Saturday, July 30, 2011

Guest Bloggers for Gen Con

During PaizoCon, I had a crack team of moles, burrowing deep into the loamy bosom of Paizo and sending me announcements and rumors by various means for posting.  It worked out great, but as Gen Con approached, I wondered if it might not be better to add two fellows from my circle who are going as blog contributors, so that they can post at their own pace, according to their own schedule.  Therefore, you will see Droz and Trin -- our two intrepid Gen Con correspondents -- added in the top right corner now, virtually crouching in wait for their chance to spring forth and regale us with Con news and views.  I cannot but help dream that they will snap pictures of Rone Barton at an embarrassing moment, tape drunken confessions from the industry's luminaries for download, and abscond with some fine Gygaxian relic for Ramblers to gawk at.  I owe them a big thank-you for volunteering to share their experience with us.  Have a great time, guys, and do us proud!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why D&D Does Not Need a Comeliness Score

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

I recently had a thought relevant to the addition of Comeliness as an optional ability score for D&D (Unearthed Arcana 1985) and the subsequent rejection of that addition by the majority of the D&D tradition (2e - Pathfinder and the retro-clones, inclusive).*  Whatever your persuasion here, the impulses seem to fall out along distinguishing how attractive a character's looks are from Charisma, folding them into Charisma, or simply not giving looks a score and letting this be decided by the player, GM, or by dice rolls on a case-by-case basis.

I have concluded that aside from player freedom and the provision for individual tastes and circumstances by reaction (or skill) checks, there is a good reason for not having a Comeliness score.  My reason is derived from the light that evolutionary science shines on physical attractiveness and the completeness of the standard six ability scores as they stand.  If physical attraction is explainable in terms of the biological advantages of sexual reproduction, then attractive features (both physical and personality-wise) attract mates because they represent good genes to pass on. The PC's genes find expression in the ability scores: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.  No one ability score, not even Charisma, can represent the total number of features that lead to sexual attraction.  In a nutshell, the reason D&D does not need a Comeliness score is because attraction realistically would be dependent on more than one attribute and a character's attributes are already accounted for by the six ability scores.

Therefore, if you run a game where determining attraction is desirable in role-play, one would need a formula for taking all the scores into account to arrive at a representation of a character's overall desirability.  Thinking about such formulas quickly gets into the realm of minutia.  Men and women may, for example, give different attributes different weight (I'm betting a woman with STR 25 is going to repulse rather than attract most men.)  This kind of thing will make a GM pull his hair out and is beyond the level of abstraction that the game system needs to both represent and run.  Further, GMs don't need to dictate how a player character's face is symmetrical or the healthy glow of skin or the hip-to-chest ratio or any such things.  Let players use their imagination and have their druthers.

To keep it simple, the GM needs a holistic abstraction if she wants to have a score that gives this element in the game a level of independence.  I'm suggesting therefore that the GM simply add the ability scores and note them on the reference card where she keeps the player's stats.  Below is a table that would allow for an attraction roll based on a character's overall attractiveness.  The columns to the left are for old style reaction rolls, those on the right for new style skill checks.  The GM and player then can interpret the rolls to fit the characters and the situation.

Ability Score Total 2d6 Reaction Roll Ability Score Total 1d20 Skill Check
18-23 -3 12-23 -4
24-35 -2 24-35 -3
36-53 -1 36-47 -2
54-77 0 48-59 -1
78-95 +1 60-71 0
96-107 +2 72-83 +1
108 +3 84-95 +2

96-107 +3

108-119 +4

As always, happy rolling!

*Aside from the (again, optional) rule in 2e Player's Options: Skills & Powers for an Appearance score.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Advanced Gygaxian Morality

Some recent finds at Half-Price Books, including the above gem, has inspired this new blog feature. 
I am happy to report that, unbeknownest to me, Gygax dedicated this book to me.  (Oh, okay, to you, too.)
1987.  The co-creator of D&D had left TSR at the end of '85.  What had he been doing since losing his company and his game?  One thing he had been doing was writing Role-Playing Mastery: Tips, Tactics and Strategies for Improving Your Participation in any Role-Playing Game, which came out in the year under considerationIt makes sense to me that Gary would have been looking for a chance to continue to profit from his creation in a legal way, pass on the mature accumulation of his gaming experience to his considerable audience, and -- to really go out on a limb and speculate -- perhaps seek a closure that eluded him ever after, if not the same level of success that he had achieved before he lost it all.  Reading through the first 40 pages (through Chapter 2), it struck me that Gary continues to qualify play with variations of the predicate "the right way."  "What authorial One-True-Wayism is about to be foisted on us?" I inwardly cringed.

