Ben Bones

writing & worldbuilding

Fulcrum Salt (+ frog)

"You weren't really aware of Fulcrum Salt, when you met them at first. They were a threadwitch and a merchant: that you knew - and not much more. They were a short elf with knife-sharp ears, hard cheekbones, close cropped dusty hair; you would have called them handsome, if they had been a dwarf, but the overall impression was instead one of charming ugliness.

Often they were knitting, or darning, but mostly they spun thread with a small, portable spindle. They wore commoner's clothes, threadbare and home-made, layers of faded black rags stained by hard work and the dust of the road. They were, in fact, utterly unremarkable.

The only thing of note was the massive amount of frog figurines protruding from their bags: some small and delicate porcelain knick-knacks, knitted frogs, frog hankerchiefs, frog jewelry. Within this mess, you only later noticed the massive bullfrog familiar squatting atop their shoulder, as large as a dinner plate, watching you with liquid, sinister eyes."

Fulcrum Salt.

Fulcrum is a practitioner of ordinary, everyday magic: spinning thread, weaving cloth, darning hems. They sell their services to make a living, and have spent many long years doing menial labor.

[Need to look up exact timeline of Golarion, considering we're an Ancient Elf, to see how lifespan fits into historical events.]

Mage Salt is a perfectly ordinary indidual. They fade to the background without trying - but if there's anything you need to know about them, it's this:

Fulcrum Salt is always on your side.

They're in your corner. They'll back your play. Need somebody to help you move house? Fulcrum's your man. Need someone to help you hide a body? Fulcrum's the guy. They've had a lifetime to try nearly everything, so they're very multi-talented. Even if you don't like them, or they don't like you - doesn't matter.

They're on your side. No matter what.

Fulcrum Salt is a big believer in balance. Paying debts, getting even. If you do them a spontaneous kindness, you can expect to receive a thoughtful gift or gesture of some sort before the week is out! On the other hand, if you insult them or do them some kind of injury, you will instead receive a curse. This usually manifests as accidental injury, or losing an item you hold in fond regard, or just a small run of bad luck.

They're very friendly about it though, in an Adams Family kinda way. It's not personal. Fulcrum Salt is a witch, is all, and they're very practical about favors owed.

To truly understand Salt, however, we need to start at the beginning:


Once upon a time, in the forest where Fulcrum grew up, there was a massive and terrible boar. This wasn't an ordinary beast: infused with divine energy, it had grown far larger and far stronger than boars normally did, and it was ravaging the elf villages that Fulcrum called home.

Fulcrum was a child, and was unable to do anything except hide in a hollow log when the boar attacked. It ate their parents, who had tried to stand against it - but being commoners, had of course been helpless to do anything more than die bravely. Yet because of their sacrifice, the boar never found Fulcrum's hiding place.

That was Fulcrum's first memory: curled up inside a rotted log, the smell of dirt and blood thick in the air, as the sickening sounds of their parents being eaten echoed throughout the clearing. They had felt utterly helpless.

About a month later, the boar was killed by some passing adventurers. Fulcrum never learnt their names: they were not important heroes. But they succeded where Fulcrum's parents had been unable, as if it were just all in a day's work.

This event would define the core of Fulcrum: that they were just an ordinary person. Helpless, as most commoners were helpless, in a world full of terrible monsters and valiant heroes.


Salt knows they're just an ordinary person, and they can't bear it: because they live in a world where ordinary people can't protect themselves. They need heroes to save them. That grates heavily on Salt - as of course, they can't bear to let a kindness go unanswered. They can't just sit around letting the heroes save them - it would feel too much like owing, like they were living in the heroes' debt.

However, that doesn't change the fact that Fulcrum is... helpless! Their Constitution is negligible. Their powers are more based around nudging fate, tweaking the odds, pulling the strings. They don't act, they support others actions. They are a frail, background support class, setting up others to succeed. How does an ordinary person act on the same level as trained fighters and mages, and make a significant difference? Well... they don't. All they can do is be a solid, still point, a reliable agent of change. Of course they have NPC energy! Of course they're utterly unremarkable, and un-charming, and placid and meddlesome. Like a spindle, they're the fulcrum on which the world turns! They're all about balance! They are the means by which other things come to be: the stagehand, the puppeteer!

