Saturday, February 23, 2019

Barking Alien's Top 10 Favorite PCs of Mine

When I first sat down to make this post my initial thought was, "Have I even played enough characters over the years to warrant a list of my 10 favorites?"

The answer is yes...though just barely. 

Some characters jumped immediately to mind and a few of these have been described and discussed on this blog before. Others are less know to regular readers and I have to dig through the dusty bins of my memory to recall them. It helps that I have a pretty good memory for these sorts of things (if I do say so myself) and I used to keep excellent notes on my campaigns and character (I am a tad lazier these days though trying to get back into it).

The list below is in alphabetical order. It does not denote how long ago I played the character (the list in not chronological), nor how much I like them. If I had to pick a favorite among favorites I would probably have to go with Starguard as he is just so much fun to play. Jeckle the Jackal is a close second in that regard.

#10 - Counterfeit (aka The Counterfeit Kid)

(Space Opera, Gamemastered by ? - I forget)

I can't believe I almost forgot this character. 

Some of you may notice a modification to the list. One character is missing to be replaced with this one. All evening and all night I couldn't get rid of the feeling that I was missing a PC, a very special PC. It hit me this morning and I just had to make the change. 

Jon Candor, aka The Counterfeit Kid and later simply Counterfeit, was a character my friend Joe C. created for me. We came up with this idea to create characters for a Science Fiction RPG where we would design the coolest character we could think of, then switch them. Basically Joe would play the perfect character for me and I would play the perfect character for him. 

When a friend of ours had an idea for a Spy themed Space Opera campaign - Inspired by the Retief novels by Keith Laumer, the Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, The Dirty Pair by Haruka Takachiho, and of course Ian Fleming's James Bond - Joe and I got the chance to use our characters, Capricorn Alpha (changed to Capricorn) and The Counterfeit Kid (changed to Counterfeit). 

Counterfeit was a secret agent working for the Interstellar Intelligence Initiative (the III), sometimes referred to as 'Third Eye'. When Jon was a young boy he was nearly killed in what appeared to be a shuttlecraft landing accident. It was no accident. In fact it was an attempt to kill his parents, top Cybernetists working for Third Eye. His body all but decimated in the incident, Jon was saved by being transformed into a cyborg, outfitted with some of the most advanced bionics in the galaxy of our Space Opera's 25th century. 

As a young adult he was teamed with a partner, the 'Transhuman' Psionic known as Aia Diei, codenamed Capricorn Alpha (as he was the only member of the III to hail from the planet orbiting the star Alpha2 Capricorni). When we first see them in the campaign they are adults but there were periodic flashbacks to their first meeting and younger days as junior agents which was super cool IMHO. 

What made Counterfeit fun and unique aside from the setting and style of the campaign itself was relationship with Joe's character Capricorn. Our brotherly friendship showed up in the interactions between these two PCs. We also gave them a bit of an 'Odd Couple' feel, but the closeness of Joe and I definitely came through. 

More on this campaign some other time. It was a blast. 

#9 - Dreg

(Star Wars, The Role Playing Game - 1st Edition, Gamemastered by Peter C.)

Dreg is a Rodian Smuggler from the only long term Star Wars RPG campaign I ever played in. I honestly love this character. Cowardly, neurotic, and clearly not cut out for the life of a heroic Rebel, Dreg nonetheless found a way with the help of a quick wit, good friends, and a really cool spaceship. 

What I loved about playing Dreg was that he was not built to be a hero and didn't want to be, but he was. He cared about his friends, he cared about the battle against the Empire, even if it was against his own better judgement. That dichotomy was extremely fun to explore. 

You can read more about Dreg here

#8 - Equinox

(Kapow!, Gamemastered by Keith J.)

