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Let Me Tell You About My Character

Sita Raven

by Chad Underkoffler
Sep 19,2002

 

Let Me Tell You About My Character...: Sita Raven

by Chad Underkoffler

Hello, and welcome to "Let Me Tell you About My Character..." (LMTYAMC). Each LMTYAMC... column contains two parts:

  1. A systemless character description, complete with goals, adventure seeds & plot hooks, and hints for using the character in alternate genres; and
  2. A short discussion about where I got the character idea, as well as random bits and pieces of things I'm thinking about gaming, geekdom, life, the universe, and everything.

When I say "systemless character description," I'm talking about a prose description (like you see below) with an assortment of:

  • Pseudo-Stats to give you a rough estimate for conversion to your favorite game system. The Pseudo-Stat rankings are -- in order of skill -- Poor, Average, Good, Expert, and Master. I'll use Pseudo-Stats for characters and equipment, as shown in the Tomahawk write-up.
  • Goals allow you to tweak characters to make them either heroic, self-interested or the "average person" (I use "Star" to indicate that the character is the star of their own life story, here -- neither good nor bad), or villainous.
  • Adventure Seeds & Plot Hooks and Alternate Worlds should be self-explanatory.


Captain Sita Raven
(Genre: Science-Fiction)

Born in Armstrong Dome, Sita Raven is the daughter of Colonel Henry Raven of the United States Space Force (USSF) and selenologist Jyotsna Bhabha. The exotic Ms. Raven likes to say that she's an "Indian/Indian" when asked about her heritage: this illustrates her combination of self-esteem and humor -- Sita knows enough not to take herself too seriously -- and has helped her deal with the troubles that life has thrown her way.

Like the long periods of time during her childhood when Henry was away from home because of his service. Or when Sita was twelve, the sudden death of her mother during a research expedition in Mare Crisium. Or when her father retired from the USSF, his love and feeling of responsibility for her outweighing his love of his military career. And all through her teenage years, as Henry tried to build a profitable interplanetary transport and courier service out of a single nearly-obsolete gravitic-drive spacecraft, bought with the entirety of his savings and military pension. Through all this, Sita learned to laugh and to take pride in herself: these two things kept her sane.

Her father taught her all he could of astrogation, piloting, space survival protocols, gravitic-drive repair, combat (both hand-to-hand and spacecraft dogfighting), and trade. While stellar at most of these, the last always escaped Henry. Left to his own devices, he would have run his fledgling company into the ground. Luckily, he soon learned that Sita had a better head for business than he, and began to rely on her judgment. The company's profits soared, and on her eighteen birthday, he made her a full partner in Raven Courier, Ltd.

Henry and Sita made a decent living, transporting high-ticket items -- like emergency replacement parts, specialized computer chips, objects of sentimental value, luxury items, and priority messages best not trusted to radio transmission. Their ship, the Tomahawk, became a familiar sight on the landing pads of the inner-system Domes and the corporate stations in the Asteroid Belt. Their life was exciting, vagabond, and adventurous.

Then, disaster: Henry became sick, infected with a strange virus from one of the Martian Domes. It attacked his nerves, consuming them entirely, causing him unbearable agony. The best physicians at the Armstrong VA eventually threw up their hands in helplessness. Even with his medical coverage as a veteran, the treatment costs skyrocketed. Adding insult to injury were the lost revenues from jobs that Raven Courier, Ltd. had to subcontract or turn away. When Henry finally died, Sita was twenty-eight and in dire straights. She was left with no savings, a double mortgage on the Tomahawk, substantial debts, and a lot of lost business goodwill.

Desperate, she began taking on less-savory assignments -- in a word: smuggling. She carried restricted goods stashed into hidden compartments, or sneaked quietly into closed ports. She's had to tussle with a few corporate security forces, but her hand-me-down military training from dad has paid off in spades. By dint of hard work, iron will, and excellent luck, she's so far managed to pay off most of her debts and one of the ship's mortgages. With this success, she's become pickier about the contraband she'll smuggle; for example, she'll transport weapons to a rebellious faction if she believes in their cause, or interdicted literature if she thinks the restricting Dome is being draconic, but she won't transport dangerous recreational drugs for a criminal cartel.

Today, Sita is a hard-drinking, hard-flying courier/smuggler. She's had her share of portside dalliances, but her one true love is the Tomahawk: it's her father's only legacy to her.

Sita Raven is a generally happy, pragmatic, and competent character. She has a core of sadness and loss at her center, and when forced to confront it, will take a risk or begin a spate of frenetic activity (like high-stakes gambling, dancing all night, strolls on the hull without a safety-line, compulsively reorganizing cargo, etc.) to cover up and/or get past those memories. She has friends, usually spacers or port personnel, but few are particularly close to her other than Gemma Kowalksi (the proprietor of Gemma's Place, a spaceport bar at Armstrong Dome, Luna) and the two members of the Tomahawk's crew (Fiddles O'Brien and Mbutu Jorwalski).

