Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
🎵 The song for this post is HATE, by Charisma.com. 🎵
To recap this recent set of tabletop gaming blog posts, I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons as Homage, Mouse Guard as Gorlif, and I'm about to enter a Fate campaign and wrote up some process sketches for that character.
The feedback from the GM was that, while many of the sketches were a lot of fun, we're really going for something a bit more realistic than a battle cyborg, or someone with detacheable parts. We looked at The Artiste and considered someone who did trick shooting. I eventually ended up going with the Mike Erhmantraut idea.
Meet Ángel Salinas, cast as Héctor Elizondo in my head.
Born April 22, 1953, Ángel was the son of a wicker furniture maker and his wife, a homemaker, in El Crucero, Nicaragua. He has 3 brothers (2 older, Andrés and Mateo, 1 younger, Francisco) and two sisters (both older, Ximena and Sara). When he was 19 he married a younger woman, Concepción, and worked more-or-less peaceably as a tailor for about 10 years, having 3 kids (Adelita, Esperanza, and Osvaldo).
For most of the time, he ignored and didn't participate in the Nicaraguan Revolution. He had a bit of an alcohol problem, and ran up some debt (mostly gambling, but he was gambling to pay back a smaller amount of debt — in today's dollars, it'd be like running up $20k of gambling debts that started when he was trying to win enough money to pay a $3.5k debt). Ostensibly to help with the debt but just as much that he was getting a bit antsy with a life less fulfilling than he was promised, he started working with the Frente Sandinista. He'd help tailor disguises for their clandestine operations, he'd add hidden pockets to clothes, use a code of seams and stitches to communicate information, and offered reduced-price dry cleaning. They taught him to shoot, which seemed more about forming bonds and brotherhood than fear that he'd actually have to use it.
It turns out, he did. A petty government official asked him to deliver his tailored clothes to an address which turned out to be abandoned. When he arrived, there was a table, and it was clear he was going to be interrogated. Knowing this was a risk and afraid of a snitch, he was followed by some Sandinistas. The government official thought it was a setup, and "luckily" brought a squad of his own. A firefight ensued, and Ángel sat in the middle, clutching the clothes and the pistol he carried. It was bloody, both sides at various times fired at him thinking he was the cause of their current stress, and he fired back at both sides in self-defense. Both sides had stragglers who left and told whatever story they had in mind to their superiors. Worried that both sides would blame him, and already in a lot of debt, he packed up his family that night and fled to Mexico.
On the way, he witnessed, held off, and fell prey to a number of robberies that threatened his family and left an impression on him. Furthermore, he was traumatized by the gunfight, and vowed to never allow himself to be that vulnerable again. Getting to Mexico City, he applied to work in the police force, starting with a beat cop on the Policía Sectoral, then getting promoted to detective, where he spent most of his career. He and his wife separated. His children grew up and married. He re-married. He kept enough contact with his siblings enough to know that Ximena married a military man in Nicaragua and that she and her family disappeared after one of the purges. Mateo fell into a bad drug habit and moved to another town in Nicaragua. He never heard what happened to Andrés, Francisco, or Sara, though he imagined they had kids somewhere down the line. His kids grew up and married, Osvaldo going to the United States, and the other two living in Mexico City.
Twelve years after the gunfight in Nicaragua, he was approached by a young man named Bruno, who claimed to be Sara's son. He said she died of tuberculosis about 7 years after Ángel left, and he'd also had to flee Nicaragua, and spent most of his energies tracking down Ángel. Ángel was wary but trusting, and spent the next few weeks applying some detective skills to verify the story. It didn't check out: he deduced that Bruno was an imposter, paid on behalf of the son of a gang leader he'd testified against as a detective, years ago. He surprised Bruno, interrogated him, and learned of their revenge plot: his Nicaraguan wife and kids (sans Osvaldo) were transported to a warehouse, and figures in Nicaragua were on their way up to have their own machinations against him.
He also learned that "Bruno" was based on a real identity: Sara really did have a son named Bruno who's out there somewhere, and she really did die of tuberculosis. He killed the imposter, went to the warehouse, finding Concepción smoking the fancy cigarettes of her captors, who were lying dead around her (turns out Concepción also picked up some skills during Nicaragua's civil war). He gave her half of his savings, the other half to his current wife, and told everyone to flee. One of his proteges from his police days who'd made it to the Agrupamiento Alfa told him he could get him in a safe house in the USA. At 54, he fled again, this time to Billings, Montana.
He spent the first 4 years as a tailor at a Nordstrom, but wanted more pista to live a little more comfortably, pay a Private Investigator to keep him informed of his family business in both Mexico and Nicaragua, and support a few other immigrant proteges he'd met, so he started doing some side hustles. Things like protection jobs, investigative work, "fixer" at murder scenes, arranging bribes, maybe a professional witness gig every here and there. He went back to drinking. He developed a reputation.
High Concept: Grizzled, older former detective and tailor with baggage. Thinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Trouble: Life seems to want to put me in crossfires.
- One good bullet, OR several clips. No half-measures.
- More tortoise, less hare: "I take my time, but I always win!" (quote stolen from here)
- "No, really, you'll thank me later for minding the details."
- Great (+4): Shoot
- Good (+3): Investigate, Contacts
- Fair (+2): Notice, Stealth, Will
- Average (+1): Rapport, Burglary, Empathy, Provoke
Called Shot: During a Shoot attack, spend a fate point and declare a specific condition you want to inflict on a target, like Shot in the Hand. If you succeed, you place that as a situation aspect on them in addition to hitting them for stress.
Lie Whisperer: +2 to all Empathy rolls made to discern or discover lies, whether they’re directed at you or someone else.
One Person, Many Faces: Whenever you meet someone new, you can spend a fate point to declare that you’ve met that person before, but under a different name and identity. Create a situation aspect to represent your cover story, and you can use Deceive in place of Rapport whenever interacting with that person.
Face in the Crowd: +2 to any Stealth roll to blend into a crowd. What a “crowd” means will depend on the environment—a subway station requires more people to be crowded than a small bar.
While I don't know a whole lot about what it will be like to play Ángel, I do like the opportunity to play a Latino and explore this part of my identity through play. The "son of a wicker furniture maker" comes directly from my great-grandfather, and many elements (the number of siblings, marrying early, making a life in a country torn by Civil War mostly created by American corporate interests) are in our history as well. There's a lot I don't know about conflicts in Nicaragua (I'm a lot more versed in the Guatemalan Civil War), and I enjoyed this research. I'm more motivated to research it a little further.
I may elaborate in a further post, but one of my favorite things about tabletop gaming is how much of a growth process it can even be to play: I mentioned that Gorlif is something of an exercise in empathy, and Ángel is looking to be a way I can exercise and explore my Latino background. An excellent articulation of this is in this article by a trauma survivor who uses gaming as a healing tool, and this allows me to scratch some itches I don't normally scratch.
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