Thank you all for the review. I appreciate the time and effort that have gone into it. I hope my response can provide satisfactory clarification, and if it does not satisfy then I am happy to change things.
Well first off, I wasn't kidding when I said my Co-GMs had some objections here and that I might ironically be the most optimistic regarding your sheet. You know better than anybody about my anathema towards recycling characters, so it should come as no surprise that I blame many of the issues with your sheet on being due to your recycling of Seihdhara and trying to hold onto past aspects that are no longer very applicable or sensible in the context of this setting. You're trying to force a square into a circular hole; I'll mention some specific instances where I see as we go throughout the review.
I have spoken to you previously about my approach to recycling characters. It is not out of laziness or lack of ideas, it is because I worked on this CS for Godspeed and became immensely attached, and I was unhappy with how it played out in the end. Like Vowzra before Mk.II, Seihdhara still has her song unsung and I do not plan on moving on from her until it is. If the GM team has personal issues with the practice of reusing previous characters, whatever the reason for reusing them, then that is a personal gripe and should not - in my view - be held against a sheet when judging whether it is to be accepted or not. I understand that you believe that this act of recycling has resulted in actual issues, and I will cover those as we go through them.
Let's start with Portfolio. This is one of many aspects of your sheet that I'd say suffer from it being recycled; I'll start off by using the words of Mutton, "First of all, it's got a clear indication of wanting to be about competition in general. I feel as though Kho may be telegraphing that he's going for a competition cluster but it smacks of the vestiges being recycled from Seihdara's previous incarnation who started with a domain. Martial Combat walks the line in overlapping with war already and I would prefer that it makes more of an effort to distinguish itself." BBeast independently commented more or less the same thing, "The first paragraph of the Portfolio is extraneous and potentially confusing as it describes something far broader than the actual Portfolio. Save that paragraph for a Conflict Cluster or something."
As in for my opinion? Had I read your sheet to this point before you'd announced to us all on the Discord that you didn't even read the OP prior to applying with this sheet, I probably would have immediately grown suspicious because you're treating this a lot like we treated old Domains. Despite the plans that have you and Oraculum made to have an Athena-Ares sort of take on two opposing viewpoints concerning war, I don't think Seihdhara's powers or angle are sufficiently unique here. Even if Oraculum doesn't feel like you're stepping too much on his toes, Portfolios aren't meant to be shared.
I'd go so far as to claim that what you're going for sounds a lot more like something one would expect from a "Struggle" or perhaps even "Rebellion" Portfolio, leading into Competition later on. This is supported by some of what goes on in the Sphere as well as her generally defiant persona. So the takeaway from this is that your Portfolio feels more like a Mk. II domain; it's too broad and also overlaps a lot with Narzhak's, but I think you could do quite well by simply changing your Portfolio to something different.
Martial Combat is not a broad portfolio. It is in fact exceedingly specific. I admit that my description probably distracted from that a great deal, but I want that to be clear from the off. Martial Combat is a very clear and very narrow portfolio. War is a very broad portfolio, and encompasses Martial Combat amongst other things. 'Struggle' is a very ambiguous portfolio, and if the criterion is not to clash with other portfolios than it clashes more resoundingly with War than does Martial Combat.
Oraculum and I have previously come to the understanding that Seihdhara's approach will be tutelage-based while that of Narzhak is trial-based. Seihdhara teaches, she does not test. I think her persona as a whole makes obvious that such things do not interest her - if someone comes to her seeking to learn then she will teach them. They will take what they can from her and will prove themselves out in the real world - they have nothing to prove to her, only to themselves. Yes, I know there are 'proving circles' in her Sphere - but that's merely to prove that you have learned and can be said to be qualified according to Seihdhara's standards. Yes, those who qualify 'earn her favour', but wouldn't any student who finishes learning earn their teacher's approval? Yes, they face 'challenges' in the Sphere, but taking up combat is a challenge in itself, there's no way of doing it without challenging and pushing yourself. The only thing that truly tries them that is external to themselves are the aspects coming from Verdax and So'E. Those have nothing to do with Seihdhara.
