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Wherein I Sympathize with Scarface

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I’ve put a one-pager adventure up at SEP called “The Lost.” It’s about an ex-Urban Cohort in Everthorn who as lost everything except his little girl, and now an old enemy has taken her. The ex-Cohort has been beaten nearly to death, and he’s got no one, so he turns to the PCs—for whatever reason—as his last hope to save his daughter. The first thing to understand is that this adventure may be a non-starter. The PCs might be criminals, you know?

But should that matter? In my Sword Noir fiction, the protagonists reside in a gritty world, and they are down there in the grit, but there are lines that they will not cross. There are lots of crimes that are pretty serious, but that most audiences can forgive if the criminal is honourable and has limits that we can understand. Who doesn’t sympathize with Tony Montana in Scarface? Even though he’s a murderer and a criminal, his downfall is pretty much predicated on the fact he doesn’t want to kill innocent people, especially children. Sure he’s a criminal, but what about bankers, money managers, and politicians? They’re criminals who are never prosecuted and don’t seem to have lines. No, Tony Montana is a criminal we can love. He might not be Robin Hood, but he’s loyal and honourable and we can cheer for him.

Calum in “Flotsam Jewel” does dirty deeds to support his kid brother. Caspan Trey in “For Simple Coin” almost gets killed trying to protect an innocent girl. Sure, both are criminals, but they are not bad people. Drust and Brude from “A Pound of Dead Flesh” seem pretty willing to commit petty crimes, but they aren’t out to hurt anyone who isn’t trying to hurt them.

“The Lost” works on the assumption that no one wants to play the kind of character that wouldn’t intervene to save a little girl taken from her father—who might be a scumbag loser, but who is still a loving father trying to do his best for his daughter. Maybe it’s because I’m a dad with two little girls of my own, whose greatest nightmare and fear would be to lose either one of them, but if my players turned their back on this guy, I’d be right pissed and I’d let them know it.

I just don’t think it’s fun to play real evil. I honestly wonder about people who believe otherwise.

You can find “The Lost” one-pager here.

You can find “Flotsam Jewel” and “For Simple Coin” in the short story collection For Simple Coin, here.

You can find “A Dead Pound of Flesh” in Black Gate #15, here.