The more I read and pondered these opening chapters, the more I suspected that there was not a lot to fear in Gygax's statements, after all.  What seems to come to the fore is, above all, a moral vision of play.  Consider Gygax's attempt to summarize the spirit of AD&D:

This is a fantasy RPG predicated on the assumption that the human race, by and large, is made up of good people.  Humans, with the help of their demi-human allies (dwarves, elves, gnomes, etc.), are and should remain the predominate force in the world.  They have and continue to hold on to this status, despite the ever-present threat of evil, mainly because of the dedication, honor, and unselfishness of the most heroic humans and demi-humans -- the characters whose roles are taken by the players of the game.  ... evil exists in the game primarily as an obstacle for player characters to over come (26-27).
He then goes on to make a connection that makes a straight line from the character in the game to the player at the table: success is achieved in the game by cooperation.  Victory, the good goals of the characters, is the result of the effort of the players coming together as a group.  It should not surprise us that a game played by a group would promulgate an ethic that surely must be labeled communitarian.  Gygax explicitly identifies power-hungry individuals (designers as well as players) who attempt to dominate the PC's milieu by the accumulation of their character's power out of balance with the group, rather than through the accumulation of skill as a player, as cheaters and perverters of the game.  Such "players who confuse the general welfare of the game with their self interest... seek to participate as elephants in a game of ants" (30).

Maybe all of this seems so self-evident as to be unworthy of special attention to some of my readers.  If so, I ask you to cast your mind back over the social issues that have disturbed games in your experience.  Were these not in fact symptoms that Gygax identified of someone playing "the wrong way?" 

The other issue that my mind immediately connects with these meditations is one of the great troll baits of the RPGosphere: alignment.  How would alignment look now, tied back to the real-world necessity he has identified?  Would it not address "the need to make stark the villains and highlight the heroes" (34)?  Apart from this and the reference alignment provides for getting in the mindset of character and milieu, "there is little or no need to deal with such concepts in the game framework" (Ibid). If so, this is difficult for those of us who have pursued some serious study of ethics, moral philosophy, or moral theology to accept.  But maybe it shouldn't be.  Most role-players (I am reflecting on my own experience) know just enough about one or two points of ethics as to be able to put their own eye out with their moral rhetoric, if not the eyes of their interlocutors as well.  In other words, they know just as much about that as they do about the finer points of medieval arms and armor or the ins and outs of a silver-based economy before the rise of capitalism.  And in this case, where the fact that perhaps most people are moral midgets in at least some area of ethical consideration anyway combines with this kind of intellectual dilettantism in a particularly volatile way, leading to the kind of alignment slugfests that we have all seen on various messageboards and that are undoubtedly finding some expression in some people's games somewhere.  Still, greater needs may be accommodated in the area of morality without transgressing Gygax's general observations.  Just as some groups will need more complexity and different milieus than other groups in the area of economics or physics, some may have different needs in the area of morality.  Know your group and work with your group towards the group's good, says the guiding Gygaxian spirit.  This is what judges player's actions as good or bad.  A good player may role-play acts in the game that are judged evil by some standards in the real world, however they may be judged in the game's milieu.  Gygax insists on the parallel of the stage:  we hate Claudius, not Sir Derek Jacobi.  We don't blame Imelda Staunton for the things Dolores Umbridge does.  (Tracing the characters back to Shakespeare or Rowling simply confirm these judgments.)  As he bluntly puts it, mastering play means mastering the difference between pretend and reality.

Does this shine any light on your gaming and thinking?  Or does it stir up a mighty Post of Correction, +3?  I look forward to seeing what sharing this may shake out.  I hope that you look forward to further rambles through Gygax's Role-Playing Mastery in future installments of Tomeful Tuesday, as I do!

Let the master tell you how it's done.  Gygax in 2007.  Photo by Alan De Smet.  CC.

Monday, July 25, 2011

New Feature Announcement!

