What story does your group of players tell about your character?

While I was out for coffee today with my friend Kate, she quoted an episode of Criminal Minds:

“Did you know that a domestic cat loose in a normal neighborhood is the equivalent of a small-scale ecological disaster? They’ll kill anything they can – bugs, rodents, birds, other cats, small dogs if possible. Anything.” 

Then she added: “That’s your character Curtis”.

Doombringer. Harbinger. Wolf of the Maelstrom. Curtis Scanlon has a lot of terrible in-character nicknames. I suppose Curtis was screwed from the beginning; he got his last name from Jackie Scanlon, a character from the movie Sorcerer. I love Sorcerer, but it is not a happy movie.

Curtis originally appeared as a Quarantine in Kate’s Apocalypse World mini-campaign. He started out fairly normal, even for an Apocalypse World game. I was sick of seeing Quarantines played as soulless killing machines, so I designed Curtis to be a thoughtful and resourceful person who believed in the ideals of the world that came before. The Quarantine Special, with its focus on expressing honest emotions, inspired this.

Then the second session happened. Every single time I was asked to roll something, it was with Hard. Curtis’s lowest stat! I failed every time. A couple of times, he was defeated by Allison, the party’s 10 year old Hardholder. Together, Allison and Curtis destroyed at least one motorcycle and a mini van.

The rest of the campaign was unremarkable in terms of dice failures.

Curtis next popped up as my second PC in Rob’s Apocalypse World game, this time as an Operator. I believe this is where the madness really started. Curtis was capable of doing all sorts of bad ass things, but only if no one was watching. If he had an audience, I would roll terribly. Among other misadventures: He was captured by a cult (his adopted daughter saved him). He took a bullet at point blank range and had his memories forcibly ripped from his head (daughter saved him again). He almost fell into oblivion trying to save the world (the Touchstone saved him there).

When I played Curtis next, it was in an Urban Shadows campaign as an Oracle. The dice curse followed there too. Turns out that when you struggle with dice luck as an Oracle, you botch a lot of your Foretellings rolls and see a lot of people you love die horrifically. Kate’s character Robin took to nicknaming him Doom, just because of the amount of trouble that Curtis brought to her doorstep.

I have considered playing Curtis in a diceless game just to see if things improve. I’m concerned that without dice acting as an outlet for Curtis’s terrible luck, other game materials will explode or catch on fire. In the meantime, Curtis has been immortalized in a phrase we use to wish each other luck on dice rolls:

“Don’t Curtis It!”

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