Playing the Everyman
Are you tired of playing the same stereotypical characters? Tired of not being challenged? Bored of playing a superhuman hero? Why don't you try playing an Everyman?
I meddled around for a while with generic games like GURPS, but still ended up playing characters that can be classed, like merchant guardsmen, fighter/mages, thieves, and so on. And then one day I had an epiphany. I decided to play a completely different character. One that couldn't fight, who had no applicable skills to an adventuring party.
I played a composer.
My composer, Raphael, was loosely based on some of my favorite Classic composers (Mozart, Beethoven, Berlioz) mixed with modern music. He lived for music and could take any experience and put music to it. Raphael had skills in playing musical instruments, composing, orchestrating, crafting musical instruments, reading and similar things. He was small, extremely intelligent, and musically gifted.
I met a lot of resistance when I introduced Raphael to the group. The poor guy couldn't ride a horse, swing a sword, talk his way out of trouble, pick a lock or anything else remotely useful to a roleplaying group (outside of social and some slight political skills). He was everyone's bitch... for a while. Then we had to infiltrate a castle and decided to pass ourselves off as musicians.
Suddenly Raphael was the leader of the group.
He taught everyone in the party the use of a simple musical instrument and I had to come up with a performance, including authentic music, fit for a king. It was cool.
...these characters were extremely fun to play.
Other Everyman characters that I have since played include a cook, a Jackie Chan stuntman, a couple of college students, a high school student, and an alcoholic bum who had been a lawyer until his wife and kid were killed by a drunk driver. None of these characters, aside from the stuntman, had any skills that a normal group would welcome. But these characters were extremely fun to play.
I tend to like movies with similar "Everyman" heroes. Movies like Cellular, Cast Away, Die Hard, Evolution, Galaxy Quest, the Fugitive, and Jaws. Each of these movies features heroes who are woefully outmatched and usually have no combat skills (with the exception of Die Hard).
- The hero of Cellular is a twenty-something slacker pining after the girl that dumped him.
- Cast Away features a middle-aged FedEx employee who is stranded on an island for four years.
- Die Hard has a cop on vacation to visit his soon to be ex wife who ends up tackling a building full of terrorists.
- Evolution's heroes are teachers from a local community college who take on an alien invasion (sort of).
- Galaxy Quest features actors of all things, helping an alien race who believes that the TV series that they were on were "historical documents" combat a nasty evil alien.
- Harrison Ford is the epitome "Everyman" actor. In the Fugitive, he plays a doctor on the run from Federal Marshalls.
- And we all know that Jaws features a cop who is terrified of the ocean who has to deal with a man eating shark.
We all enjoy Everyman heroes, and some of the best stories of all time feature these unlikely heroes... so for those of you bored to death of playing superhuman characters that your GM has a hard time challenging, why don't you try playing an Everyman? It is EXTREMELY challenging and much more fun than you might think.
And if you don't like the character, they're awfully easy to kill off. ;-)