“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” [Bilbo] used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.” -Frodo Baggins
[SPOILERS for “Alpha Complex”]
Kai Ratchford was my character for the second run of “Alpha Complex”, a Mage the Ascension tabletop campaign. She wasn’t my first tabletop character, but “Alpha Complex” was my first campaign. Kai was a roboticist, plain and simple. I learned a lot playing Kai, and having almost a year of tabletop experience now, I often wish I could go back to the beginning and try again.
Kai grew up in a very anti-tech family, so her rebellion was to go to college and fall in love with engineering. As she made her way in the complex after her family disowned her, she grew suspicious of the Overseer, the sentient AI that runs the underground complexes where humanity lives. Not suspicious enough though. It became a throwaway line because I let my GM talk me out of it.
She had gone to college with Talitha North, another of the other PCs. They had been close in college, drifted apart, and reconnected after Kai got arrested. From that incident, I took the flaw “notorious”. It never mattered. Neither did the connection to Talitha really. I didn’t know what to do with it. It was never clear why Talitha and Kai were friends. Talitha’s idealistic nature drove Kai nuts throughout the campaign.
In the end, I created a character that cared very little for the plot that developed around the rest of the party. I tried to make her care. It didn’t work. I learned not to try to force characters to do things against their nature. I contemplated getting a new character, but Kai wasn’t a quitter. It was even hard to get rid of her! Eventually, she and I went off to try to warn the rest of the world about impending Armageddon and quit the campaign.
I learned a lot of things from Kai.
I learned to always keep your feet during character creation. I had a distinct image of who Kai was when I started, but as I worked through stating the character, and back and forth with my GM, that vision got lost. Very lost. By the time we were done, I didn’t know who Kai was really, or what her motivations were. You can imagine that posed a problem for role-playing.
On the other hand, I learned not to keep my feet during game. As a player, I tried to keep my feet and tried to fight where the story and the character were going. I was miserable. And so was she. I really should have let the road of the story sweep me down it like I was reading a book. Maybe I would have realized sooner that I wasn’t having fun. Or maybe I would have ended up with a story that I actually enjoyed and didn’t need to quit.
If i’m being really honest, Kai Ratchford probably never should have existed. It seems weird to say it now, since she’s been with me for almost a year at this point, but she really shouldn’t. I had a completely different character concept to start with, but my GM wanted a science/tech style character in the campaign and I didn’t think it mattered all that much for me to switch. Maybe it did? Don’t get me wrong, I love Kai dearly now, and her stubbornly independent streak still makes me smile, but I didn’t do her justice.
Kai is the character I “failed”, but maybe it was not such a bad thing. Through Kai I learned a lot about roleplaying and table-top characters. Kai will always be there for me – a voice of reason, logic, and brutally objective utilitarianism (not unlike the overseer she originally hated). She and I grew up together in our respective ways during our journey through “Alpha Complex.”
She is the first entry in a beautiful purple and gold notebook (which I use to take session notes), but I trust she won’t be the last.