Wednesday, January 20, 2021

31 Days / 31 Characters - IPPERIUS WITSPEAR

This entry has taken me far too long to complete and I don't feel like its anywhere near done or that it came out how I wanted it to.

This was a hard one. Aside from wanting to honor my friend Pete Hernandez, I wanted you - the reader - to really 'get' why Ipperius WitSpear is one of my favorite PCs of all time. I am not sure I did him justice or that I even could. I've had 35 years to get to know this character. You have this post.

Character: Ipperius Argenti-Hydrangea WitSpear

These days the character's name is written Ipperius WitSpear, with the second part of the compound word/name being capitalized. Originally it was simply Witspear. This change was made to match with the naming conventions of the other Elves of my original setting of Aerth. 

AKA: Ip, The Sage of The Silver Flower

System: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition - Heavily Modified, House-Ruled Variant.
Campaign: The Legend of Ipperius Witspear and others. 

Gamemaster: Adam Dickstein

Circa: 1986-1988. Still used to this day. 

Origins: A number of factors went into the creation of Ip Witspear.

First and foremost, this was not only the first Dungeons and Dragons character Pete had ever created to my knowledge, it was among the first PCs he created in a game run my yours truly. Possibly the first. 

A lot of the character was created on the spot, the result of various choices and die rolls. Mixed into the character's design are such influences as Bugs Bunny, David Bowie in Labyrinth, and Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone'. 

Backstory: When we first meet Ipperius Witspear, he is asleep in a cabin aboard some sort of large ship bound for the continent of Ledgorna. Ip swings his feet off his bed to the sound of a splash and the awareness that he is ankle deep in sea water. The vessel he was on was sinking. 

Witspear gets dressed, puts on his armor, weapons, and gear, and goes top side. Fighting his way past several pirates, Witspear discovers the ship he is on has been besieged by boudy buccaneers! He is able to put up a respectable fight but is overwhelmed and forced to walk the plank of the pirate vessel. Moving his hand in a quick motion similar shaking off water, Ipperius then ran his hand through his hair and down his body as if dusting himself off. This, unbeknownst to the pirates, was his way of casting the custom spell, 'Dry'. 

Stepping off the plank, Witspear plunged for some time through the air unobstructed; the ocean moving away from him in all directions. Dry creates a protective barrier against water, causing it to reflect or run off at some three-to-five inches before touching the object or person the spell is cast on. Eventually, as the water reformed above him and Ip found himself in a sort of oblong bubble, he knew that eventually the spell's duration would run out and he would be in very deep (pun intended) trouble.

Luckily, the pressure built up below him and a moment later shot him out of the ocean, high into the air and with a bit of acrobatics he landed squarely back on the plank. The pirates stared in astonishment. Murmurs and whispers started to move through the pirate crew; "He's not dead?", "How did he do that?", "The sharks didn't get him?", etc. Finally one pirate in the back says, at standard speaking volume, "Ee''s not wet?"

The pirates erupt into a screaming frenzy, running in all directions repeating 'He's not wet!' and 'Demon!' and bumping into the masts and each other. Taking advantage of the moment, Witspear knocks some pirates overboard, frees the held passengers and crew from his ship, arms them, and eventually maroons the pirates on the sinking vessel. In addition, the crew, passengers, and Witspear steal the pirate ship and head for land.

What we don't know at this point is: 

Where is Witspear from? Where did he get on this boat bound for the old world?
Why did he leave? What made him take this trip in the first place?
Where exactly is he going? Specifically that is.

We wouldn't find out the answer to those questions for a very long time as Ip Witspear got sidetracked by dozens of humorous misadventures and colorful characters. 

At some point early in the campaigns second year, Ip says his home is 'an isle lost at sea'. When other Elves encountered WitSpear they noted not recognizing his family name (the House of Wit) and were unfamiliar with his accent. He identifies himself as 'The Sage of The Silver Flower' before the Duke of Drakkenheim, a title neither the Duke nor anyone else in his court had ever heard of. Even those with extensive Elven knowledge were unfamiliar with the term.

It wouldn't be until many years of real time later, over a decade and a half in fact, that we would discover WitSpear's true origins. He was a member of the Eldritch or 'Pale' Elves, all of whom were now believed to be dead. They had attempted to violently conquer the world for its own good more than 500 years earlier, forcing the other Elves to unite and destroy the Pale Elves' 'Del Stone', a crystal connecting them to Aerth.

Just prior to these events, Ipperius' parents and many other Pale Elves who didn't agree with their people's tyrannical aspirations, fled the coming war for the Western Sea. Only a relative handful of the conscientious objectors made it to land, lucking upon a set of islands not found on any map. The islands were hidden by a mist that rarely parted and no scrying magic of any kind could pierce it. Unfortunately they were also cursed but that is a tale for another day. 

