So I watched Commando yesterday (I’ve been buffing up on action movies to work on 1-800 Regime Change), and I was pleasantly surprised. The first thing I noticed was a long montage relating to Schwarzenegger’s character and, more importantly, his motivations. Immediately we saw Colonel Matrix’s drive when he was spending time looking after his daughter and doing things with her.
That is what a mercenary in 1-800 Regime Change needs. Otherwise it would be a wargame and a tactical simulation, but my goal is to make it a roleplaying game. Naturally, I have some troubles working this in to the setting, which is about as shallow as one can get. After all, while trudging around the South American jungles and searching for a bad guy’s base one can hardly be expected to engage in long, meaningful conversations and moral choices.
Right? I’m not entirely sold on this criticism, but there’s a reason why in The Expendables most of the character development is done in slow paced scenes rather than action scenes, and it’s because even a very violent, threatening, not-looking-at-explosions action hero has to have a motive.
And to this I add a Love, a Drive, and a Fear. It’s a very simple system. In fact, it’s almost embarrassingly simple. It’s hardly even a system at all. It doesn’t touch on personality traits. It doesn’t have a (intended) basis in psychiatric studies. It’s almost monosyllabic. Why do I think it will work?
Simple: I’ve run a lot of characters and seen a lot of characters at my table. I know what makes them deep. I’ve played games where people are required to allot their character’s personality traits. I have nothing against them, but if you don’t have foresight your character will be flat. It’s hard to flesh out a character off the bat. When I write a character for a story they hardly ever have much more than a love, a drive, and a fear off the bat.
That’s why I chose the system, and in my awkward should-be-sleeping-this-is-going-to-have-to-be-revised-with-fires-of-judgment writing style I plunked down a simple guide for it.
Looking back to Colonel Matrix, we see his Love. It’s his daughter, and if you’ve seen the movie there’s no disputing that. His Drive is saving his daughter, but more importantly it’s a Drive to protect her. And his Fear is losing her. While this is all very condensed around his daughter, it’s still a good example, though his is more immediate and focuses on driving an action movie plot, it’s the sort of thing a one-shot character has rather than a serial character, so for a tabletop game campaign things would have to be a little more general (I’m not sure I like this term, but words elude me much as sleep does).
Let’s make a character for 1-800 Regime Change. Let’s name him something like Robert Thomas (hey, if the last name’s good enough for a Supreme Court justice…), and set about looking at his Love, Drive, and Fear. We don’t want to burden Robert with any particular obligations just yet, since we’ll be visiting him every once in a while, and he’s not a saint, so his Love is money. Money and money and money. His Drive, however, is more noble-he was inspired to protect the helpless when
his parents were killed in an alley mugging gone wrong he saw things in the Bosnian War that he could never forget. His Fear is that he will die alone, without anyone caring about his death and without accomplishing anything.