WWDSD-What Would Doctor Smith Do?

December 15, 2009


Roll Dem Bones

That’s the philosophical question that has been rummaging around in my mind for the last few weeks since one of the Metro Detroit television stations has been running the classic sci-fi television show Lost In Space.

Dr. Smith in most episodes was at the heart of Lost In Space. The actor Jonathan Harris as Dr. Smith was an amazing performer. Dr. Smith is easily one of the most memorable sci-fi characters of all time. So memorable that Ral Partha even did a miniature called Zacharias that was obviously Dr. Smith.  But then again Ral Partha also did a samurai miniature that had a cigar clenched in its teeth, an obvious homage to the John Belushi samurai from the NBC classic Saturday Night Live

My point buried in all of these classic television recollections is characters; or more precisely, playing them. I am a huge maven for the Savage Worlds role-playing game. I am one of the D-Savages, the Metro Detroit demo team for Savage Worlds. Running all the Savage Worlds games I do at the conventions, if you play in one of my Savage World games, you will be playing with one my cast of hundreds, a pre-generated character.

I take pride in the characters I make. Making characters, assembling Attributes (stats), Skills, Edges and Hindrances are easy enough. The hard part is breathing life into them. Savage Worlds has by far the easiest, robust, detailed character generation available to a role-playing game. At Metro Detroit Gamer’s WinterCon 2009 convention I was running a Savage Worlds crossover game using Tri-Tac games Bureau 13 and Reality Blur’s Realms of Cthulhu. One of the things I did and will do at all of my convention games is create a character with people playing in the game. In that game it took the six players about twenty minutes to flesh out a character. And this was a character with motivations and a background that could be role-played rather amusingly.

Right next to our table somebody from the Paizo Pathfinders was running a Pathfinder fantasy game. I am not saying this to brag, but most of the players from that game were studying the goings on at my table. Next session the GM tried to do what I did, creating character(s) on the fly. That began just after 12 noon. When I packed up and left the room around 1:30PM they were still struggling to finish the character(s).

Last week I made a character based off Dr. Smith. I am trying to be objective when I detail those results versus my words making me sound like a braggart. At the heart of having fun in a role-playing game is playing a character of your choosing and being able to participate in the game and give enjoyment to everybody else playing. I captured the reality of Dr. Smith in that character. Its not that the character was shockingly easy to make and would be a blast to play at a convention. It’s a personality that contrasts so well against your conventional characters in a RPG.

Allow me to jump to Farscape for a moment to illustrate what I am saying about personalities. Rigel being self-centered made the rest of the characters in the cast more real by diverging from their noble efforts. That’s reality.

Another example of this is from the first Conan movie. Conan has just had his female warrior companion die. His archer companion starts crying over the loss, saying he does it for Conan because Conan can’t cry. That moment locks down the truth of Conan. It identifies Conan’s essence and gives it depth.

 That’s it for now. Be good and have some Happity Holidays!


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