Monday, July 12, 2010

Iconic Characters

So, in an interest of trying to get a bit more discussion going here I figure I'll try making the posts a bit more interactive this week as a test. Not that I'm expecting much, especially with how young the blog is, but any comment or discussion is appreciated. Anyhow, enough downplaying myself. Today I wanted to talk about, and ask about your, iconic characters.

What is an Iconic Character
An iconic character is, quite literally, a character that is an icon. Superman and Batman are iconic characters for comic books, and especially for DC. Spider-man is for Marvel. They're characters that resonate and represent some aspect. That people see and they immediately get at least some idea as to what you are talking about.

In RPG terms, and for this entry, I am talking about the characters you have made as either a GM or a Player that just seem to never go away. People are still talking about them 2-3 years after the game happened, and not even when talking about the game in question. People use them for ideas for people in their games, they show up multiple times in various situations just as they refuse to go away. They resonate and resound within the people who were there to experience them when they were put out there.

Not everyone has one yet, in the fifteen plus years I've been gaming I have only four. Two as a GM and two as a player, and the two as a player are only debatable as both were fairly recent. Actually, even one of the ones i have as a GM is recent as well.

My Iconic Characters
Like I said, I have about four characters that I think are iconic of me as a GM or player. In any case, they don't go away, they're on a short list of 'go to' characters for certain situations, and the players/Gm in the game they were in bring them up fairly often in their own regards and discussions of various characters.

I'm not going to go in depth here, but I figured a brief over view could be good to share. So here we go, my four. First the two GM ones and then the two PC ones. I'll list the game they first appeared in next to them.

Jasalas - AD&D 2nd Edition Al'Quadim
Jasalas, or Jasa for short as she went by, was a sylvan elf that had been taken in by the Silent Whisper Holy Slayers of Al  Quadim. She was one of my first major NPCs that really seemed to strike a chord with the players of the game. Devoted to her beliefs, but not particularly loud about them, she believed people should choose their own path and that she had chosen hers. Still, something about her just kept coming back up, and she made appearances in the game (and other games) even when set far away from Al'Quadim. The mention of a jade jambiya (the signature weapon of the Silent Whisper) would get players excited she might show up. A couple of friends even borrowed her for their games, where she continued to hit it off with people all over the place to great success, even bringing one gaming group of seasoned adventurers to near tears at a heroic end the GM gave her.

Cassandra 'Maidhme' McPhearson - Mutants and Masterminds 2nd Edition
To be fair, Maidhme was made for City of Villains when I wanted to play an 'evil supergirl'. Sure she has the powerset for it, but Cassie is anything but as simple as the usual member of the Kent family is depicted (not to insult the kent or El family, I like them too). When running my first M&M game, I used her as the main villain. Combining intelligence with the brute type build of superstrength and invulnerability. Hiding the mastermind in the muscle worked wonders, and it took the PCs longer than expected to figure out who was really calling the shots. Cassie also had a tendency of rolling 20s in critical situations, managing to take on 3 characters with similar builds to her on the same powerlevel at the same time because she refused to stop throwing critical successes on toughness saves and attack rolls. I've played her in a game - at the GMs request - where the tendency continued and her personality just set all the players to liking her. Even now, nearly 3 or 4 years and several campaigns later I can get a reaction out of anyone who has been in a game with Cassie by describing a female NPC as being "about 5'5" which was how she was described, and referred to, in those first few fights with her.

Bayushi Kyoshin - Legend of the Five Rings
Kyoshin is the first of my player iconic characters, and oh the impact he made. For anyone who plays L5R 3rd ed or 3rd ed revised, I'm sure I don't have to explain to you the fun of being able to bring a Bayushi Saboteur in to a scorpion 'Black Ops' game. But let me add to the picture, Kyoshin had that most wonderful of 3 point flaws called Driven. What was he driven to? To follow orders and protect the scorpion clan. Hardly seems dangerous at all to the character, until you once again realize it's a black ops game. Kyoshin's drive to follow orders almost wiped the group twice during the game, and got him into trouble a few times. His penchant for explosives, and quiet pride in his work was truly compelling, as was his way of approaching problems from so far outside of the box you could barely see it. Within 2 sessions the other players at the table were calling him Bayushi Macguyver. One of the scenes that gets the most comment from for Kyoshin? Poisoning himself at a dinner party in order to avoid being questioned by an Imperial samurai. The reason being he knew he would give some information away that the scorpion didn't want out, the Seppun was clearly a trained courtier and Kyoshin had Anti-social. So, before the seppun even got near to questioning him (going around the table) Kyoshin dosed himself with poison, erring on the side of 'leaving the table' instead of safety. Thankfully he dosed himself right, and was allowed to leave the room before the seppun ever got to him.

William Hydesmythe III - Modified Roll and Keep for Steam Punk setting
William Hydesmythe was a man with way too much money and power who absolutely hated to be bored. He had compulsions to make things interesting and show off (half of his called raises using AEG's roll and keep system had to be for Style instead of effect). William was great at pulling off incredible acrobatic feats due to his build, and the fact so many raises were made for style which gave everything a visual flair. A couple years and games later, when someone tries and fails to pull off something impressive the general line is "You are not William Hydesmythe". At least from me, but well, it's a fun line.

