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Author Topic: Character Study of the Week: Hassid Ricol  (Read 2409 times)

Grey

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Character Study of the Week: Hassid Ricol
« on: 20 August 2015, 06:57:16 »
This one, while interesting, has something of a rough feel to it, apologies if it's not quite up to scratch.

Character Study of the Week: Hassid Ricol
Who: Hassid Alexander Ricol
   Aka The Red Duke
   Aka Ruby
   Aka others as necessary
What: Duke of Kaesong
   Warlord of the Alshain District
   Member of the Black Dragon Society
When: 2977 – late 3070s
Weapon of Choice: Politics
         Conspiracy
         Others in general

One of the oldest, longest serving characters in Battletech fiction without being a main character, Duke Ricol is perhaps one of the most elusive figures in the setting, making enemies of pretty much everyone in existence by virtue of his various allegiances and unapologetic adherence to his goals.

While he starts out as an antagonist for Greyson Carlyle the two do not meet face to face until the third novel of the trilogy and then, despite Ricol being responsible for setting events into motion including the death of Greyson’s father, they wind up working together because Ricol’s extreme distaste for the erosion of knowledge during the Succession Wars equals or surpasses Greyson’s own.

He takes a principled stance and helps a man who could easily be expected to kill him. That delivering the Helm Memory Core to the Combine also helps solidify his precarious position within the Kurita Court doesn’t hurt either.

It’s an odd situation that can probably be pinned down to the setting at the time being intended to resemble a medieval society where grudges and vendettas could be laid aside in the face of greater good, or profit for those involved.

It also characterises the two men, showing Greyson’s growth and maturity, his ability to consider things larger than his own revenge, and it shows the flexibility of Ricol in dealing with people.

However it appears that such flexibility is limited to the calibre of people, and then only in line with goals, for although we know through sourcebooks that Ricol becomes Warlord of the Alshain District when we next see him in fiction he is an impoverished old man, though possibly through his own design as much as fall from grace since it provides him ample cover to conspire against the Combine throne which he sees as having deviated from the proper path the Combine should be on.

And conspire seems to be the main activity of Ricol’s life. He fell in with Rasalhagian and Black Dragon terrorists, a more different pair of groups is hard to find, one dedicated to liberating the old Principality of Rasalhague from the Draconis Combine, the other an ultra-conservative group of Combine super loyalists.

Both have had goals to kill the sitting Combine Coordinator at the times when Ricol was involved, but for different reasons. The Rasalhagians wanted to eliminate Takashi for basically being Takashi and too much a brutal Kurita warlord, while the Black Dragons wanted to be rid of Theodore and his reforms.

Ricol seemed to want both gone because he saw them as betraying the basic ethos of the Combine, Takashi by allowing Rasalhague to break free, Theodore for bringing reform.

While these goals seem more suited  to the Black Dragons it is probable given his regional ties that it was easier for Ricol to reach out to the Rasalhagians at first, but it’s still a challenge to reconcile working with one group and then another. Hassid Ricol manages to do it.

Why?

From a purely practical standpoint both groups want to achieve the goal Ricol wants to achieve, albeit not necessarily for the same reasons he wants to achieve it.

A pattern seems to form, not so much in a concrete goal, or firm personal ambition, as with so many other conspirators, more a vision of what the Combine should be.

Again, this vision is in keeping with those of the Black Dragons, but Ricol is not one to limit himself to a single tool. And from what little we have of his own thoughts he does view them as nothing more than a tool.

Notice too his ranks, Duke, to Warlord, to beggar, probably with stops in between. Though his influence never wains, he maintains his key contacts, these ranks are also tools, for their respective resources, influence and how easy they allow him to move. While Duke is probably inherited the others must have been sought, and then discarded when they failed to continue be useful in building the nation he saw fit.

This sort of moral adherence, ethical consistency in a way, even if alien to the reader often makes for a surprisingly admirable character. Simply put they will not betray or contradict themselves, there is something very attractive about that.

However within the setting this sort of behaviour had to have hurt Ricol and his aims in a thousand little ways. The lack of compromise would be the biggest problem. This is not to say he would never have compromised in order to achieve a goal, it’s that he would not compromise his overall goals, settling for less or a variation thereof, that would have kept him constantly trying to fulfil those with assorted groups, leading to some bizarre alliances.

Exactly what his purpose was in fiction is somewhat hard to pin down, at times he’s an antagonist, another an ally, and he seems to work against those one would think he would ally with.

This is perhaps the point, he is a very flexible character usable in any situation where his presence and influence is required based on the protagonists involved, within the confines of his own overarching goals and ethos.

Ultimately I can only think of him in the same terms as Babylon 5 characters, particularly G’Kar and Londo Mollari, in that Ricol is first and foremost a patriot.

