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December 30, 2011 / Wythe

Character ideers

Two blog posts that inspired this list:

An excellent post on enhancing a character by drawing 5 Magic: The Gathering cards at random – The author draws an Island and decides his monk was raised on an island. Seems simple, but the thought was put into his head at random. Love the Oulipian quality of it. Plus, I think M:TG is well designed and exquisitely illustrated, but not so fun to actually play, over and over again. (But that’s just me; obv., I like words/worlds more than numbers/fighting.) So this method gives meaning to cards that, for me, were just clutter.

An excellent list of random NPCs – That nevertheless includes some truly great, simple ideas—The Staring Child, a half-man/half-bear who is outcast everywhere, e.g. I think every single NPC can, if desired, have this sort of specificity. The names, too—”Coycoy,” “Gluberlane,” “Two Cinders”—they scream what they are in an archetypal, non-cheeseball way. The point is, these ideas are just that—basic sketches. But they’ve already been brought to life. I definitely work this way, sketching down one or two adjectives after snapping together that perfect name. These could be NPCs or even PCs, if someone wanted to play them. Which is awesome.

That said, on with—

The list of random post-future character ideas (d20):

  1. Spider-Lady Hyath – No legs/all arms. A simple mutant gift/curse. Everyone calls Hyath “Spider-Lady;” she’s come to terms with it by now. She serves as a paid companion to a rich dandy in Keramis, the grandson of war profiteers who sold goods to both sides during the Second Unhuman War. She has designs to kill him and steal his moneybox one day. If she could only find the keycard…
  2. Bonefinger Munx – Parochial villain with one skeletal hand. Kept alive by infusions of clean blood that are immediately infected with whatever horrible flesh-eating engineered plague he’s caught. Wears a cowboy hat. Munx wasn’t always a killer; he loved music; was killer on the polyharmodron. (Whatever the fuck that sounds like!) But when a crazed fan bit off his finger, Munx was forced to retire. [Yes, really—this is a character based on something that happened to Bone Thugs & Harmony.] Took a job moving [insert convenient verboten datum or object, drug or archaetech, type of slave or freed slave here]. Got caught. Got out of the Boneyard (future slang for “gaol”) a changed Munx: His fingers on his left hand had sloughed clean off… Now Munx fights to survive. Strangely, his altered appearance has only helped his fledgling crime empire expand. Everyone is terrified of him. He is terrified of nothing…
  3. Japher “Hands” ZaadScrews different hands on and off. Sometimes has huge “crusher” hands; sometimes, dainty “dining” hands. Maybe he works for Munx? Worked for Munx; moved to the big city; made his own fortune? Looks like Lil Wayne but with different hands/no grill? Japher definitely has the following hands (d10):
    1. Chainsaw
    2. Normal saw
    3. Mantis hands
    4. Raptor hands
    5. Gland-hands (secrete vile-smelling liquid? or just ordinary wood glue?)
    6. Aforementioned crusher hands
    7. Aforementioned dining hands
    8. Lady hands (shaped like five tiny women sharing the same hoop dress)
    9. Gun hands
    10. Swordgun hands
  4. Digger AaraxExhumer/healer. Has a metal plate in his eye. [Gravedigger searching for the grave of an unhuman icon hidden amid the graves of ancient Tephnian nobles; we may say “archaeologist.”] Always diggin… The old man used all six arms to try to find the bones of the legendary Uncle of Gazaar’Ou, who died so far from home, but he never found nothin. Then one day he gave up and took to gamblin. How he come to run with the Bonefinger for a time. Then he left that life to drift, picked up Reverberatin. Been practicin that ever since. But always talks bout goin back to the old Deadfields to find the Uncle…
  5. The Glimmer KnightMysterious half-robotic savior in the Wastes. Appears as a distant funhouse mirror until just before s/he strikes. Who’s s/he saving? Or trying to kill? Does s/he know the truth behind the Sisters of Silence, or the real headquarters of the Brutal Men? S/he won’t say, or can’t. A knight in mirrored armor, huge goggles, every inch covered, genderless sand-white cloak, deadly black nanoblade—s/he appears and disappears, leaving behind chopped mutant and tearfully happy Wasters, saved for no good reason, by a bad damn knight…