Pseudo-Stats

Sita is:

  • A Good astrogator;
  • A Good hand-to-hand fighter;
  • A Good pistol shot;
  • An Expert spacecraft pilot;
  • A Good spacecraft mechanic;
  • An Expert trader/smuggler;
  • A Good dancer; and
  • Poor at dealing with her feelings of loss and abandonment.

The Tomahawk has:

  • Good weaponry;
  • Master electronic countermeasures;
  • Expert shields and physical structure;
  • Good gravitic-drive;
  • Average life support (food processor is Poor); and
  • Expert hidden compartments.

Goals

  • Hero: Sita is a smuggler with a heart of gold. She's trying to pay off her debts the only way she knows how, in order to return Raven Courier, Ltd. to a purely above-board business concern. She wants to expand the corporation to become the pre-eminent courier service in the Solar System. Unfortunately, Hero Sita's good nature (and her profits) keeps getting hijacked by other worthy causes.
  • Star: Sita lives for adventure. While her main aim is to clear the debts from Raven Courier, Ltd.'s books, she'll probably never stop smuggling. The adrenaline rush is too intense. If Star Sita ever manages to eliminate her liabilities and financial responsibilities, she'll then live solely for excitement and adventure, only slowing down when she's dead.
  • Villain: Sita knows that the life's blood of existence is cold, hard cash. She hates being behind the eight ball of her debts, and will do anything to eliminate them. (This slightly modifies the types of goods she'll smuggle as noted above in her description; as a Villain, Sita will smuggle things she doesn't like, but charge extra.) A little space piracy isn't out of line, either. If she ever gets free and clear, she'll continue to pursue profit to the exclusion of all else. Money, for Villain Sita, is Safety.

Adventure Seeds & Plot Hooks

  • The PCs need to smuggle themselves into a restricted Dome or Asteroid Belt station. Through channels, they've discovered Sita's reputation; she's willing to help, at a reasonable price.
  • Sita delivers an important message/package for the PCs, sent by a mysterious patron. (Whether it's a gift or a trap is up to the GM.) In either case, while Sita will not reveal her employer, she's willing to arrange transportation to her last port (and perhaps a few clues) inexpensively.
  • Sita approaches the PCs for help -- perhaps she needs a larger crew for a particular job, or has decided to turn pirate full-time, or simply needs repairs on a specialized spacecraft component. She's willing to pay an average price for the work done, with significant bonus percentages if she's able to complete her current contract.

Alternate Worlds

  • Fantasy: Sita could be the captain of a small river sloop, plying her trade on the rivers and lakes of the Kingdom.
  • Superhero: Sita is a mercenary, plain and simple. Her primary powers are invisibility and superspeed. Able to cross borders in a flash, unseen, means her services are in wide demand.
  • Western: Sita becomes an independent courier (and erstwhile bounty hunter), riding the trails with important messages. Increase her fighting and shooting capabilities to Expert, and change "piloting" type skills to riding and survival type skills.

Inspiration(s) & Miscellany

Here's a list of inspirations for the character of Sita Raven; basically, aspects of each of these characters came together in my mind, and I stitched them together into what I feel is a consistent character:

My first thought in piecing all of these elements together was that I wanted a strong, memorable female character. So I thought about those female characters (and female friends) that stuck out in my memory. From that list, I selected what I most liked about each. Then I fused them a bit with the Han Solo character (probably introduced to the mix through Harrison Ford from Indy to Han). Then, I tried to think how such a character would be born and grow into what I wanted her to be -- a tough, action-junkie smuggler. A final polish to make it all shiny, and voila! Hello, Sita Raven.

Sita raises an interesting side-discussion, I think, and that is one of male players playing female characters. While I have never played a female character as a PC, as a GM, I often have to take on female roles. I'm not sure there's much difference between playing a female character and playing an elf -- people are people. But an excellent point to be made is that the type of people they are (female, senior citizen, elf, cyborg) will have a strong effect on their character. It's not that women are an alien race; they've just had different experiences, and a different culturally endorsed reaction to those experiences (whether biology plays a factor in this, I'm unsure; therefore, I operate solely on nurture rather than nature... seems to work okay). With all that in mind, put yourself in the character's shoes to respond, and see how even small differences in viewpoint or expectation influences character.

I could be wrong. If you think I'm off base, or have any other comment on this column, feel free to leave a message below or email me!


Chad Underkoffler is a freelance RPG writer. His "Campaign in a Box" column appears bimonthly at Pyramid Online.

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