Good evening all. Once again, my apologies for the rather long delay between updates. I’m still incredibly busy with work, but I’ve also been suffering from a bit of writer’s block… every time I’ve sat down to write something recently, I’ve ended up staring at the screen for an hour or so, then giving up and playing some Final Fantasy.
I’m also likely to be offline entirely for at least a few weeks through the coming month or so, due to some travel I have coming up for work. While I’ll be able to check email and so on, getting on the blog is going to be highly unlikely.
So, I’ve decided to do a quick update for The Unusual Suspects as a way of easing myself back into it and making sure I’ve at least got something done before I’m away for another month or so. I’ll try to get another update or two up before Saturday, which is when I fly out for the first bit of work.
This character is one that I didn’t actually create myself, but I did have quite a bit of input into his design. He was built by the GM for a Supers game that I was joining part way through. I’m afraid the writing for this one might be a little rough, but right now it’s about all I can manage.
So, without any further delay, let’s meet tonight’s guest…
As a cold wind sweeps through the busy city street, a ragged tear appears in the air. From the rip steps a severely featured Japanese man dressed in traditional ō-yoroi armour. The lamellar armour is a deep emerald colour, with a black and white emblem painted on a metal plate in the middle of the chest. The left bracer is adorned with four stylized animals. Held loosely at his side is an exquisitely crafted curved sword in his left hand, in his right is a lacquered wooden scabbard.
Piercing green eyes stare out from a stern face. Long, jet black hair has been drawn back tightly and tied into an elaborate top knot. He sheathes his sword and raises his left hand, then snaps his fingers. As the noise echoes, the elements themselves seem to respond. A spark leaps from the samurai’s hand and forms into a flaming fox that curls at his feet. Moisture coalesces from the air and forms into a serpent that drapes itself over his shoulders, as the ground next to him breaks apart and a bear made of earth and stone emerges, roaring.
The warrior steps forward and begins to speak. At first he is clearly speaking Japanese, but it swiftly changes to English. However, you can hear an odd echo to his words, as though the original language can still be heard behind his speech.
“Has a woman with the tail of a fox passed this way? Speak quickly, I must find my quarry and avenge my lord… Wait… what is this place? Why are you dressed like that? Something is not right here… Never mind, I will think on this later, for now I must hunt.”
The samurai places his fingers to his lips and lets forth a shrill whistle. The bear, fox and serpent dissolve back into their component elements and fade away. From the ground beside him, a translucent stallion rises from the ground. He gracefully leaps onto its back. The stallion rears back, then gallops away. Within a few metres, the stallion and its rider blink out of existence, appearing a second later a few hundred metres down the street, before disappearing again.
So, as I mentioned before, the Samurai as a character isn’t completely my brainchild. Basically what happened was that I was joining a Supers group using the GURPS system, and I asked the GM to give me some ideas of what the group could use. The answer appeared to be that there wasn’t a straight forward fighter character, so I decided to fill that niche. We spoke about options for a while, and decided that a samurai could be a fun fit for me. Mark came up with the initial back story for the character, in order to help it fit into the group dynamic a little easier, while I fleshed out his personality and some of his quirks.