So tutelage-based, not trial-based. She may personally believe that all things are in competition and ultimately those most adept will rise to the top, as reflected in nature's competitiveness in her Sphere and her understanding that all things are in competition, but that is not her philosophy to training but her philosophy regarding who will excel, martially at least, in the real world. The reason this competitiveness links with martial combat is because martial combat is the central manner by which she competes. All things compete, Martial Combat is one way of competing. As you, Mutton, and BBeast note, there is clearly a lot of hinting at a Competition cluster in future, and I don't see how the references to War, Struggle, Competition, and the Martial Combat portfolio as I have put it contradict or undermine that. Just as Martial Combat is a kind of competition, war is a greater kind of competition which includes, amongst other things, martial combat. Martial Combat is intrinsically linked to war (if I had wanted a Martial Arts portfolio I would have chosen that wording) and the references to war at the beginning remain justified in my mind.
Her rebellious nature is part of her personality. Not everything in her personality has to reflect her portfolio - there are plenty of things which may even be somewhat at odds with it. Rebelliousness is an aspect of her persona and it is heavily dependent on and facilitated by her unrivalled martial prowess. She is rebellious because
she is powerful enough to pull it off. If you change her Portfolio from Martial Combat to Rebellion you have removed one of the legs her rebelliousness rests on. For this reason, I would say that the suggested Rebellion portfolio is perhaps not the way forward.
Regarding Mutton's note that the Portfolio does not distinguish itself (from Narzhak's war, I assume), Oraculum has already stated that his plans have little to do with the martial side of war and far more to do with its ugliness and consequences - he brought up murder as an example when he permitted me to go ahead with the Martial Combat portfolio. There can be no war without Martial Combat, so Narzhak obviously has a great amount to say about that, but even there Seihdhara's approach is far different from Narzhak's. His is aggressive, merciless, holding victory as the absolute objective no matter the means. Seihdhara's approach emphasises self-defence as the pre-eminent principle, encourages mercy, and there is obviously the hyper-focus on the physical form itself and perfecting it as well as the glory of individual martial feats. I believe there is a very clear distinction between Seihdhara's Portfolio and that of Narzhak. Forgive me if I say this, but I feel your assessment in this case may be deliberately harsh or - to use your terminology - somewhat contrived. I readily admit, however, that despite my attempts to begin broad and narrow down (thus providing peripheral aspects to the portfolio and hinting at her trajectory to further distinguish from Narzhak before going into the core of her Portfolio), I may have lost myself in it all and not provided quite a clear enough description. If you require me to reword it I will be happy to oblige. I do feel the competition elements are of extreme importance and would prefer for them to remain, but if you are adamant that they are wholly removed then I will reluctantly resign myself to your will.
Now then, I'll move on to her bear-form and involuntary shapeshifting. This is clearly a vestige of her past incarnations, but it hasn't been adapted well to our setting here. Firstly if you want to have her be associated with bears, why not give her the starting form of an actual bear and have her later gain a humanoid form once such a thing would become relevant an useful for mortal interaction? We've stated repeatedly that no god should begin with the ability to shapeshift out of their first form unless they have a Portfolio that makes a very convincing argument for such powers, and in our mind the Martial Combat Portfolio doesn't offer a good enough argument for transforming into a bear. In fact, turning into a bear seems almost anathema to what you'd expect from a Portfolio like that. If Seihdhara is supposed to be the cooler, less destructive side of war (the Athena) then why would she involuntarily transform into a presumably wild and savage creature? How is a wild animal like that the embodiment of combat?
You might like to hear Mutton's thoughts, "The werebear detail is cool. I wish it wouldn't bend the rules of multiple forms that we established, but I'm tempted to allow a compromise given its limitations -- it being only possible when under duress and it being an indiscriminate force. Where I have a more clear objection is in its role as an incarnation of 'the manifestation of Martial Combat in its pristine, primal form'. This feels dissonant with Martial Combat as a skill requiring focus and composure. Is it both composed and indiscriminately lashing out? It can be, but I would like Kho to perhaps elaborate a little more."
