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I'll admit it: I like playing eccentric characters.

When two paths diverge in a wood, I, I take the one that exists as a right of way only on the map, and leads to thorns, barbed wire and an angry farmer with a shotgun. There is of course one problem with eccentric characters.

They're generally useless, dangerous or both.

Take an old favourite Abberant1 character of mine, "The Sword of Justice". The Sword was a fine character, moral, honest and dedicated.

The Other PCs: And also utterly, utterly mad.

Unlike every other super-powered Nova (the term given to super-powered people in the Abberant universe), the Sword's powers were not derived from a special gland in his brain that allowed him to manipulate quantum energy.

The Other PCs: Yes they were!

His powers were granted to him by God.

The Other PCs: No they weren't!

Whereas the superhuman abilities of most Novas first manifest themselves during a particularly stressful event such as a car crash, the Sword was first granted his powers when a raid in his previous job as a police detective went wrong and he was forced to fight for his life.

The Other PCs: *ahem* Might have been a tad stressful?

He was mortally wounded that day and should have died, but he prayed to God that he might be saved to continue his fight against evil and God answered his prayers.

The Other PCs: The more heathen secular amongst them felt that his possessing the regeneration power might have had something to do with it.

God further granted him two powers, that he, the Sword, might serve him: a shield by which he could read people's auras to determine if they were good or evil...

The Other PCs: A customised version of the sense emotions power; he perceived calm, happy people as good, and angry aggressive people as evil - which given the calibre of people he came into contact with was right about 95% of the time.

...and a sword, by which he could slay the evil2.

The Other PCs: *cough* quantum bolt.3

So against "good" people he was a pacifist, who would refuse to kill or harm. But against "evil" people, he was utterly ruthless, leaving only small piles of smoking ashes.

As a character, The Sword was interesting, offbeat, and of course, utterly wrong for the campaign, which I'd started off GMing {}, and in which we played members of a super-powered consultancy firm for hire as corporate troubleshooters. (There was also a subplot about a serial killer roaming the ghettos of the city executing pimps and drug dealers with what appeared to be some kind of high-powered flamethrower - but for some reason The Sword could never fathom, the rest of the guys were strangely reluctant to follow that up).

From day one, The Sword started to face resistance from the other characters (or perhaps it was me, Jonny, facing resistance from the other players).

I guess with hindsight I can say that when you're raiding an abandoned church full of drug-dealing pistol packing home boys, walking down the central aisle chanting, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." while despatching lethal quantum bolts left and right wasn't exactly the sort of thing to inspire confidence in your more secular companions.

Although thinking further, I think maybe it was executing the prisoners afterwards that rather soured the guys on The Sword. They were still somewhat in superhero mode (or at least, "not getting the bollocks sued off us by our client, the city, the relatives, and anyone else who can claim to be traumatised" mode). After that they made sure to keep anyone they found securely locked in an area of our headquarters (a cheap, down-town building) that I didn't have access to. I didn't care. I just sat in my room reading the bible (and not - as was often alleged - standing on the roof incinerating any low-life who might walk past the building).

But The Sword didn't put me off playing eccentrics.

My most recent offbeat character was my Wookie Fringer4, Wooku, in Bog Boy's D20 Star Wars game. The starting plot angle was built around Mark's PC, an "Indiana Jones" type archaeologist travelling around the galaxy looting finding rare artefacts.

Of course, it didn't work out that way: Mark's PC actually had a level of Force Adept5 and so the first encounter consisted of him pumping his attributes up to obscene levels and then kicking the [expletive deleted] out of a bunch of harmless smugglers. (Well they were harmless after he'd finished with them).

Yes. His monk6 was reborn.

But back to the characters... Having decided on Mark's PC, two other roles were required: a military type who could pilot the ship, and some kind of engineering type. I bagsied the engineering type leaving Bubba to play Dudley Doright.

So I had the basic outlines of the role - a Fringer with a knack for fixing things - but I wanted some other angle. Then I remembered a previous S&P article I'd written in which I described how a former work colleague of mine used to reclaim radios when the rent was forthcoming.

Remember the softly spoken little Scottish guy with the menacing persona who always did the talking? The man who simply screamed player character? Well I took the other guy - the cowardly giant who stood at the back with a baseball bat ready to leg it when the going got tough.

But "some bloke who some bloke I used to work with once employed" still seemed a bit vague as a character concept - or at least not something I could easily explain to the guys. I needed a snappier concept. Something the guys could easily grasp. Something...

Villa from Blakes 7, as a Wookie. I made him an engineer with a penchant for stealing things and a particular skill for cracking locks. Add in a hobby, cooking, and a name, Garwooken, shortened to "Wooka", and I was all set to go.

It turned out that having a concept that the guys could easily grasp was something of a double-edged sword due to a number of factors, the chief of which was that they hated it.

I was happy wondering around through local markets buying exotic ingredients for that evening's meal, but when - in the first firefight we got into - I was first to get out of the way, "scampering" up our ship's loading ramp as soon as the droid got it open - they started to get a bit unhappy. Apparently, as a "wookie", I was supposed to be the muscle of the party.

Or as I put it on my blog, the morning after an evening's awkward discussion: "Apparently in a party with only three people, everyone needs to perform three roles and apparently cook doesn't count as one of them."

We continued on in the campaign, and I was sometimes very useful, such as on the ice planet where I used my Wookie claws to lead the climb up a steep ice cliff. Admittedly, that was only because they kept on hitting me until I agreed to do it, but hey, I was still there. And when the ship's engines broke down in combat, I was the one who always got them going again.

Mark even found a perfect miniature for Wookie from the WotC Star Wars miniature set: a Wookie with both hands held high in the classic, "Don't shoot! I surrender pose!"

But it just didn't quite work, and it was when we found ourselves sneaking into an ancient underground complex in search of dark sith lord, and I found myself making scared noises and jumping behind statues, that I realised the awful truth.

I wasn't playing Villa from Blakes 7.

I was playing Scooby Doo with a wrench.

1Abberant was an interesting game published by White Wolf that had some elements of a superhero game (people with superpowers) but not others (crime-fighting vigilantes wearing spandex costumes).

2The Sword was a pretty old testament kind of guy.

3The sword was inspired by a character called Justice in the Marvel New Universe title of that name. He was also mad, but he could at least actually see evil people.

4"Fringer" is one of the D20 Star Wars classes. Fringers are people who grew up on the frontier and are thus jack of all trades, with skills in jury rigging mechanical repairs and general bartering. Bubba was playing a Soldier (someone from a military background) while Mark was supposedly playing a Scoundrel (wide-boy / spiv / dealer / conman / un-orthadox businessman with an arms length relationship to the tax and regulatory authorities). When I heard that D20 Star Wars was using classes, I was initially very sceptical, but they actually work pretty well since they are based around backgrounds not roles. For example, piloting appitude and ability is handled through feats and skills, so members of any class can be pilots. In terms of the films, Luke was a fringer with piloting ability while Han was a scoundrel with piloting ability.

5Someone who can control the force, but was trained by an alternative tradition / system to that of the Jedi.

6See S&P #2 and the Slayers Guide To Games Masters for details.


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