The Samurai’s story begins back in feudal Japan, when he was the highest ranking samurai within his lord’s forces. During one winter, the lord took a new lover, a woman who the Samurai quickly began to distrust. Unfortunately, she appeared to have completely bewitched the lord, and he was deaf to the Samurai’s warnings. Worse yet, he began to listen to her advice in military matters, and insisted that the Samurai be sent away on a scouting trip for a few weeks. Though he felt that something terrible would happen in his absence, the Samurai could not disobey his lord, and so he left… Upon his return, he found that everyone in the village and keep had been slaughtered, including the lord. Leading away from the keep were fresh fox tracks, far larger than those of a normal fox. Realising that the lord’s lover had been a kitsune, he gave chase through the snow, not caring if he was to die facing this foul creature, as long as he avenged his lord and brothers in arms. After a hunting the kitsune for days, he finally tracked her to a clearing in a forest. However, as they began to fight, a tear in reality opened behind the trickster spirit and pulled her through. Without a second thought, he leapt through after her, refusing to be cheated of his revenge… When his vision returned, he was standing in a strange place, surrounded by tall buildings, people everywhere, and bizarre horseless carriages honking at him. As men in uniforms began to yell at him to drop his sword, a man in otherworldly metal armour rode up on a two-wheeled metal beast and rescued him… Over the next few days, he met other members of the metal man’s team of heroes, and with their help managed to track down the Kitsune, who had been summoned for a ritual. Unfortunately she was able to escape back to the past, leaving the Samurai trapped in this new world. With nothing else to do, he joined the team, known as the Sentinel Initiative, and began to study magic in the hopes of finding his own way home…
I decided to play him as an archetypal “Man with No Name” or “Mysterious Stranger” character. As far as the team are concerned, he really doesn’t have a name. He’s just the Samurai, a stern warrior concerned with honour and the defence of those he deems to be his responsibility. He feels a duty to protect humanity as a whole, and as such can become more than a little aggressive when threats such as alien invasions and the like start to appear. A large part of his drive to protect, and his feelings of responsibility, come from his failure to protect his own lord. As traveller from the past, he isn’t particularly familiar with technology, and is actually uncomfortable with it in general, which is why he withdraws to a home in the mountains when he isn’t needed by the group. He prefers to rely on his own abilities, and has begun to cultivate some magical talent in order to try to find a way back to his own time, though whether or not he would wish to permanently return is something he doesn’t yet know.
If any of you are familiar with GURPS, you’ll know that it’s a highly customisable rule set, meaning it was fairly easy to try to fit some nice thematic magical abilities. We decided to go with an elemental connection, skinning them as nature spirits in the form of animals, as it seemed to work in well with the character. The fox is a fire based homing attack; the snake represents water and slows down enemies by wrapping itself around them; earth is a bear that rises out of the ground and holds foes in place; and his horse is an air spirit that can transport him faster than almost any other character in the game as they tend to phase past long portions of terrain (I think the only two characters that might beat him are the teleporter and the demigod when he’s in speedster mode). In terms of his other abilities, he has a sword that can cut through a tank like a hot knife through butter; fairly reasonable damage reduction from his armour, and is also an effective hand to hand combatant. He can parry bullets due to his enhanced sense of time, and is capable of running on water, or with some effort, up the side of buildings or straight through thin air.
All in all, he’s a pretty versatile character. He doesn’t really excel at any one thing like most of the characters do, but there’s not really anything he’s terrible at. He’s just a fairly efficient fighter with some fun little abilities. As anyone who’s played a fighter in an RPG will know, just because you’re a simple bruiser doesn’t mean you can’t have some real fun with it… I think my standout moment with this character was when we were fighting alien ships that were attacking a nuclear missile base. It was hard for most of the characters to do any real damage, since the ships had such high armour. I on the other hand had a sword that could cut straight through them (mechanically speaking, the sword has Armour Divisor 10, which means you divide the armour rating of whatever you’re attacking by 10 before applying damage), but had trouble getting to them due to height and distance. While I could run up to them through the air, it made it hard to hit them and left me vulnerable… so I came up with a strategy with one of the other players, who plays a fallen angel looking for redemption. Essentially we came up with what we called the surfboard tactic, where I balanced on his back while he flew me right underneath each ship, so that I could cut them in half.
All in all, the Samurai is a lot of fun to play. I may have my issues with the GURPS rule set, but I don’t let that get in the way of having a good time with a great group of players. The fact that Mark is a brilliant GM has also helped keep the group going strong, despite the occasional hiatus. There’s a story arc focused entirely on the Samurai coming up, and I don’t know what will happen… will he get his revenge finally, and continue to protect the world as best he can? Will he realise that revenge isn’t worth it, and move on? Will he still be a hero at the end of it, or will he find his way home and try to rebuild a place for himself in his own time? I won’t know until it plays out, but no matter what happens, I can honestly say this: Its been one hell of a ride…
Written while listening to InnerPartySystem. They’re an electronic rock band that released a self titled album back in 2008 that has one of my favourite songs on it, This Empty Love. I highly recommend checking them out, even though they’ve broken up now.
Thanks to the GM for the Supers game, Mark, for commissioning portraits of all of the characters in the group. The art was done by the same artist who did the sketch for my previous update featuring my werewolf, Varian Blackthorne. Once I get time to write-up some more characters, I’ll be trying to get a lot more art for the blog to pretty things up a little bit. If you’re interested in having some art commissioned for your own use, please check out the artist’s Fiverr page here.