Equinox was a Superhero character I originally created for my friend Sergio way back in 1982. He was created for a Villains & Vigilantes campaign in which each of the heroes was from a different country. Sergio based his character on mythology from his homeland of Argentina, mixed with that of other Pre-Columbian cultures. I added elements from Sergio's favorite comic book Superhero, The Silver Surfer and what I hoped were a few unique twists.

Many years later - about five years ago in fact - I was cycling through various Superhero character ideas for the online Kapow! game I was in. I would play a hero for a few sessions and then switch to another. Finally I landed on 'resurrecting' Equinox.

What I really loved about this character was getting to play the same character with four different personalities and approaches. Originally I had intended on focusing on the singular 'Air' persona and hoping to figure out a way to get to the other ones in at some point.

With the help of an idea from one of the other players (my good buddy Carl), the four entities that make up Equinox were split apart and I was able to switch to the 'Fire' entity when they spirits recombined. 

Over time I got the chance to check out each of the spirits in turn, eventually getting to play a completely and fully merged gestat. It was a really fantastic experience. 

You can check out more about Equinox in this post and this one.

#7 - Excelsior

(Villains and Vigilantes, Champions, Mutants and Masterminds, Others - Gamemastered by Various)

Excelsior is one of my oldest characters, created before I started playing RPGs. I have mentioned him on the blog a number of times so I won't go into him much here except to say how cool it is to have been able to translate a character from my pre-gaming imagination to my gaming hobby. He was the first and most prominent example of my doing that that I can think of. 

Check out Excelsior here, here, and here for more information. 

#6 - Francis 'Frank' Pellgrove

(Hogwarts/Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Homebrewed System based on Apocalypse World, Gamemastered by Alex B.)

I get an extra special sense of satisfaction when I create the kind of character for someone's game that I'd like to have in my own games and the GM appreciates it. 

What I mean is, if you are setting up a certain type of game with a very particular setting, genre, or whathaveyou, let's see a character that simultaneously fits squarely into the setting but also brings something new to the table. 

I also vehemently dislike it when people create PCs who don't fit the game the group has agreed upon. I don't like it when players don't put at least a little creative effort into character creation either (I'm looking at you D&Ders with Mages named 'Merlin' or 'Joe Magic' - ugh).

Frank comes from a long line of Wizard shepherds and farmers in the North of England near Hexham ( or somewhere between North Umberland and the hills of North Pennines). His family is poor or at least lower middle class, but they own land on which they raise sheep, pigs, chickens, and less muggle oriented beasts. 

Frank comes off as a bit thick sometimes, though he is a Hogwarts student in House Ravenclaw. The young Mister Pellgrove is not dumb by any means but he is - as one of the other PCs noted - differently smart. His field of specialty is unsurprisingly Care of Magical Creatures. Newt Scamander, Rubeus Hagrid, and Edwardus Lima (author of The Monstrous Book of Monsters) are his heroes. He 'minors' in Herbology and recently Transfiguration. 

He rarely uses his wand if he can avoid it. "What?", you're thinking. "A Wizard who doesn't use a wand?" No, no, he uses it when he needs to but he isn't very good at casting spells, dueling, or that sort of thing. He is very hands on and physical. A bit unusually so for a Wizarding World character. When a fight breaks out and everyone reaches for their wands, Frank is likely to charge across the room, tackle an opponent, and punch him in the face. It's surprisingly effective as most Wizards are not prepared for it. I mean, who does that? You could say Pellgrove fights like a Muggle, lol. 

He is one of the quickest thinking characters in the group, quick to action, a bit impetuous, stalwartly supportive of his friends (whom he thinks are all more worthy of being Hogwarts students than he is). He is brave to a fault, unafraid of beasts or bullies, but very wary of adults with wands aimed at him (the only times he's been badly injured in the game have been from grown-ups using spells). 

I could go on and on. He is surprisingly deep, thoughtful, humorous, and exciting to portray. Can't wait for the next session. 

#5 - Gobo Pepperthorn

(Dungeons and Dragons - Holmes Basic Edition, Gamemastered by Tom Z.) 