In general, with some elaboration and contrivance you could perhaps convince us to let you keep the werebear idea, but as things stand it seems at odds with what you're trying to do with the character. I think you should drop the werebear idea as some sort of innate power and acquire it later on as an ability or avatar, using actual MP. Or follow my previous suggestions of just having Seihdhara's first form be that of a bear and acquire the sultry redhead later on.
I would, firstly, like this Athena-Ares dichotomy to be done away with when it comes to Seihdhara and Narzhak. I don't know anything about them and have no intention of mirroring whatever it is they had.
With regards to giving her a bear form instead of the one I have selected for her, it is quite simply because a bear form makes absolutely no sense whatsoever given pretty much everything mentioned in her sheet. If anything, her female and very femaleness is essential to her. To take that away would be to completely skewer much of what adds to her personality - the way she dresses (or lack thereof) her signature hair (I cannot imagine Seihdhara without her ridiculously long red hair, that's an essential part of her for me. The idea of just doing away with it is so bizarre it's actually jarring. I could forgive BBeast and Mutton for suggesting a change in form as they did not see her in Godspeed, but coming from you Cyclone that is somewhat demoralising.)
Now, with regards to what appears to be a clash between Martial Combat and Seihdhara's involuntary shapeshifting, particularly the contradiction between composed and focused Martial Combat and the indiscriminate lashing out of what is apparently its 'primal manifestation'.
Keep in mind that Seihdhara's portfolio is Martial Combat and not Martial Arts. While I note that Seihdhara is keenly aware of her strength and has immense self-control when it comes to that, composure and focus are not mentioned at all. This appears to be something you have imputed without any suggestion to it in the CS. In fact, the CS as a whole makes quite clear that she is very emotionally-charged, passionate, reactive, disorganised. Composure and focus are not mentioned at all. For Seihdhara Martial Combat is necessary for self-defence. Self-defence is an essential, primal instinct. It is automatic. To my knowledge, this self-preservation instinct is more attuned in animals than it is in humans. Thus an animal driven into a corner is the perhaps the ultimate manifestation of force used in self-defence. Therefore it appears natural that the ultimate manifestation of Seihdhara's martial combat and self-defence philosophy is that of a wild animal on the brink of losing its life. I therefore do not believe that this werebear idea is in any way at odds with what I am trying to do with Seihdhara as a character.
If you wish for me to remove this aspect of her, then I will do so. But in so doing I will also be forced to remove any relation between her and bears, including her sign and backstory (which can be found in my first Godspeed post
, a one minute read).
Now onto Persona! Contrary to popular theorizing about how your bearform would be the biggest qualm that we had with your sheet, there was unanimous agreement that Seihdhara's sheet doesn't portray her as having any ambition. Your persona makes her likable, but that's about it? What would she actually do? What motivates her? What will create conflict with the other gods and drive interaction there? There's a good foundation with lots of potential. I'll let BBeast speak for all three of us, "I like the personality. Reactionary, yes, but also always wanting to do something. A colourful character which should be fun to write." But in the end, that's just the foundation and we want you to build on top of that. This lack of depth to the Persona is the sheet's biggest flaw, but I'm sure you can answer all of these questions and address this our satisfaction very easily; it's just a matter of committing your thoughts and plans to writing on the actual sheet.
There's nothing much I can write in response to this as I feel much of what you ask is in the CS.
Ambition: 'When staying in the company of mortals, Seihdhara has no issues with conforming with more conservative dress codes - this is not out of any respect for arbitrary laws or customs or whatnot, she just enjoys getting into the ways and clothes of whoever she happens to be staying with.'
'Seihdhara's Sphere is saturated with an electric energy and hotness that lights up the fires of ambition and life within all who enter, inspiring them to great feats while within.'
'Seihdhara's focus is primarily on this hostile competition when it manifests itself in displays of physical force and physical violence. Any war of this nature will require individuals with a certain level of martial skill to engage in combat so as to attain victory. Martial Combat thus lies at the heart of military warfare, and it is this that Seihdhara seeks to teach and cultivate.'
