Friday, 23 October 2015

Strange Aeons: Cult Leader Valentine Black part 1


Valentine Black c. 1921
 When I invent characters I try to build them around a combination of fantasy and reality.  I've always felt that the fusion of trope and truth produce an artificial depth that lends veracity to the composite player.  Basing a a fictional person on a living or historical figure famous or simply familiar lends them a plausible animus.  It is easier to give them direction; To know what they might do next when confronted with significant choices.  That being said this article is an exposition on Valentine Black detailing his construction, imagined history and motivations.   I chose the name Valentine because Roman styled names enjoyed something of a resurgence in Victorian England where Black was supposedly born.  I appreciated the irony of the names meaning, "strong and healthy" not being appropriate for the ailing, ruin of a man.  The surname Black seems properly sinister, terse, and English and contrasted his almost flowery given name.

 
Valentine Black takes shape.  Base coat.
  A war game isn't a meticulously constructed novel with internal monologues.  Black doesn't require the empathy of a player or someone who is reading an AAR that I posted.  I do think it's important to show where he came from though.  At the onset of my Strange Aeons campaign Valentine Black is irredeemably evil.  For the sake of the narrative I wanted to construct him as a fallen hero.  SA includes a karmic/insanity system known as, "Black Marks".  Despicable acts within games cause characters to accumulate these points which cause increasingly detrimental effects as they are accrued.  Worst case scenario is a truly vexed agent being retired from play to join the lurker ranks as a potential nemesis.

Foundation of the leopard cloak

 Black is the prodigal agent.  I imagined him as a rogue agent of the English Promethean Branch and a former  ally of old Radford from the CORD history I presented in another post.  I imagined them as young men fighting the denizens of the Mythos beneath gaslights in Victorian London and other period vistas.  Because I already pictured Radford as a big game hunter/army officer I saw Valentine as a charismatic investigative type.  I wanted him to fall because he was a truth seeker and simply had to know too much.  After a series of adventures as a debonair Holmes to Radford's two-fisted Watson the Branch orders him to use his wit and charm to insinuate himself into the Order of the Golden Dawn to determine the organizations conncetions to the British upper classes.  As a mole he reports his findings over time from the trivialities of Hellfire Club like outer circle to a much deeper primordial evil that lurks beneath the scandalous reveries.  At some point perhaps he discovers something too great.  Something he should keep for himself.

Valentine realized in miniature

 Referencing Lovecraft's Mythos I decided Black had come upon some incantation that would grant him an eternal life if only he could produce an heir as an appropriate vessel.  What follows is a hasty marriage to a woman of "unsuitable" station and shortly thereafter, twin sons.  Valentine secure in his eternal future becomes his own portrait of Dorian Gray.  With no consequence to the state of his mortal form he truly does, "as he wilt".  His increasing reticence concerning his reports to the Branch gather suspicion and result in his expulsion from and a vicious falling out with Radford.  At the turn of the century Valentine Black leaves England for the continent indulging his every whim be it flesh or forbidden lore.  During this period it is likely he contracted syphilis but with the promise of endless lives the ravages of disease hold no terror.

I considered a very photo realistic interpretation of the leopard skin.....

 By the middle of the Great War Valentine Black had furthered his understanding of the Mythos powers and used his savvy to gather investors to fund a shipping enterprise.  His personal holdings prior to retiring to the continent had been generous but his fiscal considerations had to extend into eternity.  If fate had not intervened Black might have been little more than a vile and materialistic dabbler but dark powers would not be denied a servant of such potential.  When Valentine learned that both his sons were killed at the Somme his world changed.  His vessels smashed and his loins ruined with disease he was cosigned to his ruined body and inevitably a prisoner to death.  His plans tattered and his sanity eroded by illness and the terrible things he had learned in his studies Black ceased to be a bargainer and became a true servant of the Dark Gods.  As his own life ebbs Black seeks to free the Elder Gods by any means he can discover.  As death comes for him in his madness he wishes to take the world with him or perhaps if his masters can be awakened then they might reward their loyal servant with another life.
...but saw the red robe and tried my best to imitate John Blanche.





3 comments:

  1. Love the backstory- I agree, having characters with depth adds a lot to the narrative effect, particularly in skirmish games like Strange Aeons. One can only guess at the associations Black had with the European Bourgeoisie and what resources he might have as a consequence.

    Great job on the painting - the leopard cloak came out beautifully

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    1. Thanks Paul. I was thinking he might be based in Halifax rather than a volcanic lair on a South Seas island. The city would still be in the process of recovering from the explosion and likely be trying to attract business back to the region. Given some of the post explosion photos I saw of the city I imagined the Black Gate Shipping Company Warehouse in a landscape out of the Wasteland.

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  2. The Volcanic lair is just for vacations and a source of native henchmen :-)

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