Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Heroes

Continuing in my series of self-indulgent reminisces...I will now reflect upon my own roleplaying characters—the ones I played in those few times where I was actually a player and not a game master. I hope I don't bore people with stuff like this, but the truth is that I love to hear other people's stories about their gaming experiences and I figure other people might like it, too.

It would all have to start with Kajan. This was the first character I ever made—even BEFORE I got my first game of D&D. I had heard what the game was like and so I drew a character on a blank sheet of paper (I ALWAYS drew my characters, you see) and just made up some stats that had nothing to do with anything. In any case, I eventually did get the game and made up 'real' stats for Kajan. He was a fighter—and that pretty much set the tone for all my characters. I was never drawn to spell-casters or thieves or even Elves or Dwarves...nope, just your basic fighter, please. 

Unfortunately, in the middle of South Dakota, there wasn't much going on in the way of gaming. I played with my older sister (and later one of my step-sisters) but we never 'really' played. More often than not we just made up characters. And so, while Kajan was the first character I ever made, I have yet to ever really play him as anything other than an NPC. Still, Kajan lived on in my mind, and as I became more immersed in gaming (or at least reading about gaming) he continued to evolve as a concept. Though initially modeled after Thundarr the Barbarian (complete with poofy, fur boots) he gradually evolved into a Ranger. That particular class—introduced to me in a 'Best of' Dragon Magazine—really struck a chord and has become intertwined with the concept of most of my characters in the future. By the time I read lord of the Rings, I was completely hooked. 

There followed a long drought in my ever actually playing except for an agent I played for one or two adventures in the Top Secret SI game run by my friend Mark. I can hardly remember the guy, except that he once had a traumatic flashback (damn disadvantages) in the middle of a hostage-bus filled with explosives and irate Libyan school children. Fun. I ran a D&D campaign in high-school, and of course my Star Wars game in college, but it was not until Doyce ran his Dark Conspiracy game that I actually ever got to be a 'real' player. 

The character was initially an NPC 'henchman' in the gaming group—meaning I had no say in his creation or stats—he was just given to me  to play. Physically? He was pretty much average across the board (5-6's on a 1-10 scale). His charisma, however was like a 9 or something. And so for me that provided a hook. The generic 'ex-marine henchman' became the suave Cajun face-man, Etienne LaFitte. He was Cajun because our campaign was initially centered in New Orleans. He was Etienne LaFitte for two reasons: 1) Because LaFitte was the name of a famous pirate from New Orleans (around 1812) and 2) Because Etienne LaFitte was the name of the character Gung-Ho from GI Joe. Yeah. Real original, I know, but I went with it. It was with this character that I began to have fun with playing an extrovert. All my concepts previously were always the 'strong silent type' and typically not interested in social interaction. Etienne on the other hand was a party-guy—and the guy who schmoozed or lied for the party when they needed it. All in all, he was fun and (for me) new. Alas, the campaign didn't last too long.

Dayl lived in another short-lived game run by Doyce was the 'World's Beyond' campaign (based on the obscure system of the same name). He was an ex-marine hired as security for a tramp freighter. Again, I don't remember a lot about him except that he was (for me) disappointingly short (5'4") and that at one time, he got tusked by a giant space-walrus. He was also involved in the 'Flaming Bears of Ixion' incident. In fact, he was one of the chief proponents of NOT wanting to camp overnight in the alien-infested crashed ghost ship.

This was the one. My favorite character. He began in Doyce's 'Dangerous Journeys' Campaign (a short-lived system designed by Gary Gygax, then destroyed by TSR via lawsuits). 'Explorer' was one of the archetypes in the system (not classes, as it was a skill-based system)—and since that was about the closest thing to Ranger, that's what I chose. I wound up with a character who was rather physically imposing, but almost exactly average in mental and spiritual aspects (these were the three main stat areas in the game). And then, strangely enough, when it came to the (also randomly generated) advantages and secondary turned out that Sebastian was not only devastatingly handsome, but also charismatic. The hell. It was a weird conglomeration of my personal character traits: the laconic ranger and the charismatic extrovert. And so my concept really took off. Sebastian was going to be a swashbuckling adventurer/explorer type.

