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Subject: What are the Lancers? rss

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Ken H.
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Well, I was going to post this question on the Magic Realm listserve, but ummmm.... it seems to be gone. So, I'll ask here:

One of the things I like about Magic Realm is how the various parts of the game (the 16 iconic characters, the treasures, etc.) evoke images from fantasy literature. The Wizard is basically a Gandulf character. The Swordsman is a Gray Mouser type, etc. Of course, they are only "suggestions" of literary characters, and leave plenty of room for imagination.

The same is true of the native groups. The Order reminds me of knights of the round table. The Company is a cut-throat gang of mercenaries, etc. Part of the "feel" of the native groups is created by the alliances they have. For example, why do I think the Company is a cut-throat gang, instead of an honorable troupe of swords-for-hire? Because they are friends with the Black Knight, the Sorceror, the Witch, etc. -- all characters that have an "evil" feel to them. On the other hand, the enemies of the Company are the Pilgrim and the White Knight, the iconic "good" characters.

Another clue as to native identity is the treasures that have a fame bounty. For example, the Guards are clearly servants of the throne. They seek to protect (or perhaps restore) the rightful king of the realm. How do I know they are not just the typical dim-witted guards of some fantasy prison? Because you gain fame if you deliver certain imperial relics to them -- the Royal Scepter or the Golden Crown. Also, they are friends with noble "good guys" like the Captain and Wizard, and enemies of the bad guys, Sorceror and Black Knight.

Anyway, that is my long-winded introduction to this question: What in the heck are the Lancers supposed to be? This is the only native group where I simply cannot connect the dots to figure out what they represent. Here are the elements:

--They have spears. (Duh, they are "Lancers").

--They are friends with some good guys (White Knight) and some bad guys (Sorceror, Berserker).

--They are enemies of some good guys (Wizard) and some bad guys (Witch King).

--They treasures that they seek (fame bounty) appear to have no relation to each other: the Dragonfang Necklace and the Golden Armband.

--They may appear at the campfires or the Chapel, but never at the House, Inn, or Guardhouse.

--They dislike all characters that use gold magic (basically Wizard and Elf). They also dislike black magic users (Witch and WitchKing).

My theory:

I think they are supposed to some sort of primitive tribe. I conclude this by the following:
1. spears are primitive weapons,
2. they shun the "civilized" dwellings other than the Chapel,
3, they are friends with certain characters that have a primitive or uncivilized feel to them (Berserker, Amazon, Druid, Sorceror).

Maybe they worship dragons. That would explain the affinity for the Dragonfang Necklace. Possibly they revere the Sorceror (their only real ally) as a dragon in disguise. He is, after all, one of only two characters who can transform into a dragon. Of course, the other is the WitchKing, whom they dislike.

Then again, maybe they are dragon hunters. That might explain the lance (which seems like a good "St. George vs. the Dragon" weapon.) It also helps explain their affection for the White Knight, the premiere dragon slayer in the game.

So do they hunt what they worship? I guess that could be sort of an American Indian model (hunt the buffalo, and worship it). But that's not really a fantasy staple. Also, none of this explains the quest for the Golden Arm Band.

So, any ideas? I apologize for rambling, but I wanted to list out all the "evidence". I figure maybe there is a classic fantasy novel that I missed (there are many, of course) where this type of tribe is featured. Then again, maybe designer Richard Hamblen simply made this one up from scratch.


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Daniel Farrow
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Re:What are the Lancers?
Rubric (#54532),

As best as I can tell, the Lancers are a sort of Don Quixote type character; tilting at windmills and trying to sort good from evil, right from wrong. That is the closest analogy to a fictional character that I can think of.

-Dan
 
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Vincent Lyon
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Re:What are the Lancers?
Rubric (#54532),
Well, if you're going to take the Wizard = Gandalf, Sorceror = Saruman line of thinking, then the Lancers are the Riders of Rohan before being put right by Gandalf. They are noble but paying tribute to Saruman/Sorceror. They subsequently hate both Gandalf/Wizard and Sauron/Witch King. They like jewelry (necklace and armband)?? and shun the relics of the old kingdom (guardhouse, house, inn) and roam free on the plains (campfire) but are worshipful sorts (chapel).
The art of course is of the American Indian model.
 
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Joel Yoder
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Re:What are the Lancers?
I don't know of any specific source for the Lancers, not in any of the books I have read, anyway. I've always thought of the Lancers as sort of neutral, with enemies and friends based on prejudices and past grudges rather than good or evil. The Woodfolk are sort of the same way. They don't like the Captain, the Druid, and the Dwarf for some reason, though they like the Wizard (and the Elf and Woods Girl, of course). Some of this is no doubt just due to trying to balance the characters.

