There, I said it. I’m a megalomaniac. I never thought a side effect of that was “I always have to play the cleric.” Or paladin, or druid, or in off cases bard… but I seem to always hit that role that was described as “healer” and now seems to get pegged “leader.”
I’ve played characters that fall outside this role in the past, but with limited success. Take, for instance, my heavily-cybered street samurai troll in Shadowrun: I couldn’t get into this character until I’d had too much to drink and took my aggression out on a security guard in a donut shop. Or Enyo, my sociopathic rogue-turned-assassin in an old-school adventure: he worked insofar as I had fun playing him, but we all knew he was fated to die young for his brash actions in the dungeon.
So, when the gang decided that we’d play a ‘supers’ game in the closing days of World War Two, I told myself I would break my cycle.
I was going to play “Amerikid,” a knockoff of James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes.
I was going to play a sidekick.
We played the game in FATE, and I had a chance to think about some aspects beforehand. I knew I needed aspects that would actually reward me for taking a second-place position; this would paradoxically allow me to assuage my megalomania by “dominating” the game in terms of succeeding at playing a non-dominant character.
Aspects like “Anything for My Country” and “A Model Soldier” gave me some good starting points, as did my high-level concept: “Major Freedom’s Sidekick.” (Major Freedom, a Captain America ripoff, was run by another player.) I took the aspect “I will do what Major Freedom commands” to represent both my ability to steel up my conviction to complete a task, and to represent limited free will in following orders.
“Can’t Fall Behind” became a very useful aspect that Chase helped me think up. It represented Amerikid’s commitments in basic training. After an embarrassing day on the obstacle course, he vowed to always keep up. In game, this allows a non-superheroic character to perform well enough to “keep up” with the supers. The “compel” side of this aspect makes sure I’m not hiding behind my super-powered colleagues.
The aspects I created weren’t the only thing that helped; Major Freedom had the aspect “Look Out Amerikid!” which he often invoked to call attention to my sidekicky antics.
Skills and stunts helped round out this character. We used the Dresden Files RPG rules to run the game and I went the “Pure Mortal” route for the character. I relied on FATE points to have a “lucky” edge, and taking a handful of stunts to increase resilience and basically let me stick with the big guns.
What Needs Improvement
Major Freedom’s player called me out on my biggest failure. In one scene, I over-emphasized my “sidekick” aspect and played down my “must follow orders” aspect. This in and of itself wasn’t problematic, but I told a lie to Major Freedom when called on it. This was an example of me as a player wanting to avoid conflict in a scene. Set aside the fact that “conflict avoidance” is an utterly stupid tactic for roleplaying games; this was a place where I put my character aside for my own goals.
This connects with my other problem: my “trouble” aspect didn’t really work out for me. I took “#2″ as the aspect, thinking it would come into play when I wanted to take center stage but had to be the sidekick. Problem is, my other aspects defined the “sidekick” role well enough that the “trouble” never came into play. After the “lying to Major Freedom” episode, I realized that a trouble aspect along the lines of “Can’t Drop a Grudge Against Myself” is probably a better fit.
This leads to one crucial side point: “Trouble Aspects” are hard to think up in a Golden Age ‘supers’ game for a sidekick! The supers can easily fall back on weaknesses or needing to keep secret identities, but for a low powered lackey the majority of “troubles” I can think of are dark, and dark doesn’t fit golden age well.
Tweaks for Next Time
I’m hoping to change some of the plethora of sidekick aspects to aspects that further define this character. I’m realizing that, when aspects do double duty, they don’t get used. I need to think more about who Amerikid is (other than a sidekick), and come up with some aspects to support that.
I also want to figure out my role in conflict. I used a “cannonball special” maneuver to deliver the final blow in a fight, but this should have been something Major Freedom did. The truth is that I just did this to use a stunt I took… and I’m now realizing that the stunt is probably not the right one for me. “Maneuvers” are the perfect rule for a character like this, and I want to find stunts and skills to make me do maneuvers better.
Lastly, I need to crack the “trouble” nut. I want to figure out how to make this character complicated without making him dark. I’m certain it’s possible, but I just don’t know how right now.
Are you a pathological egoist who has always wanted to be a number two? Do you have ideas about how you can use your force of will to be less forceful? Or can you come up with a Golden Age-appropriate trouble for my sidekick? Tell us about it in the comments!