I’m joining +Christopher R. Rice and diverse others to play in a GURPS Supers campaign. Christopher writes about it here.
This will be novel for me in a few ways. The first of which is that it’s, by far, the most complicated and high-point-value character I’ve ever played. I’ve also never played Supers with GURPS, though I have played low-point Black Ops (probably somewhere between Action and Monster Hunters).
But, enough of that. Let’s talk about about my character. Christopher and I used Central Casting: Heroes Now! to generate a background that was in tune with what I was looking for.
This is what we came up with.
Character Background Story
The metahuman known as Commander Samurai (Ian Owari) was conceived by the 9th son of Ieyesu Tokugawa, Tokugawa Yoshinao and Asano Haru, his wife, in 1649, a year before the first head of the Owari clan would die.
Ieyasu himself wanted to tie himself to eternity, and acting on word of a soothsayer, gathered together his first and last sons, and their wives and unborn children. The spell was designed to create a circle of energy flowing through the group.
Tokugawa Ieyasu’s arch rival, Oda Nobunaga, got wind of the attempt through his spy network, and brought physical and magical countermeasures to bear. The spell – whatever it was designed to do in full – was only partially successful. It preserved Ieyasu forever, but inflicted Yoshinao and his pregnant wife with a wasting disease which would claim Yoshinao’s life a year later.
The child of Asano Haru – Ian – would have died along with them, but timely intervention by the court mystics . . . froze Asano Haru in time, along with he who would ultimately become Ian.
Ieyasu would pass his Shogunate to his descendants, but he continued to live on. He would watch as his Shogunate lasted into the mid-19th century, and eventually settled in Hawai’i, straddling two cultures – Japan and the United States.
Ian was conceived in 1649, and frozen in magical stasis for 365 years. When Tokugawa Ieyasu – still alive and with us – finally discovered the way to release his family from that magical suspension, Tokugawa Eien no magomusuko was born on Sept 24, 1976 at 9:59am in Hawai’i, where Ieyasu was living.
The birth was more of a magical C-section than anything else, and going into it, Tokugawa knew that Asano Haru or Ian would not surive – he chose to preserve the grandchild. On his birth, it was seen that a large “birthmark” covered his lower back – a star, dragon, sword, and jewel. This slightly glowing artifact of the magical reawakening was a herald of the imperial regalia of Japan. No one knew how or why it got there.
He was given to a different offshoot of the Tokugawa family to be raised. Matsudaira Katamori, born in 1836 and 9th Lord of Aizu, was given care of the child in Hawai’i, where he lived after feigning his death in 1893. He would go on to live another 87 years, passing away when Ian was four.
Sota “Scott” Owari was a direct descendant of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last Tokugawa Shogun. He married a California native and surfer Ashley Jones Owari shortly after being stationed in San Diego. The couple were then relocated to Hawaii and at that point, Tokugawa, always acting behind the scenes, placed Ian with them as foster parents. This came with a very, very generous financial gift to the family, freeing them of the normal struggles that military personnel – even officers – have with personal finances. It also allowed the couple to easily afford to have lots of follow-on children: Eldest sister Anna (Anna; born 1980), and brothers Hayato (Harry 1982), Yuse (Joseph) and Toma (Tom), the twins born 1984.
While growing up, he also got to know his “cousins,” close relations on the Tokugawa family tree also living in Hawaii. Miko Wakahisa (born 1977) and Chiyoko Wakahisa (1975), daughters of Daichi and Keiko. Wakahisa means “forever young.” Not a coincidence.
Daichi is a martial arts master, who learned from Tokugawa and other relations. He also breeds dogs. Ian would study all of the classic fighting arts of Japan for hours each week, romp around with his cousins (also trained as warriors, with the naginata/spear and bow primary over the sword), play with the dogs, and generally have a fantastic time surrounded by his family. With his mother busy with five children and his father away on deployment for months at a time (he was an officer on attack submarines), he spent a lot of time with his uncle. As soon as Ashley thought her kids were old enough, they too got pawned off on Daichi, who was happy to have them.
