I love the Urizen brief, but owing to how subtle it is, lots of the nuances are lost. The first thing I would say to someone who wanted to play in Urizen is to really read through the Nation Brief and commit to it. It is not an easy brief to get right, it might even be the hardest on the field, but getting it right is really rewarding. There are plenty of nations where one can play an emotionally distant wizard - but Urizen has a lot more to it than that.
Rather than suggesting three, I’m going to write about what I see as the biggest stumbling block to players in Urizen.
Poise ≠ Emotionless.
The common joke cracked about Urizen is that of the ‘Vulcan space elves’ which is needlessly reductive, and misses the point of poise entirely. Vulcans and elves are a different race to humanity and are written that way to be emotionally different to humankind. Imagine then, if that mastery over emotion were played by someone who - to all intents and purposes - is a standard human.
“In truth they feel their emotions as deeply as any, but they strive to master their emotions and subordinate them to their rational spirit. The Urizen believe that you draw your strength and impetus from your emotions, but the emotions must be controlled for this to be usefully directed.
Rather than subdue or suppress their emotions, Poise is the practice of allowing yourself to feel your emotions as deeply as possible yet retain perfect self-control. Practitioners seek to hold themselves in a state of equilibrium so that they channel the strength of their emotions at the perfect moment.”
Many people, even those who have been playing Urizen for a long time, forget this. It is important that when roleplaying someone born and raised in Urizen that you are playing a deeply emotive brief. Grimace at something distateful, show surprise if something has wrong footed you, if you are really angry then be seen to be restraining yourself, or not - use your anger in a brief and explosive reaction and then return to resting.
“A common drill used to develop poise is the “deep breath” – a simple meditative technique where before undertaking any challenging activity the individual takes a breath and holds it while taking a moment to harness their emotions and decide how they will act. When the student breathes out, often explosively, they spring into action.”
My tips would be to have a few ticks or quirks that you know reflect your Urizen’s reactions to restrained emotion. Here are mine that I use for Tanwyn, if they are helpful at all:
- When Tanwyn is restraining her anger, she stares at people. I like to think that she’s not glaring at the same time, but it’s difficult to tell with my face.
- When happy, or excited she sometimes rocks on the balls of her feet and clenches her fists, because she is restraining herself from reaching out or moving forward into someone else’s space.
- Tanwyn clicks her neck when she is bored/antsy/keen on taking physical action. This is partly due to my own neck clicky problems.
- When Tanwyn is overwhelmingly sad she stares off into space, usually on the ground. To avoid eye contact, and to stop me from crying.
So I hope that’s helped. I might put some thoughts together on personal space and physical intimacy. But I’m getting a real sense of the sound of my own typing…