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The Featured Character for Winter 519 A.V. Is...

Postby Gossamer on December 1st, 2019, 11:37 pm


Hello Fellow Mizaharians!

Keeping with our tradition, the Founders Circle and Storytellers are proud to announce that the Featured Character of the Winter Season of 2019 is Baelin Holt! Baelin joined Mizahar way back in 2014 and has been a long-standing member since. Baelin writes with a beautiful fluid style that's easy to read and paints a vivid picture of his world. This reward is very well deserved and a long time in coming. So, please join us in welcoming him to the elite club of Featured Character! His interview is below!

The Interview

1. You are actually one of the rare mixed races. What made you pick a Dhani/Human cross and what are its bonuses and challenges? Would you encourage other people to play mixed races? Why?

There’s definitely lots of really great reasons to play a mixed race character, but I did it because I’m a giant jerk. I wanted it to be obvious that Baelin’s baby daddy wasn’t human, just so that I could use it as a plot device. But I didn’t quite anticipate the way it’d psychologically mess him up, so… Whoops?

I liked the idea of mixing a snake with a human largely because they’re so different and bound to clash. Both bonuses and challenges from being a Dhani/Human mix fall into this one very simple fact: Baelin hates his Dhani features. That’s a bonus because it gives me plenty to work with as his writer. And it’s a challenge because it really messes with him. He basically has a weird type of body dysmorphia, it’s not good. Dhani/Human crosses don’t get a lot in terms of racial perks, but Baelin’s love of climbing and swimming does come from that side of the family tree, so yay! Don’t tell him that though.

If you want to play a PC that’s not quite a native fit no matter where they go, mixed blood is definitely a lot of fun. Because try as Baelin might, he’ll never completely pass as human. Every time he meets someone new, there’s typically that very brief moment while they process what’s off about him. It’s not a huge pause, or even really an issue, but it’s still almost always there. And it’s definitely something to explore.

2. Your PC has an interesting relationship with Dira. Will you go into detail about that relationship, how having her mark affects Baelin, and how he deals with death on a day to day basis?

Baelin’s basically a religious extremist. He believes with absolute certainty that the cycle is good and right, and there’s not an iota of doubt in that belief. He basically got indoctrinated when he was little. I’m probably not going to do his fanaticism justice here, because Baelin is constantly surprising me with just how intense he is about it. If Dira was to so much as hint that she wanted him to do something, then that something gets priority over literally everything else. His own life, hopes, dreams; he’d drop them in a heartbeat if Dira asked. No questions, no need for explanations, he’d just do it.

When Dira marked him, it put this huge weight of responsibility on him. If he wasn’t marked, Baelin would probably consider owning his own smithy as a good life. While he’d be upset about the existence of nuits and feel bad for ghosts, it wouldn’t be on him to go out and do something about it. But with Dira’s mark? It eats at him. Because now he feels that he absolutely has to do something. It’s been a bit of a challenge as his writer, because he’s fully prepared to sacrifice himself to take out a nuit. I’m less eager for the self-sacrifice route, and so I’ve basically just been shying away from nuit encounters. It’s definitely an area I need to work on.

As for how Baelin deals with death: he’s not a “yay, they’re dead, let’s celebrate!” kind of worshipper. Grief is natural, and Baelin wouldn’t want to deprive himself or anyone else from feeling it. But he also draws strength from his very firm belief that death is necessary. Everything’s a balance, and you must have death in order to have life. He’ll do his best to try and help people live long, healthy lives―anything less would be a waste of Kihala’s gift. But once you’re dead, you’re dead.

3. You make marvelous use of NPCs in your threads. Please talk a bit about why you like NPCs so much and how you tend to use them to further advance your stories?

My absolute favorite part of writing is when you can really sink yourself into the mind of someone completely different from yourself. My PC and I are two very different people, and I really enjoy getting in his head and figuring out what makes him tick. But Baelin’s just one character. Why limit yourself to one, when there’s a whole world of people here just waiting to be explored?

