With me, characters are like relationships, and the kind
of character you choose to spend your time playing says
a lot about you, just like the kind of friends and romantic
relationships you choose say a lot about you.
I've never understood the folks who like to play a game
by jumping from character to character, exploring a new
personality (or a new set of stats, possessions, and cyberware)
every few times they play. I know some players that are like this,
and as far as I can tell, they seem to have as much fun
bopping from troll decker to dwarf mage to half-dragon
samurai as I do from playing the same character practically
since the dawn of time (at least Shadowrun-time).
I've been running Winterhawk as a player character since
1990. We play about once a month (our group has become a bit
far-flung lately, so getting together for beer and gaming on
a Tuesday night is not an option anymore), for about twelve
hours at a stretch. As you might have guessed, our campaign
is more cinematic than deadly; we use the Low lethality rules,
so player character death is as rare as the demise of a well-loved
character from a favorite TV show. So far, only one player
character in our campaign has "died," and that was only because
his player set it up with the GM to fake his own death. We've
lost one popular NPC, and I'll tell you, the team was broken
up about that for weeks. People, at least important people,
don't die in our game without a damned good reason. It's almost
like a breach of trust: we do our best to complete the run, be
true to our characters, and not do anything colossally stupid,
and in turn, the GM cuts us a bit of slack. So far, nobody on
our team has tested the "colossally stupid" hypothesisI
suspect that slack would go away real fast if we took advantage
'Hawk was originally a character I created to run in a game
that was being started by a friend of someone Dan and I worked
with. I mostly used the Combat Mage archetype, because I
was intrigued by the concept. I'd always wanted to run a
British character, so that much of his personality was set. I
didn't know how long the game would continue, so therefore
I didn't spend a lot of time on him back then. Dan, at the same
time, was designing Ocelot.
That campaign fell through rather quickly. We played two
or three times, but Dan and I had a few philosophical and other
differences with the game (too many people, too much character
redundancy, and the idea (accepted by the group) that other
people could play your character for you if you couldn't make
a session). So we left, but shortly thereafter, I managed to talk
Dan into starting up a campaign of his own. It was at this point
that 'Hawk became real for me.
Just a little aside: characters don't often become "real" for
me. In my whole gaming life, I've had less than ten characters
that I cared enough about to get into their heads. Quite a bit
fewer than ten, actually. I have gone through dozens of characters
in almost that many game systems; most of them get played for
awhile and then discarded (usually because the person running
the game quits; sometimes just because I get tired of the game).
The few that "stick" have to have that extra something that
make them intriguing to me.
So what makes 'Hawk "real" when other characters do nothing
for me? Well, I can answer this for me, but that's it. This kind
of thing is absolutely 100% different for each and every person.
For me, there are a few things a character must have to appeal
to me. One is intelligence. I can't play a stupid character.
A second is charisma. Not necessarily physical attractiveness
(though I do like to run physically attractive characters), but
some quality that makes the character stand out in a crowd.
A third is primary effectiveness. I cannot play a "support"
character who stands in the background providing the means for
the active characters to get out and do what needs to be done.
I'm not happy unless I'm running a character who has a strong
area of effectiveness. 'Hawk can be pretty inept sometimes (his
lack of physical strength is a joke among his buffed-up teammates)
but when brains need to be fried or spirits whacked, he's there
in the front ranks. He is definitely not the kind of character
who would hide and maintain the invisibility spell.
Over the years, he's developed a whole series of little
quirks and idiosyncracies that make him come alive in the game:
his dislike of dirt and muck; his ability to sift through
ghastly carnage without batting an eye (or turning a stomach);
his sarcastic wit; his preference for the finer things in life; his
"magic purist" attitude; his love of mid-to-late-20th-century British
rock-and-roll; his peevishness when he gets in a bad
mood; his contempt for stupidity; his strong dislike of children (tempered
recently by certain events that have occurred in his life). Each
of these, and more, make his personality come easily to me in
games: I know exactly what he would do in almost any situation.
I sometimes joke that I'm not running 'Hawk in a gameI'm
So okay, you're thinking about now that I need to get a life, right?
But the funny thing is: I have one. Shadowrun is a part of it.
As a writer, I find that my characters are in some cases as close to me as my
"real life" friends. Sometimes closer. I'm just happy that I can
have as much fun as I'm having while pretending to be
a fictional character.
Hey, it keeps me off the streets.