So, how about you? Got any awesome or iconic characters you want to share? You don't need to go crazy on details if you don't want, just tell us who they were and what they did that made them stand out for you.


  1. The only "Iconic" Character I ever played was Sebastian Kalidor. Interestingly enough, he began as a character for a Fantasy RPG (Mythus/Dangerous Journeys) but later translated into the online Star Wars MUSHes. The archetype was the same for both—an adventurer and scout. His fantasy iteration had him being a "Ranger" back from his explorations to find adventure in (of all places) the big city, where he became embroiled in a battle against one of the local thieves guilds. His Star Wars iteration had him as a former Independent scout who 'retires' after the Empire makes it more and more difficult to do his job. He opened a bar on his homeworld and thought to sit out the war in obscurity. Of course, fate intervened to thwart this plan. In both cases, Sebastian follows one of my favorite archetypes—the world-wise woodsman suddenly thrust into a much more complicated 'civilized' world. In many ways he was like the character Fraser from the TV series Due South (though not quite as goody two shoes).

  2. I've had a few Iconic characters, some different than others.

    Akodo(or Matsu) Heihachi:
    The only character I've played twice, because his first story never had an end. He has also been used as an NPC for a game I ran. He is Iconic because of how strongly he fits the ideals of the world and clan he is in. He only works in L5R as part of the Lion Clan. But there, he does. One thing that has always been constant about him, he looses practice matches of all kinds, tactical, weapon, even tournaments he looses. Put him in a real battle and his unit doesn't loose. In fact he hardly looses troops in most situations. He frequently gets rendered combat ineffective, not that he really cares as long as his people are safe and he wins. He is a character that I have never met someone who was unhappy to follow to hell.

    Kale: Kale is a strange one. He came to be in a GURPS infinite worlds game. Kale started as a Soldier/Medic cross with high to top end human level stats in a game where every other character had super human levels of ability in something. Not only was he not the best at anything, he couldn't even compete in most things with much of the rest of the party. And yet they followed him, many of them even feared him. Why? Because Kale would do Anything he felt to be necessary, and could justify it as not just as necessary but a Good action. On the minor end, brainwashing volunteers for a police force to sharing a positive set of morals to on the higher end destroying an entire world "for its own good" when it got a super borg infestation (called the Forged). He was strange, psychologically broken, convinced he was a good guy, and frightfully dangerous, and everyone remembers him from that game.

    Saris Merchison: In the world of Warhammer 40,000 there are a lot of brutal people. Saris is one of those brutal people. Uncompromising, zealous, and righteous. The 5'6" tall Saris can take approximately as much punishment as a light tank and cares about your incoming fire less than it does. One of the more stand out scenes with him was walking into a firefight with 18 spec ops type soldiers pouring fire into him and just calmly killing them one by one. He got hit 50 or 60 times, and between his armor, his toughness, and the sheer number of wounds he has he just kept calmly walking towards them killing one or two per round. Saris's merciful setting is killing you quickly, and he's as happy setting the people that need to be saved on fire as rescuing them (Has he ever actually rescued someone?). For all of that the two things that make him most dangerous, being genius level smart, and Derrik, another member of the party. It isn't really just Saris that is Iconic. It is Saris and Derrik working together. Saris provides logistics and brute force, Derrik provides subtlety and overwhelming amounts of money and information. With the two of them focused on something, it can not survive.

  3. I like the sound of Sebastian you have there, seems like a fun character. Atraties already knows I like his characters.

    Figure I'll share another one, not one of mine but of a cousin's. So years ago we were making characters for an AD&D game, we made elven brothers and couldn't think of a name. We turned over a box of CCG cards for a game called Middle Earth, and stole the elven sounding name from the back. Thus, I ended up with the Avariel Ranger Legolas, and he the Avariel Blade Singer Legolith. (Forgive the name theft, this was YEARS before the movies, and you'd be amazed how many people didn't know where the name came from until the movies came out. People who had READ the books!)

    Now, Legolas never played out to anything special, but Legolith became a force of nature. Partly, I want to claim, because of how insane Blade Singers could be in AD&D second edition (where if you weren't an elf, you were underpowered). But mostly because of how he played the character. Legolith had that cocky surety to him that if you were against him made you want to pound his face in, and if you were with him made him an endearing person you could lean on when you needed help. He was a hero, he had style, and he did not stop until the good guys one.

    My cousin played Legolith in several campaigns, and in each one he won the party over completely while infuriating the villains of the game with his attitude and ability to follow up on it. He was the epitome of the Crane clan for the l5r folks out there. You loved him, or you loved to hate him, but either way you had to respect his ability.

    He set a bar for me that I've tried to reach with several of my more epic characters (including the above mentioned William Hydesmythe) and to this day I don't know if I've ever actually managed to match the sheer amounts of awesome and bravado that character had. Made for good times.