Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose. This is an exercise in character building and creative writing.
In the fey realms, there are courts; courts overseen by great powers, lords of realms or even of ideas themselves. The greatest and vastest powers, strange and incommunicable, are overseen by the Great Courts, with the fey royalty, the names people know, the names so important that they slip through even into the mortal’s realms.
But one court, the Court of Voids, lays hidden and secret, ancient beyond even the knowing of the Fae. A mystery of mysteries, with its Secret Queen, She Who Touches As Iron. Precious and few are the fey of this court, paying fealty to this secret queen, with blessings of stealth, secrets, combat and healing for the maimed.
His name, he says, is Brambles, and he lays fealty to this Secret Queen. But the Secret Queen wants secrets and justice – and where better to find those than the City of Heroes?
Brambles is a faerie. Well, sort of. There’s a term for what he is, specifically, but it’s a bit like ‘elf’ and it’s a lot like ‘rakshasa’ and he mostly settles on ‘faerie.’ But he’s not the kind of cute ones with the sparkles and glitter. He’s a faerie in that he’s a collection of tangled up stories trying to work out what it means to exist. He’s tasted of lords and ladies’ rules and domains, and has found himself happiest working for the Court of Voids – where the Secret Queen bids him to make a story about secrets and justice.
As a personality, what you get out of him is a kind of perky elf-boy, pointy ears in a Lodoss war style; one missing forearm, which is replaced with a wooden prosthetic, that has grown in places and has little green leaves on it from time to time. His other hand is clawed, his feet resist shoes and he loves to walk on bare earth when he can. He’s strong and fit and moves fast, that little bit bestial, that little bit fascinated by people. Brambles is an outsider, but the kind of outsider who likes what you’ve done with the place, very charming curtains.
What is Brambles, mechanically? He’s one of my Dominators, an archetype I love a lot and have very little need for in roleplay and supergroup situations. Dominators are a ‘control/assault’ archetype – you have powers that disable enemies both short term and long, and powers that deal damage. Hypothetically, this could mean you’re very powerful, and capable of keeping enemies from doing anything during combat while you beat them to death, but it takes a lot to really fulfill that dream.
He’s a Plant Control/Savage Assault dominator. Look at that! We have two whole new secondaries for the Dominator! And what a set it is. It’s apparently got some problems, but I like it a lot for its Savage Leap and Rending Claws powers, gives me a really fun feeling of bouncing around the battlefield and positioning myself to be a little fireball of teeth and hair.
The build is one of those that I have overstuffed. I spent a lot of fake-in-game money make it ‘good’ because I felt like it had potential to hit some target numbers. For Dominators, the most important value is Recharge, because that means you can fire off your ‘Domination’ personal buff before it’s run out – letting you live with all the advantages of the buff, permanently. Brambles has:
- 195% global Recharge, enough for Perma-Dom and Perma-hasten
- 45% defense to smashing and lethal
- 32.9% defense to energy
- 27% bonus damage
These are high numbers! This means that for Brambles, sometimes some powers are recharging so fast, the time spent animating another attack can be time that would be better served waiting for another power to finish recharging!
One thing about Brambles that sets him apart from most of my other Dominators is he’s the first time I’ve really taken a Dominator all the way up through the Incarnate content. The thing with Incarnate powers is that they’re kind of all by definition better than what you have when you’re not an Incarnate, so of the three common clicky powers – Hybrid, Destiny, and Judgment – you’re better off actually making room for them over other powers you could have. You want those powers to be, largely, up as often as possible.