With his home no utopia to be sure and always curious about the place from which his kin had come (though I suppose in truth that would be Arcadia, the Realm of Faerie), a young adult WitSpear had found his way to the port on a near-ish Southern island not part of his hidden archipelago. Following that, he bought passage on a ship bound for the continent of Ledgorna and we are back to the beginning once again. 

See the fifth entry of the month - Ceren-Dee Windrake -  for more on the last of the remaining Pale Elves. 

Overview:  What can I say about Ipperius WitSpear that would even scratch the surface of how awesome he is? Thanks to the incomparable RPG talents of his Player, WitSpear made every session a delight. Every action clever, every line hilarious, every moment of emotion deep and heartfelt. 

I have often said that I GM at my best when I have great players playing at their best. This was especially true with Pete. I could throw challenge after challenge at him, be they puzzles, enemies, or deep pathos. He was so fun to GM for and that made the character just as enjoyable to run as an NPC years later. 

He was a staple of Ceren-Dee WindDrake's campaign, as she often went into his shop - WitSpear's Wondrous Wizardry Emporium - to obtain material components or identify magical items. Each time you walked in, some strange and often ridiculous situation was transpiring.

Everything in the store, except you of course, might be upside down, with the store counter, boxes, and Witspear himself all standing on the ceiling...which was actually the floor. One time the entire interior of the shop was in various shades of orange, including Ip and Gronk. In yet another instance, it was snowing inside the establishment, with customers shivering, Gronk giving out hot cider, and a group of small children building a snowman in the corner. 

Oh, Gronk...

While exploring the bowls of a Dark Wizard's fortress, WitSpear encountered a Troll (Aerth Trolls are more like those of Scandinavian Myth and Folklore). After humorously avoiding the Troll's attacks in a fairly tight space, WitSpear tried to talk the Troll into quitting his job with the Dark Wizard and coming to work for him. This led to an almost Discworld-ian discussion of Fantasy World workers' rights, labor unions for dungeon guards, and world conquering war machines as a sustainable business model. Eventually, after offering a decent pension package and a 1 week paid vacation each year, the Troll agreed to switch sides. 

The Troll remains with Ip for the rest of the campaign and into all his later appearances. I remember when the two signed off on their deal...

Witspear: "It's settled then. Oh, and I shall call you...Gronk."

Troll: "What? That's not my name. My name is..."

Witspear: "Not the point dear boy! Regardless of your actual designation, Gronk is the name I will call you and the name with which I will refer to you is Gronk. Good? Excellent."  

I love Gronk. Slow and deliberate but much smarter than he appears on the surface, Gronk is a friendly, kind-hearted everyman who can also throw a fully loaded cart, with horses, across a town square. I wish I could remember his real name. 

The Highlights:

Oh man, so many Witspear stories...

He fooled two Gnolls into paying 1 gold piece for a copper piece he convinced them could cast a magic Shield. He then backed their idea of going over to the Ogre at the front entrance of the dungeon and telling him off. With their new Shield Coin, well, they'll show him!

Using his Dry spell and a modified crossbow, Witspear fired several bolts into the air, each attached with blanket sized pieces of canvas. The end result was a cover of floating 'umbrellas' that protected an area below from rain as they slowly parachuted to the ground. This enabled Witspear and some NPCs to save a young child who fell into a collapsed well before she drowned. 

Using only complex word play and knowledge of his opponent, Witspear tricked a Dragon into taking a single book of his treasure hoard of magical tomes and giving the rest to Ipperius. Angry, roaring, and seemingly about to eat or breath on the clever Elf, the Dragon cleared his throat, straightened himself, placed tiny binfocal glasses on his snout, and thanked Witspear for such a challenging engagement. "Perhaps again in say...a year? A chance to win the books back? What say you?" WitSpear agreed, bowed, and departed. 

Legacy: Ipperius WitSpear has appeared in every Winghorn Guard/Aerth campaign since 1999 and will continue to appear in them for as long as I find myself returning to that world. 

Game Info: As with many of the oldest characters I've been posting, I don't have Witspear's first character sheet any longer. I am not even sure where his 3E version is these days. 

I recall that he was originally an Elven Wizard/Thief in Advanced D&D 1st Edition. In his campaign he made it to 6th and 7th levels respectively. His later incarnation, in 3E and 3.5, was much higher in level, something in the range of 14th or so in each class. 

In my D&D AD homebrew variant he has the additional ability of Perfect Timing, a natural talent of all Eldritch Elves that gives them a bonus to anything involving timing their actions against external events or the actions of others. He is especially knowledgeable about magic items, artifacts, and relics of all kinds.

He can not only identify most items but often knows the history, nature, and powers of these items. He collects and experiments with a variety of different material components and is always trying to swap out one for another to see how the new ingredient will effect a spell. 

I could write so much more. 

Next up, we head for Universal Century 0088 and believe in the Sign of Zeta! Say hello to Lt. JET OHANA but be prepared to say good-bye as well.

Barking Alien


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