Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Y is for Yolanda of Luln

[over the course of the month of April, I shall be posting a topic for each letter of the alphabet, sequentially, for every day of the week except Sunday. Our topic for this year's #AtoZchallengeRevamping the Grand Duchy of Karameikos in a way that doesn't disregard its B/X roots. I got behind by a couple days because of the Easter weekend, but I'm trying to catch up as quickly as possible]

Y is for Yolanda of Luln.

I’ll admit that after re-reading the description of this NPC, I’m feeling a little less critical than my initial impression. For those of you who don’t own GAZ1, here’s the gist:

Yolanda as she appears in GAZ1
Yolanda was born in the Black Eagle Barony. Not desiring for the child to grow up in such a terrible place, her parents fled with the baby; her father died during the escape. Yolanda grew up in Luln with her seamstress mother. Yolanda was blessed with great beauty and musical talent; she “trained” rigorously until the age of 18, after which she moved to the capital, where she became the most famous entertainer in Specularum. Now 22 she uses her money (after paying her expenses...including sending money to her mother in. Luln) to influence Ministers and officials at the palace to curb the degradations of Baron Black Eagle. She is described by Allston (in GAZ1) as “A Woman With A Cause,” and a possible source of adventure hooks.

The reason I was feeling critical earlier was that I had an inaccurate memory of this particular NPC. For some reason I thought (or assumed) that she was attempting to foment rebellion (or stir up trouble) against the Black Eagle Barony, using her music. Like, I don't know, Gold Moon doing her little song and dance in Dragonlance, trying to inspire folks to help her people. I mean, I realize folk musicians inspired people to activism during the latter part of the 20th century, but I'm not sure this was ever true of individual minstrels in earlier centuries. Did Yankee Doodle fire up American colonists against the British? Or was it simply a song sang as a sign of their (already) defiance? My general feeling is that the local nobility's reaction to songs of revolution would be something on par with Game of Thrones: "Would you prefer to lose your tongue or your fingers?"

But that's not what going on. Yolanda is a successful entertainer who came from humble origins who's using her newfound money (not her music) to secretly (not publicly) influence the aristocracy against a corrupt vassal. And that's just fine and dandy...except that I don't necessarily see the Black Eagle as all that "evil," and I certainly don't see Archduke Stefan as some wise and just ruler.

ANYway, she's an interesting NPC to have floating around Karameikos and other than leaving her as is (a famous entertainer...thank goodness there's no "bard" class in B/X or BECMI because I'm sure she'd have 10+ levels and a bunch of random spells), there are only a couple-three ways I'd choose to resin her:

Option #1: Make her an actual Traladaran revolutionary, but financing the guerrillas in the capital in order to overthrow the corrupt and decadent invaders (i.e. Duke Stefan himself). In this scenario, Yolanda sees the Black Eagle as only a symptom of the actual problem: foreign occupation. Instead of money going to bribe ministers and officials, she could be buying swords and arrows for the true revolutionaries hiding under the nose of the Duke. Of course, there are sharper knives in the drawer who would be aware of her schemes and would oppose her activities: individuals like Anton Radu (head of the Veiled Society) who has made money hand-over-fist since the corrupt Thyatians came into the picture.

Option #2: As option #1, but now she IS the very public, folksinger activist inspiring rebellion and dissidents with her coded lyrics of her music. The Archduke is aware of the problem, but most of the actions he could take to silence her would simply make her into a martyr...and because of her overwhelming popularity amongst the people her arrest and/or execution m might actually be the spark that sets off a firestorm! Stefan may need the aid of some mercenary minded troubleshooters (i.e. the player characters) to discreetly deal with the singer...

Diana Damrau as Yolanda.
Option #3: None of the above; Yolanda is actually a centuries old Nosferatu masquerading as a normal human entertainer. She was one of the many undead wives of Lord Zemiros Sulescu, but he tired of her some decades ago, and when she she'd finally had enough of lurking around his castle and preying on the odd gypsy...er, peasant...she decided to try her hand among the living. Her fame and popularity is as much due to selective use of her vampiric charming ability as to her natural beauty and talent. No one's yet caught on, and she's considering forming her own faction in the city of Specularum: a contingent of lovers and admirers converted to vampires and under her absolute sway and domination. One of the things I always liked about the random town encounters in the original DMG (besides the extensive list of "wandering harlots," of course) was the possibility of bumping into a vampire or greater undead on the city streets. Put one there: Yolanda, Queen of the Night!
: )


  1. Regarding your question about folk musicians stirring up revolutionary spirits... I'm not sure if individual musicians were ever directly targeted, but folk music throughout history has often been suppressed by conquerors. I recently learned about the bandura, a sort of zither or lute which is basically the national instrument of Ukraine, and thus heavily associated with the native folk music of Ukraine. Players of the bandura were viciously persecuted by first the Russian Empire in the 19th century and then by the USSR in the 1930s. There is a story about how the Soviet government advertised a folk music conference and about 300 Ukrainian musicians showed up and they were all executed.

    So yeah, native folk music has throughout history been feared and suppressed by imperial rulers. It doesn't even need to be stuff like "coded lyrics", just the fact that someone is singing the traditional songs of the people can inspire revolutionary patriotism among a subjugated population.

    1. Thanks, Jesse; "folk music history" is definitely NOT one of my strong suits. I appreciate the info!