Art by Artastrophe
The directions for the contest were: “Write the most interesting character background and plot hook you can devise. This can be for a PC or NPC, for any system or setting, but it must be your own unique invention. You do not need full stats or gear; focus on their story and how to involve them in a game. Please keep it PG-13. You will only be allowed one entry, so make it your best!”
The prize was one custom miniature through the generous Hero Forge (and Shapeways), with free shipping to anywhere in the world. A free miniature for the runner up was made available, for which we were very grateful.
These entries are the property of their creators and used with their gracious permission. Please do not claim them as your own or reproduce them in any work intended for sale. If you wish to contact one of the authors respectfully for praise or work, you may use any links you find here or you can visit the original post on Kismet’s Gamer Gathering. As always, be excellent to each other.
Entries have only been edited for minor errors and formatted for readability.
The Google Doc will be updated as I receive permission from entrants. The winning entries are available as a preview below, but there are many more, so check out the Google Doc, too!
People go through life believing one thing or another. Their perspective is pathetically limited. True or false. Ones or zeroes. Heads or tails. Black or white. I am gray. I fall through the cracks. And that's how I like it. My name? Makiko. That's good enough for you. My story? Sure, I don't mind. Your cred cleared my checks. I might be lying. I might even be lying to myself, but that's for you to decide. I've a long history built on lies. Sometimes they're far more defining than the truth.
Ever hear of Mama Catspaw? No? She was good at what she did, so I'm not surprised, much good that will do her now. My parents, whoever they were, sold me to off to the woman. The standard story, you know, they'd come back one day for me, etcetera, etcetera. Bullshit. You might say I got used to betrayal early. I learned life came with a price and it wasn't even a high one. Cynical? Bet your ass. Fortunately, I had been blessed to have a brain and Mama was smart enough to pick up on it. I was more valuable for an open mind than a pair of open legs.
I've always been good with machines. I don't know why, I just was. Either way, they're far better company than people. They don't judge, they do what you ask. Mama loaned me out early on to the NetFreaks, partially for training and partially because she owed them. Those were good days, better than what I got later. They were old school hackers. They didn't care about who you were or what you looked like, you were either worthy of their respect or you were just another talentless norm.
The Freaks gave me my first neural jack and my first experience with net tripping. I've never looked back from that rush. You've never felt power until you've had millions of petaflops at your command. I was hooked. I was in love. I had a way out if I played my cards right. With my new skills, Mama wasted no time putting me to work. No job was too dangerous as long as she got the information she wanted. I was a pawn, an important pawn but, if things went to hell, I had no doubt she wouldn't have lifted a finger to help. The one thing Mama did do was deck me out with some of the hottest and most illegal bio and cyber. That came with it's own cost, more of what had been me, my memories and soul, were jettisoned for cool efficiency. The one thing she didn't realize however was that you could blot out memories but you could never erase the stain of emotions.
The hatred still festered but now, instead of self-loathing, Mama made a perfect target. I wasn't stupid. If I had been, we wouldn't be talking now. No, I was going to hit her where it hurt - her purse. It wasn't hard. As good as the other CyberSec guys she had on the bankroll were, they were nothing to me. I began filtering off small amounts of money at first and then shifting money around into false business accounts. Then I hit her for a cool ten mil and I wasn't even subtle about it. I told Mama I'd discovered someone was blackmailing her. Her own guys had come up with squat so she put me on it. Delicious irony isn't it? Like the fox guarding the henhouse... and oh how I intended on making her squawk. I was always just behind her "blackmailer" and she was in no position to negotiate. I had her by the proverbial balls and I twisted.
She paid. She paid or I'd let juicy bits of info out that would bring the gov down on her like a ton of bricks. All of that cash she so generously donated went into hiring my own agents, my own muscle, and my own havens. Finally, I sweetened the last deal she would ever get. One last outrageous sum for leaving her alone. She took it. She had no choice. We were to meet at an abandoned oil rig. If she hadn't tried to kill me I would have been disappointed. By that point, she was furious and took it out on anyone who displeased her so I fully expected her to welch. Mama didn't disappoint. She brought a whole squad of hired guns. That was fine. I had my own too. The briefcase she carried was empty except for a pistol. I expected that. The object here wasn't money, it was to settle the score.
The old nag was furious. Can't say I blame her but that's what happens when you put too much trust in someone isn't it? They bite you like a scorpion crossing the river on your back. My bite, however, was lead-jacketed. I guess she figured that, if she could take me down, my hired goons would make a run for it. Sadly for her, their loyalty was paid for double. They would die for me and some did but not as many as hers. I probably could have spared a few more of my men if I hadn't insisted that they take Mama alive. Those that lived would be rewarded a bonus. I'm not completely heartless. I know when I'm asking for difficult things. I remember her screeching about betrayal and family as I put the barrel of my pistol to her head.
Oh, Mama, haven't you figured it out yet? I hate family.
Now, I run her business. Our profits are up... well, that's none of your business. We'll leave it at that the new operation is proving bountiful. Oh, and I hope you don't mind. I took the liberty of hacking your datacorder while we talked. Anything I may have said that I don't want known has been eliminated from its storage. If you print something you remember that I don't like, I will ruin you or I will buy your news corp. I might do both if it amuses me. Good day. Do you want to know what your competition is coming out before the big trade shows? Do you think your enemies are closer than you think? Does your wife or lover keep secrets from you? Catspaw's Cradle will find out what you need to know, for a price.
"You'd never have survived without me!" The voice was menacing, frothing with rage.
"Go away! I don't need you!" Alice insisted, her voice frail and thin.
"But you do, Alice! You do! You're a victim. You'll always be a victim! Without me to protect you, you'd already be dead!" The menacing voice retorted. "If we weren't interconnected as we are, I'd kill you myself. Your weakness disgusts me, and mark my words, Alice, you will rue the day I break free from these shackles!"
Alice shuddered. Deep down, she knew the other voice was right; it was, after all, a part of her... Either that, or she was possessed by some hateful demon or spirit the priests had yet to locate and exorcise.
It had been like this for as long as Alice could remember...she just didn't have any fight within her...at least, not her own....
Or was it? Was the other actually a part of her? Another personality, perhaps formed in response to the horrible experiences she'd been subjected to as an orphaned child?
Or was she simply insane?
The priests could find no possessing entity; the mages were at a loss - their divinations and detections yielding no results; the witches and wise women had no answers, either.
But there was one who claimed to understand, who claimed to know a path to alleviate her concerns...
But the alchemist was a loon, wasn't he? Alice was fairly certain his mind was addled from exposure to his own strange concoctions, but the other seemed certain he could help...
The thought frightened her. Anything the other wanted was undoubtedly troublesome, but could she risk not taking a chance on peace of mind?
"No, you can't," the other growled. "Go to him, and try to learn from him. Maybe you'll actually prove yourself useful for once!"
"I'm useful! The Happy Clam thinks so, anyway!" Alice retorted, ignoring the glances from passersby. She'd gotten used to others thinking her mad - oftentimes, she wasn't sure she wasn't herself...
Even in the orphanage, they'd thought her mad...bullied constantly, beaten by the masters to correct her behavior...
Had the other always been present, or had she surfaced in response to that treatment? Maybe the alchemist could help her find out? Maybe control the other?
It was worth a try...