Tomorrow will see the launch of a new feature to Mythopoeic Rambling's line-up: Tomeful Tuesday!  I'm not committing to another every week feature like my catch-all, primary feature, Mythopoeic Monday.  I envision this being a semi-regular feature that highlights material from non-fiction books that I'm reading through that contribute the subjects of the blog.  Drop in tomorrow morning to find out who's first in my bibliographic queue.  Hopefully we'll get some discussion and suggestions coming out of my text crawls.  As always, thanks for dropping in.

Merfolk Flash Vikings!

The 1973 collection of Sword & Sorcery novelettes pictured above was a real find that I devoured so quickly there was no updating my book trophy section at the bottom of the page.  I skipped the Leiber story, since I've read the last two books of his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series in the past year.  The other three are quite enjoyable.  In particular I learned two lessons.  First, there is not now nor has there ever been enough Jack Vance in my life.  (The Lyonesse books are good, but I need those Dying Earth books!)  Second, I am not the first person to have thought about the mythopoeic match-up of vikings and merfolk.  (Which reminds me, when am I ever going to find out what they did with mermaids in On Stranger Tides?  Don't tell me!)

Leave it to Poul Anderson, a trailblazer in many ways, to have put merfolk and vikings together when I was a toddler, long before I was dreaming up the World of Ygg in "The Merman's Children."  Anderson is fascinated in the transition of the Norse from pagan to Christian, and he sets the story in a time where the characters are struggling with categories in terms of the old gods (devils) and the Christian God.

The old bishop in the story tells his archdeacon that "They lack souls, yes, like other beasts, but they do not imperil salvation as might the denizens of an elf-hill."  The archdeacon goes on to share the reports he has of them.  "This is not a hideous race with fish tails, my lord.  Save that they have broad, webbed feet and big, slanting eyes, and the men among them are beardless, and some have green or blue hair -- on the whole, they look like beautiful humans."  No men of Innsmouth, these.  They are not even like classic mermaids, but are closer to human form, in spite of their lack of a soul (an assertion that, as you might guess, turns out to be more problematic than the initial confident assertion would lead one to believe).

The root of the trouble is this: the birth of children part-human and part-merfolk have given rise to an unusual degree of commerce between merfolk and the sea-faring rustics of his coastal diocese.  The former are part of the mystery of the sea and a disappearing, if not anti-Christian, world.  The description works well for the merfolk of Ygg, but the sense of their antiquity I plan to have coming from their connection to the Atlantis and classical world analogues, which is both a whispered past and a glorious, begrudged present.  I still haven't found a copy of FS!#2, but I did just find a copy of #4, which has another merfolk story in it.  Huzzah!  More inspiration may yet break forth from Poul Anderson.

Folks with an interest in Ygg will have noticed that my posting of material for it has slowed as the hopes of a S&W play-by-post set there have been delayed.  I'm not giving up on it, but the production will continue at a slow pace until circumstances change.  Tangentially, I admit that I was a little surprised that the solid popularity of my bonnacon post did not rub off on the rumor table that I created for it.  (Scroll down to Rumor Table A.)  What, I used the d30 and everything!

As always, thanks for dropping in for Mythopoeic Monday!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What My Pals Do While I Ramble Around

A little blogging, a little reading, a little teaching and grading, a little taking a nap.  Boom, the day is gone.  That's not too far off from a regular day in the life of this mythopoet.  As you know, I'm a ramblin' man.

Then I check back in on what some of my online gaming pals are up to.  Oh, just launching a new line of adventure modules for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, says Allen Taliesin.  Frak, I say to myself (as a child of the eighties).  Well, maybe Janet Bell and Chris Correll are lounging by the pool to kill the heat.  No, it looks like they are busy writing the first installment in that new line called Master of the Bronze Rose (if I draw the right conclusions from the order).  Hurrying away from them with the feeling that I should be doing something productive, I pass the Clockwork Gnome again, and he's moved on to preview his Starlit Sea cosmology.  Whew.  I think I need a nap.

Keep up the good work, Allen.  I'm glad to hear that Janet and Chris are pitching in and curious to hear more.  I guess I'll forgive you for having no time for a PbP.  I guess.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

And THAT is What Dwarves Look Like

There's been a lot of talk online lately about the look of the dwarves in Peter Jackson's up-coming adaptation of The Hobbit.  It seems like it has been heightening in the past weeks as every couple of days, the studio has leaked a dwarf or two, until the the above rendition of all of them was out.  Feelings are mixed, at the very least.

