As I mentioned yesterday, on Saturday night, I split my time between two different events: first an all-women dinner party and then a session of the role-playing game, Confed, both created and run by The Cheshire Cat.
Initially, I just went in to give away the extra cookies I'd taken to the dinner party, but they were still going and asked if I wanted to join. After calling The Gryphon to let him know, I said sure.
First, everybody wanted to take a food break, so we walked to a nearby pizza place.
This restaurant had some quirky aspects to it, such as a waiting area that looked much like an apartment, with a couple couches, an area rug, a television and a book shelf with DVDs. The TV was playing The Golden Girls.
"It's finally come to this," I commented to the guys on the couch. "Sitting on a floral couch, watching The Golden Girls."
Meantime, I asked them to get me up to speed on the plot so far. Participating had been The White Rabbit as Alauzhi, a large female cat creature skilled with weaponry, who is also a Rimhold baroness; The Martial Artist as Taiwan MacGuyver, the idiot savant ship's engineer and my character's second cousin, twice removed (also a Rimhold baron); Batman as Tina Balthazar, a female mecha pilot who's a bit on the wild and crazy side; Batman's roommate as Johann Wolfcastle, an eight-foot-tall genetically-engineered goon with a cybernetic eye (since replaced with a human transplant), a penchant for weaponry and a thick Austrian accent; and The Dormouse as Tim, a reformed pickpocket who'd been made a baron in the Rimhold Empire due to service to the emperor. I would, of course, be playing Carmella Maylock, a cheval trader (or gypsy) who's been made the default ship's captain. Unfortunately, The Martial Artist had to head out before we got started again.
The long-awaited first wedding of Tim to his long-time fiancee Steffi had just taken place. It went very smoothly except for one minor detail. Seems that Tina, having gotten bored, started scanning for radiation bombs and actually found one. Then, of course, the crew had to run down and apprehend the culprit (and by apprehend I mean shoot). For a Confed wedding, however, that was nothing. Otherwise, the ceremony went smoothly.
Having missed the wedding, I decided to role-play a reason why. Generally speaking, though, that's not necessary. Since Confed has a constantly changing number of players, anybody who was on the Vandervecken when they last played is still considered to be on the ship. After all, it's a starship and would have a fairly sizeable crew. This means that players can simply jump into the action at any stage.
In my case, though, I wanted to role-play it because Carmella had been so involved in the wedding planning. So she rushed up to Tim, out of breath, and asked, "Did I miss anything?"
At this point, Tina said cheerily, "Yes, you missed the bomb."
"Bomb?" Carmella asked, then shrugged it off immediately, deducing from Tina's expression that the situation had already been handled. "But how did the wedding go?" She explained that she'd answered a distress call from her cousin, Jasmine (the same cousin whose wedding she had helped plan, which had helped her to convince Tim to help him plan his own). It seems the emergency, however, was that her movers had quit on her and Jasmine needed an extra set of hands to move into her new place. "She's a sweet girl, but she doesn't handle stress well," Carmella added. She handed Tim his gift, a box marked "Kitchen," remarking, "I'm not sure what's in it, but she owes me."
As the reception began, the crew tried to decide what to do for fun. Carmella and Tina tried unsuccessfully to find a nice Rimholder girl to dance with the 8-foot-tall Johann. Not being experts in Rimhold culture, they sought advice from Taiwan's fiancee, who is the daughter of the Emperor. She wasn't terribly helpful, asking them things like, "Are you sure he wants to dance with somebody?"
"Sure," Tina and Carmella said in unison, Carmella adding, "He looks lonely." Of course, on Carmella's part, she also thought it would fun to see the normally intense Johann loosen up on the dance floor. Why not dance with him herself, you might ask? Despite the entertaining prospect of seeing him blush beet red, it might have given Johann the wrong idea and made it... awkward being on a ship with him.
Taiwan's girlfriend suggested that perhaps Johann felt awkward because he was at a formal wedding with a lot of royalty present, and he was only a lowly enlisted man. Eventually, Johann ended up chatting with some palace guards and seemed a little more at ease.
Carmella and Tina turned their attention, then, to singing a duet. Both of them are good singers; the problem was finding a song. They didn't know many Rimholder songs, so they asked the band for their fake book and flipped through it, looking for lyrics that seemed appropriate. Both of them speak enough Rimhold to figure out which songs might be good for a wedding. They finally chose one with happy love lyrics and performed it, doing a good enough job to win applause from the guests.