Using NPCs to advance my stories is less the goal and more the result of trying to get to know them. When I start to write a NPC into a thread, I try and figure out what their hopes and motivations are. Why are they in this location, right here and now? Why are they interacting with Baelin, and what do they hope to gain from the interaction? How does this tie into their life? When you start from that angle, I think the plots and threads kind of start to write themselves. For anyone who’s not already doing this, I strongly encourage it! It’s lots of fun and really enriches the interaction.

4. Baelin seems to be a permanent resident of Sunberth. Can you take a few moments and talk about this city – your history with it, what its appeal to you is, and why you are sticking to Sunberth even when there’s not much player base there to interact with?

I’m going to be honest, I dragged Baelin to Sunberth so I could thread with Firenze. It’s wicked rare for him to genuinely like another PC, so when Firenze sent me a PM saying she’d like to thread again in the future, I went for it. But, now that he’s here, I have zero intention of ever moving him again. He’s way happier in Sunberth than he’s ever been anywhere else I’ve put him. In Sunberth, Baelin feels like he’s actively working towards the goal of being a better Eiyon. And he thinks he can have a smithy by the sea here too. All the goals! Just that huge, satisfied feeling of a life back on track.

Sunberth is such an awesome city to play in. It’s dangerous, sure, but that’s part of what makes it so exciting. Something as simple and routine as a walk home from work can become a wicked intense thread, and there’s no shortage of possible plots to pursue here. You’ve got the gangs and their drama, as well as the mass of normal citizens just trying to get by. You don’t even need to go to a location to get caught in something exciting.

I hadn’t paid Sunberth too much attention in the past because I hadn’t thought it’d be a good fit for Baelin. Shows you what I know. Turns out he only likes law and order when it’s centered around Dira. Compared to Syliras and Ravok, Baelin finds Sunberth incredibly refreshing and honest. Yeah, people are terrible. Yeah, they do horrible things to each other. It’s not great. But he’s happier to take that over living under the heel of people who protect nuits or worship Rhysol.

Sunberth is a place where your character is going to constantly experience challenges and hardships, and that’s something that really appeals to me. The more strife the better. The only challenge that’s not too great is that there’s currently not a lot of PCs around. I’m pretty patient and optimistic, so I’m not too worried about it. So long as the city stays open, I can keep Baelin active through solos and exploring some more of those NPCs. It’s obviously not as fun as writing with others, but it’s better than moving Baelin to a city that he wouldn’t enjoy being in. I made that mistake with Ravok. I took him there because there were lots of other players to write with, but he hated it. It’s much more fun to write your PC when they feel like they’re actively reaching towards their own goals. And―for Baelin at least―that’s happening in Sunberth.

5. As a player that has moved away from Miz, returned and moved away again as real life has pulled on you… can you talk a bit about your process for staying sane keeping track of everything that gets complicated when you take big breaks from gaming?

Hopefully I’m not misinterpreting this question, but I think you’re asking how I stay sane when life gets so busy that I wind up taking time off of Miz. “Staying sane” is definitely a skill that I’ve had to work on over the years. And if I’m going to be honest, I need to admit that the reason I wound up stepping away from Miz was because I was doing such a bad job of managing it.

I’m going to phrase this as if mental health could be graded into skills and lores. You first need to develop your lores. Mental Health: Letting go of stress. Mental Health: You didn’t have to do that thing, and it’s okay that you didn’t. Mental Health: It’s better to send an imperfect draft quickly than take too long for a better one. So on and so forth. And as you build your lores, you start to build their associated skills. For example: at a novice level, you’ll still be holding onto that draft for too long, still working on it long after its already reached “good enough.” It doesn’t matter that logically you know you ought to just send it. You’re still a novice at mental health, so you’ll be bad at it. But the more you practice the skill, the better you get. As you continue to practice it over the years, hopefully you’ll start to notice that it’s getting easier to send those imperfect drafts.

In real life, it’s much harder to max out your skills than on Miz. You’ll still mess up. I definitely still mess up. I’m not even close to an expert. But I think I’m now sitting comfortably at competent. My earlier years here on Miz were definitely more towards novice, which I think you can see with how much I struggled to maintain activity. But everything can be learned. Including staying sane and keeping track of everything.

