Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Template: My Master, Right or Wrong

Not the most famous reference,
probably, but it is the one that
jumped out at me first.
My brother and I were discussing tropes when talking about backstory and the like, when the hypercompetent sidekick character for the incompetent bad guy came up. TVTropes calls it My Master, Right or Wrong, because the guy is usually loyal regardless of the consequences, and has to do with moress in a time where loyalty and obligation were considered among the utmost virtues. So this character is usually a shining knight or samurai or other honorable warrior type who is shown to be a master at his craft. Let's take a look at how to potentially put together a character package to describe someone in this situation.


I tried to stick to this one
as much as possible.
To start off with, let's describe the advantages that are usually ascribed to a character of this type. All page numbers are from Basic Set - Characters unless otherwise specified.
  • Heightened Attributes - This depends on the character's line of work, but for example a star warrior might have incredible DX, and a master tactician might have tremendous IQ.
  • Patron (p. 72) - One of the defining characteristics of this character is that she is serving a master, for better or for worse. So Obviously, this character has a Patron. Appropriate modifiers include Equipment. Power level depends on the scope of the campaign, but could be intergalactic in scale if she is the retainer of an emperor of a thousand planets. Minimal Intervention also works for a fickle master who can't understand the direness of a request.
  • Reputation (p.26) - He is often a hero of the common people regardless of his evil master's incompetence. Additionally, he stands as a giant in his field, and all his peers on either side are in awe of his accomplishments.
  • Destiny (p.48) - She is better than her circumstances and their is an electricity in the air that scintillates with this cosmic truth. She will rise above the situation and usher in a time of prosperity.
  • Empathy (p.51) - He can tell when he meets the good guys that they are in the right. When he sees the common people he can feel their plight.
There are many more that might work depending on the genre, but this list is almost the bare minimum to establish the character is something special regardless of her allegiance.


This list is probably even more important in defining this type of character.
  • Code of Honor (p.127) - Absolutely critical, this captures exactly why he is using his abilities for someone who might not be the best possible leader. The chivalry, xia, or bushido versions especially. Xia and Bushido can be found on p.53 of Martial Arts.
  • Dependents (p.131) - Typically, these characters serve an inferior and evil master, so the master could be a type of dependent. The Basic Set recommends halving the value for an employer because the emotional obligation isn't as strong. In this case because of the fierce loyalty of the character, I think the Friend, or even the Loved One multipliers might actually be more appropriate, albeit, it will probably have a low appearance modifier. Note this is incompatible with Duty, but one or the other might be more appropriate depending on context.
  • Duty (p.133) - A bit of overlap with Code of Honor and technically illegal to combine if the Duty is to the same character as a Dependent. That said, a character with his liege as a Dependent may have a Duty to his nation instead. It is appropriate to give the duty Involuntary because the character will refuse on his honor to not fulfill his obligations. Failure in this case will have extreme repercussions. (An unjust master with wanton power can do a lot of awful things.)
  • Sense of Duty (p. 153) - This might be more thematically appropriate for a character who feels she is responsible for the people of her nation. The differences between this and Duty are subtle but important.
  • Fanaticism (p.136) - This is another alternative to Code of Honor. For a character that is bent on meting justice and smiting evil, and will die for the people and country he believes in. I would say it overlaps a bit too much with the most expensive Code of Honor disadvantages, but flavor wise, it might paint a different more accurate picture at times.


This is extremely context dependent. The hyper competent techie that saves her dumb boss's bacon repeatedly by fixing things and letting him take credit is going to have a different set of super high level skills than the knight general in charge of an evil despot king's army. On a similar note, the character is liable to invest in lots of talents in the relevant area.

Completed Template Example

Well, it's more like a lens than a template, but this example uses the Knight from Dungeon Fantasy 1. See below:
This book opens up some
opportunities for the high
level strategist variety.

Tragic Retainer

25 points
Advantages:  Born War Leader 4[20]; Reputation 2("Fair and Just, Beloved By The People")[10]; Patron (Evil King with Large Kingdom at his disposal; CR 9; Minimal Intervention, -50%; Equipment, Starting Wealth Level, +50%)[25]
Disadvantages:  Code of Honor (Chivalry or Bushido) [-15]; Sense of Duty (Nation)[-10]; Dependent (Evil King, Built on 50%, "Friend", Fairly Often)[-5]
These points can come out of the disadvantage categories that for the most part already exist on the template as options or requirements(Besides the Reputation, Patron, and Dependent.) If you have Guilds it would be especially appropriate to put some of the remaining advantage points into Rank or to put all of the points in Patron into rank in lieu of patron, most likely the Military Company or Noble Court. Otherwise, Empathy is another good choice, because this character is often an unusually good judge of character, being able to suss out a potential hero from a band of arrested thieves or knowing when he fights the good guys that this woman is the leader the people truly deserve.

Other Thoughts and Closing

Are these character building type posts helpful? Can't tell if they are popular, but I wanted to spell out the process of putting something together for a character trope I enjoy. This type of character probably would be difficult to GM for in practice though, unless the entire party was trapped making a living in an evil kingdom. In that case, this character has some awesome plot hooks, and some good internal conflict. How do you serve a jerk of an incompetent king and the people at the same time? 
I kinda regret that I can't get Empathy to fit into the template, but I recommend it as an option.

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