I really love when I am playing in a campaign and my favorite character isn't necessarily mine.
This makes the campaign, if good, even more fun and enjoyable. It stands to reason that you'll like the character you're playing (at least I'd hope so...more on that in a post next month) and will be invested and excited when you and your PC get to do something. When you like one or more of the other players' PCs, you can enjoy the game even when it isn't your turn. If the story and action is just as engaging when the spotlight isn't on you, then that makes for a great campaign in my mind.
Shade, the paranormal private detective played by my dear friend Carl in our long term Kapow! Superhero campaign is one such character.
Most of this entry was written by Carl himself, indicated by text in pale green. I will periodically throw in my two cents.
AKA: Sol Sable
Player: Carl Eastlund
Campaign: The Wardens
Gamemaster: Keith Jacobson
Circa: 2008-2014 for the original campaign.
Character still exists and has appeared periodically since.
Origins: Shade began as a series of City Of Heroes characters I played, all named Sleuth Sable; variants on a private eye, sometimes with mystic abilities. To adapt the concept for a modern Kapow! campaign, I made Shade a ghost since 'private eye' heroes are generally from almost a century in the past. I first tried making the character when Joshua Macy, the author of Kapow!, was our GM. He was skeptical that I could even make the character work, it being a ghost unable to touch or be touched by physical objects. I find it amusingly ironic that Joshua didn't have enough faith in his own system, as Shade was eventually my longest-played character in the game.
Shade wasn't Carl's first character as I recall, though I can't remember if he had only one or a few PCs before the ghostly gumshoe. Both Carl and I had a tendency to create characters, play them for a bit, and then want to make new characters. Eventually we each landed on a character we really loved and played them for a long stretch. For me it was Equinox and for Carl it was Shade.
Backstory: Shade was born Sol Sable around the turn of the century. Here's my original bio blurb for him: Sol was a hard-boiled gumshoe from the era when talkies were coming in, vaudeville was going out, and all men wore hats. Now he’s dead and a ghost. He doesn’t know why but not for lack of candidates. He was murdered and never got revenge…
He was cursed by a gypsy, but never got it lifted…He investigated Nazi experiments into psychic powers…He was a subject of government experiments into mind-altering drugs…He owes his existence to a time travel paradox…The only thing for sure is that he isn’t going away anytime soon.
Shade died an indeterminate death around the late '30s or early '40s, then came back as a ghost in Freedom City - our Kapow! game was set in the city from Mutants and Masterminds, for reasons. For about 80 years he fought crime in various ways with various partners before our campaign started. He amassed a great deal of magical artifacts and wards in his unassuming brownstone home. He hired a series of wizard assistants, both to maintain the brownstone and to try to undo the curse keeping him from the afterlife.
Overview: In our campaign, Shade's magic Brownstone became the base of operations for our group of heroes, who we named the Wardens. The Brownstone - known only as such - was magically guarded, so only those who belonged there could even find it. The inside worked much like the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts: the house would reorganize itself to contain whatever rooms it needed, or to keep intruders confused and trapped, should any somehow find their way in. Shade also contributed a vehicle: a magically enhanced dirigible simply called ‘The Airship’, armed with a transmutation ray. At one point we broke into an enemy HQ by turning its wall into tapioca. The Airship wasn't very fast but it stretched space to get where it's going as if it were a supersonic jet.
Shade initially didn't know why he was a ghost, where his powers came from, or why they were so inherently terrifying no matter how he used them. This changed when we were sent back in time to the start of an alien invasion. Shade discovered that his body was used as the first host for the invasion, causing his death. The wizard who caused the invasion, hoping to achieve immortality by it, cursed Shade for intercepting the alien parasite, causing his undeath. After this incident, Shade knew how he had died and that his body lived on as 'GoodLife Sable', reanimated by alien technology. Other heroes eventually defeated GoodLife Sable by punching him through the moon, though. Like ya do.
Like you do.
Playing Shade is really fun for world-weary sardonic quips. Shade is the epitome of "been there, done that". His death and seemingly eternal curse weigh on him, so while he wants to do right he has trouble seeing the brighter side of things.
The most fun arc I had was when Keith, the GM for most of Shade's run, replaced him with a villain. The Void, a reality-destroying being from beyond reality, replaced Shade after one campaign. I spent months leaving Shade in the background, declining to do hero work for ever more spurious reasons, tinkering with nebulous plans in the background.
Eventually our friend Lloyd came back for a session and since he had not seen the gradual change, it was a stark difference for him. He called out that something was wrong with Shade. That's when Keith and I sprung our trap. The Void kicked everyone out of the Brownstone and took it over. I ran the next few sessions in which the Void collided every alternate reality we'd ever visited with our own Earth and the heroes had to reconquer their own impregnable base. At the end, they saved reality, rewriting a few things along the way, so everyone's character got a little change to further their character arc in some way.
That was indeed an excellent arc and it, like the one that revealed Shade's true origins (mentioned above), show the variety and versatility of Shade as a character as well as Carl as both a player and a GM.
To be updated.
This is less about the legacy of Shade as it is the player but when Carl nails down his vision for a PC - its story, personality, and objectives - he absolutely shines, even among an ensemble cast full of excellent players.
Carl is currently on well-deserved hiatus from RPGing but we all hope to have him back as soon as the desire strikes him. Gaming with him is such a treat and gaming without him just isn't the same. Love ya man!
As for Shade, I am certain we haven't see the last of Sol Sable.
Next, no character challenge is complete without a visit to the Final Frontier. Lay in coordinates and ahead Warp Factor 5 as meet the Chief Science Officer of the USS Midway - Lt. Commander XERET XEET.
Wait...does that mean this character completes the challenge? Tune it and find out...