And the reason they are this way, is because more times than they could count, something happened to them they were helpless to answer. Whether this revelation came while they were curled up in a rotten log, or trying to talk down a bandit, or being attacked by evil spirits: over and over again Fulcrum would feel a terrible desire to do something about the injustice of their situation, and time and again, our Salt would realise the depths of their weakness. That if they punched anyone, they'd just be breaking their hands.

Fulcrum Salt is an ordinary person. And there's great potential for tragedy, in that fact.

Character Notes.

  • They're quite fun to be around! They love collecting frog figurines (half of which are full of drugs - a guy's gotta make a living).
  • They love to meddle and cause chaos in a friendly way, the way a kind grandmother tends to interfere with your life.
  • Thinking about putting together a coven.
  • Their witch patron iss the famous evil fairy who puts a princess to sleep for a hundred years. Suffer not a slight! Pull the strings of fate, twist the tapestry to your will!
  • They're the kind of 'handsome' that men call women when they want to insult them. They are neither desirable nor capable of desire. The rules don't apply to them, at least in this small domain - and there is power in standing outside the normal rules for something. A 'this doesn't apply to me, you can't use it against me', kind of thing.
  • Fulcrum, pivot, axle, spindle...
  • Worked a lot of laborers' jobs in their youth. Currently a seamstress.
  • Had a daughter way too young, via a fiendish pirate captain: had to donate the child to the fey, so they could take care of it instead. Daughter is a very different sort of person. Doesn't really talk to Fulcrum, though she knows they exist. Estranged.
  • Finds being bad more fun. Bored of being good. Has spent a great deal of their life at the lower end of society, and knows all too well that those on a lower social rung cannot afford to be mean, or cruel, because they face much harsher consequences than for those in a higher caste. Enjoys being bad as a form of freedom, more to spite the world than other people.
  • Loves people. Knowing their own weakness as well as they do, they are unable to ignore it in others. This concern for the well-being of strangers not only conflicts with Fulcrum's internal need for kindness to be balanced and transactional, but it also conflicts with their desire to be bad and have fun!
  • Years of this internal conflict have driven them pretty loopy, in an ordinary sort of way. Hence the frog collection. Aunt-type coping mechanisms.

Session Notes: 7/06/24

Hm, hm. Yesterday's session was... a lot. First things first, I had two sessions with Salt prior to this one, but I didn't really have a handle on them yet. Now I do, and it was a lot of fun! An NPC was rude to us, so I cast [Nudge Fate], in order for my familiar give the NPC a -1 to AC. Harmless little curse, he's maybe just a bit clumsier, and it's not like I'm planning to attack him! But just a fun little 'oh, you thought you could talk like that to us? Consequences, bitch!'

Then we got trapped in a hallway for an hour and a half real time, trying to defeat three incredibly dangerous spore-plants.

Oh boy... you know a fight is bad when nobody's in character at the end of it. Most of us are hardcore roleplayers, for the record, and for like the next hour post-fight none of us were doing character voices. It was honestly a little sad. In the fight, four of us went down, some of us more than once. Fulcrum was blind, we were all struggling to keep each other up, and the things had so much fucking health, killing a single one of them was a monumental effort. The energy at the table when we killed the last one was insane. The whole thing was just incredibly frustrating! It was! It's been a while since I've had a fight that bad! Most of us were level one! Mechanically, the averages weren't in our favor! If I ever meet the encounter designer I'm going to have some notes!

Phew. But, it's over. Shh, shh, it can't hurt you now...

Things I liked! Okay. So the point of the adventure was we go to this ancient cyclopean ruin to see if they had any sick relics. And they did! The one that stood out was a terrible orb. Fulcrum tried to ponder it, and it nearly killed them. It was doing so much mental damage, their nose was gushing blood and they had like three hp after two checks, so they had to go ponder a mural instead. Shoutout to Lebroy, the goblin barbarian, for tanking all that damage and pondering that orb so hard. Shout. Out.

In addition, Fulcrum owes another character, a cicada 'lamplighter' witch, because he gave them his potion when they went down. He's getting paid back for it, though I haven't figured out how, yet. Fulcrum is absolutely keeping track though, and will not forget.

