Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Love It When A Bonus Post Comes Together: When Life Imitates (sorta) Art...

As one of the bajillion children born around our nation's bi-centennial, fully half of whom were named Jason and the other half Jennifer, I had the pleasure of growing up in the golden age of affable, cartoony, fantasy violence of 80s television. It was as fun time, a lighter time, a time before every other program was a Law and Order spin-off about rape. These were the days when you could trust Sledgehammer to shoot that big-ass magnum of his willy-nilly and blow up half of LA to catch a purse snatcher and no one would get hurt because he knew what he was doing. A time when Hulk Hogan could tie the spine of some poor, nameless heel into a pretzel on Friday night and be solving mysteries with the whole WWF gang on Saturday morning. And, most importantly, when you could watch a fugitive secret commando unit who had been imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit, and were currently operating as soldiers of fortune in the LA area, blast through the streets of Riverside or Glendale or wherever in a homemade IFV welded up from an old Delta 88 and some rusty-ass sheet steel while hanging out the windows rattling off full-auto bursts from their M-16s or Uzis or whatever was in the budget that week and generally having a ripping good time while no one really got hurt. "But Jason" you ask, "What does all this nostalgia for hilariously weak plots and hokey, poorly delivered dialogue have to do with games?" I'm glad you asked, gentle reader. It has everything to do with an idea I had about the A-Team as a party of player characters. Would you like to know more? Well, carry on..

Take a moment, if you haven't already, to bask in the glory of the new A-Team trailer down at the bottom of the post. Go ahead, I'll wait. Awesome, right? I mean, just look at that! There's Hannibal! And Murdoch! And B.A. Baracus! And, and, the Van! Oh Sweet Baby Jesus they've got the Van in there! Anyway, now that we've all composed ourselves after having a minute-thirty of pure distilled awesome injected straight into our eyeballs, I'll come to the point I've been trying to make. As I was watching the trailer I got to thinking about how, essentially, Hannibal, BA, Murdoch and Face are the same kind of escapist bare-knuckle badasses that we all like to play every now and then. Each one has a specific role within the group, one thing they're super good at, and every week these good friends get together in their no-girls-allowed club to have some crazy adventure wherein the plot is a thinly veiled excuse to shoot a lot of guns and blow up a lot of cars with no real consequences and invariably save the day. Sound familiar? It should, you and I and all of our gamer friends have been doing pretty much the same thing every week for almost forty years now.

Think about it, these guys are the perfect adventuring party for a modern combat game like, say, Cyberpunk or D20 Modern or Shadowrun. They have all the bases covered, can handle most situations thrown at them and are unkillable, death-dealing badasses. To illustrate, lets look at each one of these guys and see what they're made of.

Lieutenant Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith
Played by George Peppard in the show and by Liam Freakin' Neeson in the new movie, Hannibal is the leader of the group. A silver-haired, cigar chomping father figure, the Colonel loves his men and his mission. He's a brilliant tactician with a flare for the dramatic who is known for thinking outside the box and is totally willing to blow up a problem he can't think around. In game terms, he's obviously your team leader, right? He's got a lot of ranks in command or leadership along with military and small-unit tactics and disguise, high mental attributes, especially charisma and intelligence. A fun character to play if you like being the star of the show, telling people what to do and getting the lion's share of the glory.
Edges: Tough, Tactical Genius
Flaws: Overconfident, Flamboyant

Lieutenant Templeton "Face" Peck
Played hilariously enough by Dirk "Starbuck" Benedict, Face is the team's rogue. A fixer, con-man, spy and inveterate rake, his skills are crucial to the team getting jobs and securing the materiel they need to complete each mission. He's got stupid high charisma and physical attractiveness stats with a whole bunch of ranks in seduction, fast-talk, scrounging and intelligence gathering. Seriously, who doesn't want to play the character who gets to go off by himself and play James Bond while the rest of the team sits in the warehouse and bitches about you going off to play James Bond?
Edges: Handsome, Smooth-talker.
Flaws: Weakness: the Ladies, Compulsive Liar

Captain H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdoch
Played by a guy named Dwight Schultz who went on to be in a bunch of Star Trek episodes, Murdoch is the team's pilot. He's also crazy and is, sadly, portrayed in the same way that most gamers portray characters with insanity, as a crazy funny clown guy who talks to himself and spouts non-sequiturs which is, you know, totally the way that the mentally ill behave. Although, it's insinuated that he's not so much crazy as "crazy like a fox" and a lot of his issues might be a put-on. Anyway, this is the guy who can fly anything with wings, whether fixed or rotary, and is vital to the team's mobility, or at least the half of it that deals with air travel. He's probably got a middling intelligence stat, maybe a low willpower stat, and a ton of ranks in anything that has to do with piloting and navigating aircraft.
Edges: Natural Pilot
Flaws: Crazytown

What the hell? Are all these guys are officers? What kind of unit is all officers? Where's their enlis...oh!

First Sergeant Bosco "Bad Attitude" Baracus
(In the spirit of full disclosure, B.A. was my favorite character. I had his action figure with tool-box (real tools inside!) and snap-on gold chains, the van, and a ton of other Mr. T/B.A. paraphernalia I wish I still had. I think it's probably this character that set me on the path of playing mechanics, technicians, engineers and troubleshooters all the time.) 
You know this guy. Played by the ever awesome Mr. T B.A. was the team's armorer, mechanic and driver. A sergeant's sergeant, B.A. was rough, tough, gruff and was the baddest-ass of them all. His dangerous mien and frequent rages were balanced out by a kind heart and a particular genius for working with and building machines. As is the case in most units, the officers on the team would have been up the creek without their NCO. B.A. could drive, shoot, punch, growl or wrench his way out of any situation. He was the one always bodging together IFVs and flamethrowers and space shuttles and whatnot, and was the best at thinking on his feet. He was indomitable, he was dangerous and he was the lynch pin of the whole unit. His major failings, aside from his abysmal acting, are his fear of flying and his beef with Murdoch. He neither likes nor trusts Murdoch, and this makes for some great inter-party conflict in a game session. His strength is high, as is his intelligence although you wouldn't know it, and his charisma is loooooooow. He's got all the ranks in engineering, mechanic, brawling, tactics, throwing dudes through windows and yelling real loud.
Edges: Mechanical Genius, Tough
Flaws: Phobia: Flying, Frenzy, Addiction: Milk

Now, obviously these guys aren't going to be in the kind of serious business game with lots of pathos and drama and navel gazing like I usually play. Oh, no. This is a beer and pretzels smash-em-up adventure game that you play for a few sessions for a good laugh and a tension breaker. So there you go, the A-Team as adventuring party. It sounds like a hell of a time to me. Especially, you know, if I get to play B.A. 'Cause seriously, I pity the fool.


Anonymous said...

That's Dirk "Starbuck" Benedict, whom you have apparently confused with Ap"Richard Hatch"ollo.

Damn, now I wanna run me some A-Team.

-Mark said...

Given that my current kick is d6 Star Wars, I was statting the team in my head as we went.

Geekhis Khan said...


I've actually wanted to run an A-Team style con-game using Ninjas & Superspies for years.

PS, Jason, why the hell did it take you until Feb to let me know about your Blog, fool?

Great stuff!


Doug Wall said...

I once ran a game in which the players decided that their characters were basically the A-Team. It was lots of fun.

Adaen of Bridgewater said...

I think my head is going to explode....Way cool post, Jason. And for the record....I pity the fool too.