For our third giant-sized Resources article I have some more inspirations for you. This time it takes the form of characters that provide great examples for your game table. Some of these examples are for game masters and others are for players. Often, these could be either. Today’s characters come from a variety of resources. Television, video games, and movies are all included. What make these characters great are the way they can move a story along. They are multi-dimensional and the direction they move the story is ever-changing. Every single one of them has lessons you can learn for making an interesting character, regardless on which side of the screen you are playing on.
Q (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
I figure a great character to start with would be one I have mentioned recently. Q has been a fan favorite ever since he showed up in the premier episode of Next Generation. Enough so that he showed up again and again, and showed up beyond Next Generation. Q is, of course, a protagonist character for the GM to use. If you read last week’s article, you know that he is quite the bored archfey archetype. Q represents on incredible power that doesn’t ignore mortals like gods would, but also doesn’t just go on destructive rampages like others. There are no master plans or long term goals. There is only entertainment at the expense of others. Q is someone who can do virtually anything and is, for that reason, terrifying. However, it is unlikely he’ll use that power to such an extent. Instead he will toy with you. The thing about him is that he will balance the ability to put you at ease and terrify you so you never know what to do. He could become an ally or an enemy. Such distinction could change at any moment and he may need the help of mortals on occasion. Q represents a character whose arrival entails literally anything. It could be a side adventure, a distraction, or something all to involved with the greater story. It will be up to the party to carefully find out.
I mention Illidan because he is such complex character, though not everyone may recognize him as such. For many Illidan is a bit whiny and self-absorbed, someone who abuses power for his self-obsessed feelings of entitlement. Those people aren’t wrong, but if you pay attention to the lore, Illidan is a lot more. There are reasons that Illidan is the way he is. His brother became everything he hoped to be, and didn’t ask for any of it. For this reason Malfurion is praised and people look down upon Illidan. Of course, it doesn’t help that Malf is his brother and ends up with Illidan’s love. What makes it all the more tragic is that Illidan takes in corrupt power to prove himself and save his people. Of course, he succumbs to temptation and jealousy now and again. This is just an example of how even someone looking to be a great force for his people can become something horrible. In the most recent Warcraft novel, named after the character, we see even more. Illidan has gotten to the point of ends justify the means and on a scale unlike any other. When you see a power that destroys whole worlds, watches it do so, and have the chance to use their power against them what do you do. On the one hand Illidan does whatever it takes, wiling to sacrifice his race to save existance. One the other hand he does some very disagreeable things. Where does on draw the line, and does it make Illidan evil or just wrong? A good question for a protagonist to raise.
Crowley is an awesome character. While the world ending, hell unleashing, evil that is Azazel and other such villains, Crowley represents the persistent villain you cannot bring yourself to defeat. As the lord of Hell, he constantly shows us (and the Winchesters) why he cannot be trusted and why he should be destroyed. We know things would be better of without him, we are shown it time and again. But what is the alternative? Crowley is the classic “lesser evil”. A pure business man, Crowley benefits from playing the status quo, changing it slowly and in his favor rather than creating great upheaval. These are things heroes can fight against, but perhaps something they can never overcome. Being able to live in a world where the good fight exists is better than letting chaos and destruction reign free. On occasion, such a character (and we see it in the show) finds himself on the same side as the heroes. Enemy of my enemy and all that. What happens then is that he begins to take on some of the habits, thought, or ideals of the heroes. In fact, in certain seasons Crowley is as much anti-hero antagonist as he is protagonist. A character that treads that line so well is perfect for the D&D table.
Ra’s al Ghul (DC Comics)
This is one of the detective’s greatest foes. Batman, Bruce Wayne, has had to deal with Ra’s al Ghul over and over again. He isn’t the only one though, Oliver Queen has had to in the Arrow series as well. What makes him such a great character? Ra’s has taken the heroic ideal to a strange extreme. He is the character with the power and charisma to drive people to do what he wishes, no matter what. The result of such strength can change the world and great strides can be made in civilization. However, extended life and experience eventually drives one to become the ultimate cynic. Ra’s is the villain who isn’t a villain except in certain situations. In others he is just a powerful ruler. In still others he is an ally. The problem with Ra’s and the League of Assassins is that they are ruthless, merciless, and willing to do anything. Cold and calculating, he is also passionate and willing to make sacrifices. When this character has realized that people often don’t understand what they’re doing, he thinks he must make such decisions for everyone. That cynicism, experience, and desire to advance his people make this protagonist both predictable and unpredictable, and incredibly dangerous. This is a character like Illidan, but he his not corrupt or using dark powers. Instead he is the pinnacle of hubris, arrogance, and self-worth.
Malcom Reynolds (Firefly)
Ok this one is actually a hero archetype, but is one of the most versatile of characters. Before the time of the show he is a leader (even when not technically leading). He is a rebel fighting for what he believes is right and trying to keep as many people alive as he can. Mal is not just a hero but an inspiration and idealist. When the war destroys his cause and makes him into a cynic, he becomes what is basically an adventurer. Despite his concern only with himself and his crew, he proves time and again to maintain ideals and he does not like it when people are threatened out of turn. He is the ultimate example of a chaotic good hero. He makes a great character or a great NPC. It isn’t just the epitome of CG that he represents, but the complexity of his character. His hatred of the companion trade and is old fashioned few towards women are at odds with his cavalier, roguish attitude and act. He strides fine lines, crossing from one side to the other easily and quickly. Malcolm Reynolds has a code of honor, but one that may be hard to pin down and one that is derived from deeper backgrounds and experiences than we may know. He is a great example for curious would-be table top heroes.
Rick O’Connell (The Mummy)
Another hero-type, Rick is a character that also represents chaotic good. Though it may be fair to call him neutral good. Rick is another character that proves himself to be both selfish, but idealistic in some ways. Nevertheless, he is very different from Mal. Much of what he does is for money, even more is for the girl. Despite what he says, and how much is because of the girl, he doesn’t stop saving the world. Not only does he act but he makes others feel bad about not acting. All while saying they shouldn’t do anything. By the second movie he is a family man, and saving the world is about saving his kid. Sure, he does it all out of necessity, but he does it. Or is it out of necessity? There are plenty of small acts that prove he has ideals greater than that, but he doesn’t want to be a hero. But then again, not all heroes wanted that job did they?