Sorry, but I'm now going to have to pull Old School rank on all y'all.

This is what dwarves look like, even in their non-Tolkien spelling:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter: An Unsystematic Postscript

I'm still in the afterglow of the post-Harry Potter era -- or at least, the passing of the Golden Age of Potter (1997-2011), perhaps soon to be turned by J. K. Rowling into the dawn of the Silver Age of Potter.  Along with the new film, I watched the Larry King Special and listened to this NPR special.  I wrote my proposal last week about how I believe Harry Potter was the missed opportunity for the second coming of the tabletop fantasy RPG in our lifetime, which stirred a lot more people to message me than to comment publically, including lots of repeats of stories heard from big time people in the RPG industry who worked at leading places you have heard of.  There were divergences and common elements in people's reports, but apparently no one feels comfortable posting them so I won't.  I will mention that a number of them claimed that it was J. K. Rowling herself who put the kibosh on a Harry Potter role-playing game, which if true would seem to represent a misunderstanding of what an RPG is and does on her part, but moreover would just be sad.  Who wants to blame Joanne when we could blame some idiotic stuffed suit or some faceless corporate cabal?  If it's true, I'm going to try to blame people not properly explaining them to her.

For this Mythopoeic Monday, I want to close by offering my idiosyncratic comments on the movies of the franchise, taken together now as a whole.  They are good stuff.  Rarely am I so happy with the way books are turned into movies.  There are some great soundtracks for these films.  They had, as Risus well turned it, a "seriously satisfying finale."  Talking to fans on Friday, I was made aware once again of how personal both appreciations and criticisms of the film adaptations are.  One eloquent young lady lectured me on the fine points of what the excise of the sphinx does to the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire film.  My chief complaints really are only two and the first one is picky:  The dumbing down of the title of the first book and film for the American audience from The Philosopher's Stone to The Sorcerer's Stone makes the intellectual and the mythopoet that I am cranky.  The second is my biggest complaint: if you have a 12-year old facing a huge basilisk, the fight needs to be staged so well that it is believable that he wins and isn't killed several times over.  It should go down as one of the worst fantasy fights in film history.

I'd love to hear your final thoughts, gentle readers.  What are your favorite moments from the Potter franchise?  Your bitterest complaints?  Finally, do you have some insightful links you'd share regarding the Potterverse?  I'll cheat in my closing by referring to two links I always have up.  I love following what Professor Amy H. Sturgis has to say about things Potter.  Check my linkography for her blog Redecorating Middle-Earth in Early Lovecraft.  She also is a regular feature on Starship Sofa (link at bottom of page).  A Google search will likely turn up some of her other papers and appearances (including ones on Potter-related podcasts).  I end with this: if someone before 1997 had told me that one could write a fantasy series that was as literary, widely-appealing and easy-to-read, and as steeped in the traditional source material as Rowling's works are, I would have said it was unlikely.  If I had been told that it would be pitched originally as children's literature I would have upped that to impossible, even before getting to the level of  success that she has achieved.  Dreaming all this up is one thing, but managing the story and its incarnations as she has through the theme park and the 8th film?  Well done, J.K.  Here's to your plans for the Silver Age.

EDIT: I enjoyed this essay over at Black Gate by Andrew Zimmerman Jones, and he points to a couple of articles over at from their Potterpalooza.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter: A Missed Opportunity

I ended an era last night, as many did.  For me, the Age of Potter began when my daughter was in the 6th grade and we read the first (then new) book together.  This cultural phenomenon that we shared in was kept up by six more books and eight movies, coming out a-pace, and even topped off with a family pilgrimage to the Magical Mecca in Orlando.  Living several states apart now, we were unable to see the last movie together, but we talked about it some before hand.  When we finally got our seats in the IMAX cinema last night, on my right hand was a red-headed proxy who must be about my daughter's age.  While she wasn't dressed as some fans were in Potter garb, she was very enthusiastic, quite knowledgeable about the story world, and wanting to talk.

All these ingredients tossed into the cauldron came to a simmer last night and this is the potion that came out:.  From the standpoint of a table top gamer, Harry Potter represents the greatest missed opportunity of the past generation.

