Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Characters that "Get" to Me

I feel bad for telling everyone not to trust Treize. In fact, Treize can be trusted. He can be trusted to do what must be done to achieve the intended result. It might suck, but he'll do it. All the way. And this:

He set his pet birds free...



And they came back! Who does this?



Back to the point. Actually, let's let that support the point.

We make interesting assumptions about characters. When I saw this character wearing a mask: 


I thought of this:


Because up until that time, I was only familiar with characters that never took their masks off. EVER. And if they did, it was off screen, in the last episode, or the final minutes of the movie. So this:


...Was a WTF moment. First of all, why did they let him take the mask off in Episode 9 out of 49 and second, why isn't he disfigured? Because in my experience, the guy in the mask is a) super ugly, and b) never takes the mask off, because c) he's super scary without it. It actually--no kidding--confused me that Zechs could be cute. (I didn't know about bishonen yet, okay? That isn't the point.)

I could turn this into a post about stereotypes, but I'm making it about PC creation. I suspect its easy to fall into a trap of creating the same PC over and over, going by the numbers, and never getting outside the usual expectations. Treize and the birds remind me of Cinderella...except Treize never made little clothes for the birds. So many popular characters are the same guy recycled over and over again that it's shocking when someone is different.

How many TV cops have there been that are "super-dedicated to the job, have no personal life, have daddy issues, and were dumped by their wives because 'the job is too dangerous and you were never home?'"

Heh. You think cop is dangerous? Try mobile suit pilot, fictional lady. And the cop always has one cute little blonde kid he never gets to see except sometimes and when he does the kid is always sitting at a table, coloring. It's never running around outside playing G.I. Joe. 

Poor TV cop. :( 

When I ran Learn-to-Hack sessions at Origins and GenCon, I noticed a pattern. Most of the parties were four dwarf fighters and one thief. If there was a cleric in the group, it always followed the Caregiver because that god is focused on healing. The cleric was there to heal all the dwarves. The end result was about the numbers, how hard and fast the PC could hit, and less about character. Why was that human cleric hanging out with all those dwarves? I admit I fall into a similar trap--I like playing rangers with longswords. In fact, most of my characters take the longsword because it's a classic weapon. And the best ones are magic. (i.e., He-Man's Power Sword, Lion-O's Sword of Omens, and Excalibur.) It's a stretch to look beyond the numbers and come up with someone unique.

HackMaster uses randomly generated Quirks and Flaws to help with character creation. Unless building points are unimportant to you, a PC will have one or more. Honor awards depend in part on how well the player role-plays those Quirks and Flaws. When used as written, the mechanics help generate a unique PC. However, a lot of people spend a building point or two to re-roll a Quirk or Flaw they don't like...bringing us back to the characters we are comfortable with.

It's not easy to get out of the comfort zone and say, "instead of a dwarf fighter, I rolled up a manipulative aristocrat with pet songbirds" or "my fighter is an exiled prince hiding his identity, but he'll take the mask off to sleep." ;) I don't do it enough even though the payback could be a PC I really like. I liked Zechs and Treize right away because they were different; they took the role of the bad guys when, deep-down, they weren't that bad at all. (Or so I believe--you might interpret them in another way. That's the fun of GW!)

When a character or PC breaks all of the usual rules, I will usually like that character more than Dwarf With a Warhammer the 57432067th or Jack the Lonely Workaholic Detective. (Sorry, Jack.) 

Thanks to AboutGundamWing.com for the visual aids. :)