My very first character in my very first RPG, August 25th, 1977. He was a Halfling in the days when that was both his 'Race and Class'. That still cracks me up. Ah, old D&D, you silly thing. 

I've mentioned him in a number of posts over the years and really my most distinctive memories of him are his first and last appearances. 

What makes him special and qualifies him for this list beyond being my first PC is that in a very real way, Gobo set the tone for how I would see gaming from that point on. He wasn't played with the idea that he was a set of numbers in a game. I didn't base his actions on his character sheet. I played him with the idea that he was a person in a world. He did what someone would do given his story, circumstances, and the genre. 

This remains my head canon when running and playing RPGs. The mechanics are there to explains your actions, not the other way around. 

#4 - Jekyll the Jackal

(Originally Toon - 1st Edition, Gamemastered by Me (See below) )

Jekyll the Jackal was not designed for an RPG campaign. A game was built around him. 

Some friends and I were discussing various American cartoon such as Animanics and Tiny Toons when I began to ad-lib Jekyll, an anthropomorphic jackal, breaking the 4th Wall to talk to an unseen audience and various stage crew. I/He explains that he is putting together a kids TV show and is now hiring for various rolls. My friends then piped in with a variety of other wild characters auditioning for roles on the show. 

An unusual amount of backstory and plot ideas were dropped in the next hour or so until someone finally said, "We need to make this a game." I decided they were right and I quickly wrote the campaign up for Toon. Jekyll, Uhaul the Rhino, The Killer Emu, and many other characters as well as the Zoonatics campaign gets mentioned in my own game, The Googly Eyed Primetime Puppet Show

Jekyll is a favorite for the unique nature of his portrayal, both character wise and in the pacing and management of the games he's in. 

To begin with, Jekyll is a deeply flawed humorous cartoon character. He is somewhat egocentric, delusional, obsessed with the life, career, and death of Abraham Lincoln, and dismissive of danger (not because he is brave but because he hired a legion of highly trained Stunt Jackals to place themselves in harm's way any time he is threatened with injury). Honestly, this only scratches the surface of the surreal madness that surrounds this character. 

Most interesting though is I almost never 'GM' when using this character in the traditional way. He is the host of 'the show', the MC, and the director of the events going on around him. It's a lot like having the GM be a PC if you can picture that. Very fun, very liberating, and it enables me to interact with the other PCs in a very different way. Playing the AI of a ship in a Red Dwarf game is very similar. 

Jekyll and Zoonatics have not been mentioned very often on this blog (oddly) but if you do a search I'm sure that something will come up. 

#3 - Milford J. Thatcher

(Savage Worlds - Modified w/ House Rules, Gamemastered by Dan R.)

With 15 sessions under his belt, Milford J. Thatcher, aka 'The Professor', is my newest Player Character and I absolutely adore him. If Starguard is 'playing against type' (See below), then Milford is a nearly perfect example of an 'Adam Character'.

He is a character who lives by his wits, his earnest demeanor, and the image he puts forth of being part sage, part charlatan. Clever, even crafty, and a fast talker he nonetheless someone who actually knows what he's talking about. Using what seems like alchemy to the good folk of Dunton, Colorado circa 1869, Milford is able to extract silver from the sludge and lead found in various sites of the outlying Rockies. He refers to his technique as the 'Thatcher Process'. 

The 'Thatcher Process' is a fictional variant on the real life Parkes Process, invented and patented by Alexander Parkes around 1850. In reality, the Parkes Process wasn't used in the United States due to the low native lead production in North America. Our campaign assumes that there was more lead in the campaign region than previously thought and that the Professor somehow made the process more cost effective and therefore viable. 

Prof. Thatcher is not a combatant by nature, believing violence is never the answer to any problem, mystery, or puzzle worth solving. At the same time he is well aware that most people in his time see no problem with pistols at high noon and that sort of thing. Although the least physically adept and battle hardened member of our group, Milford has already killed two men and a bear, all in self defense and at different times mind you. 