As for specific things in my process―or the lores that work best for me, so to speak―those tie in to my own brand of mental crazy. Everyone is different, and the things that work best for me might not be as useful for you. I’m so bad at this kind of stuff that I needed to get myself a mental health professional to help me figure out mine. If there’s anyone reading this that’s struggling to get out of “novice,” then I encourage you to think about doing the same. I didn’t for the longest time―definitely thought I could figure it out on my own―and I paid a pretty significant price for that.

6. You have been on Mizahar a long time and made lasting friendships. Will you talk about its appeal to you and what you get out of writing for Mizahar rather than say writing for yourself?

Writing with other people can be so much more fun than writing alone! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy crafting a story on my own too. It’s safe and consistent. But when you write for yourself, you’re limited by the fact that you’re only one person. That’s definitely less fun than when you manage to find synergy with another writer, and both of your styles and characters interweave and create something unexpected. That’s the best. I genuinely enjoy collaborating and bouncing ideas off of others. If anything, I wish I was better at the OOC communication part of it. It’s another skill to work on!

As for the appeal of Mizahar specifically: This is by far the best writer’s roleplaying site I’ve ever had the pleasure of being on. The skill points and lore system encourages active character development, rather than just tossing your character into situations. The variety of cities means that there’s something for everyone (even if it takes you years to find the city best for your PC). And the lore! Mizahar has an excellent base to build of, and users themselves have the power to help build and develop new things in this world. There’s so much potential, and I can’t imagine I’d ever get tired of it.

7. Can you recount Baelin’s best and worst RP moments? Why would you label them this?

Hmm… I suppose I’d count best and worst RP moments as the times when Baelin really got to be himself as well as have synergy in the thread, versus times when I totally dropped the ball as his writer. The worst is easy to decide. There was a Nuit PC that wanted to try threading with a character that actively hated Nuits. I was still getting a feel for Baelin and thought I could keep a leash on him, so I agreed to it. I did keep a leash on him, but it was at the cost of pulling back from his character. I regret that thread. If I ever thread with another Nuit PC, it won’t be a philosophy-styled thread. I’ll tell ‘em straight up that Baelin’s gonna try to kill their character, and no amount of talk is going to delay that. You can’t reason with an extremist.

A “best” RP moment is a lot harder to pick. There’s so many moments that were a delight to write. I think I’ll have to go with the first time Baelin and Firenze really interacted. For a very brief moment, Baelin felt completely at ease with another PC. He was absolutely in character―still definitely an antisocial grump―but something about Firenze just clicked with him. It was really awesome to write, and I hope to explore it more.

8. What are some of your overall goals for Baelin? Do you have any story arcs planned with him or is he currently in the middle of something you can talk about? If so, please spill the beans!

Oh man! I always feel weird talking about future plots, because you never know which way things are going to shift on you. But here we go:

Baelin’s got two major, driving forces in his life. (1) His blacksmithing. He’s always wanted to have his own smithy by the sea, that’s good living in his book. (2) His obligations to Dira. He needs to become a better Eiyon, and he needs to enforce the cycle.

For blacksmithing, I have a rough draft for an eventual business plan chilling in my plotnotes. It’s under the “Bay Forge” spoiler. It’s definitely a rough draft, and I figure I’ll wait until Baelin’s an expert in blacksmithing before I go for it.

I then hope to use that blacksmith shop as kind of a staging area for Eiyon duties. This is something that’s super far out in the future, so I haven’t spent too much time thinking about it. But my understanding is that there’s an established, two-day sea route between Sunberth and Sahova. Eventually I’ll think of a Miz-approved way to explore that.

In the meantime, I figure Baelin can pick up stragglers and expand his smithy into something that’s less of a business and more of a community. I plan on having Baelin hiring a retired prostitute as his clerk, a young sociopathic girl that got kicked out of the orphanage as his courier, and bringing in a kid that tries to rob him as an eventual cook when he decides to expand from just a business into…whatever it is the place will eventually be. Then when Baelin reaches master in blacksmithing, I’ll go for an apprentice! Which―if a mod is on board for―I hope to get in a stupidly dangerous modded thread to the Wolf’s Den. Rough drafts for these NPCs all get to chill in my plotnotes until I get Baelin’s skills up.

