Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ignorance Is Bliss But Idiot Is a Cliche

Let's talk sidekicks. I'm not referring to junior partners to heroes like the original Teen Titans. I'm talking about people who are not only drawn stupid but act that way too. National Comics (later DC) practically cornered the market on them in the 40's. The Green Lantern had Doiby (Derby) Dickles, the Justice Society of America had 'Ma' (Red Tornado) Hunkle as a 'mascot', and Wonder Woman had Etta Candy. For a while it seems the government issued a short, feisty, funny looking little scrapper to watch every hero's back and boost the War effort. In spite of atrocious grammar, a short fuse, over confidence, a complete lack of common sense and little knowledge of the laws of physics each sidekick had one amazing power: they could move a story forward.

I think sidekicks would work best as the main character's cliche (Idiot, Comic Relief, Man Friday etc.) The cliche could be used in most conflict situations. Stuck in court? Let Marty the Janitor argue with the judge, get socked with contempt and allow you to rework your defense. Being chased through a dark warehouse? Marty lights a match and sees all the crates marked 'Fireworks.' You get the idea. Using and reducing the sidekick cliche will give your character some extra staying power.

To move a story along you'd make a single roll with difficulty set by the referee based on how far you strayed from the story. The Risus Companion also has some good pointers under Stealing the Spotlight that deals with similar situations. Success means that  God (or the ref) does look out for children and morons: the sidekick stumbles across a clue or even the bad guy! Now the bad news: stumbling across the bad guy is bad for a person's health. Maybe he and his gang pick a fight with Marty the Janitor after he mops their new shoes or pokes one of them with his broom. Unless the sidekick roll was made by at least five or 10 he winds up in some sort of danger that the main character has to get him out of (and believe me you'd know it's your boy or girl or whatever behind the explosion or flood or fire set to finish him off.) The rescue can be as dangerous or aggravating as the referee can imagine and certainly falls under S. Jon's mantra of 'think of everything that can go wrong then have it happen.'

Truthfully any ref worth his salt will make up an elaborate pickle for your sidekick to get into and fudge the roll so you succeed by no more than four.

If the sidekick's roll fails he discovers nothing, gets sidetracked himself and loses a rank temporarily. Don't overuse your sidekick. It's bad form.