Tuesday, October 13, 2015

DFAE: Anakin Yashpal, Magical Cleaner of NOLA

Spader7 from Deviant Art
We've just started playtesting Dresden Files Fate Accelerated. I'm not a big DF fan, though I enjoy the concept and I like the original Fate version and its clever mechanics. The FAE take on it is pretty sharp and just as easy as the base game. I'm looking forward to seeing how the system operates for more complex situations. We did a character creation session and because I get things into my head, I had to write up the full backstory for my character, Anakin Yashpal. The game's set in New Orleans and I wanted to justify my character's goofy first name and bring in a few elements from Unknown Armies. Anyway here it is, but it's pretty rough. 

Davu “Davis” Yashpal was unusual, an obsessive Indian emigrant who managed to break into the Hollywood system. In the early 1970’s he’d climbed his way up, becoming known as a skilled technician of practical and visual effects. Eventually that landed him a job on Star Wars, where he toiled hours building models, many never used. He had a meticulous eye for detail. His efforts made him valuable to ILM and he hired on to work on the other films in the series. Davis was proud of his work, despite it eating up all of his time. Between jobs he worked on new concepts and models to the exclusion of all else. This left his family on a tight budget.

His obsession and eye for detail also meant he rubbed his co-workers the wrong way. After Return of the Jedi, he found opportunities he'd expected never appeared. He’d burned bridges and found himself forced to work on terrible films. When Dino Delaurentis tried to set up a "New Hollywood" in North Carolina in the mid-1980’s he followed along, dragging his wife and young daughter, Maya. However the move frayed their relationship and his wife left within a few months, heading back to California and an ongoing affair. She left a bewildered Maya behind. Finding himself having to care for his teenage daughter alone shocked Davis to his senses. He knew he had to find a more solid place to live.

Davis called on a few remaining friends, people he knew in passing who'd left to work in TV and small scale movie production. Eventually that brought Maya and Davis to New Orleans. He rolled into the city with him a trailer filled with broken models, salvaged mechanisms, and weird drawings. When they settled into a house, as he’d always done, he immediately filled it with all of replicas, tools, equipment, and works in progress. But now more than before, he paid attention to his daughter. They bonded over the films he’d worked on, particularly the Star Wars trilogy. Davis did very well, a skilled technician who had big name credentials that impressed small-scale producers filming here. He worked hard, perhaps too hard. Just after Maya graduated from high school, Davis died of a heart attack.

Maya somehow managed to keep herself together. She’d worked alongside her father and developed skills surpassing his. Despite barriers and bias against her gender in this world, she excelled at a local technical college. Maya took on many of her father's old jobs: lighting, wiring, model building, and practical effects. On the side she repaired small things, often buying broken appliances and devices at garage sales, then fixing and trading them. She needed extra money for her obsession: her collections. She’d always loved the Star Wars toys, many gifted to her during her father’s time with ILM. Now these became a beacon for her, and she began to acquire memorabilia wherever she could. Maya began to hoard and fill their house with an ever-expanding collection.

Then in 1992, she found herself pregnant. He had suspicions about his father, but she would never tell her son exactly who he was. She named him Anakin, after the promise of a difficult man redeemed. Growing up was tough. Anakin's family lived on the margins, cut off from support networks of community and relatives. Maya worked hard and tried to do well by her son. She repeatedly watched with him the Star Wars films. But only the original trilogy. Anakin learned not to ask about the others. He made friends, but never close ones; his uncertain ethnicity, odd dress, and weird status isolated him. It didn't help that he couldn’t bring friends home. Over the years his mother’s hoarding had become worse and worse. Anakin felt ashamed when he went to friends' houses, and rarely visited more than once. His mother worked hard, but aside from time spent with him, she sunk more and more into collecting and her hobby building. At first she crafted clever and creative models, but over time these became increasingly broken and weird pieces as her strangeness grew.

