9 Oct 2014

By the Numbers Oswald - Commentary

Last week, I went through the character sheet for Oswald, the crew's mage, with comments about the changes made for By the Numbers.  Today, let's look at Oz as a story character instead of a player character.

As with Treehugger, Oswald's role was defined first.  The crew needed a magician.  The goal of By the Numbers was to present the Shadowrun setting while still making sure that the events in the story could be played out.  The main difference between Shadowrun and other cyberpunk and even non-cyberpunk science fiction is the addition of almost Tolkien-esque fantasy.  It's possible to argue that Shadowrun is a futuristic urban fantasy setting, but the fantasy elements harken back to more traditional fantasy than the supernatural or the faerie of urban fantasy.  As a fantasy element, magic exists, though in Shadowrun, it can be tested with the scientific method.

Thus, Oswald was needed, or at least a magician.  I could have gone with a shaman instead of the hermetic Oswald, but I felt that was one more layer that could break the suspension of disbelief.  Oz was still nebulous, though.  I was envisioning a man in a long coat, collar turned up against the wind, lighting a cigarette with his finger.  That image told me a bit about the mage, but not everything, and nothing about his background.  I went back to Charles and Numbers to see what they lacked.  Charles covered the combat roles while Numbers had the social and computer skills covered.  They didn't have any real investigative abilities.  Sure, Charles could stand menacingly over someone, but intimidation tends to leave the intimidated frustrated, embarrassed, and angry afterward.  Polite questioning, though, would leave the questioned wondering, but not in a mood for vengeance.

Once I realized that a mage investigator would work, I remembered the Mage Detective archetype in the rules.  That still left me having to work out the character's background.  A private investigator could work for the plot, but PIs tend to have a sheen of legitimacy to them.  I wanted a team of runners, equals to each other, not a team that answered to one person.  The Federated-Boeing Johnson wanted a team of deniable assets, not a private investigator who would leave a data trail.  That meant that the detective had to be in the shadows for some reason.  From there, the idea of an ex-cop came to mind.  The ex-detective couldn't be from Seattle, though; he'd be recognized by former colleagues.  That's how Oswald came to be ex-NYPD Inc.  New York is the other side of the continent from Seattle and NYPD Inc never had the law enforcement contract for the West Coast city.  Ta-daa!

Most of Oz's personality came out while writing.  He has a low tolerance of BS, which has him in conflict with the elf poser Treehugger.  He doesn't target innocents, though who is innocent is based on his judgement and experience.  He won't harm children, though teenagers are another matter.  In Chapter 9, Oz is the one championing rescuing Sun Jung for the girl's sake.  And, somehow, Oswald turned into a ladies man.  Completely unintentional, but it worked for him.

Tomorrow, Numbers' character sheet.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus week Q&A, where you get to ask the questions..
Saturday, over at MuseHack, an early round-up as announcements come fast and furious.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

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