It doesn’t matter what action he is taking he has a vision of a strong and morally correct Draconis Combine. It is a powerful vision and he will do whatever is necessary to see that happen, whether it’s assaulting a Lyran world, allying with a natural enemy for a data core, or publicly abasing himself to gain enough security to direct a conspiracy movement.

This is an extremely malleable form of character, and probably one of the reasons why he was everywhere, an implied hand in everything, and yet rarely used or referenced directly. It’s too easy for this trait to be used in a deus ex machina fashion, a jarring effect even if the character in question can be inherently charming for being wherever they to be while doing whatever they want.

Does this flexibility of action mesh with the inflexibility of his goals? Yes. They have to really, an utterly inflexible character is quickly isolated and unsupported due to rigidity. For Ricol the flexibility exists in method and means, never in ethos, he will not compromise himself on that level.

Interestingly we know nothing of his combat capabilities. The position of Warlord is not a totally political one meaning he had to have some sort of military skill and position prior to this, presumably that of MechWarrior in keeping with the style at the time.

But that is utterly irrelevant to a character like Hassid Ricol. He’s a plotter, a planner, and more than a little subversive. Putting him in a ‘Mech dilutes that, removes him from his prime element, even putting him in a cooling vest and shorts diminishes him in the imagination, it doesn’t matter if he’s shown dancing a Shadow Hawk around a Stalker and destroying his opponent entirely or stumbling around in an Atlas barely hitting anything..

We also know nothing of his exact means of death, one of the last times we see or hear of him is in a Jihad sourcebook coughing and spluttering, effectively passing the torch to his protégé while plotting and conversing with other Black Dragons, so it is likely that natural causes claimed him, a true rarity in Battletech, though there is a non-zero chance that the ISF, co-conspirators who had no love for him or some interesting gambit did him in. We don’t know.

While this might invite speculation there is little to question, he’s dead, done, and as much as it’s a contradiction being a character surrounded by conspiracy he doesn’t generate much of his own.

Why not? He was on an operational level a successful subversive conspirator surrounded by shadows. He was so successful at obscuring his movements and existence that those who knew of him was a limited group, those who knew what he was doing was a smaller group, those who knew he was alive was tiny and so when it comes to his death those in the know can either confirm it or simply breathe easily. Too few in the setting know him to generate speculation.

All the same his influence lingers in the organisations he was involved with that survived him and maintained relevance. Thus the DCMS, Black Dragons, possibly the modern Rasalhaugian resistance against the Ghost Bears and conceivably even the ISF and other security organisations as a result of pursuing him.

Duke Hassid Ricol was a rarely seen, relatively small scale character whose influence on the setting was disproportionately large because he was just so useful.

Next week, by request, Elias Crichell.

Frabby

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Hassid Ricol
« Reply #1 on: 20 August 2015, 09:46:16 »
Duke of Rodigo, not of Kaesong.

As a character, Ricol received a big writeup in BattleTechnology #0102, in their "Hiring Hall" series on potential employers. Though technically apocryphal, it should be noted the article was written by none other that William H. Keith himself, the character's creator.

Ricol inherited the Duchy, but for all we know it was he himself who expanded it beyond Rodigo in fabulously successful conquests in the very early 31st century. Which means that many of those Rasalhagian worlds he conquered himself - funny how he would later be involved in their resistance movement. My take on it is that he knew of the resistance movement and used it for his own purposes - he was not so much a member as he was calling the shots. Probably the idea behind this was that if he couldn't exterminate them, he could take limited control instead and point them towards a goal that didn't hurt Ricol's own interests.

The first two Keith novels portray Ricol as a powerful and ruthless lord who, although through his subjugates, indulges in very heavy-handed treatment of rebellious populations. Then again, it may be seen as mitigating circumstances that the Trellwan situation weakened his hold over his conquered worlds and cost him precious occupation troops, so he was taking no chances when things spun out of control on Verthandi.

Then on Helm, far from home, he met with Grayson Carlyle on somewhat eye level - he had come to respect the man. But still, Ricol's goal was looting a Star League cache and under different circumstances I have not the slightest doubt that he would have killed anyone and everyone to get it. Only, circumstances conspired against him, he was running out of time and Grayson had the key so his options were sharing with Grayson, or getting nothing at all.
(Btw those 'Mechs they did manage to retrieve may explain the odd Star League era 'Mech in the DCMS after 3028.)

He got the copy of the Helm Memory core but keep in mind that he kept it to himself at first. He would use it as a bargaining chip when the FRR was formed (robbing him of his territories), to barter for a new rank/duchy elsewhere. That probably didn't go down well with House Kurita.

Dance of Vengeance, from the Shrapnel anthology, portrays him as a firm but fair lord who does give the boss of his 'Mech force a chance to seek private vengeance... but again only because the death of that guy did align with Ricol's own goals. (He considered him a liability to the Draconis Combine, and probably couldn't have cared less for Salvatore's honor.)

Finally, Ricol had his own JumpShip, the Huntress. This was a big deal for an individual, even for a Duke.
The ship's exact type and carrying capacity is indeterminate, though it was implicitly rather big (4+ hardpoints). The image in the BattleTechnology article does not resemble any known JumpShip class, but rather the spacecraft from "2001" with a jump sail.
« Last Edit: 20 August 2015, 09:49:04 by Frabby »
Author of the BattleCorps stories Feather vs. Mountain, Rise and Shine, Proprietary, Trial of Faith & scenario Twins
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Frabby

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Hassid Ricol
« Reply #2 on: 26 November 2015, 12:22:04 »
I've just completed a workover of Ricol's Sarna article (here). For completeness' sake, I'll add two points to this thread:

- Ricol was a Duke (a civilian administrator), but for all we know never a Warlord (in the sense of a rank). There's no indication that he ever served in the DCMS. He did have a reputation as The Red Hunter though in his younger MechWarrior days, but by 3024 he feels that he's not been in the cockpit enough recently. In Decision at Thunder Rift his warleader of 19 years Harimandir Singh is killed and the Red Hunter Special Operations Group is never mentioned again, with vague mentions of losing many 'Mechs in his private service around that time found in Dance of Vengeance.
My understanding is that Ricol was a civilian administrator but also a noble of House Ricol - and House Ricol had a private army that he could use.

He is called a "warlord" at one point in the Blitzkrieg story Vengeance, but the context leaves it open if this is supposed to be a proper rank or just a generic description; my understanding is it's the latter.

During the Jihad, Black Dragon Society member "Jade" calls Ricol "otosan", father (JHS 3072, p. 53); Ricol in turn talks about Jade in what is effectively his last will and testament (JHS 3072, p. 77), referring to him as his own flesh and blood but specifically not making him his heir and describing him as merely a tool. Ricol actually advises Minamoto to "replace" a tool once it is dulled, as he feels Jade will be his heir Minamoto's greatest obstacle eventually.

Blake Documents, p. 43
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Molossian Dog IIC

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Hassid Ricol
« Reply #3 on: 27 November 2015, 07:03:48 »
Ricol was an ambivalent character, to say the least. Neither hero nor pure villain. And that at a point in the timeline that was dominated mostly by protagonists depicted to be of very unequivocal character.

For that alone I have always considered him to be a boon to the universe. And an important stepping stone in the process of maturing.

My hat is off to Mr Keith.

iamfanboy

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Hassid Ricol
« Reply #4 on: 27 November 2015, 22:27:19 »
In the second book of the GDL series, I'm fairly certain that Ricol actually expresses disdain for the heavy-handed shenanigans his subordinates get to. His attitude seems to be more, "If that's the best you can do, then fine, do it that way, but don't expect me to pat you on the head and give you a medal."

I'd disagree with
Quote
It’s an odd situation that can probably be pinned down to the setting at the time being intended to resemble a medieval society where grudges and vendettas could be laid aside in the face of greater good, or profit for those involved.
Ricol and Grayson have a very Asian relationship path, where bitter enemies become, if not friends, at least able to respect each other. The usual pattern in European storytelling, especially medieval storytelling, is for the reverse - such as Lancelot and Arthur. Friends become enemies, which has its own drama, but is predictable... and is all we ever saw in European stories for the longest time even to recent days. Anakin and Obi-Wan, anyone?

I'm not saying that Asian mythology doesn't have its share of "good friends grow up to be rivals," but the usual trend is the opposite.

That is, I think, why it feels like a mature and believable relationship: it uses a dynamic that wasn't exactly common in storytelling of the time.

Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Hassid Ricol
« Reply #5 on: 28 November 2015, 23:54:50 »
I went with medieval because a lot of my reading and viewing right now is in that sort of setting and I'm seeing a lot of that sort of interaction and it's what came to mind first despite my own Asian background, it was just foremost in my mind.

The thing is it does come up a lot as a theme, rivals working together for common cause, just not in pulp fiction settings which tend towards less complicated, or at least lest convoluted paths, which makes it somewhat unique for Battletech and makes for a stronger long term story.

I do like your view on Ricol though, he was very pragmatic but preferred, well, elegance I suppose. The ends justified the means but if there were tidier means then that's what you were supposed to go with.

Flieger

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Hassid Ricol
« Reply #6 on: 28 December 2015, 21:32:47 »
Not sure if intentional or not, but seeing a "Baron" riding in a red Mech and called the Red Hunter, I can't help but think of Manfred von Richthofen: the Red Baron, arguably the best known fighter ace ever.

VhenRa

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Hassid Ricol
« Reply #7 on: 15 August 2016, 14:48:19 »
Now, the question is.

How does the information in CM: Kurita complicate/complement this.