Thursday, September 29, 2016

Eddie Mendoza Rides Into the Sunset

Wow. What started out as a provisional, possibly very temporary character in what was meant to be a brief, transitional RPG campaign has finally reached his appointed ending over two years later.

I've written before (here, here, and here) about Eddie Mendoza, Freelance Reporter, Seeker of the Strange. And while I don't want to rehash everything I wrote in those three posts, I do want to go briefly back over the entire evolution, just to get it summarized in words in one place and get my feelings down now that it's over.

As I said before, Eddie was supposed to be temporary, a placeholder. I have been meeting at least once a week with the same gaming group for, fuck, over eight years now. Two years ago, our previous game campaign had kind of blown up over some personal drama at about the same time that I had been getting very burned out with my character and the campaign. So I had enjoyed having those evenings free during the several week hiatus that followed the ending of that campaign.When Sargon mentioned that he was going to start a new, kind of temporary campaign about monster hunters with a piece of the former gaming group, I was reluctant to commit to it.

But I decided to create a provisional character anyway. Sargon mentioned that the game would be taking place in Wraithport, a haunted city in Washington State (like Seattle, but not). Thinking of Seattle and monster hunters reminded me of a TV movie from the 1970's called The Night Strangler. A sequel to the previous The Night Stalker, the movie was about newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak on the trail of a mysterious monster that was strangling women and draining some of their blood. The two TV movies inspired a follow-up TV series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker (like The Thin Man or The Pink Panther, somehow the original title referring to something else entirely had grafted itself onto the main character), that leaned a little too hard on the Monster of the Week formula and turned silly by the end, but is still fondly remembered by fans, including me.

So I decided to create a Kolchak-type character, which got a dubious look from Sargon, who said that everyone else would be playing high-powered spell casters. A reporter would not really be able to hold his own in that group. But I argued, a) I can give him some wicked weapon skills and a couple of magical artifacts he'd collected on his earlier adventures, and b) I don't know how long I'll be playing him anyway, so who cares? If he's too weak to be fun, we can just write him out and I get my evenings free again.

And so came Eddie Mendoza to Wraithport, where he hooked up with a group of people (ish) that he didn't particularly like or trust, but he stuck with them to get a really big scoop of a story. But especially in those early days, he made sure to remind everyone as often as possible that he was just there temporarily and might be leaving at any time.

And something weird happened. Eddie started to like this group of weirdos that he had hooked up with, and even more, he started to feel needed. In those earliest days, because of his news gathering skills, he assumed a kind of leadership role in the group, pointing them in the ways they needed to go to get this puzzle solved. And also, very improbably, thanks to some smart use of the special combat perks that had been introduced for this game, Eddie got a reputation as the badass in the group.

And I started to get really invested in the character, taking him to heart as perhaps the most personal character I had ever played. Eddie dealt with crises of conscience (working with demons and giving up his journalism career once he realized he had gone from reporting the truth to serving as a spin doctor covering up the group's adventures). Eddie dealt with crises of faith (working with demons and pledging to serve not one, but two different magical beings not named Jesus).  Eddie dealt with PTSD from fighting some incredibly powerful and scary beings. And Eddie began to develop a belief in destiny, thanks to some prophetic dreams and a trip to a storybook land where things worked by storybook rules.

Eddie found himself trapped between two conflicting certainties: that he had met the woman he was destined to fall in love with, and that he was going to die in the very near future, making a relationship with that woman impossible in his eyes, or at the very least, unacceptably cruel. So Eddie the Loner, who had suddenly found what seemed to be a new family, forced himself to remain Eddie the Loner as much as possible, to spare everyone's feelings. There are people who think that the whole unrequited love thing is a ridiculous trope, that no one would willingly put themselves through that. But Eddie and I are romantics with immense esteem issues, and we did exactly that, and I kind of loved it. Eddie Mendoza, the Tragically Romantic Monster-Head Blower-Offer.

By the end of the game, of course, Sargon's predictions of Eddie's inferiority proved true enough, but it wasn't too bad, and it was a blast getting there. And even though Eddie the Loner kind of disappeared into the background of the game for long stretches, he did get his big final moment, riding off into the sunset for a new destiny with the promise of a fresh start with his new family when he finally returned. A clean fate slate.

And now we're looking to begin a new game next week, in a milieu that I originally wasn't very keen on (pirates), but I am excited about my new character, Shem the Mouse (which is repetitive - Shem means "mouse" in the game tongue--I was originally going to have it mean "rat" but I think that's a little too aggressive for my character's personality), and about the many ways I plan to abuse the new rules system we're trying out (I have over a page of notes of strategies I want to try).

But I'm finding it hard to leave Eddie completely behind. Like Dougal Smeaton, I have played Eddie for so long that he has become a part of me, and I can't just give him up cold turkey. And I don't really have to. I still have his journal unfinished that I plan to get back into at some point. I've even thought about writing a separate story, maybe a novella, but it feels weird, like some kind of super esoteric fanfic for an audience of me.

Oh well, it's time to give Eddie some well-deserved rest and start a new adventure. Onward.

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