Campaign: The Legend of Zelda: Shaman Gates
When you play enough of the same game you start to get opinions about things that don’t have anything to do with the things themselves. For example, I’ve only seen a few paladins, and none of them have been sword-and-shield holy knights, shining from horseback and defending the faith. Instead the last four paladins I’ve seen have been an overly-excited archer, a drunk earthbender, an expert with the battle ladder, and Felicia. My opinion about paladins includes “they never, ever, use a mundane weapon” whether or not that’s true. Similarly, my opinion on rangers includes “upsettingly high damage, upsettingly low personality”…usually.
Kojen is Link from an unreleased Zelda game. He’s a hero. He dresses in green and rarely shows off his hair. He had a mundane job (here, shopkeeper) until he received his call. He uses one weapon almost exclusively (a crossbow, per Link’s Crossbow Training) but occasionally uses others to solve puzzles. And like Link played by most people, he acknowledges that avoiding damage is better than toughing through it but still takes a lot of hits anyway.
Kojen plays like a typical 4E ranger: bow attacks, lots of movement, avoids typical ways of being punished for either of those actions, and a bunch of ways to subvert my expectations around how many tricks he has left in a given round. This is the point in a description where I say “but this character was strange and unique in the following ways”. Kojen really isn’t. He acts exactly like you would expect a ranger Link to play. There’s nothing exciting or clever about him. He’s a totally normal character.
But see, this is a Zelda campaign, so a mundane character is perfect. He has a few quirks that define how he approaches challenges, but for the most part he lets the world and monsters be the most interesting characters in the room, just like if he was playing the video game itself. In many ways he’s a foil for Azeld in that they both represent different play styles for the same game. He hangs back and measures his resources and actions carefully, she rushes in and bonks things. He thinks his way around puzzles and quests, she rushes in and bonks things. He (or his player) knows a lot of Zelda canon and leverages that in both his strategies and investigations; she rushes in and bonks things.
Normally I have a real problem with boring characters. “Fill the sky with arrows” is a build, not a character concept. But I’ve never felt Kojen was boring, and I think it’s because he fits the campaign so well. Nobody joined the campaign looking for a deep, immersive backstory where they face their troubled childhood; everybody joined to use a hookshot. His play style helps me keep things light-hearted, and I don’t miss tough moral decisions and competing allegiances barely as much as I thought I would.
Again, this campaign isn’t over. Kojen could still die (again!), forgotten, in a barren corner of the world, denied even the dignity of a burial. He’ll probably kill the final boss and retire in glory, though.