Sunday, February 12, 2012

Trickster races in RPGs and gamebooks

Is defeating evil going to be
fun, Fizban?

The Kender are a race of short humanoids in the Dragonlance series of novels.  They are all basically kleptomaniac, hyperactive children and they are seen as little more than a nuisance.  However, these qualities  can still help a kender become a great hero as Tasslehoff Burrfoot  has shown.  His lack of fear, insatiable curiosity and ability to 'borrow' things made him pivotal in saving Krynn from all kinds of dark fates from Evil Wizards to Gods.


Elvins are mischevious and vicious little creatures which you may come across while trying to retrieve the Crown of the Kings.  You might find a group of them at night who lead you into all kinds of sticky situations.  Later on, a large group of them will try to pelt you with acorns.

They're after me lucky charms.

Leprachauns are a tricky lot to be sure.  You can come across one in the Citadel of Chaos (for those of us who remember paper books, you can get them here) and he enjoys playing all kinds of pranks on you.  You could get angry, but that just makes things worse.  You finally get rid of him and go through a door only to find yourself in complete blackness being attacked by a strange beast which is impervious to your magic.  You black out as its jaws close around your throat and seems like it's all over. Then you wake up only to find out that it is yet another practical joke.  Inexpicably, you have no choice but to find your demise funny and the leprachaun gives you a magic sword that increases your attack strength (which is just as well because the hand buzzer reduced your skill) and a mirror.  It turns out that you part best of friends.


Gnomes are also a race that you don't want to mess with.  You come across a gnome in Darkwood Forest who is quietly sitting on a giant mushroom.  If you decide to attack him, your sword turns into a carrot.  If you throw it at the gnome, the sword turns into a butterfly.

Shape changers

Changing shape is a skill that many tricksters possess.  Shape changers also come in all shapes and sizes (pun intended) depending on the world that they live in.  On Titan, common shapechangers are humanoid lizards who disguise themselves as a child or poor old man to trick people into coming closer.  On Magnamund, the Helghast are powerful undead that can shapechange.  In Dungeons and Dragons, shapechangers are more intelligent.  The ability to shapechange is like the ultimate disguise and, when used well, can cause a lot of damage.  You also find carniverous shapechangers that look like chests or doors but are actually blobs of goo.


You think I wanted a 12 inch pianist?
Djinn or genies are generally thought of as great as they can grant wishes - anything you want!  However, in reality, the djinn will probably try to twist your wish by interpreting it literally  or by putting some kind of other twist on it.  Sometimes, the wisher is silly and the djinn doesn't need to do anything nefarious to mess up the wish.  For example in the Fighting Fantasy RPG, you could find a room where players' expectations come true, but if they start to expect gamebreaking things such as a magical sword of slay all, then the referee should come up with an excuse why it can't be used such as 'It's too heavy'.

There are only a few occasions where a djinn may do something useful such as in Caverns of the Snow Witch where you save a djinn from being trapped in a crystal and being forced to use its magic to help an illusionist.  If you free it, it will turn you invisible when you need help.  This actually does help.

With a guest appearance
from the cast of Redwall.
Noodric Noodnic

The Noodric are giant mice that live on Aon, the world of Lone Wolf.  You famously encounter them in book 2 and if you do not have a magic spear to kill the Helghast, having the animal companionship skill to communicate with them is the only way that you will reach Durenor without the magic spear which you probably gave away as an act of kindness earlier on.  They are quite mischevious and although they show through the mountain, they also steal your money.


The gamebooks and RPGs which involve Dave Morris as a writer are usually set in a human centric world where non human races are inscrutable and unpredictable.  In fabled Lands, I once found a Fey shop where I could exchange shards for Fey money, but if I did not have any Fey money, I would lose.  Fey creatures are also present in the Dragon Warriors RPG where there are many mischecious sprightly creatures.  For example, Goblins are cruel magic users who relish in mischief which contrasts with Titans's ugly low intelligence footsoldiers of evil.
He could get a bit spiky.
Next week, we will look at some trickster character classes.  Until then, happy gamebooking!


  1. Just a quick note; it's Noodnic, not Noodric :)

  2. Good stuff, I like it!
    You'd probably like this page:

    1. I've been reading your blog. It's very well presented and informative :).