Many people of my generation remember when D&D was everywhere.  Not only on shelves everywhere and widely played, but in commercials, movies, conversation, sermons, talk shows, and eventually with a cartoon series, and secondary lines of books, toys, a board game, and an electronic game.  It had a moment of culture-wide saturation.  It was perhaps the second closest thing we had to the of Pottermania today, surpassed only by Star Wars.  Gamers (and perhaps some executive at Hasbro) look back on this and in their nostalgia (or money lust) wonder why we couldn't have that same level of appeal today.  (Everyone could get together a game any time they wanted!  No gamer left behind!)  Here was a world and a story that appealed so much to so many, that it's credited with reinvigorating the book industry on a supra-Oprah level, whose fans play dress up and play a variety of games and with lots of toys, but no official HP RPG was made in the great merchandising explosion that followed.

First, I would like to know why this didn't happen.  Second, I propose that, if it had been made and promoted decently, it would have been the Second Coming of the table-top role-playing game.  Third, I have a proposal about how it should have been done.

The only options I can think of for this failure are it was a failure of imagination and no one thought of it or someone did think of it and by a failure of imagination, another blocked it.  Failures of the latter kind could have taken place if a person in power said no because TTRPGs don't make the kind of money they used to or because they didn't want it competing with another of their lines (is it a coincidence that of the two licensees, this is in Hasbro's line, not Mattel's?)

Finally, what shape should such an RPG, targeted at a new audience for RPGs that is so ready-made, focus on?  Hogwarts, of course.  The magical place that young new players would have wanted to go so they too could be wizards and witches, wide-eyed in the world that Rowling painted for them, doing things they dreamed of.  I can clearly see with my retrospective eye, each year after a new book or movie, another boxed set coming out.  Hogwarts: The Role-Playing Game, Year 1.  Mortellan of Greyhawkery is not so crazy, after all.  Did Mike McArtor have this in mind when he created the wizardly Acadamae of Korvosa (students pictured below) in Pathfinder's Golarion?  Well, I certainly ran a game set there that took his work and developed it in an explicitly Hogwartsian direction, and it seemed to appeal.  I think it would have made a lot of money for the world-wide Harry Potter franchise, and I think it would have brought a lot of new players into table-top role-playing that would have eventually tried out D&D, Pathfinder, the Harry Dresden RPG, and so on, bringing more customers to the industry and increasing the circle of players.  For the people who need more players or more customers, it's a shame the snitch was missed.

Monday, July 11, 2011

We tried, my Lord, but it ass-flamed us!

The Bonnacon (Bonacon, Bonasus, or Vilde Kow)

Only the Anglo-Saxon word can do this creature semantic justice in English.  It sprays fiery shit from its nethers.  The medieval bestiaries are clear on this matter:

Even to us today, the humor and disgust are evident.  I presume that the bonnacon is the inspiration for the stench kine (singular, kow), the cattle that roam D&D's nine hells.  But the medieval Europeans inherited this foul bovine from their beloved Pliny, who passes this on: "There are reports of a wild animal in Paionia called the bonasus, which has the mane of a horse, but in all other respects resembles a bull; its horns are curved back in such a manner as to be of no use for fighting, and it is said that because of this it saves itself by running away, meanwhile emitting a trail of dung that sometimes covers a distance of as much as three furlongs [604 m], contact with which scorches pursuers like a sort of fire" (Naturalis Historia, Book 8, 6)  That's more than 1200 feet away.  Four playing fields between you and a bonnacon and you'd still be in danger, depending on whether you're thinking American or Association Football.  Take a look at The Medieval Bestiary and The Aberdeen Bestiary Project.  The text of the latter seems to agree with Pliny that it is contact that causes combustion, but with the "fumes" rather than the dung itself.

It is clear that a creature this awesomely awful deserves an honorary place in mythopoesis.  You can decide if they were they fall on the continuum from mere rumor to straightforward magical creature within your imaginary world.  I can't help but relate them to another mythic bovine, the cattle of the Sun (appearing most famously in Homer's Odyssey xii.127–137), although one could also relate them to the medieval (bovine) gorgon, the biblical golden calf, or the Hindu taboo regarding cows.  I have added a Rumor Table to the Dungeon of Game-Mastery.  GMs can decide which parts of the rumors are true and which are false for themselves, just as I will for Ygg.  (While I've tailored the rumors to my world of Ygg, those few details can be changed as needed for other worlds by GMs who want to adapt them.)  Later this week I will add stats for a S&W version of the bonnacon that I have been working on, perhaps with further Ygg-specific text, in the same section.