'While not fussed by arbitrary notions like honour, Seihdhara does look with approval upon clemency and the quest to prove one's martial prowess in glorious one-on-one combat, blow-for-blow.'
'Seihdhara lives absolutely in the moment, utterly full of joy and life. In that sense, she is more of a force than a living being, bringing her searing aura of good cheer and the fullness of life wherever she dashes.'
'Stories she tells may not necessarily be funny, and perhaps those she laughs at are not humorous enough to warrant such a reaction, but Seihdhara actively seeks joy and will use any excuse to be joyful and cause joy.'
' This willingness to expose her emotions does not come from a place of weakness. It emerges from the conviction that, ultimately, unveiling these emotions so honestly does her and those around her a degree of good and that in any case no one can truly use them against her - anyone who thinks they can will quickly come to realise that she can deal with them quite efficiently. She is, after all, an apex predator; she harms and is not harmed, protects and has no need for protection, renders kindness and asks none for it, frees and can never herself be unfree. She glories in her unrestrained martial prowess and views with approval all those who seek glory by bringing their body to the zenith of martial might.'
'She does not like sleeping alone and will tend to find something to hug - a rock, some animal, a sentient mortal, or some nearby god; Seihdhara does not discriminate when it comes to these things.'
'In the same way, Seihdhara is a big eater despite gods having no need for any kind of sustenance. She doesn't much care about what exactly she is eating and will appreciatively gulp down just about anything placed before her. She is also something of a compulsive gambler, which is no issue given her divine nature - it is pretty much cheating (though it may well become an issue with a fiend like Chopstick Eyes on the loose!) As a point of principle when it comes to these matters, she only swindles swindlers - they deserve it!'
You note that she is lacking in depth. I have described her personality as much as I could. Perhaps what you are seeing is... well, her lack of depth. Beyond her backstory (which will be done away with if you so please) there isn't much more to Seihdhara. There is no great darkness, no eternal pain. She is a joyous individual who wishes to bring joy. That joy would be tempered by the manner in which she enters the universe (I'll work out something other than her children), but that has nothing whatsoever to do with her CS as it relates to the IC.
Regarding what will create conflict with other gods and drive interactions - Seihdhara as a character was constructed to do away with one gripe I had with Vowzra: the extreme difficulty he had interacting with other deities. If there is any flaw to Seihdhara, her lack of ability to interact with others is not one of them, and I would think her personality makes that clear. Let me know exactly what you wish me to detail and I will attempt to include it. The CS already hints at plans for significant interaction, at least early on, with Orvus and Li'kalla. There is clearly going to be a great degree of interaction with Nazhark. It is not mentioned in the CS, but Capy and I already see potential interaction between Seihdhara and Urhu. The sphere hints at long-term interaction with Melantha. Toasty and I can see significant interaction between them. I personally see a great deal of potential interaction with Kirron given his portfolio's importance for any warrior.
Seihdhara is meant to react to others. She is constructed with engagement and interaction in mind. She will likely not take the first step when it comes to creating things, but she will react and add to the creations of others. I give you the example of the Fey and the Ley in Godspeed, created by Kap Gam. Seihdhara saw the Ley and found it inspiring, so she took souls from it and filled everything that exists with souls, so that rocks, trees, the air, etc. all had souls. This is a very significant interaction and had significance for all future interaction with anything on Galbar. As a minor, perhaps silly sidenote, this process turned the ends of Seihdhara's hair purple which disgusted her and she intended to go see Kap Gam to fix it. A minor detail, but providing the seed for a future interaction. Another instance is the creation of the Sullied and Unsullied from the model provided by the Fey and another god's creations, I can't quite remember.
My point is that Seihdhara will interact with things, that is what she is made to do and that is what her personality is disproportionately geared towards.
