Friday, January 14, 2022

31 Days / 31 Characters - SHADE

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. 

Character: Shade

AKA: Sol Sable

Player: Carl Eastlund

System: Kapow!
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.

The Highlights:

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.

Game Info:

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...

Barking Alien


  1. Thanks so much for posting this, and for all the praise! Shade is, indeed, one of my favorite characters ever. I'm sure I'll return to him before long.

  2. I was the GM for the Kapow! game where Carl played Shade, and became The Void. Carl did a fantastic job playing Not Shade. It was one of my all time favorite moments.

    By way of context, as the previous arc was ending, an arc where the heroes had been sent to another Reality to save that one, I had an idea on how to do the "Hero turns evil but is really an evil doppelganger/clone/imposter" trope. We played the game online, and I quickly typed up this message, and sent privately to Carl:

    Shade’s Revoltin’ Development

    [ This scene is optional. You’ll see why. ]

    Once again, you are floating in a black void. Only this time you are not alone. You’re not sure how you’re able to see in this darkness, but you are, and you see yourself. Looking at you.

    “I doubted that you would accept my offer. Still, all is not lost. My opponent shall shortly call you back into your reality. Only , I shall take your place. The Void will enter your reality, and consume it. You will wait here, in The Void. Forever.”

    [ If you’re willing, The Void will take Shade’s place, and you will play The Void masquerading as Shade. It’s goal is to build a reality bomb to break the barrier preventing it from consuming Shade’s reality. It will have access to all of Shade’s memories. It will have Shade’s powers, but none of its own reality warping powers. There should be a subtle personality difference. Most characters will be unaware of the difference, although there may be some characters with special sensitivity that might be aware of the difference. It will still participate in adventures with the Wardens because that is necessary to maintain the deception.

    Once again, this is totally up to you. If you choose not to play The Void masquerading as Shade, then Shade will appear back in your world along with everyone else. ]

    Carl thought it was a great idea, and ran with it. Super fun!

  3. Oh, how cool! This is just the kind of stuff I live for! And you are so right, sometimes it is so much more fun to watch a really neat character get some "screen time".