When I started playing the role-playing game Traveller with a group of middle school students, one of the first challenges to overcome was the creation of original characters and interesting new stories. You can only play for so long with characters named Solo, Skywalker, and Vader. Then, you must get creative.
What I am going to show you today are a passel of characters so creative, lame, and craptastic, that you will probably forever after have pity on those poor kids who chose to play the game with me.
Harry Scipio Strontium 90 was a space detective. He and his assistant, the dwarf Quark, were necessary to the game because player characters had a tendency to kill people, aliens, and destroy planets, routinely misusing the biggest and baddest weapons in the equipment handbook. He relentlessly pursued player characters and villains across space and time.
The Geomancer was a deep space explorer who mysteriously never took off his space suit. He bailed characters out of trouble when they invariably got marooned on airless asteroids, lost in dead space with no fuel for the starship, or imprisoned by cannibal plant people on an unexplored world. In the end, it turned out that his mysterious space suit was actually empty, containing only gas and radiation, and possibly an alien spirit-entity.
Mantis was actually a player character. The son of the high school science teacher was one of my most dedicated game players. He decided that he had to have an evil player character. He said to me, “Mr. B, we will make him secretly evil so that he does things that take the party into danger and betray them without their knowing. It will be fun as they try to figure out how to save themselves.” Now, Mantis was an alien super-scientist who had a very big head and small body, so he removed his own head and connected it to a large robotic body. He stood imposingly taller than all the other characters at eight and a half feet tall. His evil plots were initially rather lame and easily defeated. It didn’t take the players long to figure out that he was working against them, and he spent a considerable amount of time as a detached living head on the starship’s auxiliary control panel. He went through various penances and punishments, ultimately avoiding being flushed into space through the space toilet.
Susano initially started out as Mantis’ evil experiment. He was an enhanced clone with super powers and wings. He was super charming and likeable, but supposed to further Mantis’ evil agenda. They began to plot the take-over of entire planets like Djinnistan and Vilis. But the longer the game went on, the more he became a son to Mantis, and the more he influenced his scientist father to use his abilities for good. They would eventually help a band of rogues create a New Star League out of the ashes of the Third Imperium. Teacher’s kids are often the biggest pains in a classroom, but that tends to be because they know all the teacher tricks already and are invariably more creative than the average classroom clown. The last I heard from Mantis’ creator, he was an electrical engineer in Austin, Texas, and probably busy secretly planning to take over the world. Though hopefully he didn’t remove his own head as a first step.
That is only a small sampling of the characters we created for Traveller, but at more than 500 words already, I need to be saving the rest for another day.