predecessor of the current Black Emperor was laid low by a moonfolk princeling with an artifact weapon over 10,000 years ago. He has sat brooding on his throne, authorizing skirmishes and mock invasions every few centuries or so. He has strode upon many of the Seven Realms and yet he seeks to destroy the mortal realm, if for no other reason than to accomplish something his predecessor was unable to do.
The Green Man is a singular thinking plant entity bound to the Verdant Haven, and thus to all plant life. Normally he stays in his realm, but occasionally he travels to the mortal realm. Sometimes he pretends to be a tree for a century or two like a common dryad, but eventually he moves on. His temperament is even and measured, and yet when he sees vast amounts of destruction to the wilds he grows angry. Sometimes he has been made livid by the abuse of a single tree, usually it is a tree that he planted nearly a millennia ago or a gift to a wise ruler of the past who is many centuries dead. When riled he has the loyalty of the dryads and many of those who consider themselves tree-friends such as the Green Wardens. When furious he has unbridled power to affect the weather and plant life throughout a region.
The Wyldlings, the Queen of Air and Darkness and Lord Motley, are the former rulers of the skyfolk of the Opal Realm. They are capricious beings which love to sow chaos. When they ruled the Opal Realm, it was just as chaotic and nearly as dangerous as the Unbounds. They were ousted by a concerted effort of all of their subjects, and rather than face the newfound might of the gods their people had turned to, they fled. With the kind of power they have to reshape themselves, it has been many millennia since anyone has truthfully and knowingly encountered either of them, but as they cannot die from aging, it is likely they have refined their interference to a high art.
A few examples of personalities are the rulers of various nations such as King Mikhail Andreevich, their closest advisors (Dragomir Fyodorov, his top general), rivals who may seek redress against any group of heroes making waves throughout Arn (The Ghal Sibling’s Company being one such example of sinister rivals), legends such as Zero, (a druid who created a giant labyrinth in the jungle to live out his final days,) and a few characters thrown in for color such as the Cartographer, and the Hermit of Hobart Hill.
While all of these personalities are singular and powerful, none of them is meant to overshadow the heroes’ accomplishments. Even with the notables, who are more akin to forces of nature, they can be overcome eventually.