  6. Foca the Frog Lad – Unfortunate thirteen-year-old lad whose left body is that of a tree frog. Foca grew up with his insane grandmother (a Tuuri outcast and self-described “chicken-summoner”), so he thought that his form was the normal one and hers the freakish. Now that she’s passed on (choked on a three-staved wishbone), Foca has walked all the way to the big city (any of them in the southern Empire) and discovered that, horror of horrors, there are no others like him. He desires adventure, fame, etc.—but mostly he just wants to get laid by a sweet, ha’-slimy Frog Gal…
  7. Ranopath the Salacious Skeletal CourtierAnimated skeleton-like android who can’t stop laughing. Loves: practical jokes, pranks. Hates: the actual work of “intrigues,” messenger-ing, and assassinations. Ranopath works for the Caravanmaster of Caltaraan. Ranopath delights in terror and ecstasy: Ranopath is a force of the Grand Guignol (“big puppet,” blood and sex demon) brought to life by electricity to serve a moral-less master. Ranopath speaks in the third person, with a heavy French accent. Ranopath loves meeting new people and (sometimes) helping them or (other times) flaying them, inch by inch, until they expire (he prefers “transpire;” he loves “perspire,” not sweating himself) with a noble gasp. Ranopath knows secrets. His boss moves everything in the West—things for Quinze, Savar, the Heresiarchs, even the Empire… Ranopath, laughingly, with knocking metal bones on metal bones, observes it all. He is not programmed to discriminate between friend and foe, only funny and boring…
  8. Model VIII – Decommissioned body-clone of Carolus Quinze. VIII’s job was to hang around and wait to be killed by assassins looking for the real Quinze. He was decommissioned when Model IX came out. He looks exactly like Carolus Quinze, Richest Man in Pala, Merchant-Duke of the West, Rival of Savar (of Savar Shipping [the PCs’ employer, currently]). Meaning he looks like a handsome fortyish brunette dude in a vaguely Renaissance-styled suit. Model VIII is actually quite a gentle soul: Uninterested in capital, machinations, and the schizotrategic future-politics of Pala, he prefers to cook. And VIII is an awesome cook. He worked at a big diner in Kerai until recently, when he was “asked” by some of Quinze’s men to skip town, lay low, disappear. Otherwise he’d have to “disappear,” get it? Yeah, he gets it, too. That’s why he’s always shaking, looking over his shoulder…
  9. Vas the Murenger [wallmaker], the Wandering Labyrintheer A curiously short (5′), stocky horseheaded man. Picture Cee-Lo with a large gray horse’s head. Depressed as hell, Vas floated all the way from the shores of Latura to Pala atop a tremendous coffin from another era, meant for some long-sand-buried Laturan Senator. He washed up near [insert convenient location] and opened [insert convenient small business]. Then he discovered he like building things. Specifically, walls. Big, unbreakable walls. Now he’s a sort of freelance outsider artist murenger, wandering western Pala, using the money he makes building stuff to build more aimless mazes…
  10. Ixilim the X-Maker – An ancient Tephnian MakerBot / android shaped like a genderless stoner dude in coveralls—a robotic Ted of Bill and Ted, or Garth of Wayne’s World, your pick. Ixilim now lacks programming to make much of anything, but could theoretically be reprogrammed by someone with sufficiently knowledge of the Code.
  11. Chajal the Scincid Gigolo – Handsome? Geico gecko with a tiny, rakish, red-brown moustache (fake) and an infamous ability to throw knifes unerringly. Works for the incredibly powerful Doge of Llamagino, richest city of Vennar/the human north. Used to seduce other squamids. And kill them!?!? You decide. Good at: cards, knife-throwing, jokes, ladytalk (squamid and squamophile only). Bad at: not drinking himself into a stupor after every mission, shutting the fuck up sometimes.
  12. Minim the Tiny DevilbotRedsteel old/ancient skool robot, with small bronze bat wings and a mouth/eye-like glowing yellow orb near his, er, crotch. Minim serves the Neo-Sanguinarch himself, in Saspara, though usually he only gets to interact with the Vizier of the Architects of Memory, whose job it is to help the Emperor of the Blood recall what has passed in his reign. Minim can recall all events of the last 365 days perfectly and is therefore used to keep tabs on the Ministries, the Court (including the Dukes, Viziers, etc.), and the Legion. Unfortunately for the devilbot, his memory is only 365 days long. He has no idea who created or why. He has no sense of identity beyond a playful/annoying urge to tell all the truth minus the crucial 1% that his interlocutor (usually the VotAoM) is actually looking for.
  13. Maloc, Waver of WondersSub-Earl of Neuthings [Wonders] in the court of the Margrave of New Carvolia, at Starakas. Maloc’s job is to continually surprise everybody. He’s a mimic, a zanni, as well as a spy… for the Federation? Or does Maloc just want his boss to think that? And why would you want a paranoid Margrave to think that you’re betraying him? Is Maloc depressed? Or is this simply his latest wonder…?