When Ian was 12, while trick-or-treating in 1988 (dressed as always as a samurai), he found a puppy. A big puppy. The Navy was working with a highly clandestine outfit breeding dogs for guard duty and other unspecified tasks – not just breeding them, but genetically manipulating them. Initial results were highly mixed. The animals were huge, intelligent, and gifted in strange ways. They were also incredibly aggressive, hostile, and generally savage.
But not with Ian. The Aikita “pup” he found had opened his own cage (leading the breeders to call him the Dog of NIMH or Teenage Mutant Ninja Puppy) and carefully escaped from the lab. Ian found him, and they took an instant and permanent liking to each other. The two had a bit of a “Lassie” moment, where the dog (!) persuaded Ian and Chiyoko to break into the government lab and free the other dogs.
This did not go well.
They got caught, surrounded by very angry, very intelligent border collies who had decided to “herd” them into a corner. Only the presence and special abilities of the Akita that would later be called Yukio (“gets what he wants”) Inazuma (“flash of lightning”) kept Chiyoko from getting badly mauled, despite years of practice handling dogs.
The lab personnel were impressed, and with a stern warning from both the government and the uncle (the latter delivered with a shinai, which made more of an impression than the government’s warnings), was allowed to keep and train the dog. This was the first time that any of the animals had been “domesticated” enough to allow into public.
After that, his teenage years and high school went well enough. He graduated at the top of his high school class, and given prior government interest, an adoptive father who was a submarine officer, and no small amount of personal athletic and academic success earned by focus, willpower, and hard work, was appointed to the US Naval Academy at Annapolis.
Relative to the Akita incident and his service history that would follow, his time at the Naval Academy was relatively sedate. As sedate as it can be given Olympic-level agility, a lifetime of fitness and martial arts training, a keen mind and and outstanding focus and discipline.
He was inducted into the academy during the summer term, June 23, 1995. In an unheard-of departure from the normal rules, the DoD insisted that Yukio the Dog of NIMH be allowed to stay on campus with Ian. Mostly because they were afraid of what the dog would do if anyone tried to separate the two. Ian got very, very good at cleaning dog hair from his uniform. And was very, very, very popular with the female cadets, having the most accessible cute fluffy puppy and being a prime physical specimen.
Able to give and receive orders with equal aplomb, and with a history of interest in all things Navy from his father, he was a natural leader and again at the top of his class – he wasn’t the smartest student, but he combined more than enough intelligence with amazing focus . . . plus being a paragon of athletic performance. After his plebe year, he successfully competed in Wrestlng, Rifle, and Gymnastics, becoming the captain of both the Wrestling and Rifle teams, and performing well in gymnastics (he was a natural gymnast, but busy with other things, such as the pre-SEAL training and preparation courses); he also worked out with the track and field teams, but did not compete. He also worked out regularly with the USNA Jiu Jitsu team, and hosted a kendo club for interested students.
He couldn’t quite bring himself to compete with the TKD team – he claimed the Olympic style TKD clashed mightily with his brutal combat-oriented sword and striking training he received on his uncle’s mat.
When he graduated and received his commission on May 21, 1999, to no one’s surprise he received one of the coveted SEAL officer billets.
Ian started his BUD/S training in June of 1999, two weeks after receiving his commission. He more or less aced it – he was already strong, incredibly fit, and highly focused. As always, the training pushed the students to the brink, singling out each one for special kinds of hell. Even so, he completed his 6 months of BUD/S and started his first SEAL deployment in December 1999, where he immediately was given training with Yukio (code-named Krypto as a call sign) as a combat canine.
He went through several evolutions as a SEAL, gaining notoriety for being efficient, effective, a hard but fair officer who not once failed a mission. For a newbie, he was more than solid, and as soon as service tradition allowed, he was given the leeway to lead his own team and take on as much combat responsibility as allowed. Especially in dealing with the (intensely classified) issue of military response to metahuman incidents, which were getting more and more numerous – and harder to deny. His troops nickname him Lieutenant Samurai, after the swords he constantly carried with him – including into combat.