Here's wishing you a merry Mythopoeic Monday!

NB.  I have tried to name each file for its origin.  There are a couple that I cannot trace, but if anyone informs me about these, I will correct the names.

EDIT: Here is a link to a creature (the charnel cow) for Pathfinder RPG that was put together by two pals of mine, Mike W. and Sarah C., inspired by the stench kow mentioned above.   Thanks for your faithful support of M.R. and of consumers of fine (er, disgusting) monsters everywhere!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Swift Howardian Hero

Like so many of my generation, this was my introduction to Conan the Barbarian.  It was okay, and while I didn't fall in love with it, many did, so my shared imaginary landscape got worn out on poor CtB pastiches and imitations.  By the time I got to my more-experienced college DM, I was the beneficiary of his critical attitude toward the laughably bad fruit that this bore over time, and so didn't have much interest in Robert E. Howard.  (This combined with the press about Howard -- I mean, try reading anything mainstream about him without the first two sentences reflecting on his suicide after his mother's death and the appropriate psychoanalytic signals.)  However, he owned some other REH books, and among them were tales of El Borak.  The similarity to Lawrence of Arabia also attracted me, and so I read and enjoyed and never forgot them.  I recently acquired two volumes of El Borak stories, whose covers I've posted below.  Some of the tales therein I have never read before.

They follow Howard's tendency to focus on one stand-out, male hero, with the emphasis on the male, in pulpy, action-driven stories.  While many today may have had enough of American involvement in the Middle East, the mythic Texan in a mythic Middle East still has plenty of escape appeal for me in the midst of the intractable politics of today.  (Orientalist and fantasist?  Bad, bad!)  And before I close, let me reassure all Howard fans that thanks to their insistence that Howard's Conan stories are much better than any of their derivatives, I discovered the truth for myself later in life, although they had an assist when I read a complimentary comment from an unlikely source: my memory is inexact, but it was either J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis!*  Yet it was El Borak, another tough Texan whom the fictional Arabs named after their Prophet's swift steed, who was my first true Howard hero.

* I really need to mark this passage for future citation.  If anybody knows where it is, please inform me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Cautionary Tale for Fellow Bloggers

Yikes!  When is the last time you backed up your blog?  If you were like me, the answer was something like "Since. . . never."  I'm sorry I had to learn from Grendelwulf's misfortune.  Back-up completed.

This way, you know you won't miss my reflections on frozen villainy or those occasioned by the time my nephews first encountered a brownie, just because you were busy with fireworks or Kate-and-William watching or some-such the next time Blogger decides to go NUTS.  Not to mention, I'd hate to miss out on some of your gems!

And for the of-the-age crowd, this summer, I'm enjoying:

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's Snowing Villains!

Happy July 4th to my fellow Americans!  Maybe the heat of the Texas summer is just getting to me, but I've had wintry villains on my mind lately.  Not just cold climate monsters, mind you, but individual characters with frosty outsides and frosty morality.  The first one I remember encountering comes courtesy of Rankin-Bass'  Santa Claus is Coming to Town:

The Winter Warlock
Shortly thereafter, my class took a field trip to see Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen on the stage.

Of course the Christmas specials kept up the barrage:

From Year without a Santa Claus' Loveable Snow Miser
to Frosty the Snowman's jerkish Jack Frost.

These days, I'm more likely to think of Narnia's usurping, dem fine woman, or the hilarious, suspiciously winter-warlock-like Ice King of Adventure Time.

How does this guy enjoy life so much when happiness constantly eludes him?
What can we say in general?  There is a figure popular in various manifestations, perhaps a personification, that attracts monarchy and magic, winter and wickedness.  The mash-up plays on archetypal themes of the shadow and opposing gender image (anima/animus) and turns them into a figure of power that is associated with the chaotic, difficult, and destructive potential of winter, sometimes grudgingly retaining the beauty of winter.  It's a compelling mix for a villain.  For my own setting of Ygg, I'll be combining the two into a composite of Loki and the Finnish Louhi, taking advantage also Loki's penchant for changing forms -- who's to say that s/he has one true form instead of a range of forms?  That's it for this Mythopoeic Monday.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on these cold characters, and let me know of any that I have missed!