And lastly we arrive at the Sphere, the one that you call the Seal. It tries to do a lot of things. Some of them are quite cool, others are of dubious sense and should probably be removed, but hey, there's plenty for us to talk about. Let me start with the general statement that many of these ideas and interactions should be refined a bit with the owner of the other respective Sphere and then brought about IC; for your sheets now we're just looking for very fundamental "natural connections". That part about the Seal appearing as a 'fiery' constellation from Veradax and Galbar is good. That part about it teleporting people to the Great Dark? No. In fact, the teleporting to the Great Dark is so problematic that I'll write an entire paragraph to address it solely.
All interactions with the Spheres of other gods were placed in the CS merely as suggested ways in which they could interact with the Seal. It was for the respective players to read and comment. None of it is set in stone as far as I am concerned. No player has come back to me regarding these interactions - Zee has hinted that he is ok with the positive energy seeping into his Sphere, and I am obviously ok with negative energy seeping into the Seal. Beyond that I don't believe anyone has explicitly approved or disapproved.
The Seal does not teleport people, or anything else, into the Great Dark. You have misunderstood.
Firstly, teleportation between Spheres is a major feat that is beyond the capabilities of any natural connection; you'd need a full Gateway for this. That's probably a god thing, because building a Gateway IC would presumably explain the thinking thought process behind doing such a thing. Right now without context, despite the interesting potential for early interaction, saying "the Seal tests mortals and sometimes teleports them to the Great Dark that they can prove themselves!" is nonsensical and has no basis. The word 'contrived' was used a lot as we discussed this particular feature.
I knew about the nerf on teleportation and gateway between Spheres requirement without reading the OP. You have misread my CS, either willingly or unconsciously. The word teleport does not occur at all in my CS. Anyone who wishes to go on pilgrimage to the Great Dark has to make their way manually from the Seal, through all the other Spheres between it and the Great Dark, and then into the Great Dark. As I understand it Spheres that are 'touching' in a metaphysical sense can be travelled between. If even those require gateways then that is fair enough. As things stand, the Seal does not teleport anyone anywhere. I cannot for the life of me understand how all three of you read teleportation into:
With it at hand one may return to Galbar having earned an unquestionable station of glory or ascend into the Great Dark and conquer the final frontier of the great unknown, the great vacancy: fear itself. The goddess Melantha can expect a constant stream of determined seekers of martial glory to make her Crowning Jewel a place of pilgrimage, that the glorious fires of Seihdhara may shine where nothing else in creation may!
The word ascension refers to 'to going up'. This 'going up' refers to rising up through the sphere to the highest one of all, the Great Dark. It does not refer to teleportation. Returning to Galbar likewise refers to a manual journey downward, and not to teleportation.
This is all basicall this: A student finishes training under Seihdhara. Seihdhara gives them a grassblade. She tell them they can go home if they like, or if they want adventure they can set out on pilgrimage to the top of the world. The person then decides for themselves what they wish to do.
That is all.
I have since also spoken with Oraculum and we have reached a tentative agreement that the Pit will also be set out as a place of pilgrimage, where warriors can go if they so please so as to learn about the aspects of war Seihdhara does not delve into. This is all this is. There is no teleportation involved.
If you feel it is all very contrived I will of course remove it.
And this also leads me to segue into how I think the whole prospect of coming to the Seal to prove one's self steps on the toes of the Pit. Perhaps this was done intentionally so as to have the two war gods' Spheres mirror one another, but eh, this rubs me as being like the cheap spinoff or a plastic replica of the "real thing" that's to be found in the Pit. I think you can make the Seal better and have it be a more unique thing than just a watered down version of the Pit that's slightly more pleasant and which happens to be in the sky.
No one comes to the Seal to prove themselves to Seihdhara. Perhaps they wish to prove themselves to themselves, but that's between each individual and themselves and Seihdhara has nothing to do with it. Seihdhara's approach is one of tutelage as opposed to Nazhark's one of trial. It is of course more pleasant as it is effectively a school, as opposed to Nazhark's arena.
If you can provide me with further direction as to how you wish me to make the Seal better and not a watered down version of the Pit, I would appreciate it. I am currently unsure what exactly would satisfy you.
