Friday, June 21, 2013

The Monkey


I like to pretend I could have been a vocal actor.  I’ve got a set of funny voices that I’ve used so many times over the years that I can speak in them for hours without breaking character.  These voices have become stock characters in our duet games, practically Eternal Companions to Robin’s Eternal Champion.  One of them is my favorite NPC.  His name is “the Monkey.”

The Monkey is a leering, irreverent rascal.  His voice grates with a boyish cackle.  He is a thief, a trickster, a man with a plan.  When pressed, he can be sensitive and mature but vastly prefers being an irresponsible man-child.  His greatest desire is to live free but he’ll do anything for the woman he loves.  The Monkey is, bluntly, my impression of Tony Oliver’s voice for Lupin III. 

The Monkey first appeared way, way back in our original duet game – an Old World of Darkness Land of Eight Million Dreams (“changelings of the east”) campaign starring a nyan (cat-girl) named Fuyuko.  His name in that campaign was Monkey Mask, a hanuman (monkey-spirit) who was a flagrant copy of Lupin III that was also at the same time the Monkey King of Journey to the West.  Monkey Mask’s gimmick was disguising his actual monkey nature by wearing a rubber monkey mask during his crimes.  He had a Cultist of Ecstasy (sex wizard) girlfriend who was an Americanized Fujiko Mine, a Glass Walker (city-dwelling werewolf) stand-in for Jigen, and a kuei-jin (eastern vampire) Goemon Ishikawa XIII (who might have been the actual Goemon Ishikawa, but I can’t remember).

During the sessions where Fuyuko got tangled up in Monkey Mask’s plans, I remember having a sublime moment – a moment where my mind and spirit were one.  We were playing the actual heist and something just snapped in place and I narrated this crazy, wild ’n’ wooly action scene right out of a Lupin cartoon.  The details are largely lost to the mists of wine, but I distinctly remember crossdressing disguises and expanding puffballs immobilizing the police.  It was grand (though, admittedly, only the kind of GM grandstanding you can do in a duet game where your partner enjoys watching you go nuts).

Since then, the Monkey voice and characterization has recurred in some form or another in almost every campaign.  He has been an undisguised Lupin III, the real Hanuman (and Sun Wukong and Sarutahiko Okami), the King of Thieves in 17th Century Marseilles, Lykos son of Hermes, a Japanese Merlin, and numerous other rogues and scoundrels.  Sometimes he’s just a helpful ally or even a father figure, but usually he’s one of a quadrilogy of leading male voices that take turns as the heroine’s primary love interest.

I enjoy playing these other stock characters, but none of them are as fun as the Monkey.  The Tiger is a brash, growling action hero – a Conan, Thor, or Alcide Herveaux – but he has to sheathe his claws all too often and his strength is all too fragile.  The Tennant is inspired by David Tennant’s portrayals of Casanova and the Doctor; he’s the Monkey’s better-looking cousin in many ways, but he’s riddled with self-doubt and conscience.  The Tamlin was inspired by Rupert Everett’s urbane and witty take on Oscar Wilde’s characters; he’s more slick and subtle, but he’s jaded and bitter more often than not (there’s a reason I use that voice for Elaith Craulnobur).  Whatever role he assumes in the game, the Monkey is a figure of anarchy and glee, of joyful exuberance.  It’s fun to be him.

Sometimes I’m glad that I’m a constant GM and never a player.  I can’t imagine how nerve-wracking dealing with me playing the Monkey as a regular player character would be for some other schmuck.  The other players would hate me too.  “Who’s the richest jerk in town and how do we rob him?”  “Watch me schmooze my way past this dragon!”  “Hey, baby.  What’s your sign?”  He’d be the most ambitious, self-endangering PC in whatever world we landed in. 

It’s a good thing the Monkey is just my favorite NPC instead.



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