This time, I am drawing on another movie: Jonah Hex. It got really bad reviews, but I actually enjoyed it.
Jonah Hex is a 2010 movie, directed by Jimmy Hayward, starring Josh Brolin. (IMDB Page)
In the beginning, we start of with Jonah Hex trying to hunt down the man responsible for the death of his family. Before he can exact his revenge, the man is killed in a fire, and Jonah Hex continues trying to find a way to get rid of his rage. This is an interesting spin on the “looking to avenge” idea… What if its already too late? What if the barbarian that wants to hunt down the Orc Chieftan that ransacked his village finds out that the chieftain died of the Giggling Plague two years ago? Does he give up his quest? Does he look for others to get his revenge on?
The villain brands Jonah, as a reminder about what he did. In an RPG, you could use something similar, or a variation of it. Perhaps the scars on the paladin’s skin serve to remind him of the battles he has been through, and of the cost of righteousness. He could heal them easily enough, but they have become a part of who he is. Another variation of this idea is the use of tattoos, scarification or branding in a culture to mark the accomplishments of the person. Of course, you could use this the way it was in the movie, as a punishment by the villain, or even the organisation that the character is a part of (such as the old story about the Yakuza cutting off fingers)
Talking to the Dead
Jonah Hex is able to bring the dead back to life, but only for a short time. Its a power that I have not seen very often, at least in this form. It could be interesting.
There is also the possibility that the character is the one brought back from the dead, and only has a couple of hours of life left to him… What will he do with it?
The villain of the movie has chose the Centenial to strike, due to the significance the date held in the minds of the people.
Large celebrations of this sort are rarely seen in RPGs, and I really think our worlds could be richer for them. It just gives a bit more depth, rather than a random celebration, perhaps the villagers are celebrating the 100 years since the evil wizard was vanquished?
I think that things like that are a good way to make the setting feel more real. Just about any country has a date of significance that they celebrate in one way or another. It could be an anniversary of the date the country achieved independence, crowned a king, or something else. In most countries, it just means that people get a day off work, but there could be more to it.
He Don’t Look so Tough
In one scene, two people at a bar recognize Johan Hex, and one of them remarks “He don’t look so tough,” with predictable results.
This got me thinking that as characters get more famous, they will have people trying to get glory by trying to prove they can beat them. You can use this to start a bar-room brawl if you really want to, which is a fine thing in itself, but it can go further: A drunk youth tries to pick on the characters, and gets beaten to a pulp. The next day, the characters discover that he was the mayor’s son, and the mayor is not too happy about it.
This could also be a case of mistaken identity. Perhaps the character just looks like an famous warrior, and keeps wondering why so many people are trying to pick fights with him.
How not to Handle Animal Companions
This movie is also a good example of how not to handle animal companions. Johan Hex has two: a horse and a dog he saves. The horse acts as transport, while the dog… follows him around… that’s it. The dog does not in any way contribute to the plot, or provide much insight into the characters. It’s just there.
Basically, if you have a character with an animal companion of some sort, you can do better than that.