Meanwhile, Alauzhi was sweating over the speech she was expected to give as the honor attendant. She consulted with the Rimhold ambassador, since she had no idea what would be appropriate.
I came up with what I thought would be a great idea: asking all the players to write down a phrase which The White Rabbit would work into the speech, like an improv game. This could have been funny, but he was trying to take it seriously. So instead of doing a speech off the top of his head, reading the lines as he went, he read them silently and, upon our urging, read them aloud. Some of the lines were great, such as "You all look delicious" and "I really don't think dogs should wear sweaters."
Alauzhi, despite being nervous, delivered a standard toast. Being a bit flustered, she encouraged people to raise their glasses three different times, so after the first time, they were probably downing empty glasses. Still, at least she avoided international incident.
At this point, the emperor presented his gift to Tim: making him an earl! He then leaned in close and said, "I trust we can expect the service of your children." At this, Tim looked confused.
Carmella spoke up: "He's asking you if you're going to raise your kids Rimholder."
Tim got flustered. "Yes, sure, that's something we're talking about." His bride, Steffi, is a Rimholder citizen, while Tim is a Confederation citizen, living on a tiny little planet that could not be more removed in culture or distance from Freya, home planet of the Rimhold Empire, on which this wedding was held, in the emperor's chapel, by special arrangement.
Of course, as soon as the emperor left, Tim acknowledged he'd have a difficult argument to face with his mother, who no doubt would want him to raise his kids Catholic. I guess we'll explore that idea next time around, as there's still one more wedding for Tim. In an effort to please all parties, he had one wedding on Freya and will hold one on his home planet, as well. That, no doubt, will be a very different affair.
Carmella thought this might be a good opportunity to make some contacts, so she looked for some merchant types in order to press hands and exchange business cards. She met one merchant, a metal dealer, Arturo something. Upon learning she was a cheval trader, he asked her to put him in touch with the leader of her clan, so that he could work a deal for metal trade. She readily assented, and he gave her a cut of the deal, about 6,000.
Before they parted, he asked her if she was a member of the Confederation military or simply a business person. In answer, she said, "I'm a free agent."
He told her that she might want to choose a side.
This hit a nerve with Carmella. She smiled tightly and said, "Thanks for the advice." After he was out of earshot, she muttered to herself, "He sounds like my mother."
It's kind of funny that suggestion would be made to Carmella. I've just watched the first season of Battlestar Gallactica. Apollo is urged, similarly, to choose sides between the military and the political leadership.
Of course, you probably couldn't distill Carmella's character into a better question. Ever since she first got picked up on Freya, running from the consequences of a botched forgery job, her intelligence and communication skills have helped her contribute to the ship's missions. Before that, she was hopping from galaxy to galaxy, seizing opportunities where she saw them, moving on when things got complicated. In part, this tendency was inherited: as a member of the cheval traders, she and her family have always traveled around, taking jobs wherever they found them. She herself was born on a ship, the Intrepid, and has no land to call her home.
Yet, anyone who has lived as long as she (she's roughly my age, as well as my height, although she has dark hair), has experienced heartbreak. Just during her time on the ship, she lived through a bitter disappointment when a cheval trader turned out to be the mastermind behind a gem smuggling plan, and tried to kill the crew of the Vandervecken, as well. The cheval traders, though spread out all over the known universe, are still regarded as family. That betrayal stung almost as much as if she'd been betrayed by her cousin, Taiwan.
Her strongest new relationship on the ship has been with Liang Sze (also played by The Dormouse), a Shaolin monk who has helped her out selflessly in many combat situations and whom she's come to admire. The fact that he has a high moral code, is celibate (at least that's what she assumes), and is therefore entirely unattainable, well, it might not be a conscious choice on her part, but it's definitely not an accidental one.
At this point, Carmella may not be ready to choose a path, but she's forged a bond with these ship mates unlike few others in her life. Through them, especially through Liang Sze, she's begun to see potential in herself that she'd never seen before. Maybe, like the merchant implied, she could truly achieve something if she set her mind to it. But for now, she's content with making the best of any situation that comes along.
Yes, I actually DO think about my character's motivations.