Yesterday we talked about how you want to handle the iconic/established characters in a defined universe in your game. Today, I want to talk about something similar. How to make those iconic characters. Why would you need to know how to make them? Well, because sometimes you want to do your own universe, but you still want to pull on some of the benefits these established characters can give you. So, let's take a look at a few ways to do just that.
Know Your World
The first thing you need to do is know your world. This is a bit more than just the setting and genre, you need to know how things work. These iconic characters need to reflect that, or define it in some way, and they can't do that if you don't know the world. So, learn your world and know it. The iconic characters for a pulp adventure are going to be different from a sci-fi world, which will also differ from the epic high fantasy world. So, know it, love it, and be ready to know how to apply it.
Embrace Genre Tropes
Let's face it, one of the reasons iconic characters are so iconic is because in a very large way they embrace the genre tropes they are meant to represent. Superman is a boyscout powerhouse. Batman is the original dark knight detective (hell, it's even called a Dark Knight). Luke Skywalker is the farm boy "prophecised" one, even if there is no prophecy mentioned in the original trilogy. Han Solo is the rogue with the heart of gold. Finally, to go into more modern references, the Master Chief is the ultimate Super Soldier and Commander Shepard is the ultimate battle commander.
These are all tropes, and the characters get mileage by embracing the trope that they represent. It helps make them larger than life, and also gives us a common ground to look at them from. Yes, each character also has personal stuff that adds depth to them, but these facts don't really get in the way of the trope they represent. Sometimes a simple element like this can be a great thing, and this is one of those times.
Give a History
Alright, you want to have these characters be a big deal, than you need to make them a big deal. Superman isn't a big deal just because of the S on his chest; the S on the chest is a big deal because of superman. So, make a history for your world, give it to your players, and make sure you point out where these established characters interacted with it and what they did. Bold their names too, that way the players know that it is important and their eyes are drawn to it.
Even if the events aren't fully known to the public, you want the players knowing about it. This way, when the person shows up in game, the player knows who they're fucking with. Unfortunately, histories can be a pain for some people. Still, they're the best way to actually establish a character's importance to the world before they come into play, or before the game even gets started.
Using these kinds of iconic characters is a bit different - but mostly the same - to what I talked about yesterday. You still want to keep interactions to brushes and small meetings. After all, the idea isn't to upstage your PCs all the time. However, when doing a made up world, you also want (or probably want) to have the PCs eventually bypass and take over as the big deal characters. This means that the icons will show up a bit more, and you may want to play up the difference in power early on. That way, when the PCs catch up, it will be significant for them.
Ultimately though, you want to have fun and make sure your players do too. So keep that in mind.
As always, if you have further advice on this, be sure to share it in the comments below.