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Borrowing Character: Marie Kondo

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Marie Kondo, of our world (and only maybe a deity)

Update: since writing this text, I’ve worked more on this topic and finally made a supplement with a full class based on the text below! You can find it here:

Acquire your new cool patron

Reality is a place you want to borrow from when designing encounters in your roleplaying games. The phrase “you can’t make this up” stands true for a reason. To color your palette, you should practice borrowing character from the real world whenever you feel like it. I, for one, want to lift Marie Kondo, organizer extraordinaire, into the pantheon of my D&D campaign as the Chaos Reveller! I liked what little of her show I watched, mostly for the weirdness of it all, and I think many people see her mostly as a good, helpful presence. She brings order into people’s lives. These notions are important for placing the Reveller into the alignment matrix. However, alignments aren’t all about what people do, but rather about why they do it. Let’s dig deeper and see what we’ll end up with.

I’m usually a well-organized mess. In researching the need for Kondo’s methods in today’s society (as I like my mess, thank you very much), I ran into this:

For an instant you might feel disappointed in yourself. Then an epiphany: you have no real problem with traditional underwear storage methods, i.e. horizontal piles, or with giving little thought to where (and how) to keep almost everything in your home. None of these things, you realize, are your problems. They are Kondo’s. Far from symbolizing the triumph of order, our unequivocal embrace of the KonMari POV represents the sweeping triumph of neurosis over common sense. We are not “detoxing” our environment as much borrowing someone else’s neurosis as a form of distraction.

Going further, Marie’s origin (cut from her Wikipedia page) seems to underline this opinion:

“I was obsessed with what I could throw away. One day, I had a kind of nervous breakdown and fainted. I was unconscious for two hours. When I came to, I heard a mysterious voice, like some god of tidying telling me to look at my things more closely. And I realized my mistake: I was only looking for things to throw out. What I should be doing is finding the things I want to keep. Identifying the things that make you happy: that is the work of tidying.”

A story sprang from this image: what is a lawful good deity was fighting her chaotic evil impulses, and defined by that? This might sound like too much of a stride from Marie, but I don’t think there’s anything useful in taking “evil” in D&D as exactly evil: it’s mostly selfishness, really. Evil doesn’t care about other’s ways, as long as their own are respected and celebrated. I’m pretty satisfied with a complex alignment like “chaotic evil for the sake of lawful good“, as opposed to simplifying to true neutral. She could be the patron of all who go against their chaotic instincts, to bring order into others’ lives at all costs.

Next, I’m interested in what other people think of Marie. This could build an outlook that people have about her as a deity. We know that the people who have been touched by the art of Kondo can’t be happier, but what about those who look from the sidewalk?

She is annoying because she is on Netflix recommend and every time I turn Netflix on she shouts ‘I love mess!’”

Anonymous internet source

I’m more interested in the voyeurism of looking into foreign peoples’ homes and family dynamics.

Anonymous internet source

The year is 2035. Marie Kondo holds up the condemned man to the crowd. “Does this man spark joy?” The crowd jeers, “No he does not!” She nods silently and throws him into the pit

Original tweet here

I liked this as it described exactly the extreme that I think I want to convey.

So, what kind of a deity would this be? Well, maybe not a deity at all. The Reveller would have a following, and while the group calls itself a church, they are more of an obsessive cult, in pact with an otherworldly being of great influence and unknown origins. I want to imagine that Marie has a link to this imaginary world instead of a close carbon-copy of her being a magical being in this world. Imagine, if you will, that her unconscious mind springs to D&D and continues cleaning and organizing there. I’ve already put enough clues down (words like patron, otherworldly, etc.) to make it clear that I’m thinking about using this church for warlocks. Let me persuade you.

A Warlock, drawing on the powers of some cool patron.

Warlocks use Charisma for their spellcasting, and they can change their spells when the spells stop sparking joy. I want to push both of these further, making sure that Chaos Reveller warlocks have many lawful-good-seeming-yet-weirdly-voyeuristic abilities. The patron requests from Reveller would be very strict and too orderly, timed so that they annoy the player a lot but ultimately result in some well-organized fun. Even though I’ve yet to go full out and design a subclass for the Reveller warlock on DNDBeyond, here’s an overview of what I’d give them.

Kindling delight can be a property that her disciples can use not only on spells but items, spell slots, levels and maybe even people (as a finishing move, they could sacrifice an enemy to the Chaos Reveller? I’d keep this in the belt and wait for the players to figure out they could maybe do this). Sacrificing these could lead to personal healing, that could escalate to party healing or even greater effects, depending on the thing that you left behind. Of course, the things “left behind” mysteriously disappear into thin air after being magically folded like paper (an effect that is visible and disturbing for items, and invisible and even more disturbing for other things like memories and knowledge). I’d tie these plot points to the patron’s requests for the player: without making it too obvious, but hanging it in plain sight, make it seem like she can only communicate only through your rejection of reality.

Feel the item in your hands. Wait for a response from your heart, trust it. It will know. Keep the item if it kindles delight. You will know.

— The Whispers etched in the Void

The other important aspect of this warlock subclass would be their Forceful acumen: their strange ways allow them to do Charisma (Perception) and Charisma (Insight) rolls instead of basing them on the usual Wisdom modifier. This can be done if they either prepare the space beforehand, by spending time to make it worthy of the Reveller’s blessing (with advantage), or by walking around the space while doing the Perception or Insight check, looking at the odd angles and the ebb and flow of other people’s joyless trash in the room, divinating sense from them (with disadvantage).

As for the patron requests the Chaos Reveller would give her subjects, I’d always make them such that the warlock has to drop everything they’re doing and run to fulfill the task at hand or be in danger of suffering very chaotic, unorderly consequences. These requests should often include being nosy around other people’s stuff. She is a visitor to people’s homes, an otherworldly being with vast knowledge of things that are private to many people, and can’t be made public. Her warlocks would adhere to the same ad-hoc rules. They would be not only secret keepers, but detectives that hunger for the mess of others.

In short, following the Chaos Reveller is a natural way of creating tension that otherwise wouldn’t be there, for the sake of powers that one could go without, but finds a strange delight in acquiring them in this certain way. I feel that being able to say that at the end, sparks joy for me, and that is quite enough.

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