Despite the numerous interactions you've brainstormed between other Spheres, none of these are really meaningful connections and the Seal's actual impact upon Galbar is quite dubious once you cross out the whole part about champions somehow going there to prove their mettle and then crusade off into the Great Dark. At present, your Sphere probably fails the test where we ask, "If this place didn't even exist, would Galbar be different?" Also, how would one go about getting to the Seal? You could perhaps say that Asceal's comet sometimes drifts by and you can climb from the vines of that comet into the fiery boughs of the Seal's central tree, or vice-versa. I'm just trying to toss you a few ideas to get your mind in the right place as far as what we mean by 'natural connections'.
Stone circles and oak groves, mentioned as existing in her Sphere, will be sacred to Seihdhara and will be natural passageways to the Seal once she spends Might on creating Gateways. As that is something to be done ICly I didn't think it needed to be specified.
The Sphere directly below the Seal is Veradax. People get to the Seal when their hope and will to live overcomes the emptiness and desolation of Veradax. It will reqyure physically moving closer to where the Seal's energies seep into Veradax. On entering the Seal, one finds themselves at the entrance, at the beginning of the mud path described in the CS.
I agree that if you strip away everything then the Seal fails the test you mention, naturally. I will go back to the drawing board and think up new things to make it more useful to Galbar without it stepping on anyone's toes or interacting too much with other people's spheres.
On the topic of the Seal sometimes emboldening souls to rebel against the Sky of Pyres and its Vortex of Souls, I have plenty to say. This (along with the overall beacon energy in the Seal, and the idea of eventually sending people from the Seal to the Great Dark) was among the vague aforementioned reasons for why I thought your Sphere leads Seihdhara more to a Portfolio like Struggle or Rebellion. To address this idea directly though, I'm not a fan of the Seal somehow enabling souls to break free. Once the Sky of Pyres has yanked somebody's soul out of their body and already dragged them so high into the sky that they're racing past the moon and the Seal, it's probably got them pretty firmly in its grasp. Aside form that objection of mine, there's also that you once again have direct competition for this aspect of the Seal, because Foe's Sphere of Mourner's Hollow already offers an alternative to the Sky of Pyres, because it explicitly is a sanctuary for the dead that struggle against the Vortex of Souls and try to remain forever. Finally, what would even be the implications of the Seal empowering a soul to break free? You left that very vague. Perhaps this idea should be discussed among us affected parties elsewhere, probably after Mutton posts our updated canon regarding how souls work in this RP.
The implication of souls breaking away from the Vortex of Souls is that they will arrive at the Seal, where they become those people who Seihdhara teaches and then gives the options of pilgrimage or a return to Galbar. That entire thing was written purely with the souls of those taken from the Vortex in mind. You imputed that travellers will actively come from Galbar seeking 'to prove themselves' in the Seal, but that is something I never suggested or had in mind, though I will be taking it up as an additional manner in which people come to the Seal, not to prove themselves but to learn at the hands of the goddess of Martial Combat. As I have no come to know about fraying and soul decay and other such matters since, I would also say that Seihdhara also spends Might on healing their souls without destroying their personality and memories. I remember it being said that this is possible if highly inefficient.
As for competition, I don't believe there is any competition. Mourner's Hollow attracts those who want to stay,or who don't want to go to the Sky of Pyres from the onset. The Seal inspires those who are already resigned, who did not resist from the onset. If that inspiration lands where there is no initial spark, it will be useless. If that inspiration lands where there is still a spark, but overwhelmed and stifled, it will inflame it and bring about life, passion, will, fight. Ther is no contradiction or competition.
As for the Vortex having a firm grip, I would say the Vortex has a firm grip on those who are resigned to it. It does not expect and should not expect and should not be built to deal with resistance. The souls it is taking up are resigned and might even be willfully driving themselves towards it. Those who are inspired by Seihdhara are not accounted for, their resistance defies the logic of the Vortex. It therefore strikes me as strange that the Vortex would be actively fighting resistance when the souls are resigned, so much so that those inspired by the Seal cannot escape anyway. I would put it to you that the Vortex is built to take up those who are willing and does not account for resistance, and that therefore souls being inspired and escaping to the Seal is perfectly fine.