Monday, April 4, 2011

D is for: Draco

The first character I made for Champions was "Draco" - a dragon-themed character who was tough, strong, could fly, and could breathe fire. Originally my thought was that he was an archeologist who was changed by some magical ring that he discovered but that never played a huge role in our games. Here's his character sheet circa 1984:

I think more character sheets should have those nifty silhouettes on them. I used Liquid Paper to cover up the outline of the head so I could add the snout without a black line cutting through it. 

In the spirit of my "Unfortunate Character" posts lets look him over a bit, shall we?

A 35 Str is not enough to be a real strong-guy type but it's not terrible. Con is good, but his defenses are a little low for a supposed Brick type character. He's not going to get stunned very often, especially with his 1/2 damage reduction vs. energy, but an 11 PD is just terrible on this type of character. At least his 20 Body makes him hard to kill and a 30 presence means he might pull off some presence attacks nicely.

A 3d6 HKA is pretty strong and a 14d6 energy blast is also pretty strong. If I was updating him for today I would drop the claws down, maybe drop them altogether, and I would also reduce the flame breath to 10 or 12 dice with a cone or line effect and bump his strength up to 50. I had forgotten about the smoke cloud power, that's a pretty cool little trick to have at hand in some fights. Flight, growth, density increase, and danger sense are all part of the dragon concept and so at least make sense. He should really really have some armor to represent his scaly hide and boost those defenses as well.

Clearly he has something against robots as he's hunted by Mechanon and has a hatred of robots. I don't remember what the exact backstory was but I thin kit had something to do with being used by Mechanon to attack innocents as a diversion for one of his master plans. Unusual looks- hey he looks like a dragon-man, what can he do?  I'm not sure about the temperature vulnerability/susceptibility but I would not do them that way now. I might make it a speed drain when in colder temperatures so that he gets sluggish rather than taking damage.

Anyway, that's how he started out. I made a version of him for Marvel Super Heroes too but I do not appear to have that sheet anymore. Ah well. I can, however, tell you where some of the inspiration for his look came from: it was an old 45 RPM Spider-Man story record.

A friend of mine had this when I was a kid and that thing stuck in my head and stayed there for decades. Here's a page from the interior:

You can see in that middle panel pretty much everything you need to see to understand where he comes from. Heck, that guy is flying backwards and he's still getting a shot off!

So jump forward 20-odd years and we can assume all this is forgotten, right? Draco's yellowing old character sheet lives on a bookshelf in the garage along with a bunch of other old Champions material, never to be seen again, right? Sort of... then this happened:

Yeah, it's City of Heroes again. I swear, the character creator for that game is just amazing and it is incredibly capable when it comes to realizing old Champions RPG characters. If you're running or playing a game and want to make a CGI rendition of a character or characters then I recommend grabbing the free demo of the game and trying it out.,Even if you just use it for making up character designs and have no intention of playing the game, it's an awesome tool. Champions Online is now free and it has a very nifty character creator too, I just like the COH builder better. Both are very cool if you're looking for a way to do something like this.

So in COH his name is Draco Rex and he emphasizes the fire aspect of his powers a little more. He is much more of a brick type character than the old version, being super-strong and having very strong defenses that play off of his fiery aura which looks very cool in use.

His background in that game is that he was a famous hero in another dimension where dragon-men were common and when he went up against his arch-nemesis for the final time, the evil wizard hit him with a spell so powerful it sent him to another dimension, where he was the only one of his kind. After a period of disorientation he realized that while he was searching for a way back home he could continue his heroic career here as well, becoming a superhero and even joining up with a supergroup along the way.

The whole thing is a little funny because as much and as long as I have played D&D I've never had a desire to play a dragon-person. Maybe it's because I DM a lot and get to play actual dragons - which is great fun, make no mistake - but I've just never really given it much thought. Dragonlance had the draconians as a bad guy race and that was probably the first fantasy depiction of them that I can recall. D&D 3rd edition introduced the Dragon Disciple prestige class where a member of another race could slowly become a dragon. Arcana Evolved added a player race that was basically a dragon-man. Even Shadowrun added drakes (human-sized dragon types) with "Wake of the Comet" late in 3rd Edition.  Then 4th Edition D&D came along and made Dragonborn a standard player race and now they're everywhere. I don't have anything against dragon-people (I think Dragonborn are pretty cool, actually, maybe because they play a lot like my guy here) but I've never thought of them as a character type outside of a superhero game. I was playing one almost 30 years ago in one game but I never considered doing it again in another until recently.