  14. Jajojaj, Demon of the Backmarsh Extremophile fuel farmer turned freedom fighter. Skinny, burned-red, aging but still crowned by wild, wiry white hair, Jajojaj was your typical extremophile archae farmer/refiner, living in that long tract between Thasmud and Hadoz. He wasn’t one to argue politics, especially with the unhumans—at least, not until his farm was raided by brigands who then paid off the local officials, evading capture. That made Jajojaj—who was always working, who never broke no laws, who was always broke—mad as hell. He and his five sons and their cousins got some improvvisate shotguns and orange masks, and then disappeared into the backmarsh, the fern bogs that the Federation officials won’t go in (mostly due to the dinosaurs). Now Jajojaj is the “Demon,” the leader of a very successful band of brigands/freedom fighters/lost and smelly hillbillies. Wonder what he plans to do next?
  15. Ghalia the Many-Throated Hydran [= multi-headed] mutant middle-aged human woman whose heads have all been cut off save one. For years, Ghalia worked for a rich, totally insane merchant in Shiman (Faldan) who paid her for her pain—cutting off each of her heads, one by one, just to hear the beautiful screams echo out from the others. Now she only has one head and can’t work. She’s taken to exhibiting her many necks (ringed around her shoulders and back) in Membro’s Dinosaur Circus, in the northern Federation, though of course that institution is now in trouble… Ghalia is also a toxicologist and medic. She believes her necks give her magical powers [they don’t]. Has a huge, molding scarf collection.
  16. Radal Rastamer, Sky Courtier, Blimpman – Fasttalking, reckless-piloting captain of a small private blimp service based out of Porto Colada (Kores, SE). Radal was born to fly. From an early age he jumped from high places holding sheets stretched taut. He broke many bones in this manner. Now he has, against all odds, recovered and restored a small sunblimp (solar-powered blimp with a car-sized carriage) and set to work as the only Sky Courier/Courtier (he prefers the latter term—more sexy, more mysterious) in the southern Empire. He is not overtly political on first blush, but if pressed admits that he is rabidly pro-Imperial: He sees the Empire as the only force in Pala capable of restoring Tephnian-level “cool shit” such as blimps, lasers, and scorpion tanks… Perhaps kind of a tool, but well meaning.
  17. Umalah, Mistress of Birds and Pearls – Singer and spy at the House of Doves [= small white eyeless pterodactyls who mate for life] in Caltaraan. Name inspired by cultural elements from the Muslim Steampunk Handbook. Umalah works for… Someone. She won’t say whom. Her olive body is covered in tattoos of pale pterodactyls, each holding a string of pearls. She speaks many languages and claims to have traveled to Latura (how?). Umalah is in love with [one of the PCs? their boss?], but won’t admit it. She is the secret admirer sending them pterodactyl-skin belts and wallets every month.
  18. Sheelah “Queen of the Dessicators ” DarakaMurder Princess of Saspara. The nephilitic head assassin of the Assassins’ Guild, actually an arm of the Black Legion. On good terms with the Sanguinarch. Known to assume a humbler countenance and go a-gathering (as in, information gathering) for a time among common mercs and other rabble, when/if any particularly intriguing rabble pass through the capital.
  19. Ru-Ku Half-BakuTremendous green-gray elephant-man, a mutant infected by an ancient fungal plague from the Temple of the Last Animal. [From some White Wolf/Werewolf thing: “The Land Titans — The rarest but most powerful shapechangers, these elephant- and rhino-men seem more like endangered gods than mortal beings.” Sweet. Love it. Hence—] Ru-Ku, a one-of-a-kind mutant, shunned by everyone. Those who have heard legends of the Five Mesas say that out there, the unlucky may come across beasts called Baku who also have strange, garish tusk-heads with flappy ears and tentacular noses. Ru-Ku doesn’t know about all that. He’s out there [fighting for something important].
  20. Final character idea? This guy, the notorious chaos-dandy Baronet Orley Cinnabar and his face tatts and ha’-exposed GI tract –>

More ideas? Want to flesh out one of these bad boys? Leave a comment. Happy gaming.



Leave a Comment
  1. Wythe / Jan 2 2012 10:04 pm

    Short character listings from Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories and books:

  2. Wythe / Jan 6 2012 12:19 am

    Awesome dark-future character generator:

  3. Wythe / Jan 8 2012 12:50 pm

    Character background generator, both fast & thorough:

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