I think I’ve told this story before but I can’t find where I did it so… here it is again. I used to have a couple of gaming groups, back before I was married. One of them I ran and GMed 99% of the time. The other, I tended not to, mostly because the people in the group really weren’t of the right mindset for the way I GMed.
Now toward the end, I kind of faded in and out of that second group, which met on Friday nights, even though I had been a founding member. I had a lot going on, I had a girlfriend, and gaming really wasn’t that important to me, especially because the one guy, Rob, who was GMing most of the time, really got to the point where he pissed me off. So one week, when I was bored, I showed up to the group just as they were starting a new Mekton game. They asked if I wanted to jump in. Sure, why not?
So I created a character named Joe Orokamono, which in Japanese is “Joe Fuckhead”. I rolled him up legitimately at the table and he was a hot shot mecha jock with really high scores in piloting and combat. Now personally, I tend to make my characters complex whether I have to or not so I built this back story for him, where he was a sociopath, he didn’t care about anyone or anything but his girlfriend and her grandfather, both of who were waiting for him back at his secret base. He just stumbled into this particular operation and, thinking he might profit from it, he threw his hat into the ring and joined on. He wasn’t a dick or anything, he didn’t go around killing other party members for fun or anything like that, but he was quite clear that his loyalty was to himself and his “family” and the party was a distant second. He would work to keep the party alive so long as it served his interests, but if they got in his way, he’d have no problem separating them from their heads.
Now the adventure started out well enough, we were mercenaries tasked with sneaking into the enemy-controlled camp, getting details of their upcoming battle plan and getting out, or if that didn’t work, causing as much damage to their plan as we could. We started by contracting a civilian hover-transport that was making a circuit of islands outside of enemy territory, but close enough that we could either hopscotch from island to island and make it ashore to the enemy homeland, or could get to the closest island and contract another inconspicuous form of transport to our destination. Let’s be honest, the GM ripped the transport straight out of Orguss.
So as we’re on this long, boring trip, moving from island to island, one of the other members, a crazy-eyed scientist type, decided to try his hand at upgrading weapons and armor systems, using some of the high-tech gear on the transport. He had moderate success, some people’s gear got better, some, maybe not so much, but when he got to my mech, he had an amazing critical role and ended up creating a long range sniper rifle that had both range, accuracy and damage to take out just about anything we might encounter. Just as we were enjoying our good fortune, we were attacked by the enemy, the hovercraft captain had sold us out. Those of us with mecha took to the skies to give the civilian crew of the hovercraft time to get away and we were doing really well, up until the GM brought in his “supervillain” pilot, clearly rippled off from Gundam’s Char Aznable. The guy immediately started causing massive damage, he put a missile into the hovercraft’s engine, sending it splashing down into the ocean where it began to sink at an alarming rate, and generally being a complete ass. So, I drop my regular weapon and pick up the supergun that had been created and draw a bead on the “supervillain”. It’s a clean shot, nothing in the way, I pull the trigger and roll my dice. The GM announces that I missed. Crap. So I tried again. I applied every bonus I had to the shot, I rolled a critical hit… and missed again. Now wait a second, I could not have missed, I just couldn’t. The GM had the enemy start falling back and I said the hell with this. I took off from the deck of the hovercraft and chased after his “supervillain”. My mech was faster, it was stronger and I had this weapon that could blow the flies off a bumblebee 10 miles away. I took shot after shot after shot, all of them missed and the “supervillain” started moving faster than I was, even though it wasn’t possible for him to do so. The GM wasn’t even making rolls, he made it clear that this pilot had script immunity, which is a really, really awful thing in a game. After a while, I gave up and circled around to the downed hovercraft so we could plot our next move, really pissed off at the GM’s overt manipulation.
From our location on the map, there was really only one option. I had become the de facto leader of the group, I was the strongest combat pilot, I was a natural leader and frankly, it really wasn’t in Joe’s nature to let others lead the way. There was a small, neutral island near our position where I thought we could regroup, resupply ourselves (since most of our supplies were going down with the ship) and decide our next move somewhere that the ground wasn’t sinking under us. Everyone else agreed, at least everyone but the GM. The GM said we ought to head for the enemy coastline. Unfortunately, it was too far away, none of our mechs had enough range to get there, we’d all end up crashing into the sea if we tried. It was a suicidal move and thus, we all decided not to do that and go with the original plan. We gathered up what few supplies we could and headed off toward the nearby island.
That was the end of that night of gaming. The next week, we all got together, with the intention of following our plan on the island and finding some way to get to the enemy mainland. However, the GM announced that we were already there, fully supplied and ready to get on with his “story”. See, the GM had already plotted out the entire story, down to the last detail, long before any of us ever sat down to play and damn it, we were going to follow his story of he had to drag us around by the nose to do it.
This pissed everyone off, especially me. It’s one thing to push a little, it’s another to force the players to follow a script. This started a long argument at the table about the use of coercion in a role-playing game which ended up with the GM making it very clear that he had it all planned out and we were expected to do what he wanted, so there. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, I wanted to play a game, not get led through his barely interactive book so I had Joe pull out his sidearm, stick it in his mouth and pull the trigger. The GM announced that I survived. Shaking my head, I climbed up into the barrel of my super-weapon and, by remote control, had my mech pull the trigger. This is not something that you even have to roll for, it’s like standing naked next to a nuclear explosion, you have a 0% chance of survival, you’re just dead.
I survived. It was at that point that I realized I was just done. I picked up my sheet, I wished everyone a good night and took my leave of the group for the last time and away I went. Of course, immediately after that, I got engaged and really didn’t have any time to play anyhow, but that’s beside the point. I was done and even though Joe Orokamono was never the most serious of characters, I played him straight and he was actually really fun to play, but there’s no point in playing a game when you’re just getting railroaded. I found out later that the GM had simply pulled up a copy of my character sheet and run my character as an NPC for the remainder of the game, which wasn’t long because my exit had caused many of the other players to bow out of the group as well.
Since then, I’ve written a couple of stories about Joe, he’s become one of my most detailed and interesting creations, far beyond what was intended in that little pickup game that I stepped into out of boredom. He’s never a good guy, he’s an anti-hero to be sure, he does good in spite of himself and quite often, he’s an evil bastard, but he has his priorities and he’s a very protective husband and father now, although those things happened long after I stopped caring about that gaming group and most of the people in it.
I guess even the most hastily rolled, flippantly formulated characters can turn into something special if they just get a little love and if you forget the pain and frustration that accompanied their origin.