Since Goss is awesome, the prostitute is already active! So Baelin and her can build up a rapport long before he hires her. Anywho, that’s it for now. I feel like I just rambled without clearly answering your question, but I hope it wasn’t too incoherent!

9. Talk a bit about Baelin’s likes and dislikes. Are likes and dislikes something you developed ahead of starting him as a character or are those things he adopted along the way as you roleplayed him?

There were some likes and dislikes that I initially planned in creation, but the rest developed as Baelin came to life. He absolutely has a mind of his own, and as his writer I always try to defer to that. I may shove him into situations and hope for a reaction, but it’s definitely the character that decides which way to go.

As an example: I planned on him liking climbing. That’s coming from the Constrictor side. But I thought he’d like climbing more for the adrenaline rush, when in fact he likes it more because it’s a nice solitary activity. Just him and the climb. And the birdwatching, once he’s reached a good spot. I have no idea why he likes birds, but it’s yet another thing that he developed on his own.

10. I like your characters and their development. I was hoping I could get you to talk about your creative process a bit. Where does your inspiration come from? What motivates you to keep them going? Do you like challenging them or torturing them? The populace wants to know.

For someone like a PC, I’m trying to make a character that I’m going to want to come back to for years. While I do tend to get attached to all the characters I make, there’s definitely those few that stand above the rest as people whose stories you just absolutely get sucked into. If you get it right, then even if you try to take a step away from them, then they still pull you back. You just really want to know what’s going to happen to them. With a character like that, you don’t need any extra motivation because you’re already so hooked on their story.

Baelin’s that for me. I know what traits I tend to really enjoy in characters, and so I tried to give him some of those. I think it worked, because I’m absolutely hooked. In terms of inspiration, it was just… In medieval-styled stories I’ve read, I tend to like blacksmith characters. So I figured I’d try for that. And I adore incredibly resilient characters that just keep chugging, no matter what. I tried to give Baelin that too.

And then for all the rest, I put the seed of his character in the incubator that’s Mizahar lore, and then let it grow. I let it incubate for a couple weeks, then made my account and went for it. I tend to lean towards a very intuitive creative process, rather than a methodical one. For me, at least, that lets the character develop their own thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams. And when the character gets to decide those for themselves, then―to me―they feel more natural. If a more methodical approach works best for others, then by all means, keep doing that!

As for challenging or torturing: both! Absolutely, positively both. I always want to challenge my characters, otherwise there’s not going to be a lot of growth. And torturing a character is a great way to really explore the depths of their resilience. I’m a massive jerk and like to see just how far I can push a character. What are their limits? How far can I go before it’s really too much? And what exactly are their weaknesses? Were they what I thought they’d be? Or does the character have other cracks in their armor waiting to be explored? All very fun and terrible to investigate!

11. This is your Soap Box! What would you like to say to the game as a whole? Tell us! This is your time.

A history of inactivity doesn’t condemn you to a future of inactivity. If you want to write here, then write! And for all those who do write, you’re all amazing. I love reading your threads, and genuinely wish I could write with all of you!

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The Featured Character for Winter 519 A.V. Is...

Postby Octarus on December 1st, 2019, 11:54 pm

Congrats Baelin! I look forward to reading many of your threads in the future.
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Postby Ines on December 2nd, 2019, 12:05 am

Grats Baelin!!! I haven't read any of your threads but I definitely should. And I wish that real life was like skills and lores on Miz...then I wouldn't forget all my IRL lores all the time :D
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Postby Kamilla on December 2nd, 2019, 8:16 am

Congrats Baelin! As I've mentioned before, I love your writing, so this is definitely well deserved!

Also, thank you for the little pointers on how to handle NPCs, I've always felt mine were a little flat and giving their own goals independent of my PC's seems like an obvious fix. Thanks!

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Postby Rohka on December 2nd, 2019, 9:00 pm

Congratulations Baelin! I was excited when I read about your goals for him, because you write his smithy skills so well. And that indoctrination aspect is something I relate to as a PC, so it's really cool to read that you're wanting to explore nuit encounters with him. Awesome interview. I'm looking forward to his journey!
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