Chosen one, foretold hero, messiah or prophecy fulfiller. Whatever the name many fantasy plots revolve around an ancient prophecy predicting the arrival of a “special” being capable of defeating a great evil. There are literally hundreds of examples in fantasy literature, but names like Aragorn, Arthur, Richard Cypher, Neo (yes, “The Matix” is high fantasy) and Rand Al’Thor are the first that leap to my mind. They all share some common attributes; bravery, intelligence, skill in battle, usually some special power or weapon and nearly infinite luck.
Bottom line is these heroes are the perfect combination of skill, lethality and powers needed to fulfill that ancient prophecy.
I think it is time for some more realistic characters to take of the mantle of “Chosen One.” Suppose the ancient speaker of prophecies was hitting the sacred wine a bit hard that day and “embellished” the heroic attributes of the “Chosen One,” just a trifle. Our seer got the high points right, born under the sacred mountain, by the light of the full moon to a woman from the Western Lands and marked with the symbol of justice, yada, yada, yada. He then, in a drunken stupor, writes a prophecy describing a man with all the “standard” messianic attributes listed above.
A few thousand years pass and the PC party shows up looking for the Chosen One capable of defeating the dark god. A pure soul, of great skill and intellect…and they find the local drunk.
Now this next bit is important otherwise this idea does not work and becomes a cliche. There must be no improvement in said drunk during the campaign. Rising from humble origins to the lofty heights of herodom is a rampant cliche in fantasy stories. Rand Al’Thor from the “Wheel of Time” series started off as a humble farm boy and quickly advanced to world-shaking warlord.
Having our town drunk overcome his demons through a “12-step program” is not the idea. I want a pathetic, cowardly, drunk, obscene piece of scum that does not seek redemption throughout the campaign. Remember, our messiah just needs to pull the sword, press the button, open the sacred tomb, destroy the magic ring or whatever task fate assigned him. Nothing says he has to like it or even cooperate with the party on their quest. Oh, and no special abilities either. I mean nothing! This loser has the correct DNA to get the job done, but nothing else.
In fact, our drunk might actively work to sabotage the quest! The sooner these crazy adventurers get themselves killed, the sooner our miserable drunk returns to his favorite bar stool. Just think of the possibilities, adventurers who are pure of heart and purpose shepherding a useless waste of humanity along on their quest. Protecting him from both the “Dark One” and his own self-destructive tendencies. It is the babysitting job from hell.
One suggestion: do not overplay the annoyance factor of the “messiah.” If you push the PCs too hard the PCs will permanently disable our lovable loser with magic/manacles/gag. The messiah is at this most entertaining when he is on the cusp of going from “annoying pest” to “damn the prophecy, this idiot has to die.”
After weeks of misery with the “Chosen One” the party finally reaches the “Castle of Doom” and battles their way inside. Carnage rages through the castle until the party faces the “Dark One” in his lair. There, just beyond the Dark One’s throne lies the magic widget to permanently end his reign and prevent a dark rebirth. The evil lord bellows a challenge and battles the PCs. Assuming the PCs win, have the messiah walk over and use the widget.
As a final dig, really rub the salt in the PCs open wounds (and probably still bleeding) with a line like this, “Wow, that was easy. Where can I get a drink?”
I use a drunk as an example, but there are plenty of overlooked archetypes that would do the job. Pimps, thieves, prostitutes, small children, pregnant women, cowardly cobblers. I just thought of a good one: an unrepentant villain. Shepherding a true villain ( I mean really evil. He eats babies for breakfast.) to the final battle makes for some interesting role-playing opportunities.
I know this is hardly an original idea, but I am tired of cliche supermen doing battle with the forces of darkness. It is time for the “b” team.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer