Many moons ago, I was running a superhero campaign for a bunch of friends. There were just three of them, and we had fun taking it in turns to put each hero in the spotlight, giving them each a story arc of their own before moving on.
One of the heroes was run by Chris (not his real name), and his character…. well, he was a bit of a jerk. Ok, a lot of a jerk. Imagine if Guy Gardner had been written into the Marvelman universe by Alan Moore, and you’re there. He was a rude, arrogant, sulky, sexist dickwad of the highest order (and totally unlike Chris in every way, I should add). When it came to being heroic and saving the day though, he was stellar. He would be in the thick of the action, selflessly saving innocents he’d insulted mere moments before, all in the name of Truth and Justice. The hero’s name was Conduit, which just goes to show we sucked at superhero names even then.
Conduit was loosely modelled on the Green Lanterns (hence the Guy Gardner reference) except the ring that acted as a conduit (geddit?) for his abilities. It didn’t draw power from some cosmic battery, but from Conduit’s own emotions. And our hero was so very angry. All the time. Hulk level angry, a perpetual fuel source for his ring. An unquenchable flame.
Which is where Conduit’s story arc came in.
Our heroes arrive at a residence where a step-father is beating a kid. Conduit loses it, and demolishes this guy within a bare inch of his life before the other heroes intervene, cueing epic hero-on-hero fight. I’m sure you’re ahead of me here. Over a few game sessions, it’s revealed that Conduit was badly abused by a seemingly endless string of his mother’s “lovers”. This was the source of his anger, the reason he kept everyone at arms reach, the reason he tried so hard to be disliked, the reason for his thirst for justice.
And, ultimately, the source of his superpowers.
The thing Conduit hated about himself was the very thing that gave him the ability to stop this happening to someone else. These were an intense few game sessions, which culminated in Conduit removing the ring and walking away.
“I have to let go.”
If there was ever a Comic Book Cover Moment, this was it.
I’d like to say there was an epilogue where Conduit finds happiness and the ring returns to him powered by positive emotions, but it wasn’t to be. Conduit was retired, and Chris created a new character (most likely with an equally awful name).
Fast forward several years, and Chris, I and the gang meet up for the first time in years. We’re reminiscing about our old games, and Chris brings up Conduit.
“He was me, you know.”
“Yeah, he was your character.”
“No. He. Was. Me.”
We share a look that could have lasted for days, and I feel as dumb as a brick. We talk late into the night. It explained everything. Why a nice guy was hanging around the geeky anti-social crowd. Why Conduit was played with such passion.
And why he took off the ring and didn’t look back.
Conduit had served his purpose, and served it well.
Chris, this one is for you.