What really solidified this character as my favorite was the setting that Doyce used for this campaign—The Free City of Haven, with all its incredible and fun detail. It captured my imagination and gave me all kinds of in-character ideas. Based out of a warehouse in the city docks, our small party became involved in intrigue between the city nobles and their rising middle-class rivals. We also ran afoul of the 'bad' Thieve's Guild ("The Black Hand"—the one trying to take over from the other guild). Sebastian himself became involved in an epic horse-race (coming in second, damnit) and even began to form a 'boys club' type thing for the street urchins living in the area around the warehouse (you know, kind of like the Baker Street Irregulars). And somehow, in the midst of all this action, Sebastian managed to start a tentative romance with one of the NPCs in the group—a young female thief they'd picked up along the way, named Corwyn. 

The campaign had some big twists that helped further develop Sebastian—namely the time where the bad guild captured the party and sold them into slavery on a galley bound for far off lands. The group escaped, of course, but the abuse they suffered not only made a nemesis of the ship's captain (who escaped, damnit) but solidified the resolution in Sebastian that he would, one day, crush the Black Hand. Despite his vowed vengeance, I never allowed Sebastian to become a dark character. In fact, his goals and conduct always remained...well, almost paladin-like: When hired to recover a 'kidnapped' noblewoman, only to discover she'd actually run off with her lover, he convinced the party to let them go and forgo the reward. He took his 'Baker Street Irregulars' on a camping trip to give the city kids some 'healthy' exposure to the great outdoors. He single-handedly stood toe-to-toe with a horrible undead beast in order for the rest of the party to evacuate threatened townsfolk (of course, it was one of the party that accidently released the critter in the first place...). Yeah. He was fun to play. And I was sorry when the campaign petered out.

One summer during college, I caught wind that Lee was running a D&D campaign. I somehow got invited to play. I went totally against my usual archetype, choosing instead to play a good-natured halfling thief. This campaign (though again short-lived) was great fun—made so both by Lee's excellent game-mastering skills and by the sense of humor of the others in the group (Lee's brother's, Mike and Dale as well as another friend, Lonnie(?)). I don't remember the adventures in this game nearly as much as I do the inter-party antagonism—mainly between Dale and Lonnie, who's characters (a thief and druid) really did NOT get along. Dag the halfling proved himself to be a selfless friend when one inter-party argument turned particularly brutal. Dale's character had actually injured Lonnie's and Lonnie summoned some creature (I think it was a unicorn? or maybe a huge horse?) to trample Dale. Dag jumped in between the two to keep it from escalating. Dale's character swept in to save mine, even as Lonnie called off his beast. The situation was defused and Dale was grateful for the risk I'd taken (even if he didn't like me 'meddling' in his affairs). 

Though they had nothing to do with my character (and thus don't really belong in this post) some of the other antics of the group are just too good to not talk about: Like when Mike got hold of a 'Deck of Many Things'—and because of one of his draws from it, one of his henchmen (a mute servant girl) went berserk and pitch-forked his horse to death. This prompted an emotion-choked cry of "No! *choke* Spot! Nooooo!" from Mike (his horse was evidently named Spot, though none of us knew that prior). Oh, and then there was the time we were tomb-robb- err.. I mean exploring, and one of the dead bodies suddenly sat up and started doing the chicken dance. This was Mike's character secretly using 'Animate Dead' as a joke. But to see Lee act out the corpse's dance was... well, I'm laughing right now as I write this.

When I first started MUSHing (online, text-based roleplaying), it was just after Doyce's Dangerous Journey's campaign had ended. Thus, when pressed for a character to use on the Star Wars MUSH, I naturally retooled Sebastian to fit the bill. Thus, Sebastian Kalidor, space-explorer was born! But then...well...nothing ever happened on Star Wars MUSH—except for the occasional bar brawl. It wasn't until my friends and I built our own MUSH (Minos Cluster) that he had anything real to do—starting as an Alliance Sympathetic Bartender on the planet Yelsain, he eventually became an officer in the New Republic. I played him in much the same manner as I did his fantasy iteration and it was a lot of fun, but alas, as the MUSH proceeded, more and more my duties were those of 'game master' not player. Star Wars Sebastian became an NPC in my current campaign—and even became the husband of one of the player characters (Adren) before dying a hero's death in the current Nagai War. Sniff.

And that is about it. Oh sure, there were smaller campaigns and other characters, but not many of those really stand out. As a GM, I have had the pleasure of running many different NPCs—many of which I have developed great affection for, but enjoyable as they are they aren't QUITE like being 'just a player' in someone else's game.

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