He distinguishes himself during his first deployment in a major combat operation with a metahuman that he is awarded the Navy Cross, purple heart, and promoted from Ensign to Lt JG (O2) a full year early. His effectiveness in dealing with this and similar threats led the President himself to demand the creation of Seal Team 10 – The Regulators. Ian is promoted far ahead of time to full Lieutenant (O-3) to lead the small platoon. He was injured – very badly (thus the purple heart) – in this battle, and is the recipient of what is effectively a super-soldier treatment. It was a cocktail of healing and enhancement drugs that was supposed to help him recover some of his function, but not the missing lower leg that was a result of his injuries. The treatment went far beyond that – for reasons that the science/tech teams cannot fathom nor reproduce – and resulted in drastic physical improvements. He was a prime physical specimen before. Now he’s downright ridiculous.
This irritates Navy brass more than a little.
Then came 9/11.
2001 – Al-Qaeda operatives, including the now infamous Combustible Man, fly passenger jets into the Twin Towers. Samurai and his Regulators are too late to stop the jets from hitting, but their actions afterward save thousands of lives. The battle between the Samurai and the Combustible Man is enshrined in metahuman legend and the US is forced to admit that the TAP affected some people causing them to develop metahuman abilities. The US press refers to Ian for the first time as “Commander Samurai,” after a mis-read of his uniform by unsurprisingly uninformed reporters. The President likes the name, and insists that the Navy continue to use it.
This also annoys the brass.
2002 – The United States invades Afghanistan; The Commander and his Regulators spearhead Operation Anaconda. In a single day and night the combined forces of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are all but destroyed. Within the year, Osama bin Laden is brought (alive) to justice by the Commander and his men. For his actions during that conflict, and in combination with French special forces (also present), he is awarded the Medal of Honor, another purple heart, and promoted to Lt Commander (O-4), now earning the Commander Samurai title in truth.
2004 – The Combustible Man explodes during rush hour traffic in Madrid destroying four trains in a terrorist attack. He’s quickly placed on Interpol’s Most Wanted list. The assault on Fallujah begins and hundreds of US soldiers lose their lives to metahuman Iraqi insurgents. Commander Samurai and his regulators are in the thick of the manhunt.
For the next nine years, Commander Samurai and his regulators are waging a constant struggle to find and capture the Combustible Man and related metahuman incidents. Ian will only become eligible to be promoted to full Commander in May 2014. The Navy brass insists on the full time-in-grade of 15 years before Owari can be promoted to O-5. The press continues to call him Commander Samurai. The military continues to not.
Before that, on Halloween night of 2013, the Commander tracks a metahuman to the city of Miami, and must attempt – without his team – to prevent a major terrorist incident in the city. With no team, and no time to prepare, he engages the unknown metahuman in personal combat. The conflict goes airborne, and Commander Samurai is lost at sea. The unknown meta has not been seen since.
Neither has Commander Samurai.
Personality and Perception
Ian has two modes – soldier and freetime. When he’s in soldier-mode, and he’s in soldier mode a lot, he’s all about training and the mission. With tremendous willpower and focus, he’s on task and rarely stops until what he sets out to do is complete. Whether that’s time on the firing range, archery or sword practice, strength or endurance training, or actually being sent on any number of secret operations, he’s all-go, all-the-time. A natural leader, he is a feared and respected training leader – he made time to personally supervise the exercise and trainging of the SEALs in his unit at least three times per week, and by and large worked them into the ground. Pre-experiment, he was not necessarily the strongest man in his unit (ST 14 is good, but not that good, for SEALs, who have a penchant for weight-lifting), but his uniformly high level of ability in all things combat and soldier-related made him a bit of a legend even before he won the Medal of Honor.
|Like this, but bigger
When not in “soldier mode,” he’s surprisingly relaxed. His background is wide, he can be shockingly easy-going, and has a penchant for mischief and sticking his nose into interesting things that don’t add up that directly led to The Puppy Incident when he was 12.
Of course, some of his non-soldier mode activities involve playing with his huge Akita, often at local dog parks. As one might imagine, he does not lack for attention and notice while sporting merrily with an Akita the size of a large wolf.