It also brings up something I worry about sometimes when it comes to games and characters and that is slotting. In a D&D style game, especially a class-based one, it's OK to have roles and jobs within a group but when you get into superhero type games it should be wide-open. Looking back at that old character sheet it strikes me that he's not really a brick but he's also not really a traditional energy projector type either, and many modern games, even superhero games, try to pigeonhole characters almost from creation into a "type". Some of this comes from MMORPG's, even the traditional fantasy ones because the model works so well - Tanker, Healer, Damage-Dealer, Controller, and the hybrid types. However, just because it works there doesn't mean it's always the best answer. Look at Superman - he's usually typed as "flying tank" and that's not untrue, but he can also shoot beams from his eyes (blaster), and blow people back or freeze them in place (controller). That's a much more complex character type than "tank" or "brick" so if a game is trying to recreate a comic book feel then any kind of framework or role-designation may well interfere with that effort at simulation.

Some days you are your own worst enemy
I don't want to get too distracted with my generalizing and grousing about this so let's take a look at Draco Rex for Icons:

Draco Rex
Prowess: 6 (Remarkable)
Coordination: 5 (Excellent)
Strength: 8 (Amazing)
Intellect: 4 (Good)
Awareness: 5 (Excellent)
Willpower: 6 (Remarkable)

Stamina: 14
Determination: 1

Origin: Transformed (+2 to Strength)

Specialties: Athletics, Occult

Fiery Blast - 6 (Remarkable) - Draco can breathe green flames as a ranged attack
Fiery Aura - 5 (Excellent) - Draco can wreathe his body in green flames as a magical effect
Invulnerability - 7 (Incredible) - Draconic physique and hide
Extra Body Parts - 6 (Remarkable) Wings (flight at speed 6) 

"Hero" - Draco Rex is the equivalent of an Arthurian Knight, albeit from another dimension. He has codes of honor and behavior that can limit his options, especially when it comes to dangerous situations around non-supers.

 "Stranger in a Strange Land" - Draco is not from around here and did not grow up in human society or in a technological society, meaning he doesn't always understand the subtleties of modern life

"Unusual Looks" - he looks like an 8' glowing green dragon man with big green wings. This is not always an advantage, and he can't just put on a hat and a trenchcoat to hide it.

"Solo" - Draco is the only one of his people on Earth, as far as he knows. This means that everything from clothing to medical attention is problematic. This could also be used as a mental challenge as he has no true companions from his home, nor does he have contact with  family or home either. His drive to be reunited with them could come into conflict with his sense of duty as a hero mentioned above and make for some interesting sessions.

Under the point build system he is about 60 points.  I considered adding his claws back in but with Strength 8 I don't think he really needs them. He could also benefit from the Regeneration power, and I might give up the Fiery Aura to get it.

In play he's  likely the team brick but he can hold his own in a ranged fight too and can be of use when it comes to magical research, devices, and enemies as well. 

While playing him in City of Heroes I eventually created Draco Polaris, Draco Ignis, and Draco Nyx, using a similar theme but having powers based on Ice, all-out Fire, and Darkness, respectively. I gave them a different background as being from a distant star and sent to Earth as a team to hunt down an old enemy. They are not strictly tied to Draco Rex other than by appearance (but they are blue, red, and purple respectively instead of green) but could be used in a tabletop RPG as brothers or enemies or rivals with a similar background to his. 

So that's Draco in all of his versions. In a lighter game I would de-emphasize the alien loner lost on another world aspect and play up the humorous side more - trying to fit through doors, buying clothes, riding a bus, etc. In a serious gritty type game he can be the brooding fish-out-of-water that longs for home and is tortured by his desire to get there facing off with his sense of duty to his newfound companions on the super team.  It's funny how inspiration can strike from different sources - remember all of the stuff in this post started with that book & record set somewhere back in the 70's and it's still in my head 30+ years later. 

Those Skulls are looking for trouble, and Draco is going to give it to them
I'm thinking that since April has 30 days and the alphabet is a bit shorter than that I may post a few follow-ups at the end of the month, like maybe stats for some of these characters in other game systems like Mutants and Masterminds or Savage Worlds. If anyone has any interest in that please let me know in the comments and I'll work on them in the background


Adam Dickstein said...

I'm thinking you could have gone with an Elemental Power Framework in Champions, with the set being labeled 'Dragon' or 'Draconic Powers' since they all follow a single theme pretty closely. This would have given you more bang for your buck with your character points.

Similarly if making him for Mutants & Masterminds (Which I highly recommend. Have you tried the 3rd Edition? It's fresh!) I would recommend investigating building his dragon based abilities as an array.

I have now discussed rules more in one comment then I usually do in a month. I feel...dirty.

Alex Osias said...

Awesome. I love the old-style champions character sheet too!

Blacksteel said...

Hey BA - If I was to remake him today in 4th or 5th I would go with an EC. That sheet is from a looong time ago. For M&M I'm still on 2nd Edition for now and I will probably experiment with adapting him to that at least.

Ka-Blog - thanks and I agree!

Adam Dickstein said...

Second Edition? Why, that's so last edition of you. lol

Honestly I would give 3rd Edition a looksee when you get the chance. It's very cool. I like it better than 2nd and I really liked Second.

Regardless of edition, please post your Draco stats for M&M when you do put them together. I for one would love to see it.