Thursday, January 2, 2014

Jackie and Ralph




A post over at Dorkland has me wistful for halcyon days.

It was the summer of 1992.  My friends Chris (Dorkland) and Bernard (Ghost Dogg) came over to my house to game.  The role-playing game for the evening would be a new one...to me anyway.  It was called Ninjas & Superspies.  As the name depicts, it was an RPG designed for stories and characters taking place in a modern day setting of martial arts combat and James Bond-like espionage. 

What transpired, however, was a completely organic bit of wondrous storytelling.

My character bore the name Jackie Smiles.  He was a stereotypical private detective who wore a trench coat, smoked cigarettes, and carried a handgun.  Jackie was also infused with my cynical and depressed view of the world.  His trademark introduction was (usually delivered while lighting a cigarette): "Name's Jackie Smiles.  I'm a private dick. (shrug) Public dick if the money's right."

Bernard played Ralph Stone...the biggest freakin' kickass Korean you've ever seen.  He worked for Jackie and by contrast was usually quite upbeat.  Not only that, he was exceptionally strong and nearly invulnerable.  Shoot him, stab him, sic him with dogs (see later), do your worst...Ralph will probably survive.

How?  Well, we never got a chance to play the narrative out to see that aspect of his character revealed.  We had theories.  Magic amulet.  Exposure to radiation.  He's really from another planet.  Again, we never learned the truth.

He also had trouble keeping the name of his employer straight, seeming  to confuse Jackie with his own trademark line.

RALPH: Hey, Dick?
JACKIE: My name's Jackie.  "Private dick" is my job.
RALPH: How's that again, Dick?

Sigh.  Good natured, lovable, and certainly good to have in a fight, but Ralph was not about to be defending any PhD dissertations anytime soon.

These two boys eventually found themselves embroiled with an enormous yet nearly invisible espionage agency somewhat akin to Marvel's SHIELD.  Part of the adventure required the duo to break into the French embassy.  Ralph decided to jump the wall of the compound while wearing a Bill Clinton mask as a disguise (at that time, Clinton was about to accept the nomination of the Democratic Party for president.)  After jumping the wall, Jackie was told by Chris that you could only hear the sound of dogs barking.  Ralph's voice came over the wrist communicator: "Hey, Dick? There's dogs out here."  The op was a bust.

They were taken into custody by the SHIELD-like agency and interrogated by a beautiful agent named Alabaster.  It went something like this:

ALABASTER: Gentlemen, I suggest we get down to business.
RALPH: (removing his shirt) Darlin' I thought you'd never ask.
ALABASTER: That's not what I meant.
RALPH: Oh.
ALABASTER: You broke into the French embassy.
JACKIE: No we didn't.  You're...you're thinking of two other guys.
ALABASTER: We have you on these surveillance photos.
RALPH: That's not me!  That's Bill Clinton!

Somehow, we didn't end up in The Village as seen on BBC's The Prisoner, but it had to have been close ("You are Number Six."  "No he's not!  He's Dick!")  Yeah, both of us forced to live out Village-like lives.  Carrying punnets full of strawberries and whatnot. However, we did get to see Ralph ram a bus into a building a la Clint Eastwood in The Gauntlet.  In truth I don't completely remember the rest of the storyline, only that we had so much fun playing it and creating the characters.

And that's the best part of gaming.  When it really works, it's not just a bunch of hack and slash dorks, it's a group of friends building a narrative together and seeing where it goes.  Along the way, you develop characters that might actually come to feel like real people, perhaps because they are little extensions of yourself.  I'll always remember Jackie and Ralph.

If that's geeky then give me more of it.


Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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