The public knows Commander Samurai from his actions associated with key events in his military service. He first came to attention of the public on 9/11, saving countless lives and his hard-fought victory against the Combustible Man. When in uniform, he is hardly ever without both his dog and his sword, which makes for a very colorful presentation. (The Secret Service were not happy about the dog sharing the stage with Ian and the President. Ian’s invitation to them to attempt to convince the dog to stay away? Video gold – some of that leaked to the internet to the general delight of dog fans everywhere except in the Secret Service.)
When I first talked to Christopher about a Supers game, we talked for a bit about the kind of hero I’d play. I’m not a huge one to go in for fancy powers and exotic abilities, but more importantly I wanted to make sure I was playing a fairly compelling character from a heroic perspective. While I can appreciate – and I’ve played in the past – the anti-hero type, my tastes these days have been more apple-pie-like.
This is influenced in no small part by the compelling portrayal of Captain America by Chris Evans in four films (not including Thor 2 cameos). Evans says Captain America is “the kind of man he wants to be,” or something like that. The actor himself lives up to some of that, making visits at kids hospitals in full costume.
So I wanted to play a character that captured some of that nobility and sense of both purpose and goodness. I also liked the idea of at least starting with a relatively normal guy from a powers perspective, and then layering abilities on top. It grounds character generation, allowing me to ask myself “who is this guy?” followed by “who is he now?”
I did not set out to play a samurai-type. I wanted a super-normal who then got enhanced at least once. When we tried to find out where he was born, I used a random place generator . . . which put me in several fairly useless places, but then plunked me down in the Pacific Ocean not too far from Hawaii. OK, I thought. Hawaii, then.
But then the Heroes Now random generator put me as a pure ethnic minority within my place of birth, and both Christopher and I settled on pure ethnic Japanese. Then I rolled that I had a famous ancestor, still alive, and I’d been watching Shogun. I joked that my ancestor should be the person that the Toranaga character was based on, Ieyasu Tokugawa.
We both paused. Yes, precisely. That flavored the narrative interpretations of the die rolls.
I piled on excellent basic physical stats, a mess of SEAL training and other wildcard skills representing near-constant martial training, and Christopher and I worked out the background and “not Wildcard, but he has it anyway” details. I recall he wound up something around 400 or 500 points. A very experienced, metahumanly-talented cinematic hero that would fit in well in a Monster Hunters game, which was about right.
Then we had him injured in combat, and between his magical background, his genetics as a Scion, and the coincidental (or was it?!) timing of the TAP pulse with his treatment, he becomes a super-soldier in truth, gaining more ST, DX, HT, regeneration (with regrowth!) and some minor but growing telekinesis. That made him about a 900-point character.
After more of that, we gave him his armor – which was 300-ish points of function right there. This isn’t iron-man style armor. Picture it more like Captain Amazing’s armor from Mystery Men, but with less glitz and chrome. It’s also metamorphic – it can look like normal clothing, thick combat fatigues/armor, or when things get real, it turns into full-on samurai-looking battle armor.
This change is cosmetic – the abilities of the suit don’t change (maybe a few harness points or something).
Ultimately, the discussion was fairly straight-forward. This guy as a melee and military expert does a lot of punching people in the face. Captain America has his bulletproof and energy-absorbing Vibranium shield. I needed a way to get close to my foes without being riddled with bullets and killed. Dodge can take care of some of this, but even with DX 15-16 and HT 14-16 (I don’t recall where he ended up), that’s still “only” a Basic Speed of 8, for Dodge-11 as a base. That’s good, but not enough for full-auto.
So we tried to give him enough “always on” DR from the armor suit that he could take assault rifle shots and not worry too much. For something more serious, he needs to invoke his TK abilities, and with that he’s protected against up to a bit shy of 6dx2. For bigger stuff, he still has to take cover. This is to the good.
Still, there’s a lot of stuff on his character sheet. I’m looking forward to playing him, but keeping the abilities in my mind will be a challenge.
Game writeup tomorrow!