Eleanor Keyleth Brienne [d’Medani]
Elle lit her cigarette, taking a long draw before letting out an exasperated breath. “They did what?!” she exclaimed, after hearing from her companions that the d’Mir Gang had blown up the Skyfather’s hoard. Ein Zelteil, the mad artificer, and San-Gaeo d’Mir, his thief companion had apparently leapt from the flying tower as gold literally rained down on the heads of the Vulkoori tribesmen, acting as their guides. Her contract with Morgrave University to retrieve the stolen Sanguineous Tome hadn’t prepared her for angry drow tribesmen, insane Reidran bureaucrats, killer yaun-ti, and incompetent Wayfinder “assistance.” She was a long way from Sharn, and angry giants were the last thing she wanted to deal with today.
-Brother “Doc” Wilson’s Journal
-Cleric-Accountant of Kol Korran for Acquisitions Inc., Dar Qat, Xen’drik
– 8th Lharvion, 998 YK
The Girl Detective
From Veronica Mars to Velma, girl detectives have always been a favorite character archetype of mine. While I could have gone with a male detective like Sam Spade, I’ve noticed female detectives are more likely to form adventuring parties, while male detectives inevitably act alone. Veronica and Velma surrounded themselves with their classmates, facilitating teamwork to solve mysteries. Their ability to form these parties was integral to my early organization of Non-Player Characters into NPC Parties, which act as foils and competition for the Player Character Party. This party mechanic coupled with their plucky nature makes them dogged pursuers of the PC Party, making them excellent, identifiable antagonists. They also look great in trench coats and fedoras.
Elle is one of my earliest recurring Non-Player Characters. When I was DMing my first game ever, a d20 Modern adaptation of Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, based on the GURPS book of the same name, I was beginning to watch Veronica Mars, which features Kristen Bell as the eponymous girl detective. It may have been this influence that inspired me to set a female antagonist against a predominantly male Party. In the Alpha Centauri game, Eleanor O’Brian is an insurance agent sent to investigate the various terrorist-related disasters around a hotly disputed colony on Planet. In spite of her efforts, she is consistently one step behind the Players. She is always following the clues, picking up the pieces after the PC’s adventurers, the hunter but never the hunted. She rarely gets her men.
In the Alpha Centauri game, Elle is never able to enlist help from allies to help her capture the PCs. This changed when I decided to run my first Eberron game, Eberron Prime: Xen’drik. In this incarnation, Elle is given more resources to pursue her quarry, most notably the addition of sidekicks and Party members of her own. Her first sidekicks are two bumbling Stormreach Watchmen affectionately named Wiggum and Lou. These two guards unwittingly aid in the PCs theft of the Sanguineous Tome, mostly by revealing weak points in Morgrave University’s security. As her quest to retrieve the Tome and capture the d’Mir Gang (PC Party) sends her deeper into the jungles of Xen’drik, she acquires more allies. After being interrogated by Reidran officials at Dar Qat, “Doc” Wilson, a shifter cleric-accountant of Kol Korran and Dar Qat refugee, joins her Party. When the NPCs learn the PCs are headed for the lost Obsidian City in order to return the book to the Sulatar Empire, the Wayfinder Foundation sends their best adventurer, the boisterous half-orc Bruce ir’Caivyrne to help her (and reap the rewards of finding the ancient drow civilization.) The introduction of Bruce would foreshadow future partnerships in alternate universes in which he and Elle are explicitly working toward the same goals. In the end of the Xen’drik game, the girl detective and her friends would eventually join the multiverse traveling Ein aboard his airship.
With his loud, aggressive, totally egotistic personality, Bruce ir’Caivyrne is a natural foil for Elle, who is stubborn, independent, and willful. The sole heir to the noble House Caivyrne, a half-orc family that his risen to prominence through shrewd business arrangements with House Thrashk, Bruce forgoes tradition and etiquette for a life of adventure. In Eberron Prime, he is primarily a thorn in the straight-laced Elle’s side, representing the Wayfinder Foundation and Morgrave University, who each want the prestige that comes with finding the hidden drow metropolis, the Obsidian City. His relationship with Elle changes, however, in Gestalt Eberron: Mecha, due to the rare inclusion of a female Player, who is an exceptionally infamous changeling thief. In this game, Bruce is the dominant player in their partnership, since he also is a dragonmarked private investigator. It just happens that both private eyes are chasing the same quarry, agreeing to team up to share resources. The PC Party in this game, however, is leagues away from the two detectives, after they commandeer an experimental airship, which is part of a sentai-style giant fighting robot. Complete Eberron: Demons actually solidifies the two characters partnership with both of them being active agents in Breland’s Dark Lanterns. Since the Party is predominantly male again, Elle is the dominant character, acting as Bruce’s handler much like a young “M”, while Bruce is a street-fighting, infiltrating assassin very much in the vein of a young James Bond. If you’re curious about whether this partnership will lead to romance between the two, I don’t know, but opposites do have a tendency to attract, even briefly.
