This month’s RPG Blog Carnival focuses on our favorite characters current or past. Having been gaming for three decades, I’ve got a lot to choose from, all the more so because I’ve found myself in the GM seat for much of that — there are a host of NPCs that I loved bringing to life. I suppose the best place to start is the beginning…

The first character memorable enough to stick with me to today would have been a old Dungeons & Dragons character, Ian Antae — an half-elf warrior that was a master at manipulating people. There were the usual number of dungeon crawls that, honestly, just blend together to my mind (and is one of the reasons I don’t tend to run fantasy settings), but it was the last year or so of that campaign, where we finally added a story arc involving the “ultimate evil sorcerer” (we were in high school, so stow it!) that absolutely wasn’t cribbed from every other fantasy book cribbed from The Lord of the Rings. For me, the defining moment was after the death of half the characters, Antae kicking open a door to face the bad guy, only to find himself faced with dozens of evil critters waiting to use him as a pin cushion. More surprising was that they won out over the bad guys. After the death of the game world’s “devil/Sauron/whatever” we closed the D&D books and decided we really weren’t going to top it and turned to TOp Secret and later James Bond: 007 RPG.

I had a good MI6 agent that I enjoyed playing during this period, my first female character — Charmine McGovern. I played her for a good six years, and found it a good role playing exercise. It’s hard to get characters of the opposite sex right, but it’s doable. The trick is not to automatically make your female character a 1) lesbian, 2) sex addict, 3) just my bad-ass male character with tits. Women can be tough and competent, just like a male character, but there are certain biological truths that might not be reflected in the mechanics of the system — they don’t have the muscle mass of a man and in a fight, this can be a serious problem; they react to emotional queues differently from men, no matter how they might impact them. Since then, I’ve found I like playing women from time to time; they’re a challenge to get right and having had women in my gaming groups for the last 20 years consistently, I’ve had to get them right, or suffer the slings and arrows of ridicule for not doing so.

One of the characters from the late ’80s I absolutely loved was Athena — a genetically-engineered superhero for a DC Heroes campaign. She was child-like but incredibly smart and powerful in the beginning, finally maturing into a warrior-heroine that was very similar to her mythic namesake. She was probably the most “stereotypical” of my characters, build off the Jungian Greek god archetypes.

The next memorable character was Brigadier Douglas August-Haide (later resurrected in another campaign as Graham McDougal) — essentially an older version of James Bond: he’s slower, in chronic pain from years of hard living, and on the edge of retirement. He’s been stuffing away money from ill-gotten gains taken from bad guys over the years and is quite wealthy; he’s constantly dodging internal reviews from SIS. I got to do a Sean Connery impression. My PS90 carbine is named for him (Graham), as he was using the P90 and FN57 pistol long before Stargate SG-1 started using them. In the end, he died of a heart attack in the shower, after decades of having people try to kill him.

My favorite character around the turn of the century was an NPC in our Star Trek camapign — a sentient starship named Athena. She pulled some of the character bits I liked from the superheroine of days past, but became a unique critter. She was an Akira-class vessel, a warship, and one of the first ships to “wake” to sentiency. She was incredibly protective of her crew, a brilliant tactician who would eventually captain herself. To win against a massive Borg invasion, she seeded her “mind-state” to hundreds of starships, waking them. This allowed them to use their computational firepower, as much as their weaponry, to hack and destroy the Borg by releasing the biological elements of the Borg ships. Eventually, she was able to convince the Borg than biological-machine intelligence could work together without coercion, destroying the Borg philosophy. You could make a case, though, that the Borg won because eventually Starfleet personnel were cybernetically linked to their starships, but without the massively invasive surgeries and only if the crew wanted to be uplinked.

Of late, we’ve had so many good characters it’s hard to choose from. Our Hollow Earth Expeidtion campaign has a female “Short Round”, Shanghai Sally, that has been amusing for the wife; being small, weak, and a girl in 1930s Shanghai, she’s had to be clever about how to best use her. She’s brought out some incredibly amusing lines from the other characters, the best probably being “I have a prepubescent girl and I know how to use her….no, not like that!” Jack MacMahon, our “brick” is a impulsive, book smart common-sense stupid character with a weakness for the ladies and a penchant for doing the dumbest thing you can in a situation. He’s like Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China, but a better dresser.

Our Supernatural game gave us Jerry Neimann — quite possibly the most devastating caricature of the gaming geek ever. He’s tall, fat, balding redhead who works computer security, is a ghost hunter, and quickly became so amusing that he derails the game from time to time…and no one minds. His player pulls together a bunch of people he’s known to give us a fantastic, and while stereotypical, a completely believable characters.

Overall, the last 30 years of gaming has provided me and the players with dozens of memorable characters, of which these were only the highlights. Some became so real to us that we would gossip about them, just like real people… It’s made for a very full life.