I've always thought this kind of question about the Realm is interesting, though. It seems like there's some kind of backstory there. For example, the one Valley that doesn't have a dwelling in it has the Ruins V chit, which is replaced by ghosts. Was there something there that was destroyed? Maybe by the Witch King before he was defeated and forced into a Sauron-like barely-corporeal state? The game is supposedly set "in the ruins of a mighty kingdom".

BTW, I don't think there's really a character like the Grey Mouser. Both he and Jack Vance's Cugel the Clever were dabblers in magic. A variant of the swordsman that gave him a few mismatched magic chits, Magician style, would be pretty cool.

--Joel
 
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Ken H.
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Re:What are the Lancers?
Yeah, you're probably right about the Swordsman/Gray Mouser thing. I forgot the Mouser knew a little magic.

I agree, though, that the backstory of the Realm is fascinating -- definitely one of the things that makes me keep coming back to the game. The Woodfolk enemies are a little weird. The Captain I can understand, as he is essentially a product of ordered civilization, while the Woodfolk are free spirits unrestrained by laws. I assume they like the Wizard because he specializes in gold magic like the Elf. I don't quite get why they are enemies of the Druid. Maybe because he uses gray (pagan) magic instead of gold (elvish).

The Riders of Rohan idea (above) is good too. I forgot to mention that the Lancers are one of the mounted groups. I don't really see the "jewelry" connection, though. Then again, the reason that the Soldiers want to collect all sorts of gems isn't really clear either, nor the Order's desire to collect gloves. The Don Quixote reference also nicely fits the horse and lance mold, but doesn't explain the specific quest items. Maybe I'm putting too much emphasis on those.

Anyway, I welcome more suggestions/discussion. Here is an interesting thing I found recently, that got me started on this topic (nothing to do with the Lancers):

The Withered Claw is a direct reference to a classic must-read short story by W.W. Jacobs, called The Monkey's Paw. Find it at:
http://www.classicreader.com/read.php/sid.6/bookid.206

If you have 20 minutes, you should read it. You won't regret it.
 
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Edward Hoden
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Re:What are the Lancers?
I tend to agree with the Riders of Rohan analogy but I would take it a step further. The Lancers to me have always been a representation of the Central and Northern European barbarians on the verge of Christianization. Goths, Vandals, Huns or Norse could all fit this mold. They still maintain many aspects of their pagan past but are integrating Christian concepts into their heritage. As I understand it, it is at least partially from this ideal that Professor Tolkien built the heritage of the Rohirrim.

-- Ed
 
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Robert Osvalds
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Re:What are the Lancers?
Rubric (#54532),
What an interesting thread... I would bet that such a conversation wouldn't happen when pondering the "theme" of a GERMAN-style game! This game's rich texture is one of the things I enjoy most about it. Another game that does this is DARK EMPEROR (AH).
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MYOB MYOB
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Re:What are the Lancers?
Rubric (#54532),
I'm not certain where you get the idea that the "Berserker" is a bad guy. I don't think that's the case...he's opposed to the "civilized" forces such as the Patrol and Guard (though I don't get why he's allied with the Rogues...is he supposed to be Conan or something?)
 
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Jay Richardson
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Re:What are the Lancers?
In an early piece of Avalon Hill advertising copy, the Berserker is described as a "Viking Berserker" with strength and ferocity... so I would think he was inspired by the Viking/Norseman era. Whether that makes him a bad guy or not would depend upon which side of the water you were living on at the time: in Scandinavia he'd be a hero, but in England he'd be the Devil himself.

Also, the Magic Realm mailing list is still in operation and quite active, but the owner uses some aggressive anti-spam techniques that can make it difficult for new users to sign up.
 
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Ken H.
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Re:What are the Lancers?
Thanks for the replies, everyone.

I see the Berserker as a "bad guy" character because he is friends with the Rogues (a shady "thieves' guild" flavor), and is disliked by the Guards and the Patrol (the more upstanding types). Besides that, a good strategy for the Berserker is something like 30 fame and 40 notoriety. This is (in my experience) a common and effective strategy, and is one that often requires you to kill other characters. Also, frankly, he looks evil in the illustration.

With that said, I can see how he could be interpreted as a sort of "chaotic hero" who despises law enforcement, but is still a good guy. Even with that interpretation, though, it doesn't make the Lancer's identity any more clear. They like the White Knight too -- surely he is the pillar of law and order.
 
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Steve Schacher

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Hi. I'm catching up on old threads.

Could it be that Lancers are like Robin Hood and his band of merry men (minus the bows)? They could be like former noble people driven into the woods by corrupt establishment, hence they are friendly with a mix of good and bad characters, shun dwellings like the house, the inn, and the guard, but still seek refuge at the chapel and campfires. They take an odd assortment of treasures for their value (take from the rich and give to the poor?), not for their purpose.

Just a thought.

Steve
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