Something has been made clear to me from the discussions we’ve had here in the past month or so due to my posts on the Lady Blackbird game and now on the post about Vampire: people want to hurt my characters, “beat the living snot” out of them, as was put by both Mick and Rich. The reason for this is that they both feel that the characters they have seen of mine in a game have been Machiavellian double-crossers playing both sides of the game. And they are absolutely right.
I’d never really stopped to think about it until Mick pointed it out in an in-character comment on his blog in which he called my character, Kale Arkam, a “manipulative loudmouth prick who thinks he knows more than everyone else in the Blue.” That got me thinking, as I wasn’t actively trying to play Kale as manipulative, though he certainly was playing both sides of the equation. This is also the case with my character in the Star Wars Primetime Adventures game we’ve played at Gen Con, Obi-Wan Skywalker, who has been revealed to be both aiding the Rebellion and be in league with the evil Sith lord, Dark Ackbar, at the same time.
So I started thinking back to other characters I have played in the past, and though it isn’t an universal constant, I came up with other characters cut from the same cloth, including an ex-Imperial Scout Trooper who had defected to the Rebellion in a game of Star Wars D6 back in the early 90s. I guess to this I can add all the NPCs I played in our late-90s Vampire chronicle, as well as my main NPC character in the Changeling chronicle, and even my D&D character from the legendary campaign we played while in high school. All these characters have one thing in common: they all walk the line between good and evil.
Cue Alien Sex Fiend here.
I had never, ever, thought about this consciously, but it is true, it is a trope that I return to again and again. As I said, it isn’t something I do every time–I do recall playing a couple of characters that were straight-up good, even if caught in shitty circumstances (there’s Sir Argus Fisner in the D&D pbem game of a couple years ago, and Havoc in my first Shadowrun campaign some 20 years ago)–but yeah, I totally gravitate towards the morally-gray type of character. And apparently I’m making them more and more morally ambiguous, which in turn is making my fellow players feel like they need to direct some aggression against them!
I can’t say I know why I do this. I can fathom a quick explanation from what is most obvious to me:
In real life, I am very much a morally-straight, lawful and good person. I believe in laws and feel they need to be followed, I have a very clear moral compass pointing towards doing what is right based on my upbringing and religious lessons, believe in treating people fairly and honestly. I guess I want to see how it feels to let loose of these constraints. Though I don’t play evil characters, I sometimes flirt a bit too closely with the darkness. Is it to then see the light all the more clearly, or is it to see what’s hiding in the shadows? Perhaps a bit of both?
One thing is certain: if I am evoking such reactions from my fellow players, I must be doing something right. I don’t think I’m done exploring this trope. If anything, now that I have identified it, I’m looking forward to exploring it even more, and in the process explore why it is that subconsciously I am drawn by this archetype.
To my friends I ask, what is it about these characters that make you want to “beat the living snot” out of them?