As my Eberron games became more complex, more supporting characters for my iconic NPCs were required in order to create a consistent, living world. When I decided to run the spin-off game Eberron Prime: Sharn, which details the adventures of two employees of Item Creation Corporation on the mean streets of the City of Towers, I wanted to include characters that were related to Elle’s Party (The Ir’Caivyrne Expedition). This led to the introduction of Eleanor’s two sisters, her middle sister Luisa Jennsen Brienne, who is a journeyperson barkeep for Little Barbarian Breweries, and Charlotte Mishann Brienne, a House Tarkanan thief and her youngest sister. The Brienne sisters act as both allies and enemies to the Party, depending on the goals of the PCs. The Item Creation Corporation employees, a bard and a wandering swordsman, save Luisa’s Little Barbarian Breweries tavern from Boromar Clan gangsters intending to exact Hostellers’ Guild fees from her franchise. While Luisa quickly became an ally, her little sister Charlotte finds herself in direct conflict with the employees after convincing them to help her steal the ultra-rare Wizards & Wayfinders Customizable Card Game card, “The Day of Mourning.” In interactions, both NPCs voice their opinions on their eldest sisters’ decision to become a private detective. The Brienne sisters would not appear in future Eberron sessions until the Complete Eberron games, however the inclusion of NPCs families adds depth to their lives when they aren’t helping or hindering the Party.
Currently, I am dungeon mastering two games in the Complete Eberron universe, which has been expressly created to introduce new characterizations to existing iconic characters. Since nearly all D&D 3.5 and even some Pathfinder material are legal, I began considering alternative builds for Elle, who has always been a Master Inquisitive. In the Demons game, the PC Party liberates the camp of Wyrmwatch, Q’Barra installing their own rulers and forming their own government. After this event, I realized that if the PCs are going to go around forming governments and micromanaging towns in the world, it would be interesting if instead of being a private investigator, Elle represents a major government. Thus, I made the decision that Elle is now a spymaster for Breland’s Dark Lanterns, currently undercover in Newthrone. With her partner Bruce ir’Caivyrne [d’Tharashk], a probationary agent for the espionage agency, they are staking out a Brelish MP, who is attempting to exchange important information with a Twelve informant. At the moment, Bruce was implicitly introduced in my most recent session of the game, foreshadowing the introduction of Elle later on in the game.
Across the expanse of time and space, in Sharn in the year 997 YK, during the Morgrave University game, Charlotte’s gang is plotting on hitting the university’s vaults for an arcane artifact. Charlotte’s introduction is largely foreshadowed, much like Elle’s introduction in the Demons game. When Morgrave’s lone A/V guy, the PC Party’s artificer, fixes and upgrades her electric guitar, he unwittingly makes friends with “Molly,” the gang’s changeling bard and lead singer of the girl’s cover identity group, the indie band The Guitar Heroines . While in Eberron Prime, Luisa is a barmaid, she has graduated from the NPC classes into full PC classes, carrying on Elle’s mantle as the Brienne sister’s girl detective. After founding the Meddling Kids, Jr. Inquisitive Agency on campus, Luisa becomes a mentor to Vicky “Vivi” Belmonte, a nosy, know-it-all student who I investigating the PC Party’s mad scientist after a massive arcane accident at the player-created Department of Planar Research. As the Morgrave game progresses, the Brienne sisters will eventually become more important to the events of the game, interacting directly with PCs.
As my first truly unique NPC, Elle holds the most sentimental value. Her background and attitudes toward the PCs have always changed as I have interpreted and reinterpreted her for different Players and PC Parties. She has gone from a beleaguered insurance agent in the future, to a tough-as-nails Master Inquisitive, finally becoming a member of Breland’s espionage community. While in previous games, I made sure to make her active in the PC’s lives, I have decided to instead focus on introducing new NPCs, rarely utilizing Elle and the rest of my iconic characters in order to add more mystery to their stories. If you’re ever in one of my Eberron games, you’ll probably see a cigarette smoking half-elf woman in a fedora shadowing you through Sharn’s dark streets, then it is probably Elle or one of her sisters taking an interest in your activities.
Yeah, I got some serious writer’s block this week. This is the continuation of Dramatis Personae from the Old Blog. Elle, Luisa, and Charlotte all appear in The Brienne Chronicles, which I may post at least excerpts of later on. I may or may not alter them for source material for non-Eberron speculative fiction. In the least, I have all weekend to create a buffer for new material.
When Warehouse 13 starts up again, expect me to post about it. The same goes for Fringe after the season finale! I also need to do one on Veronica Mars one of these days. Bruce Campbell is pretty awesome too. See! I have ideas!