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.
…the police are the crime…
Dead drops and drunk tanks. A door left unlocked. A hole in the guard patrol schedule. An undersecured door, a familiar password, a moment of forgetfulness, or believable forgetfulness. In Praetoria, you could get a lot done by leaning on the way that everyone thought everyone else was corrupt.
Juke was one of them. Secret police, that is. You could only go along for so long, though, until it all went wrong. That’s when he found friends, found rebels, but not the resistance. Instead, it was dead drops and secret messages, and now, nobody knows anything he had to do with the revolution.
So that sucks.
If you’ve worked with Juke, something has gone wrong.
Clad in a skin tight stealth suit, Juke is a high-tech cybernetic operative who shows up in missions with clear purposes, and with clear intentions. You might not realise he’s involved in the same thing as you until he shows up, in the middle of an enemy fray, tasing and clubbing people with a containment rod. A stealth infiltrator, he shows up with mysterious devices for pre-emptively disabling a dangerous supervillain device but he needs someone in a cape for legal reasons.
Socially, he does tend to be the obnoxious kind of aloof. Playful and mischievous, the kind to poke people for unnecessary reasons, Juke carries himself with the air of someone who is getting away with something. And he always seems to be up to no good, always showing up around some really shifty Praetorian stuff, like runaway science experiments or traumatised unmedicated people trying to lash out while experiencing great distress.
And yeah, that’s shifty! That’s really shifty! It’s almost like he’s somehow connected to all these terrible things! Which he is, because when he was around on Praetoria, he was essentially, one of the people whose job it was to cause those terrible things. Part of a division of Powers that looks like the CIA’s CIA, he did terrible things, for a long time, convinced that it was all being done in the name of the greater good. And then when he finally broke, when he couldn’t do that any more… Well, he had to pivot, and suddenly he was the ghost of the resistance. He spent his time deploying information or sabotaging things but with the same skills that made him a perfect agent of an unrestrained police state.
Then the world ended, and what was he going to do? Walk off and find some place to eat snacks? Or clean up from the mess Praetoria made? What was the right thing to do…?
Okay, there’s an element of Juke, mechanically, which is going to sound like a complaint. And it is a complaint, a little bit, but it’s a little bit of a whine, really. See, Juke is an Epic Archetype, of the second set, the Villain Epic Archetype (‘VEAT’), which makes him the villain version of a thing like the Warshade or Peacebringer. These archetypes are more specialised and weird than the normal archetypes, and depending on what era of developer opinion you were reading, they’re either isolated because of their play complexity (hm) or their link to a specialised narrative (hm).
The hero archetypes, the Peacebringer and Warshade? They’re uhm. Not good? Not great. They’ve been improved, a lot, on Homecoming, by high level investment stuff, but the actual archetype you get out of them is ‘fine,’ in general. They get to be their own little secondary space, over on the side, and it’s a complicated conversation. For now, consider them on a lower shelf of power, where the best and most powerful thing they can do is probably fine.
But the VEATs, they were designed for a world of invention origin powers, with the incarnate system on the horizon, with developers who knew a lot of what they were doing and with limited ability to do anything truly unheard of to the programming of the game, and they are the most modern archetype in this ten year old game. The two VEATs each can do a cute trick of turning, by power choices, into two subclasses, which have some powers in common, but wildly different playstyles based on the powers you pick. And they’re not balanced against one another.
Look, both widows are really good. The Fortunata is so tough it can stand next to a Rikti Go-Fuck-Yourself Pylon without temporary powers or invention origin enhancements. The Night Widow can do that and put out enough damage to kill the pylon, again, without spending money on the build. Then, under that ridiculous standard you have the Crab Spider, which has huge area coverage, is tough as nails, and can run a big cloud of pets and the huge team-enabling power Venom Grenade. And then, down under those three, you have the Bane Spider. The weakest of the proper VEAT builds.
And uh, so like, hold on here because okay, I’m complaining about how Juke is a weak build.
Juke’s build has:
- Juke has 45%+ defense to all positions and 40%+ defense to all types, meaning he is at what we call the defense soft cap.
- Juke has 68% resistance to smashing and lethal damage, which is 7% shy of the hard cap for his archetype.
- 170% global recharge, which is permanent hasten, and permanent Reinforcements (a gang of little spider robots that normally takes eleven full minutes to recharge after it’s used up)
- 50% global damage buff, 30% of which is a team buff
Soooooooooo uh, don’t uh, don’t take the complaining very seriously. Bane Spiders are the weakest proper VEAT build. They are also completely gonzo.
The tradition in the roelplaying space for Praetorians is that every character (more or less) has a Praetorian counterpart. That is that any given character in Praetoria is then reiterated on in the Primal world (or, you know, vice versa, probably), and there are exceptions but the assumed default is that every character is one half of a pair of expressions on the same idea.
I don’t tend to make Praetorians that way – personally, I find the idea a bit of a retread and unless I can see a way to use the idea in some other form, I tend to only make my Praetorians as unique people, products of Praetoria, without a Primal counterpart. Yet, if you knew me, and you knew these characters, you might reasonable think that Juke is Praetorian Swivel.
They’re not. I mean, I can imagine someone with as it were, a fan theory that they are comparable characters, but to me they really feel different. They are both cyborgs, with a militarised background — Swivel, the US Military, Juke the Praetorian Powers Division — and they have the same hair and both wear skin-tight nonsense supertech suits. They both hack things remotely that they’re near physically, and they both are parts of small organisations operating technically, technically outside the purview of any governments. They’re both dangerous softboys, and both are immensely guilty about something — Swivel about his past of violence and Juke about being in the super-fascist super-CIA.
What I think separates Juke from Swivel is how I imagine them both handling being cornered. The whole point of Juke, story-wise, is that he’s very good at wiggling out of things, and knows it, and he’s self-defeatingly guilty, so odds are good you’re going to find him in a situation that’s dangerous for him, dumb to be in, and that he will find some way to get out of it. Swivel, by contrast, will cut his way out of it. The whole point of Swivel is that trying to contain him is a problem – sure, both boys will find a way out, but Swivel’s way out is through.
Juke, on the other hand, Juke is meant to squirm. He’s meant to be in situations where he wants to wiggle out of it, but there really isn’t any wiggling to do. He was a Praetorian Police operative, he did things that he shouldn’t be able to wiggle away from even if he wants to.
I guess that’s the thought that permeates Juke’s story.
In a lot of superhero stories, there are people with bad backstories, or stories about revolting against something bad, but so often they’re forgiven in ways that I feel are very easy, that don’t relate to the way those things really are. You can’t be forgiven for a murder, because the person you murdered isn’t going to be asking you for forgiveness.
You gotta make good with what you got.