Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Character Types - Part 18 - The Power Armor Hero

Character Types is a series that's been sitting on the back burner here since about September. In it, I take a look at a type of character (herp derp) and analyze some things about it that you'd want to address or make sure to cover when you made one. Generally, these have been over-arching types that you could find in a lot of different formats, but I'm running out of those - at least that are viable for RPGs - so I figured I'd take a look at some more specific iterations. With the Avengers movie fresh in my mind, what better way to start than the power armor hero?

Rich vs. Lucky
Once you've settled on a hero with power armor the  first big question you usually have to answer is this: is the character rich (plentiful resources + knowledge/education to use it) or are they lucky (find/appointed to the armor in some means.) I use Rich and Lucky, but there are a lot of ways that one can apply without being it's literal example.

For instance, the old cartoon SWAT Kats (yes, I just referenced that) would fall under 'Rich' as the reason behind the characters. Yes, they work in a junk yard and are never portrayed as rich, but the junk yard is a military surplus junkyard with all the resources they need to make what their jet/weapons. While the characters themselves aren't rich, they still have a near limitless amount of resources to use at their disposal, so money isn't exactly a concern for their super heroics either.

On the other hand, a military pilot who gets assigned to the suit I'd count as Lucky. Maybe they aren't really Lucky, but they have lucked into the hero gig. Whether that is from random chance, fate, or appointment due to hard work, it is what it is. The point here though is that the suit isn't the character's per se. Someone else built it, someone else fixes it - or repairing it will be a problem. Either way, the character found the suit, they didn't make it. For a comic book example of pure luck we have characters like Darkhawk. Chris Powell didn't make the Darkhawk armor, he found the crystal and started to use it. His finding it was pure chance, and the mystery behind the suit is a big part of the comic.

This question is important though because it defines a very important aspect of your character. A "Rich" character who built their own suit - or had someone build it for them - is likely to have a much different approach then someone who lucked into it after all.

In vs. Out
The next thing I find works very well to look at is the character in the suit versus the character out of the suit. One of the really fun aspects of Power Armor heroes is that when you take them out of their armor they become normal people again. Exceptional normal people, perhaps, but still normal people. Knowing who this person is, who they interact with, and who is in on their secret is standard for most super heroes, but you get a bit extra with the powered hero. After all, this is someone who has chosen to do this in a more pure way than almost everyone else. Even characters like Batman can be faced with the "power and responsibility" dynamic that faces Spider-man regularly, but a power armor character? They made/found the suit and made the decision to do so. They're no one special without the suit, and that choice is an important part of who they are.

Lots of Guns
Ok, enough about the person and why they made the choice to be the hero. Let's get to the fun stuff: the weaponry. One of the reasons I think a lot of guys enjoy powered armor - and by extension mecha - is that it is kind of the ultimate toy/tool. These things come loaded with bright flashy lights and all sorts of other weapons. Now, this may seem obvious when making a character that you want to make these, but you'd also be surprised at how the weapons/armaments you choose to load your suit up with can also speak to the character.

For example of this we need look no further than Ironman vs. Warmachine. This is a great example because both suits were even made by the same person, and then customized to the pilot. What do we have here? Well, Ironman looks very sleek and nimble. There is a focus on mobility, but also in the aesthetic that comes from the aerodynamic design of the suit. Warmachien on the other hand is completely bristling with guns and armor. The thing doesn't look anywhere near as mobile, but also looks like it could dish out a lot more hurt in very short order. This difference in approach also telling of the men inside. Rhodes (warmachine) is the type to power through a problem head on. Stark (ironman) is going to move around the problem and likely approach it from a different angle.

Delivery Method
This isn't mandatory for a character, but it is one of the fun things to think about. Generally, the hero will have to go to a lab/workshop/hangar area to get into the suit. However, sometimes we get to see fun sequences where the suit is delivered by alternative methods. Tony Stark's briefcase suit from Ironman 2 for example, or the ever popular "launched out of a cannon" option that a lot of anime like to use for delivering mechs/armor to remote locations.

These are more of a flair decision to make though, because they ultimately give a sense of style and can make for some fun action sequences when they get to get used. Also, it means that it is possible to start a scene without your hero in his armor, and don't have to worry about never getting involved in the fight due to having to get to some set location and suit up then come back to the brawl going on.

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