Talking Swords and Magic Birds

All the pregenerated characters in The Paragon Blade – Conn the Unslain, Aletheia, and Puc – have a supporting cast consisting of a human Companion and an Artefact. Conn travels with his old trainer Genkai and the Paragon Blade; Aletheia has her mechanical owl and her servant Aram, and Puc has the Demon Amulet and the Commissioner Gordon to Puc’s fantasy Batman, the Small Titan. They work just like the Sources in Cthulhu Confidential or Contacts in Night’s Black Agents: Solo Opsthey’re a supporting cast of characters for the Gamemaster to play, and they hold some of the Investigative Abilities for the player so the character doesn’t have to be omnicompetent. Mechanically, there’s little difference between Aletheia having Courtesy and Conn having to draw on the sword for the same ability, just like there isn’t a major mechanical difference between Leyla Khan having Electronic Surveillance in her own right and having to call on a contact with Astronomy when she needs that ability. It’s a storytelling element – it adds texture and a nice little roleplaying scene if the player has to go and chat to another character to get information.

So, on a mechanical level, having some of those investigative abilities embedded in a sword/mechanical owl/magic amulet doesn’t change the game – and it also works very well in the perilous realm of fantasy adventuring. In Cthulhu Confidential, especially in the early stages of an investigation, it’s easy enough for the player to pick up a clue and pop over to their Source to interpret it (or pick up a phone and have a quick consultation). Fantasy adventures tend to involve more pressure and less teleconferencing, hence the smaller cast and the utility of sticking abilities in a portable item.

However, there’s an emotional valence that needs addressing. One of the joys of One-2-One play is that the player is alone against the horror, or the vampires – or the dungeon. It’s just you. The various Companions aren’t adventurers, so they won’t tag along – but the player’s Artefact is literally in their hand, in the case of Conn. To maintain that feeling of isolation, the Artefact needs to be emotionally absent even when it’s physically present. For each Artefact (or any you create for your own characters), come up with a method of emotional distancing.

  • The Paragon Blade, for example, is cruel and arrogant; it was forged by an evil empire, and seeks to bring back that darkness.
  • The Sage Owl cannot talk; it has to communicate everything through telepathic impressions, gestures, and mournful squeaks and hoots.
  • The Demon Amulet is, well, a demon. It’s not fun to be around.

The Artefact should be as helpful as a regular source – pointing out clues as needed to move the story along, and assisting the player in defeating foes – but keep your Artefacts uncomfortably cold, distasteful or inhuman so the player never becomes emotionally reliant on them…

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