Ohohohoho... steeples fingers. So. Something else happened this session that I have tucked into a pocket. I don't know what Fulcrum's going to do with it yet, but it was just a little thing that happened that I'm going to hold onto in the back of my mind. So. Another character at the table was a pacifist champion. Have you ever played a pacifist? I have. It's a very intense experience. [INSERT LINK TO 'EX-SOLDIER' CHARACTER PAGE ONCE I PUT IT TOGETHER]. But the gist of it is this: because these games are balanced around the assumption you're trying to kill all your enemies, if you don't want to kill anybody, it needs to be an active, constant choice.

This particular pacifist is all about protecting others at the expense of themselves, large highland cow type minotaur, sad backstory, adorable shit, right? Also I... don't know what we would have done if they hadn't been there. Look, afterwards we analysed the crap out of it. We all found stuff we could have done, should have done, if only we had rolled differently - the usual. But when we're talking about what actually happened, the factual events of the fight: [Friendly Nudge] + Battle Medicine saved our goblin barbarian, Battle Medicine allowed the sorcerer to fire off a crit Blazing Bolt on his next turn, and thank god for the fact they were using up two thirds of the enemy's actions each round simply by taking the brunt of the enemy's Strikes (most of which missed because of their frankly ridiculous AC). The DM said something along the lines of 'it wouldn't have mattered?' but... when I think about if it were any other kind of character, I can't see us coming out on top.

Here's what I want to talk about though.

Fulcrum went down. In that moment, I felt so helpless. Then the pacifist pulled out their spear, and stabbed the enemy.

Readers. Readers. There was something so beautiful about the violence of that moment. Not only in the sense of a pacifist character breaking their hard-fought edicts for the sake of saving the people around them, to end the fight quicker. I understand that. I've played that. But I've never experienced a moment like that from the perspective of somebody in Fulcrum's position. Remember how I said that in games like this, being a pacifist is a constant choice? Believe me when I say that the moment when you break from it - from your iron-held moral code, when you give in to violence - it is the end of your will. It's easier to be violent. It is everything before the strike it that takes strength: not wielding the weapon. It feels like a fall, when you do it. You have to do it, but you hate yourself for not being strong enough to find another way. You feel like you've failed. Like you're betraying everything you thought you were. It hurts.

At least, that's what I always thought.

But readers, the violence of it. Specifically from Fulcrum's perspective, it was so beautiful. Two of us down. Two on death's door, one of those being the champion. One enemy left, not even bloodied. Our situation was so utterly bleak, and I'd already gone down, so there was nothing I could do about it. And our pacifist stood up, and said 'no, I'm done'. Weeping! It didn't matter, it didn't kill the enemy, who cares! It does matter. It matters so much. Who cares that it didn't make a difference! Who cares if I was going to die anyway! The softest person in the world, the kindest, most selfless champion, even this painfully good person just couldn't bear our situation any longer. It felt like such a pure acknowledgement of our collective frustration. It was comforting. It was violent. It was motherfucking cathartic.

I've got that moment in a pocket, and I'm saving it for something. I don't know what, yet. But I won't forget.

Phew... anyway. From a character perspective, Fulcrum feels a specific way about Ox - that's the pacifist champion - because they're all about protecting others, and Fulcrum so hates being protected without a way to pay it back. I'm planning on taking a spell later so they can pay some of it back, but that's not the point, really! For Fulcrum, Ox represents everything about the world they can't bear: but also everything about the world that matters. The reason Fulcrum prefers transactional kindness is because if you can feel like it was transactional, you feel less helpless. When you have nothing, you need to feel like you can affect your situation. That you've done something of worth in exchange for the help you recieve.

And for Ox, the secret that Fulcrum is keeping close to their chest (and which took them a while to figure out) is that the best way they can repay Ox for protecting them is actually by letting them protect them. Their whole deal is protecting others, and so if you're looking to do something that will make them feel worthwhile, that's what will have the most meaningful effect. Don't get me wrong, they're absolutely going to knit them a scarf, as well. But on the whole... it automatically balances. Because Fulcrum doesn't hate heroes for saving people. They hate that only heroes can do it.

Additional Session Notes:

  • Fuck hallways.
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