Assembling the Team
Somewhere across the life of every roleplayer comes a moment to gear up, sharpen your knives, load up your guns and put together an amazing Team. This is very different from simply creating a group of characters: it involves picking the right people for the job, venturing through back-alleys to fish up old comrades, persuading legendary specialists, rekindling the spirits of disheartened veterans, and more. Assembling the Team is something that usually happens when a group of characters is recruited for the purpose of fulfilling a specific goal, job or task: from a band of thieves preparing for the break-in of the century, to Space Marines reconquering an alien warzone, to adventurers recovering a powerful artefact from the depths of a perilous dungeon.
In Blackwind, Assembling the Team usually appears at the beginning of a story, during the SETUP; however, it may also appear (at least partially) every time a NEW PLAN is drafted. Often, but not always, individual team members are put together through a short montage featuring a string of ASSEMBLING THE TEAM episodes.
What is most important however, is that while a simple group of characters is often disorganized, an assembled Team may feature an array of specific ROLES that balance each other out, and ensure the group will be well rounded and full of interesting dynamics and lively banter. The most common ROLES are:
– The Leader
– The Disciple
– The Specialist
– The Comrade
– The Buddy
– The Champion
– The Fake
The Leader is usually the one who is first contacted by those who need to assemble or hire the group of specialists, the one who receives or plans the MISSION, and the one who will call the shots about actual group members. This lynchpin may be a non player character played by the DIR, or may be controlled by one of the players. Usually he or she also serves as the moral compass of the group, usually being the oldest or most experienced group member. Often someone smooth, slightly jaded by past defeats and seeking success, re-affirmation or redemption, and the character most concerned with strategy and tactics. A Leader character is usually introduced through a dedicated sub-plot that bears no connection to the MAIN PLOT: here the Leader shows role and off-role features or skills that will define him for the rest of the adventure (HIGH CONCEPT CHARACTER). If this character has been hired by someone else, he will usually REFUSE THE CALL and attempt to turn down the task by all means necessary. Whenever the MISSION also implies frequent moral choices, he will represent the compassionate, wise, strong and brave side of the group. May, optionally, share a GHOST, (a burden, haunting past event or a fall from grace) with the Comrade, that will then need to be overcome with a joint effort.
The Leader is often accompanied or followed by a Disciple. This is someone who is usually very young, lacking experience and looking up to the Leader as a model of behaviour and skill. In this case, the Leader doubles as a straightforward MENTOR that may train his Disciple (and sometimes the rest of the group as well) in terms of practical skills, life philosophy, moral lessons and so on. The Disciple is the most naive member of the group, often serving as a counterpart to other, more jaded party members. He provides a fresh outlook on the events the group will come across, and will usually be marked by extraordinary honesty, ingenuity, and a spontaneous behaviour. If there is a romantic sub-plot, the Disciple is the character who is most likely to get involved, either with support NPCs, DIRECTOR’s NPCs and even other group members. The Disciple is usually the one who will push the hardest (and even beg) to be taken as the Leader’s apprentice. The Leader might be reluctant at first, but eventually agree.
The Specialist is, very simply, a character who is exceptionally skilled in one particular field (SPADES protagonist). He usually acts as the second-in-command and is the character who will contribute the most, aside from the Leader, in fleshing out the PLAN. Usually (though of course, not always) their relationship with the Leader will be a friendly and professional one, of mutual collaboration and respect. Similarly to the Leader, their role lies mostly in planning and giving technical direction to the group.
The Comrade is a character that shares part of his background with the LEADER, usually the same near-death experience, GHOST, or defeat they both must atone for or overcome. This character is often someone who gave up their previous lifestyle, settled down for something , that they will once again leave either for good or for “one last job”. The reasons behind this are often personal (GHOST and similar FATAL FLAWS) and moral: the MISSION represents one last chance to rise up, prove their worth, experience one last taste of the glory of their youth or settle down for good something that is yet unresolved. These reasons tie the Comrade and the Leader together, as the two share not only a common past, but similar moral ideas and a hunger for personal fulfillment. They might be driven by a past failure or betrayal, guilt, a hidden flaw or a negative event in their past; additionally however, the Comrade will combine a strong sense of loyalty towards the Leader with these reasons, making his committment a matter of guilt, redemption, honour and reliving past glories all at once.
An amusing, cheeky, friendly or simply warm-hearted group member. His strongest feature does not lie in his practical skills (HEARTS PROTAGONIST) rather in keeping the moral of the group high, and to balance out the darkest and most disheartening moments. He is often a DIR-controlled NPC, but he may be chosen by players just as well. It is one of the easiest and most straightforward roles within a Team.
This is a highly skilled character, an absolute master of his chosen field (SPADES PROTAGONIST). An ascetic fighter, a silent or brooding hero, always serious and boasting nerves of steel. This character is unmovable, unyielding and largely impossible to faze, often becoming a paragon and even a MENTOR for the DISCIPLE, who will inevitably be drawn to imitate the CHAMPION.
This character pretends to be something they are not, lying about their curriculum or life story in order to join the group. Not necessarily a traitor, a spy, or someone with ill intentions, this character may also be someone brave and impetuous with a genuine desire to help out, often bonding with the BUDDY in his crazy antics and trickster-like demeanor. This character must prove their worth on the field, or die trying, overcoming his or her flaws only toward the end of the story (LOW CONCEPT PROTAGONIST). They are often an underdog or a vagabond, ignorant and aggressive yet at the same time noble of heart and cunning: this is a flexible and impactful character that may be played in many ways, representing the most primal embodiment of human energy, will and might without finesse or technique, unfiltered by the constraints of society or typical ROLE stereotypes. He is often pragmatic and interested in tangible rewards rather than the moral aspects of the MISSION.
A few examples of these roles may be found in “Seven Samurai” and “Ocean’s Eleven”.