I love playing Milford. I love his voice, a combination of Groucho Marx and character actors from the heyday of the Hollywood Western. My friend Alex plays his nephew Buddy Thatcher and the banter is at once hilarious and sublime. His interactions with the other PCs, the townsfolk, Navajo Traders, and other NPCs is what I live for in a game. 

Our next session is a sort of Season Finale and I am both excited and not looking forward to it. We are taking a break from the Dunton story and I will be running something for the group for a while. I will really miss spending time with the Thatchers. 

#2 - Sh’Hasta Zihl

(Star Trek, The Role Playing Game - 1st Edition, Gamemastered by Myself and Joe C.)

My first Star Trek character, created for my very first campaign using the FASA rules, Zihl was originally made up as an NPC. We had two players and myself as the GM, but I thought it would behoove the game to have a Kirk-Spock-McCoy style trinity, so in addition to the PC Captain and Chief Medical Officer I added First Officer and Helmsman Sh'Hasta Zihl, a Male Andorian. 

I really fleshed him out as a NPC and at some point in the campaign my friend Joe said he wanted to try running an adventure. It was decided that his character, the ship's doctor, would become an NPC and I would play Zihl as a PC. 

I love Zihl for his unique relationship with his Captain and the CMO. A Hawk to the good doctor's Dove, tempered by the Captain's cool and calm demeanor, the dynamic between them was some really great stuff. 

The campaign featuring Zihl has been mentioned here and there over the years. I managed to immortalize his name in Among The Clans, the Andorian Sourcebook for the Last Unicorn ICON System Star Trek game with one of the NPCs I created for the project. 

I am not sure if his status as an occasional NPC should disqualify him from the list but I am going to say no because I really liked playing him, developed him quite thoroughly, and it's my blog so there. Ha!

#1 - Starguard

(Champions - 3rd Edition, Gamemastered by William C.) 

Starguard, perhaps the most enjoyable PC I've ever had, is also probably the one best documented on this blog over the past 10 years.

The Praetor of the Protectors of Pleiades has been described here, here, and of course here

I've spoken about him so much I won't go into details here except to say that he is definitely the most fun character I have ever played. He isn't the deepest and certainly not the most subtle but he was incredibly enjoyable. He is very different from what I normally prefer. I tend to play characters less physical, less combative, and more thoughtful. In classic Dungeons & Dragons terms, I go Wizard or Cleric but never straight Fighter.   

This guy though, he made playing the Punch and Tank guy fun because he was more than just a Punch and Tank guy. He was so Silver Age, Big Personality, Over-the-Top Superhero-y that I couldn't help but love him.

Honorable Mentions go to characters I really loved playing but were only used in one-shots, very short campaigns, usually served as NPCs, or were alternate PCs which I would sometimes play instead of my main character.

Adam 'Black Adam' Schott, Guncannon Pilot (Mekton/Mobile Suit Gundam)
Alien Robot Repairman - Don't recall his name (Hunter Planet)
Gates, Near Human Alien (Teenagers from Outer Space - NPC and occasional PC)
Gabriel Zimmerman (Ghostbusters)
Harlan Quinn, aka Harlequin (Shadowrun)
Jet Kahele (Mekton II/Mobile Suit Gundam)
Kid Chameleon (DC HEROES)
Mummy Treasure Hunter - Don't recall his name (World of Darkness)
The New Yorker (Champions)
Rook Grey, Android Operations Chief (Aliens Film Franchise RPG - Don't recall the system)


Barking Alien

This post took waaay too long to finish. 

I starting writing it over a week ago. I got distracted by life and other project as well as, I'll admit, writing too much material. The post was supposed to be a list and while I knew it would have to include some notes on each but I feel I may have over done it. 

I'll try to make future posts more concise.

What you you think?

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