Tuesday, January 13, 2015


I was inspired by Tommy Brownell's post today at the Most Unread Blog (HERE) to discuss the crowning glory of my GMPC* days: Silinar. 

I need to start by saying that I used to be a terrible GM. Arguably I still am, but I was truly, genuinely bad when I first started running games, having all the worst qualities imaginable: I railroaded, I fudged to make things go the way I wanted them to, I made up rules as I went using existing magic systems or combat mechanics as light suggestions, and I imposed several traveling companions on the party in the form of GMPCs. 

Lon Chaney as Phantom (ballroom scene)
I was also in many ways a typical 90s nerd, spending all my spare time absorbing heavy metal, horror movies and books, fantasy, TSR fiction, etc. I went through a period of intense interest in classic horror movies, and developed a particular fondness for Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney. Pretty much anything related to the Phantom, I consumed (from the original novel to the movie starring Robert Englund). This was also a time when the Gary Oldman and Alan Rickman dominated the screen as our go-to, over-the-top movie villains. Once I discovered Ravenloft, it was pretty much inevitable that my NPCs and bad guys would be infused with flamboyant melodrama. Which brings me back to Silinar. 

The easiest way to describe Silinar is as a blend of Zorro and Erik from Phantom of the Opera. If you need a visual image, just look at the picture above of Lon Chaney at the ballroom scene in Phantom. That pretty much is how he was described to my players when they first met him (I can't remember if he had a skull mask or a more elegant mask, but this is how he was dressed). Now imagine your party traveling with such a man. You probably can't, which makes sense because no sane person would take this guy on a road trip. But as I said before, I was a terrible GM, so I employed the various methods available to me to make it so. No matter how hard they resisted him, no matter how much they protested, Silinar and the party would inevitably cross paths, and their goals would strangely align. At one point, I think I even had him following the party, stalking them as they went on adventures.

Lon Chaney as Phantom (being creepy)
It was bad enough that I forced them to travel the Demi-plane of Dread with Silinar. That should have got me booted from the GM seat right there. But I based him on the Phantom and everything that entailed. In addition to the above image, try to imagine your party traveling with the fellow in the black and white screen shot of Chaney to the right.

So on top of being gaudy, weird and having a bad name, he was also an utter creep. And I won't even get into the whole unmasking scene that I forced on the players. 

Miraculously, my group allowed me to continue running the campaign. But it gets worse. 

No only was Sinilar creepy, weird, poorly named and, as they later discovered, deformed...he was a master swordsman and pretty much impossible to kill. I can say with all honesty there is nothing my players could have done to rid the world of Silinar permanently. He would have eventually returned in some form no matter what method they employed to destroy him. 

I can also say conclusively that Silinar was my worst GMPC ever. He was worse than my coke-snorting, time traveling, baroque era coward, Edarin. He was more terrible than my brooding pacifist flesh-golem Lunara. He was even a far greater mistake than my vampire hunter supreme, who was secretly working for the head vampire and betrayed the party at the last minute (thankfully I cannot recall his name). If it is any consolation to my original Ravenloft party, I have been atoning ever since. 

*GMPC: Game Master Player Character

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