I was thinking that since tomorrow’s post is about the difficulty in converting D&D game characters into book characters and Luke makes his website debut on Friday, I should talk about him.
Luke Callindor was created in my freshman year of college when I joined the Storyteller’s Guild at SUNY Oswego and entered my first college D&D game. Prior to this, the games I played were done more for comedy and destruction, so having to design a character with some depth was a new challenge. So, I made a half-elven ranger who used twin sabers and looked like an idealized version of me . . . with pointy ears. Back then, Luke didn’t even have a last name. That appeared a year and a half after I created him when the guy running the game said “you guys are going to Luke’s hometown, so I need name.” Of course, the highly original ideas of mashing two words together (‘Swordarm’, ‘Fleetfoot’, etc.) was attempted before I just started flinging letters onto Microsoft Word. A couple hours and Root Beers later, I had Luke Callindor written on page 5 of a very long and idiotic list.
Now, the game version of Luke was basically a standard hero mentality with sudden eruptions of reckless ideas when under pressure. The sudden creativity was more me than Luke at the time because I didn’t want him to die. Remember that unlike in a book, a game character’s life is not always in the hands of the person playing him. Bad rolls (the high agility Luke tripping over a rock because I rolled a ‘1’). the guy the running the game decides you need to be punished (every high-level character took an opportunity to hit Luke in the stomach), or the guy running the game overestimates the players (1st level Luke vs. demonic assassin!?). So, the game version was much more cookie-cutter hero and safe than the version that appears in the book. The key differences are that book Luke is already highly skilled with a sword and he is a lot more reckless because there are no fate-driven die rolls to punish him for thinking like a teenager.
Aside from personality and better skills, Luke underwent a transformation of purpose that changed the entire landscape of Windemere. Originally, he was just an 18-year-old runaway with a pair of swords and desire to save the world. In the first draft of the book this was about as interesting as the backside of the cover. So, with his new flawed personality, I made Luke a descendent of legendary heroes. It was around this time that we saw many children of successful people rise into the media for the sole reason of being the child of a successful person. I thought it would be interesting if Luke was praised and idolized since childhood even though he never did anything. His drive, which he states several times due to an initial level of immaturity, is to prove himself. This drive is what became the core of his reckless behavior and his ability to think on his feet in the middle of a crisis. It also created an early habit of Luke’s to have sudden doubt whenever he was overpowered. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love flawed characters because it gives them something to overcome and it makes them feel more believable to me. Through this drive to prove himself, Luke forced me to create a world where a god controls the destiny of mortals. It created a theme of free will vs. destiny, which the god himself wonders about at times.
I can safely say that I am happy about how Luke came out and feel that he is superior to the version I played for 2.5 years in college. Sure, the game was fun, but that Luke never felt like an individual being. I think my favorite thing about book Luke over game Luke is that there is more space for evolution than simple leveling up. Yes, Luke will gain new powers, skills, and abilities as he travels his path. More importantly, he will mature like a real human being, which was an important goal of mine. I have read so many books where the hero starts out perfect, rises to perfection with ease, or never evolves from their immature beginnings. It’s boring to me, so I hope when you begin reading Luke’s adventures that you see him not as a finished product, but a character who is going to grow and evolve before your eyes.