This meant looking giving Brambles’ attack powers a really intense bit of scrutiny to look at what powers he has, and whether or not he needs all the powers I normally think of as ‘necessary.’ I tend to play City with my left hand controlling my position and doing my powers. For me, with my hand, that means having the keys WASD set up, and I can easily press alt and ctrl with my thumb and pinky. In the control scheme the game gives you, this means you can have your first four buttons in three rows as ‘on demand’ powers. So this diagram here shows you which are my ‘always available’ powers. Three of those slots being given over to Incarnate powers means a lot of ‘must have’ powers need to get moved around. For Brambles this is his current setup. First, the bottom row, 1-4 are usually where I put a character’s attack pattern. In this case, that 1 slot is dedicated to his single target hold, which is now being treated as if it’s a ranged attack. 2 and 3 are other single target attacks, with 4 being a melee area attack. Above that, in 2-1 and 2-2 are my ‘every spawn’ control powers, Roots and Seeds of Confusion. These recharge fast and will always be desireable for every spawn. Above that, at 3-1, I have my travel power, which for him is Mystic Flight. 3-2 is a damage booster – a power you want almost always when you can get it, but may sometimes save if a spawn is almost dead. 3-3 is Vines, an AOE hold – which I only really want as an emergency, hard-stop ‘hey, everyone sit down and shut up’ vibe.
2-3, 2-4 and 3-4 are all Incarnate powers; Destiny, Judgment, and Hybrid. Again, I always want these powers when they’re available, so they prioritise over other less-used, more niche powers – you may notice at 2-6 and 3-6, I have some powers that may seem useful. One is a self heal, one is the great power Carrion Creepers. Imagine not having room for Carrion Creepers!
What I tend to do here, though is treat this as my ‘solo’ vs ‘team’ setup. When I’m in a team, I don’t need Vines as regularly as I want Carrion Creepers. Creepers defrays lots of damage in a sort of chaotic way, but it also deals damage. Vines is great if something has gone wrong, and I need everyone to sit still right now while I get somewhere safe. Swapping things around on my bars is part of how I play this character.
I literally randomise the character I’m going to write about each month if I don’t have someone who fits the theme. I rolled a dice and this month, I got Brambles. Which, on the one hand, is kinda good – Brambles is a character I wouldn’t think to tell you about, and talk about why he works the way he does. I have a deep love of Dominators, but they don’t seem to have wound up making a lot of friends in my roster, where my most popular characters are brutes and tankers. Don’t know why. I actively ensure that when I pick characters for the non-theme weeks, if I don’t have a reason, I roll the dice and that means I show a character that sometimes maybe is in flux, or shows something about the way I used to think about characters that feels different or wrong now, like Lifts being, well, a heroic cop.
But but but.
Remember that way that in 2020, I wrote about the Iron Angel, a supervillain turned hero that yadayadayada? And last month, her husband was the subject of this series, because he part of one of the most long-running romance stories I’ve ever seen and enjoyed? And this month, I was going to do something unrelated. Except she’s the Secret Queen. Brambles’ backstory, where he serves in the court of Voids? Well, that’s the thing, the Court of Voids is Cearmaid. Cearmaid was an identity the fey gave to the hecatoncheires Cottus, back in the pre-colonial times of Ireland. They basically duped him into believing he was a sun god, and plied him with booze and sex and fun so he figured that he was just like all the other gods. The result of this is that Cearmaid, the identity, is technically Fey Royalty. Zex found out about this, and pointed out this made her a Fae Queen, a fact she delights in even though she doesn’t care about it.
The fey realm in Paragon City is like, a place. It’s over there, you can go visit it, and things are a bit weird over there from time to time, but it’s absolutely not so weird you can’t visit it every Christmas to save the potato-ass baby new year. There’s not a lot of lore about it, and as with all things of that ilk I feel no problem at all with filling in whatever fairy story – literally – makes sense to me.
That gave me the idea for Brambles. I like his name, I like his look, but he didn’t have a hook. When the idea of Zex as a “Fey Queen” came up, I envisioned the idea of a fey court where the queen literally never showed up, and the king was someone they all don’t want to show up. Then I made a plan projecting off the way Zex is – her metal limbs, her flat affect, her love of secrets – and envisioned a skulky, secretive and someone terrifying fae circle that love a Queen who they have never spoken to, who stands between them and a King they are equally terrified might wake up.
And in that, Brambles. Brambles doesn’t have much history, doesn’t have many friends. There is a fae character I want to have him hang around with, but we don’t know if they’re a pair of dumbasses together, or if he’s the sensible one that keeps her reigned in. We’ll find out!
Something kinda got weird on the saving of this article so if there’s missing new lines, sorry!