Monday, January 7, 2013
Game Idea: Side Kick Stories
by Tobie Abad
Sometimes, it can get tiring to be the guy in the spotlight. Sometimes, it can get boring to always be the lead in the ensemble cast. Why not try something different by asking your game master to let you play the side kick for a session. I can already hear some of you readers crying out, "What? No way! Why would I let a NPC be in charge of all the drama and deeper decision making?"
Because that's not what is going to happen.
When we talk about sidekicks, we usually see them in the perspective of the super hero or lead hero. We see Batman and not Robin. We see Doc Savage and not Monk. We see Han Solo and not Chewbacca. But we forget that another popular approach in fiction is to have the sidekicks at times be the focus of the story... or in some cases, be the person who actually makes the hero look good.
Think, for example of Brain the Dog (Inspector Gadget)
The Inspector is the lead. He's got all the super-cool gadgets and he's the guy who is given the missions. But if you study some of the episodes of the cartoon, it is actually Brain the Dog who gets the poor Inspector out of the messes he gets himself in. Brain is the hero the world never sees. Brain is the "straight guy" to the humorous bumbling character. And you'll realize that sidekicks do tend to be more heroic than noticed whenever we have such a bumbling lead hero.
Another example? Consider Jack Sparrow. (Pirates of the Caribbean)
He's kooky and crazy with plans that somehow work out in the end. But he's surrounded by the straight thinking cast of sidekicks who do what they can to help move the plot forward. Yes, unlike Inspector Gadget, here Jack Sparrow is actually more effective and miraculously efficient (I'd peg him one of the Inspired if we were playing Adventure!) but the sidekicks are not exactly aimless and storyless without him.
Finally, consider Doctor Who.
The good Doctor is hundreds of years old and has had so many regenerations, it isn't hard to see why he needs someone... a companion... to help him stay grounded. In the many season since Dr. Who was relaunched for the younger generation, we've had a host of companions helping him in his misadventures: Rose Tyler, Mickey Smith, Donna Noble, Martha Jones, Jack Harkness, Astrid Peth, Sarah Jane Smith, Jackson Lake, Rosita Farisi, Lady Christina de Souza, Adelaide Brooke, Wilfred Mott, Amy Pond, Rory Williams, River Song, Craig Owens and the latest being Clara Oswin Oswald. Fans of the show will very clearly deny that these characters are boring wall-flowers that don't really make a difference in the story. More often than not, they're the ones who save the day.
So yeah, the life of a Side Kick isn't necessarily dull and limited to just following orders. There are lots of pros that you might not have noticed which you might want to try indulging in.
Sidekicks tend to be below the radar
Aliens emerge and land on Cardiff. Everyone looks for the Doctor. But no one notices you, standing there near him, with a better sense of who might be an alien in disguise. Yes, the lead might have the better stats, the greater knowledge base, but think about it: This really isn't that different from you as the hero asking the GM "What do I know about this?" Only now, the person you have to ask is another character in the game. Being the sidekick, however, you get to move around without being noticed as much. You can do questionable things like break the law or threaten violence which the hero might be unable to do. You are the wildcard the villains will under estimate. The one they will assume to be the weakspot. Until you prove them wrong.
Sidekicks can also get cool stuff for free
You just have to eventually return it. So when the Galaxy Space Policeman is busy monitoring the Space Police headquarters for possible trouble, he can leave you the keys to the Universal Porsche. While the Democratic Bronze General is meeting with the President to receive his reward, he might leave you the Headquarter's keys for monitoring purposes. And that means access to so many other goodies.
In most games, a super hero or other personality needs to purchase the special gadgets, secret sanctum and other benefits they can use. Sidekicks do not need to buy these things. But they can get to use them with the hero's consent. So play a sidekick game and borrow what you need!
Sidekicks are almost always underestimated
And this might be the best thing about playing one. The hero gets trapped and the sidekicks are held hostage. Only in this story, the hostages break themselves free and save the day. Playing the underdog who wins the day can be very fulfilling. And watching how even after the public still adores the hero is comedic gold.
On the flip side, you can just be the hilarious sidekick, and the hero's the serious one
You get to laugh at the face of danger. You can to be daringly stupid. You can throw wild stunts and leave it to the Hero to make sure you survive it in the end.
So try a Sidekick game even just once. Whether as the squire of the noble knight in a Pathfinder game, or the lowly deckhand in a 7th Sea session, try being the guy the spotlight never sees and have fun with it. More ways to have fun is always a good thing.