Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose. This is an exercise in character building and creative writing.
Bryce Oxton was a biology nerd in the Kings Row Community College’s Access Program for supertech lab qualifications. After school, he volunteered his time at the Praetorian shelters as a social worker, using his niche expertise to help design containment and care for super science Powers Division problems. That’s why he was there in the lab that wasn’t his, dealing with the accident that wasn’t his fault. That’s how he wound up the host of the corrosive, toxic, aggressive STRAY symbiote.
He didn’t choose to be a tentacle catboy – tentacle catboy power was thrust upon him.
And, he has found, tentacle catboy powers bring tentacle catboy responsibilities.
People who work with Astray, the tentacle catboy, don’t tend to have a good handle on what that means. He’s a nonverbal, seemingly liquid humanoid, who can stretch to fit into tight spaces, climb on surfaces, eject long tentacles, and leave behind corrosive liquid or poisons, fill opponent’s lungs with cloying spores, and slash through even hard armoured metals with powerful, razor-sharp claws. All of this is while he signs almost everything he wants to say, or, if he’s lucky and can get one, uses a phone to type out emoji-laden sentiments to whatever teammates he has.
There’s a big boundary for almost all of his allies, though: very, very few people who fight alongside Astray learn anything more of him than that. In a city with a lot of public identity heroes, Astray stands apart as someone who maintains and keeps a secret identity, even if there are people actively trying to deduce who he is.
Astray’s catboy look isn’t, seemingly, just aesthetic; something about the symbiote bonded to him has brought out some inner cattishness, and he can be seen doing things as if he’s in two minds. He uses his tail to poke and prod at things, then slaps his own tail as if to admonish it.
If you want to try and deal with him, range is your best option; if he can’t reach you with a tentacle, he can’t really do much to you, though he has proven remarkably resistant to just being shot at at a distance. On the other hand his means to pursue isn’t endless. Avoid fighting Astray in closed quarters, and don’t bring him on missions where you need to keep him giving you remote feedback through voice, unless you have someone in the group who can read American Sign Language.
I’m going to be completely honest about this one: I have no confidence in this build. Astray handles the content I throw him at, and if anything kills him it kind of has to kill him instantly, otherwise he just slowly but surely bleeds it to death. This build is something I made a long time ago and barely updated, because I don’t need to, and the group he plays with has been on a quiet hiatus for about a year now.
This is not what I’d recommend as a ‘good’ build for a Savage/Bio Armour scrapper. Things have changed for both those choices, and the whole levelling spectrum has changed as well. I basically played around with this build at first, found I could hit some basic targets. Nonetheless, what he’s got is:
- Capped smashing and lethal resistance
- ~32%+ Fire, Cold, Energy and Negative defence
- 85% global recharge
- Something like 65% global damage?
- Capped endurance recovery, which is shocking, but just part of how Bio Armour works.
You can check out his build here, at this datalink.
I’ve talked a little bit about the Cabal and Symbiotes plot when I wrote up Wild Hare. It all started with Astray, a character I originally made for roleplay in the superhero RP spaces I got into between the close of City of Heroes and the return of Homecoming. I figured I wanted something that served as a Spider-man analogue, a space to make something with a general proximity to the idea of a kind of baseline, rooftop hero who had a reason for a secret identity and a bunch of science monsters as a rogues gallery that could serve as useful, rudimentary tools for telling stories. In a lot of ways, I thought of Astray as a character who could get down to the basics, with a few interesting ideas mixed in for spice.
At first, I didn’t have a good handle on it, but it was pretty clear after playing him a little bit, Bryce is ADHD as hell. I liked the idea that the symbiotes amplified some detail about his personality, so there was a reason to not just use it all the time, but also the way it could grow into him; I chose that it meant that he behaved like a cat. But not a slinky, seductive creature as people imagine but a weird little goblin that knocked things off counters and couldn’t explain why he did it. The resultant mess of executive function failures coupled with an ability to hyperfocus through complex problems fit together in a way I liked, this guy whose day job was helping people solve complex challenges to living their lives and who was so messy he hadn’t washed dishes in so long he was eating scrambled eggs out of a frisbee.
This gave me the footing to work from, and from there, things kinda got… out of hand? In a good way?
Bryce works as a problem solver, and that meant that when in other RP spaces, I needed a supporting character to solve a minor problem, Carcer, another previously mentioned character, mentioned meeting him in Kings Row. This hooked another player, who got interested enough to want to deal with him, and then I brought Bryce out to play. What followed that was a years long plot where Bryce’s ADHD-riddled bisexual hot mess wound up dating both Carcer and Carcer’s Girlfriend – it was more complicated than it sounds, I promise.
Just like before, when talking about Nightsun, when talking about Carcer, when talking about Cearmaid, I always come back to how these OCs, these characters of mine are fun but what breathes life into them, what makes them amazing, what drives me to keep wanting to be in this space, playing and creating, is my friends, and their ability to sustain this reality we share. It’s beautiful and wonderful and so, so much fun.