Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Age is Not Just A Number

When creating characters, either as Game Master and breathing life into NPCs or as a player, think about the age of the character. What does it say about the character?

While reading Harold Lamb's Wolf of the Steppes, the age of the main character, Khilt the Cossack, made me ponder the value of age. In this case, Khilt is not quite the Old Man of the Mountaint, but is an older man. In some of the tales, he notes that these days, he survives more than the use of tactical genius rather than sheer brawn.

Those who encounter him often have one or two thoughts. One, he's an old Cossack and that makes him dangerous. Warriors don't live to a ripe old age on the steppes. Two, he's old. He's no longer a threat.

In a fantasy game, that might be a little more difficult to acheive because there are so many options in terms of what a character can do. However, if playing something like Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition, making the character a martial class whose primary ability isn't in fighting, such as say a Warlord, may allow the character to speak openly and mour about his lost fighting prowess but at the same time inspire the youth of the next generation to take up arms.

On the opposite end of the specturm, we have Marvel Comic's graphic novel, The Gunslinger Born, in their line of The Dark Tower series. Here, Roland is a pup. Few take him seriously. While he manages to excel at his tasks, while his skill with the gun is not rivaled, his youth makes him brash and perhaps foolish. It allows other to prompt him to take action instead of thinking.

Roland manages to break records and strives to "remember the face of his father" but thanks to his youth, manages to fall victim to things an older individual, like Khilt, may have avoided.

In any game system, it's often easier to role play the brash youth. The trick thought is eventually showcasing some grwoth in the character based on events that happen to him.