Sunday, October 07, 2007

Twenty Years Ago...Silverwing, Part II

Faced with the challenge of adapting a little-used character into an established role-playing campaign, I took Silverwing and fleshed him out into something a little more substantial than just a costume and a pile of numbers.

The Aegis campaign was based in Baltimore, Maryland. Why it was based in Baltimore I never knew, but I accepted it and moved on. Looking at a map, I noticed that Baltimore was not very far from Washington, D.C., and where better to base my patriotic hero? I found where Aegis Headquarters was located, in a lighthouse on Gibson Island and mapped it out. Silver Spring was nearly the same distance from Gibson Island as Baltimore was. I’ve always liked legacy characters, too, so I made Silverwing the third character to bear the name. I had the World War II father, the Viet Nam-era brother, who was MIA, and then the youngest, my character. I also saw on the map that Silver Spring, Maryland was near both Washington and Baltimore, so I established the family homestead there. He would live with his retired superhero father and his mother. After the loss of their oldest son, they would want their youngest close at hand. For a secret identity, I was looking for a name that stood out a little more than an alliterative Peter Parker or Reed Richards. I had been watching the Iran-Contra hearings and liked the name of Oliver North’s attorney, Brendan Sullivan, so I borrowed it in the form of Brandon. And since he would be a descendant of my knight, Sir James Silverwing, the last name Jameson clicked in. Thus was born Brandon Jameson, aka Silverwing!

The first version of Silverwing had all-natural powers (without an origin) and I wanted to have the character make a little more rounded, instead of having some vague, birdlike powers. I didn’t want to play a mutant because the world’s history was full of X-Men-like angst and I just didn’t see my patriot playing the victim. So I explained his flight as the function of a prototype battlesuit like Guardian/Vindicator used in Alpha Flight. As it turned out, the American government had stolen the technology without Silverwing’s knowledge. His shield was not indestructible like Captain America’s, but was instead laced with adamantium in the paint, making it tougher than normal metal. The circuitry in his battlesuit not only allowed him to fly through electromagnetic means, but also to use the shield to reflect attacks back at anyone firing on him. On the other hand, it also made him vulnerable to electrical attacks, as feedback. Silverwing naturally inherited one of his father’s old enemies, Shocktrooper, who wielded the very energy that would take advantage of this defect. By naturally, I mean the the gamemaster chose him for me. Silverwing’s natural speed and combat training made him fairly formidable. He also had an innate danger sense that made it difficult to catch him by surprise.

I wrote Silverwing with a very strong moral code. He would never accept killing as a method, instead believing that every man and woman was born with an inalienable right to life. He would sacrifice himself before allowing someone else to be killed. He really did believe in truth, justice, and the American way, even during a time when America wasn’t using those beliefs all the time. He was nearly a hero of the 1940s as his father was before him.

I had to make all of this work within the framework of a game system with which I was still unfamiliar. I went out and bought every rulebook I could find for Champions. This would include Champions, Champions II, Champions III, Danger Unlimited, Super Agents, and others. To get all the rules in one place would have been too much to ask. Over the years, every new supplement included rules that would allow you to create the character you wanted. So, I packed all of these new books in my game bag, and took them with me on substitute teaching assignments. Most of these substitute assignments consisted of showing a movie or handing out a worksheet, so working on gaming stuff was not a problem. I only occasionally got to teach. I also used to work at the 24-hour Family Foods grocery chain six days a week, and in order to get Sunday off to play in the Aegis campaign, I had to agree to work overnight Saturday night. I would be lucky to see 10 customers in an eight-hour shift, so I brought my game bag along. I worked through the rules like a student fresh out of college could, and I soon had the rules worked out pretty well.

With a new character sheet in hand and a better understanding of the rules, I was ready to jump back into the Aegis game with a character I could feel confident in playing.

Next week: Silverwing’s first adventure with Aegis!

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