Anakin learned to take care of himself. He loved his mother but increasing spent what time he could away from her. At first she worried, but as he was around less and less, her attachment waned. He learned when he could stay around without harassment, how he could survive cheaply, where he could crash without being questioned. Then in ’03 he met Bernard Soles. It was a strange meeting. Anakin had learned to be wary: avoiding adults when he could. But Soles tracked him down, knew his name, knew about his wanderings. Bernard offered him an option. Anakin could come and hang out with his circle, The Grey Cups Social Club. Or he could choose not to. No bargain threat or punishment in the offing. 

Anakin didn’t understand, but something about Bernard’s manner overcame his resistance. He went in expecting something like a Youth Group and finding something else entirely. Older men and women, some much older, talking, drinking, smoking, playing music, and somehow via all of that teaching magic. Anakin stayed on, listened, and learned. Time with his mother had made him sensitive to eccentricities, and how to act around them. Club members took to him quickly. He felt valued and respected here, becoming an errand boy in exchange for lessons in the arts. Anakin picked things up fast, but he never learned exactly how Bernard had found him.

Spader7 on Deviant Art
Then in 2005 Katrina struck. The Cups had hazy premonitions before it came, but they railed and argued about what to do. Only late into event did Anakin realize how bad things had gotten. Things went wrong, went terribly- and while some of the club members escaped, other vanished or died. Even today Anakin doesn’t recall much of that time. He fled into the Nevernever. He’d learned the paths, and they were like the streets of the city to him. Anakin used those passages and ways to survive- but even there the hurricane and floods posed a danger. The mirror of the real world, the storm battered and destroyed the echoes of supernatural New Orleans equally. Like the city itself, the Nevernever is still recovering and rebuilding.

Anakin survived- running, making bargains, and helping where he could. He recalls it only in fragments. He remembers something of the search for his mother. He tried to find her at shelters and among the few friends she still had. But she was gone. When the waters pulled back, Anakin returned back to his home. It has been devastated, everything his mother had collected, treasured, and stored had been flooded, rotted, covered with mold. He saw all of those things his mother had cared so much about destroyed.

And where he might have resented it, hated those things which had eaten up so much of his mother’s life, he didn’t. He simply felt sad- sad knowing that these things she’d loved ended up this way. He went through the collection as best he could, uncovering a handful of pristine things, mostly cards and the like held in plastic. Damaged pieces still worth some money he sold. But he kept the cards. They became a talisman for him, creating the focus and emotional connection for his magic. Bernard eventually found him and brought him to what passed as a home for him for the next five years, a house miraculously protected where the oldest of the Grey Cup Club still lived.

Anakin finished school and did a two-year technical degree to gain an arguably useless piece of paper. Even before he graduated, he turned his talents to his twin obsessions: restoration and collection. He volunteered for every cleanup and repair crew. He apprenticed with different companies doing tear down, excavation, and mold removal. He learned all of the mundane tricks and techniques necessary: the sprays, the gear, the sealants, and beyond. He became in demand to head up crews and to take on jobs others wouldn’t do. But his trials went beyond the material world. Many magical and supernatural elements had been broken along with the city. He took work that gave him the opportunity to put those things down as well. And he had other clients who hired him to fix places and locations in the Nevernever. Often that had echoes of the mundane work, but sometimes it involved more complicated challenges.

His other obsession became deeply entangled with his vision of magic, despite Bernard’s warnings against it. Anakin collected- mostly cards- baseball, movie, CCG, comic book- never anything Star Wars though, that wasn’t his to do. He spent much of his money and time to collect. Acquiring a particularly rare card could give him a boost when he opened a lucky pack or closed a potent trade. They’ve become tightly tied to his visualizations. For ritual or serious magic he usually has to sacrifice something from his collection, to give him and focus and a connection. 

High Concept: Waterlogged Plutomancer Cleaner
Trouble: Obsessive Collector
Other: Son of New Orleans

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