It’s a strange thing to encounter your past, even when it is a fictionalized past.
Especially when it’s a fictionalized past.
In about 2001, I started playing a homemade table-top role-playing game with some friends of mine. Before that, I was more interested in playing the customized Star Wars game we had going on that took place many years after the Old Trilogy. But this particular game, the one I was invited to participate in, had been going on for a very long time. This time around, it was in the fantasy genre.
I was hesitant. I had played a few games of Dungeons and Dragons before this point and, more often than not, we spent more time arguing about the rules and I had very little time to play as I had curfews back in the day.
In the Star Wars game, I was a master manipulator and I destroyed my opponents or undermined them with indirect attacks and insinuations. As other players died, I got stronger and the ones left me alone, I left alone or made alliances with. Here, though, I was treading into a universe I wasn’t familiar with. I didn’t have a lot of in-world knowledge and I was cautious. But, after hearing a bit about its history, lore and the games that the previous players had I decided I’d find it fascinating to be a part of that story.
Now, at this time, we used to roll our backgrounds as a matter of course. I decided to play as a dark elf wizard. Unfortunately, my roll was low and he started off as a slave.
That was the beginning of Vrael-Saar.
Vrael-Saar was actually the name of an ancient Sith Lord I made in a juvenile fanfic long ago, or a character in a Computer Paint choose your own adventure game with the same idea. But I applied it to my character because I already knew what he would be like. He grew up in a society and family that believed in survival of the most cunning. He had siblings who actually killed each other and he barely proved himself to his own master: only to be enslaved by humans.
Vrael-Saar was like my Sith character in Star Wars. He was manipulative, vengeful and clever. He started off from Level 1 and only had the rags on his back and a broom to channel his magic. Almost anyone could beat the crap out of him. One friend made that very clear as he wanted to establish dominance right away.
But the most important thing about Vrael-Saar that you have to understand right off the bat is that he was, even as he advanced, never a power character. What I mean is: he never flat-out went into a mystical slugging match unless he absolutely had to. Because, you see, Vrael-Saar was one other thing too.
He was clever.
I admit that Dragonlance‘s Raistlin influenced me and, consequently, Vrael-Saar himself. He would often wait and let his allies expend themselves or allow his enemies to overextend themselves. He was also not adverse to using the powers of Light or Darkness or Chaos to advance himself, or have them do a lot of the work for him before he would take advantage of a situation. He was patient, mostly, and he waited.
Of course, he took some major risks: including a bid for immortality that could have ended quite badly for him had he rolled anything below a 16 on a D20. And he succeeded. One humid rainy night with some lightning in the sky, as I walked home from my friends, I gave Vrael-Saar immortality: the one thing he had sought for ages while constantly studying their lore.
Even though he suffered setbacks, he was almost Level 20 by the time that game wound down in about 2004. He had learned how to spirit-walk and see the ghostly reality underneath the material facade of things. He also learned how to enter people’s souls.
He changed in other ways too. Vrael-Saar started off as a being with no regard for other peoples’ feelings and cared very little for sentient life. He only looked out for himself. Ironically, it was only after he carried out a Demon Lord’s orders to butcher an entire village and feed them to demons, and when a betrayal and a mutation changed him into something far less than humanoid that he began to change. It’s ironic that the more monstrous he became, the more “human” the character was becoming as well.
Vrael-Saar didn’t like to serve masters, but Demons and Dark Lords used him in their own agendas: even as he learned how to subvert them and use what was given to him to his advantage. He liked to be independent. One day, he even had a companion: a former enemy whom he helped corrupt for his former master, but who ended up becoming one of the few people who actually understood him. I wrote some stories about that. In the end, he saved the life of another immortal whose soul was being corrupted: and whom he healed at risk to his own essence and the Demon taint inside of it. Whether he did it out of a sense of compassion, leverage, or as a way to create a further blood debt between potential enemies who would be better disposed to him and his own plans for independence is open-ended.
That was where I left Vrael-Saar in 2004. I had almost four years of Journal Notes–The Chronicles of Vrael-Saar–before my travel drive died and I lost all of it. Even my friend, who was DM, kept track of matters with those Journals: though we still have yet to see if any survived.
It is now 2014. This homemade world, which I ended up contributing a lot to based on my actions and my own writing, got rebooted and there are new rules and histories now. However, it’s much in the way that mythologies can be retold: the details might be different, but the essence of the narrative is still the same. I am now a human Imperial Alchemist named Marcus Arctrurian: who is also the Baron of Wrengardt. As we did long ago, I rolled my background class and made out a little better than that first time years ago.
The Baron is a character I am fleshing out now, but he and his companions have infiltrated a secret stronghold where some cultists are performing some terrifying experiments on captive farmers. And after he defeated one of their leaders, a corrupt town guard, we found a parchment with a skull and a snake coming out of it.
A little before this, we played another game that was another variation of our homemade universe. Many of our old characters either long since passed or, if they had been immortal or particularly powerful, had become demigods. My DM friend informed me then that Vrael-Saar had become one of these gods, but we only encountered him peripherally: as followers to another character I created (as a story character or NPC) were using one of his artifacts. In that world, he was called The Snake Tongue.
But this time, in this game, in another variant of that world, we are dealing with a massive network of Demon-worshippers and agents known as The Cult of Saar.
I created Vrael-Saar, long ago, from a lot of young adult frustration, anger and general angst. He grew over the years and became something else. While this is another reboot, there are some characteristics about him that I would imagine to be exactly the same. He is also called The Snake Tongue in this world, but he has another epithet.
He is called The Lord of Lies.
And he is basically a Demon Lord now, if not the equivalent of a demon god. Essentially, I have come face to face with my creation as an idea transmitted overtime and taken to the nth degree from what I had been planning to do with him. And while I even wrote a new story about him as a Demon Lord, for all my educated guesses even I don’t know what he is planning.
And that frightens me: even as it thrills.
For over a decade, my group of friends and I created a mythos. It will continue for as long as we do. It is a legacy in a way now. While our own bodies age and our own possibilities are a little more limited than when we began, with some potential to grow from there even now, our game grows with us.
I’m a different player now than I was then, though I am still more than capable of being evil when I need to. The question is: can I defeat what I created so long ago?
My only answer is that we will see how long this game will last, and how far we will go. It has really come full-circle now. Let us see if we can triumph over what we have helped to make.