Supporting Cast

Niketas, The Historian

by Alexander Shearer

Art by andi jones

Supporting Cast: Niketas 5'7", 150 lbs.; blue eyes, raggedly-cut brown hair, extensive but not badly-disfiguring scarring. Usually in travel clothes with a patina of road dust.

ST: 12 [20]
DX: 11 [10]
IQ: 12 [20]
HT: 13 [30]
Speed: 6 Move: 6
Damage: Thrust 1d-1 Swing 1d+2
Dodge: 6 Block: 5 Parry: 5

Niketas no longer carries armor of any kind. His clothes may be worth DR 1 if he's traveling through bad weather. He always has a good knife at hand, which he uses as a handy tool more often than as a weapon.

Advantages: Literacy [10]; Rapid Healing [5]; Toughness [10].
Disadvantages: Pacifism: Self Defense Only [-15]; Wealth: Struggling [-10].
Quirks: Starts in on his theories at the slightest provocation [-1]; Vocal in his opposition to warfare [-1]; Acts much older than his true age [-1]; Becomes nervous in large crowds, especially if horses are present [-1].
Skills: Archaeology-11 [1]; Area Knowledge (Byzantine Empire)-13 [1]; Hiking-12 [1]; History (Civilized World)-13 [8]; Knife-11 [1]; Riding (Horse)-13 [4]; Savoir-Faire (Military)-11 [1/2]; Shield-11 [1]; Shortsword-11 [2]; Streetwise-11 [1]; Survival (Desert)-11 [1]; Writing-12 [2].
Languages: Greek-12 (native); Aramaic-12 [2]; Latin-12 [2]; Persian-11 [1].

Point Total: 104 1/2

On a desolate battlefield in the aftermath of a slaughter, a lone soldier was left for dead by his enemies. After days in the throes of fever and dementia, he regained his senses, recalled his last waking memories of an army's destruction, and trudged away from a valley full of rotting corpses. On that day, Niketas gave up his life as a soldier. A few months later, he found a new purpose.

Niketas is a weathered man who appears older than his 27 years. His clothes reflect his travels, featuring bits and pieces from diverse nations, adding together to a rough, dusty whole. Though he prefers to travel on horseback, Niketas has spent a great deal of time hiking as well. Most of his possessions fit in or on an old frame pack, but for the knife he carries at his waist. Dull blue eyes reflect very little of his thoughts, unless a critical piece of history has been revealed to him. The white scar that crosses much of his face is accompanied by numerous scars on his body, though Niketas is reticent in showing them to anyone.

For years now, Niketas has wandered across the known world, collecting. He collects knowledge chiefly, though he has held an impressive array of ancient artifacts in his hands over the years. Nearly everything he reads takes up fairly permanent residence in his memory, as well as being redacted and then stockpiled with various friends in relatively safe cities. Having learned from the lesson of Caesar and Alexandria, Niketas does not rely on the safety of any city and maintains a few weird caches of texts in the middle of deserted valleys and desolate bluffs.

Niketas strongly believes that the pattern of human society as a whole can be unraveled and better understood by looking at history and analyzing it thoroughly. To that end, he has built up his knowledge base and is in the habit of constantly cross-referencing and comparing everything he knows. If you asked him, he would talk of "types" and "causes" along with many other constants of human behavior as highlighted in history. Though he has never heard the axiom that those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it, he would support the idea wholeheartedly. At his core, Niketas hopes that by understanding history, humanity can manage its way around the kind of war and death that left him scarred inside and out. Of course, not everyone sees things this way.

At a glance, Niketas seems like an average aging soldier, full of stories about the past. Beyond that, he starts to seem more and more the obsessed missionary. King or pauper, anyone can benefit from Niketas' ideas -- so he tells everyone. Interspersed with his personal traveling experiences and tales from the past, Niketas discusses his beliefs about the vital need to examine history and learn how to better govern and act. Niketas has laid out this idea to a fair number of rulers in his time; very few of them see much merit in dwelling on the past rather than dealing with the present. They take special offense at being compared to other cultures, especially dead ones. Most monarchs choose not to see Niketas a second time.

Niketas is a walking reference on the history of mankind, assuming the would-be user can tolerate his ideology. He's pretty good on trivial details that light fires in the hearts of adventurous types (say, the location of the lost jewels of King Ashurnassirpal), though it can be difficult to drag such "secondary concerns" out of him. Never one to pass up some coin for his next few meals, Niketas can be hired as a standing advisor, or to write what he knows on a number of topics. He won't knowingly help with things that will disrupt world peace or cause suffering. It would take a lot to convince him that any kind of military action were ever really necessary. Niketas takes an especially dim view of mercenaries, whom he blames for extending several harmful military campaigns.

Though Niketas is written as a pseudohistorical character from the Byzantine empire, he can fit with little modification into other fantasy campaigns (such as Yrth in GURPS Fantasy). In modern and futuristic games, Niketas makes a good soldier-turned-reporter, now covering wars in an attempt to figure out how to stop them.


"Don't you see? This is much like the folly of Croesus, though on a lesser scale."

"It's all a disaster, boy. It's just that the winners are usually so sodden with victory they don't know what they've been through."

"Maybe you do end up in some kind of warrior's paradise after a death like that. I'm inclined to think Homer had it right. Just ghosts and blood . . . and a messy funeral."

Article publication date: November 5, 1999

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