Vovir Mesk: the Shire Reeve of Brin Shander
This is the second custom NPC from my personal Rime of the Frostmaiden campaign. He is a direct response to my players’ frustration about the supposedly lawful good leaders of Ten Towns allowing or even encouraging human sacrifices to Auril. To me, the sacrifices to Auril are an indicator of the psychological strain on the people of ten towns and an important facet of the horror element of the game. If we look at historical (and recent) examples of places under similar circumstances we see that ordinary people become less predictable and more dangerous. I wanted a character who could bring the average person’s tragedy directly to the players but also represent the danger and psychosis of desperate people, especially in large groups.
So, enter Vovir, the Lawful/Good Shire Reeve of Brin Shander. He is kindhearted, incorruptible, and devoted to protecting the citizens of Brin Shander. He is also completely in favor of human sacrifices. If the players come to town, riling up the townsfolk, or trying to end the sacrifices to Auril, Vovir will confront them. To make him easier to run, I’ve listed some of his motivations—goals that he wants to achieve beyond what the party may need from him. Also, tactics—the strategies he uses to obtain his goals.
Vovir is a wolfdog of a man. He has hard features, a large jaw, a flat broken nose, and big hands. He is always perfectly shaven and keeps his dark hair combed back into a pompadour. While on official business he wears a long blue coat over his regular clothes, a well-oiled mace on his hip, and a tin whistle around a silver chain on his neck. These are the only indicators of his office.
Vovir doesn’t think his job is to capture and punish criminals. Instead, Shire Reeve is more like a town referee. He ensures fair play and restores equity to situations that have been unbalanced in some way. Vovir doesn’t like to resort to violence, but his physical prowess allows him to remain calm in normally stressful circumstances. No matter how heated the situation, he listens attentively to all parties and chooses his words carefully when he speaks.
About half the houses in Bryn Shander stand empty. Their occupants are either dead or wandered off never to be seen again. The families that remain are starving, paranoid, and on the verge of tearing themselves apart. While others hate and fear Auril for the present conditions, Vovir is a practical man. There is little he can do about Auril or the everlasting rime, so he doesn’t spend much of his energy worrying about it. As Shire Reeve, it is his responsibility to protect the citizens of Brin Shander, and this is where he focuses almost all his physical and mental power. Even if it means protecting Brin Shander from itself.
When you are trying to figure out what Vovir wants during a roleplay interaction consider the following possible motivations. A player might be able to determine Vovir’s current motivation with a DC 10 Intelligence(insight) check. If a player provides a reasonable argument, they might be able to temporarily change Vovir’s motivation with a DC 15 Charisma(persuasion) check.
Vovir has devoted his life to the concept of justice. Although his alignment is Lawful/Good he cares much more about being lawful than he cares about being good. To Vovir the law isn’t just a set of rules in a book (in Ten Towns there are very few “official” laws anyway.) Instead, justice is a practice of restoration. When someone is wronged, it is the responsibility of the reeve to undue as much harm as possible. Additionally, the law has the power to return criminals to their previous lives. An offender who is truly remorseful, and accepts their punishment is fully restored as a citizen in Vovir’s eyes. Although Vovir’s philosophy on justice seems nice on paper, he is willing to do distasteful or even immoral things in the name of justice.
A sacrifice I’m willing to make
Vovir is unshakable in his belief that the sacrifices to Auril are necessary for the continued survival of Brin Shander. He is skeptical as to whether Auril cares about the sacrifice. But there are still clear benefits of a well-organized, state-run execution. Most importantly, it slakes Brin Shander’s thirst for blood. The people are demanding sacrifices and if the government didn’t go along the cult of Auril would take over and there would be riots in the streets. With official sacrifices, violence is kept to a minimum (once a month.) The choice is fair (lottery.) and it gives a sense of community and hope to people who otherwise feel powerless. It is distasteful to Vovir how much the masses love to watch the spectacle of the official ceremony. However, even that is useful since it keeps the people happy and distracted.
If the players are making public objections to the human sacrifices, they might soon have the townsfolk of Brin Shinder turn on them. Vovir will intervene to defuse the situation before the mob turns violent then explain his position in private. If the players continue to protest the way things are done in Brin Shander, he might not be able to save them from what the townsfolk do next.
While his motivations might be simple, the tactics Vovir has developed over a lifetime of fighting crime are varied and complex. When roleplaying as Vovir, try to play him smart. He isn’t overly clever, but he is good at his job. He has a natural sense for when people are lying or trying to give him the run-a-round. He also knows that bullying and browbeating hurt his cause in the long run. He also knows that no matter what, someone is going to consider him the “bad guy” embracing that image can give him power.
When trying to figure out how Vovir will behave in a situation consider the following tactics. A player who understands Vovir’s motivation might be able to temporarily change his tactics with a DC 10 Charisma(Persuasion) check
Let’s all just take a deep breath
When encountering a heated situation Vovir’s first instinct is to calm everyone down. He separates the parties if he feels like there is a chance for violence then listens to all points of view without making assumptions about who is right or wrong. Most petty disputes can be solved just by getting people to calm down and agree on the facts. If that doesn’t work, he will physically remove the aggravating party from the situation. Then, explain to them in private what they did wrong, what they need to do to make reparations and the logical consequences of what is going to happen if they continue to cause problems.
If the players end up talking to Vovir it’s almost certainly because they have done the normal adventure thing and decided they are above the law in some way. The people of ten towns are on edge and likely to have an extremely aggressive response to adventurer shenanigans. Vovir has bigger problems to deal with and is happy to let the party off with a warning. However, if they continue to cause problems, he is happy to talk to the town guard and have them banned from ten towns.
Because of his ability to handle himself in a fight, Vovir rarely feels threatened. But there are still plenty of situations that are easier to handle with a little bit of help. If Vovir even needs more hands or eyes, we will form a posse by blowing the tin whistle around his neck. All residents within earshot are expected to rouse themselves and provide whatever aid is safe and reasonable for them to perform.
When Vovir forms a posse 5d6 commoners and 3d4 “reformed” thugs show up either instantly, or over time depending on the situation. Under normal circumstances, the commoners don’t put themselves in danger, however, given enough provocation, it’s possible to whip the group up into a mob. Either the players or Vovir can make a DC 15 Charisma(persuasion) check to calm them down. On a failed check Vovir loses control of the crowd who begin attacking people and places associated with their anger. If left unchecked the mob rages through the night causing severe damage to a district before dispersing as the sun rises. The mob destroys 1d10 buildings and “sacrifices” 1d4 citizens to Auril. The targets of the violence can be random or along socio-economic lines. The disenfranchised are often the first targets of fear and hate.