This was originally inspired by a post by Mark Ellis on Facebook, talking about his interest in revitalizing the Hillman Comics aviator characters. I'm a fan of aviator pulps like G-8, and the Eclipse Comics relaunch of Airboy in the 80s introduced me to that family of characters. What Mark's post sparked in me was the idea to build an RPG, or at the very least a game that I can run for friends, around the public domain characters like Airboy, but in an updated format.
I love the pulps, but running a game in a historical era isn't always my thing. I'm not much of a stickler for the details, which can bother some who are playing in a historical game. This is why the idea of pulling the characters into the present appealed to me.
The other thing is that, frankly, games that spend a lot of time with the characters engaged in air combat in their airplanes can be boring. Breaking everything down to a series of dice rolls is kind of boring for me. This presents the second challenge with this property…how do I pay homage to the fact that these characters were aviators, without making everything about airplanes? I've been rewatching the TV show Burn Notice on Netflix recently, so an idea popped into my head.
My first thought to update these characters was to turn them into private security/military contractors. The characters would be part of a military security corporation like Blackwater USA, which would give them slightly more freedom than a strictly military campaign would have. Then, the story of Burn Notice swept in. What if David Nelson (the real name of the Airboy character) was a "burned" former military contractor? All of the equipment that he developed (including his signature airplane "Birdie") would be in the hands of his former employer (most likely the company he founded), the Air Fighters, and any security clearances that he had would be gone. You turn David Nelson into a Michael Westen type of character who 1) wants back what he believes is his life and 2) still wants to help people.
The characters in the campaign would be the people that Nelson has gathered around him on various "missions," that he feels that he can trust. That would be the player characters. Someone could play the part of Nelson, or it could be an NPC run by the GM. If the latter, you would, of course, have to resist the temptation to have him do all the cool stuff and leave the PCs to watch what he's doing.
I think that it could make for an interesting game.
The "keeping the aviator angle to things" could be as easy as having Nelson develop a new kind of drone technology, perhaps one with a highly developed AI that make the drones into the equivalent of his Alfred or Doctor Watson. If Nelson has trust issues, due to his being "burned," it could be that computer intelligences created by him would be the only "people" that he would be willing to trust for a long time.
Here is a write-up of David (Airboy) Nelson in a Fate Accelerated hack that I have been working on. I made my version of the character into more of a tech person, he created his plane instead of inheriting it, because I think it makes the character stronger and more "modern." He isn't a comic book super scientist, but he knows his way around avionics and aircraft technologies. He obviously knows a bit about computers (since he probably created the AI software himself), so he could probably be a bit of a hacker as well.
David "Airboy" Nelson
High Concept: I Can Trust The Technology That I Can Create
Trouble: Don't Call Me Airboy
Other Aspects: Military Background, Not The Person I Used To Be
Approaches: Careful +2, Clever +3, Flashy +0, Forceful +1, Quick +1, Sneaky +2
Powers: Creature Summoning (Flying Drones, named Birdie Two through Four). Basic Creature Summoning, Tough Little Thing, Menagerie.*
I didn't give Nelson any stunts yet, but they would likely give him an edge in military or technical matters.
Nelson wants to be left alone mostly, but not as much as he wants his old life back. He doesn't really want the life of the military contractor, or technology think tank, back, but he wants it to be known that he really didn't do what cost him that old life. He's trying to find out what exactly that "thing" is, and how he can fix it. Nelson's approach to people tends to be like his approach to technology: tinker with the machines until you find out what isn't working right, then once you know you can fix it or you can bypass it. He's realized that a big part of why he joined the military in the first place was because he wanted to help people, so over the last few years he has started doing that again on a smaller scale. A couple of his old friends from the Air Fighters still keep in touch, on the QT.
*The powers rules that I am working on are a hack of the Venture City SRD, so if you have a copy of it, you can eyeball what I did in this write-up until I have something official. If you like Fate and super-heroes, this is something that is good to have anyway.
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