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.
One, the story of a cosplayer who looks like one of the most famous girls in gaming, with a relentless online presence. Two, an overachieving supergeek whose boundless energy got an Explorer Position in Portal Corps. Three, there’s the story of a dimensional fold gone wrong, an accident that tethered her to a time-warping extradimensional supertech, and the gun-toting wise-cracking speed demon heroine that comes out the other side.
Zoe (or Emily, or Zoe, depends on the day) is what happens when these three stories collide in one absolute explosion of a girl. She’s incredibly Online, openly queer, and proudly cocksure. You might know her from Cosplay compilations, from her hero work, or maybe from her twitter feed, a high-volume mix of theoretical superphysics, cosplay, more adult content than is strictly professional and all the selfies in the world!
If you’ve worked with Trancer, you probably know her because of the neverending string of quips, and also the bullets. There are definitely a lot of bullets flying around.
Trancer’s powers are a byproduct of a dimensional rifter accident at Portal Corps. These accidents are hard to make happen – they’re basically thermodynamic miracles – but at some point, material of her body got entangled with a sort of strange temporal wave. The result of it was that, with practice and a lot of math, she was able to warp and manipulate time in a flow around her. She, already a superhero cosplayer, took this as a sensible sign that she should immediately make herself into a full-time proper superheroine.
The problem with doing ‘a lot of math’ is that math is not something human brains are naturally good at. The brain finds it difficult to abstract it, to memorise these ranges and their relationships, and gets in its own way. Already studious on Dimensional studies – why else was she going to be an intern at Portal Corps – she taught herself a sort of self-hypnosis, studying the mind and ways to make it function in a particular way. Using that, she was able to tap into her own mind and do math on a higher level than even most computers can manage.
By doing quantum mathematics in her head and focusing on that information to a transmitter in her padded armour, she can increase or decrease the scope of this personal time rip. What it looks like is a super speed heroine who seems to be concentrating in a trance and firing without looking at things, all while glibly chattering away. Anyone who’s been around her knows that Trancer makes you harder to hit, faster to act, and can always find a new nick of time.
Another detail about Trancer is that she’s openly trans, and a member of one of the city’s registered LBGTQ supergroups, the Cavalry. Originally one of the founding members, she’s now its Portal Corps liaison and science officer. Which is different to its tech officer, in that she mostly wants a whiteboard and a laptop, not a foundry.
Trancer is a supporter, as a hero. She knows she’s not the toughest, she knows she’s not the hardest hitting, but she knows her powers make her excellent at helping a group hold together. Typically that means she wants to show up and help other people with big operations rather than going on her own. It’s something of a point of pride in her part how she’s good at bringing out the best in nearly everyone.
Except TERFs and Nazis, they can get lost.
Time is dumb. Time is so dumb. Time, after nerfs is one of the strongest support sets in the world, partly because of interaction with an epic power pool, and partly because when spending its resources on what to be about, the set picked only a small number of things that work well together.
Forcefield, for example, is a set which does three things, basically; it gives the team +defense, it does some knockdown, and it has a mez protection bubble. That’s about three things, and a lot of them are overkilling the problem. You don’t need lots of knockback, and you don’t need as much defense as forcefield gives you.
Time on the other hand, cares mostly about recharge, with a single power that gives you a sizeable team buff. This sizeable team buff works with another power, Power Build Up, meaning its effect gets to double for the whole duration of the power. The upshot is that aside from her caps, Trancer has a defensive build that looks more like a scrapper or tanker:
- Smashing and Lethal resistance capped at 75%
- Melee, ranged, and AOE defense of 45% or better.
- 180% global recharge
- 31.25% global damage buff
You can check out the build here, but the numbers are going to be a bit weird when you toggle on Power Boost.
This build is also suboptimal in that Dual Pistols is not that good. What I wanted was a character whose superpower was the math-related time shenanigans, which meant that unless that same power could be useful for blasting powers, whatever blasts she picked up had to work with that power. So while Ice Blast, Water Blast, and Fire Blast all do more damage or serve better utility than Dual Pistols, Dual Pistols is the one that works best with the concept of a character who carries weapons because her superpowers aren’t inherently offensive.
Plus the flashiness and the distorted animations of Dual Pistols work really well for a character who’s moving through time at a different rate. She can shoot things nonlethally because to her, everything is moving slower, letting her pick targets even more carefully with nonlethal stun shots.
Yes, if you’re reading this and you know how dumb ‘nonlethal guns’ are, yes, but you should have said something when I said she was time travelling by doing math.
Let me tell ya: I am bad at costume design.
Not amazing at character design, to be entirely honest, but costume design is an absolute weak spot for me. I had the idea, at one point, that if I wanted to fix that problem, I could do it by modelling a character, visually, on someone from a piece of media that also had a range of costumes to build off. Restarting on Homecoming I wanted to try and see what I could do to make a variety of visuals for a character that represented them changing clothes, having different interesting looks.
There was a confluence here. I started playing around with the prestige slide Sprint power. I thought that Time was powerful, and interesting. I knew I wanted to stop making just a set of boy characters, and while I was at it, I thought that it’d be wise to stop treating every character like they were cis.
The result was kinda obvious and basic. I thought about a time-warper like Tracer, figured I’d use her look as a starting point, the slide as a way to flavour her sprint, and hey, then Trans Tracer – Trancer! Easy!
From there, when the powers of Time give you a giant spiral I got the idea of the autohypnosis, a swirling visual, and then that reminded me of a comic character who did math in her head to become a super speedster. Then there was the idea of how we practice these ideas, how we choose who to be. That idea then led to the notion of her looking like Tracer because she started out cosplaying Tracer, then became a hero with similar powers. Fun story, simple beat.
That’s where I wound up where I did with Trancer. From there, though, it became kind of a thing for set collection. After all, if I had the idea of An Overwatch Gal who got her start cosplaying the character, haha, as a joke, then becoming a successful cosplayer, then having The Genders, then getting superpowers once she was able to really focus on her life.
That was it!
That was all that it needed to come about.
Look, I’m not thinking Trancer represents any kind of Core Trans Experience. She has a few jokes to her – jokes like ‘Everyone knows a Zoe or Emily’ – that aren’t even really jokes per se. But I’m not trying to. I’m not going to write her having deep conversations about the fundamental nature of being trans, that’s not important to the kinds of stories this character is in. This character is about saving the day and punching a baddy, and the fact she’s trans doesn’t make it any harder to write almost everything she does.
I don’t need to write The Important Trans Experience. I’m just writing cool superhero junk that’s fun. Being scared off writing trans characters like you’re required to do a book report on every one of them and justify their transness is another thing that makes it just so we get fewer of these cool characters and the few that exist are held to ridiculous standards.