Please tell me a bit about Captain Harchar!
Sure; happy to!
This was back in the days of the original Thursday Night Group; we'd been playing as a separate group at Phil's since late 1978 or early 1979, as was metntioned in Gary Fine's book, and Phil was getting ready to ship us off to the Southern Continent out at the far western end of the maps as part of his development of the story arc for his novels. Our little jaunt is mentioned at the end of "Man of Gold", and Phil used our voyage as a way to organize the information that was later used in "Lords of Tsamra". We were getting the party organized when I pointed out that walking to our supposed destination wasn't going to be an option, and that we needed to hire a ship, a crew, and a captain to get us across Tekumel. Phil got a funny look on his face, like he always did when I raised a question that he hadn't thought about, and suggested to me that I'd better start researching ships; he didn't have anything written up, so I was going to have to play naval architect for him.
So, the next day (Friday) Ken Fletcher and I are at Adventure Games, and we brace Dave up about what he knows about ancient and medieval ships and shipping; Dave was an acknowledged expert on the Golden Age of Sail, and I figured that we might as well get the best possible advice on what we might have to deal with. Dave rooted around in his extensive library and come up with a few books on the subject, and I happened to mention that we also needed some information on crewing as we needed to hire a captain and crew for our ship. Dave got a funny look on his face, and said he'd see what he could do.
The next Thursday comes around, and we get to Phil's; he's acting all mysterious and secretive, and we head into the basement game room with great misgivings. Much to all of our surprise, there's Dave, sitting at Phil's right hand in the seat of honor, and he's busy with a copy of EPT rolling up a character and some NPCs. It turns out that he's called Phil and offered his services as our captain, and Phil's accepted; the captain's name was Harchar, of the Blazoned Sail Clan, and Dave had also rolled up three ship's mates and a purser, just like a regular cruise ship.
(Following our group's tradition, I did up miniature figures for all of them; the mates were originally named 'Staffswinger', 'Swordswinger', and 'Fishface' after the Ral Partha figures I used, and the purser was 'Hardtack'. Harchar himself was a Garrison figure; we still have all of them in the collection, and they were on the table on Saturday for the event.)
I'd gotten the ship's plans roughed out, and Dave made some modifications which Phil approved; it was really obvious that Phil was more then a little awed by Dave's nautical expertise, and for his part Dave was pretty awed by Phil's creation of Tekumel. The rest of us were all in shock that we were going to have DAVE ARNESON (!!!) in our little group as a regular player; it was A Very Big Deal, as we were the only RPG group that Dave actually played in at the time.
I should also mention that Dave and I shared a love of the classic Hollywood 'swashbuckler' and pirate movies from the 1940's and 1950's, and we kind of assumed that we were off on an adventure in the same vein. Sure enough, Dave played Harchar that way, and it was like having our own pirate movie being played out at the table. Dave, like Phil, was a pretty good actor, and Harchar was both a good sea captain and a loveable rogue of a buccaneer - er, "honest merchant seafarer", in Dave's own words - who was loyal to his crew and to nobody else. He was also one of the most efficient smugglers on Tekumel's sea's, with a deal going in every port along the shores of both continents and arrest warrants to match in the hands of every customs official you can imagine.
The very first day out of harbor, we got out of sight of land and Dave starts spouting all sorts of nautical jargon. He had Phil completely baffled, and it took me a while to figure out that he was having the crew send down all of the yards and spars to the deck and reconfiguring them; Dave was changing the ship's rig from a square-rigger to a lateen-rigger, not to get any advantage in sailing but to disguise the ship from nosy passers-by. It took Phil hours to figure it out, and later on Dave slipped another one past Phil when he innocently asked if he could paint the ship; "What color?" says Phil, and Dave innocently says "Oh, I thought a nice haze grey." "Grey," says Phil, "why grey?" "Just an ordinary maritime precaution," said Dave, who had figured out that Phil knew nothing about why naval ships are painted grey.
We sailed with Harchar on several sea voyages, which involved us in all sorts of adventures, including a visit to Blackmoor where Dave and Phil switched seats at the game table in both a literal and figurative sense. We travelled all of the seas on the four maps of Tekumel that Phil had done, as well as some of the areas that were off the map entirely. I took notes all along the way, as I normally did, and Phil's copy of these were used in the later novels.
Harchar was such a memorable character that Phil wrote him and his merry crew of smugglers, buccaneers, pirates, and accountants into all of his novels starting with "Flamesong"; with his beard and Cheshire Cat grin, Dave even looked the part of the dashing swashbucker and sea captain, and I have to say that I am very sure that he really enjoyed the role. Having Dave as player was fun, exciting, and dangerous; we never knew what side deals and nefarious schemes Harchar had going, or when we'd be forced to defend the ship from somebody he'd been dealing with. It was some of the very best gaming I've ever had, and Phil enjoyed it just as much; Dave kept him on his toes the whole time, and always managed to surprise Phil.
It was a wonder to behold, and I think I'm very fortunate to have seen it all happen.
Does this answer your question or help? I'm never sure...