Supporting Cast

Hank Dasher, Ace Reporter


by Mark Gellis

It does not surprise anyone that Henry "Hank" Dasher was born in 1901, at the dawn of the new century. There is not a hint of the Victorian in him; everything about him speaks of the age of the automobile and the American city.

Hank grew up in a small town in upstate New York. His father was a carpenter and his mother worked at home, raising Hank and his three sisters. As a boy, he loved to read, especially newspapers. One of his favorite memories from his boyhood is sitting on the porch with his father on an early autumn evening, talking about the 1908 Presidential campaign. His father had been reading newspaper articles to him and explaining why he thought Mr. Taft might make a good President. As he grew older, Hank dreamed of meeting famous people and traveling to foreign countries.

He had an uncle who worked in the Brooklyn shipyards. Two or three times when he was growing up, his father took the family down for a visit; they would always spend a day in the city, seeing the sights and then catching a baseball game (Hank was about 13 when the Highlanders started calling themselves the Yankees). Between the elevated trains and the brand new subway system, getting around New York was surprisingly easy. Hank never got tired of looking at the skyscrapers, wondering if he would ever end up in one of those buildings, looking out on New York from the 10th or 15th floor, hammering out his stories on a typewriter, a famous big city reporter for a big city newspaper.

He was thinking about being a reporter when he got out of high school, and had written a few short pieces for the local newspaper, but when America declared war on Germany in 1917, Hank enlisted in the Navy. He served for two years on one of the many "thousand tonner" destroyers, but decided against making a career out of the Navy.

And so, at 19, he found himself living in a New York City boarding house. He knew he could always go home and work with his father as a carpenter, but he still had the dream of being a big city newspaper man. He knew that with virtually no experience it would be hard to convince an editor to give him a chance, and so he wrote a few short sample pieces about Navy life, including a gripping account of an encounter between the destroyer on which he had served and a German U-boat. He splurged on a new suit and a new hat and started making the rounds of the New York daily papers.

To his surprise, Hank got a job at the second paper he visited. Later on, he realized he had done exactly the right thing to get an editor interested in hiring him. He had talent. He wrote quickly in a clear and straightforward style that had flair without being bloated with what his editor called "bad poetry." But what had really clinched the job for him was the way he handled himself. He had impressed people with his professionalism. He was honest about his experience, ready to work hard, and he had thought through what he needed to do to show an editor what he could offer. At 19, of course, he was still pretty raw, but he already had what he needed to become a success -- talent, intelligence, and drive -- and it did not take him very long to learn the newspaper business.

Hank soon found that being a reporter often meant long hours and dealing with the stress of deadlines. But he thrived on it. He did not mind working long hours; as a teenager, he had helped his father on a number of carpentry jobs. "No shame in hard work, as long as it's honest work," his father had always told him.

Besides, being a reporter meant something. It was not just getting the story out, but making sure that he got the facts straight, that he was serving not only his editor but the public.

Hank understands that a newspaper is a business, and that many good stories will end up buried on page nineteen for one reason or another, but he believes that telling the truth about what happens in the world matters and he knows that every once in a while a good news story can make a big difference.

And, on top of it, it is interesting work. Over the years, he has covered everything from political scandals to gang wars to the Scopes Monkey Trial, not to mention the occasional curious disappearance of some scholar last seen in one of the ancient, crumbling villages dotting the odd corners of New England. He has learned things about the powerful, the wealthy, and the famous, and about the way the world works, that he would never have known otherwise. And he is not just learning history after the fact; he gets to see it all happen and he gets to be the one to tell the rest of the world about it.

By the late 1920s, and afterwards, Hank is a respected member of the New York journalistic community. People around the country and especially in New York who are familiar with his work admire his talent as a writer and his integrity as a journalist. Even more important to Hank, his parents and his sisters are proud of him.

Hank is a man with a very modern code of honor. He is aggressive, sometimes blunt, but it is because he cares about the truth. He does mind if someone tells little white lies to avoid hurting people, but he hates it if people lie about something important when their only reason for doing so is that the truth might be ugly or uncomfortable. He holds himself to high standards. When his name goes on a story, he wants the facts to be right. If he makes a mistake and the story gets into print, it infuriates him. And if someone lies to him and it ruins a story, Hank makes it his business to find out what that person was lying about.

Naturally, success has not come without its challenges. For Hank, one of these challenges is a man named Charlie Paxton. Paxton writes for another New York newspaper, and he is a very good reporter, but he is also a man plagued by jealousy. Paxton sees Hank as someone who always manages to make his victories seem a little smaller. In addition, Hank thinks too much about how the news is important to society, about how a story can make a difference, and that just rubs Paxton the wrong way. If a story is important, it is going to come out eventually; what matters is who can get it to their editor first. So Charlie Paxton prides himself on being able to get his news stories in before Hank Dasher does and, every once in a while -- if he can manage it without getting caught -- on keeping Hank from getting his story in at all. Hank will not swear that Paxton is responsible for some sources changing their minds at the last moment about talking to him, because he does not have any proof, but he certainly has his suspicions.

Hank currently lives in a small but pleasant Manhattan apartment. His landlady likes him, but wishes he would find a nice gal and settle down. Hank would not mind getting married, and hopes to do so someday, but he enjoys the freedom of being a bachelor. He also likes dogs, but he does not have any pets -- he is gone most of the day and he does not think it is fair to an animal to keep it locked up all alone in an apartment all day long. There are some days when he gets a little lonely, but for the most part he thinks he has things pretty good. After all, he loves his work, people like him, and he is living in the greatest city in the world. Any night of the week, he can choose from any of a dozen terrific plays on Broadway (he still remembers the first time he got to see Bela Lugosi play Dracula on stage). And for the price of a ticket and a subway ride, he can spend a summer afternoon watching the best baseball team in America. Life is good.

Using Hank Dasher In A Campaign

Hank Dasher can be used in a campaign in a number of ways.

First, Hank is suitable as a 150-point player character, either as is or with minor changes. (Most likely, if Hank is a player character, it means he is between jobs for some reason.) While he is not oriented towards combat, he is not incompetent in a fight and he does provide any group of player characters with a member who has numerous investigative skills.

Second, Hank would make a useful contact or ally. He knows the city, he knows the people, and he knows the history. He can be used to provide characters with critical clues or access to the newspaper's "morgue" if they need to do their own research.

Third, Hank would make a useful "enemy." He believes people have a right to know what is going on in the world. Naturally, if something is a private matter, such as a city official who has cancer but who can still do his job and who wants to keep his personal affairs out of the public eye, Hank has no problem keeping a secret, and this is a quality that has earned him more than one friend over the years. And if publishing a story was going to put a government agent at risk or compromise an important operation, he would cooperate. Of course, because of his sometimes blunt manner, people may not realize at first that Hank Dasher will respect certain secrets. A GM should feel free to use this to provoke anxiety in both players and player characters.

And anyone with a real secret is going to find Hank Dasher a serious nuisance. He has little interest in suppressing a story just to save someone who has done something wrong from being embarrassed (and maybe fired from his job or arrested or voted out of office). And the idea that he should not tell the public about sinister cults, ancient monsters, or flying saucers because it might cause a panic is, to him, ludicrous. If something is that dangerous, people need to know about it, even if it might be the end of the world. Hank thinks most people would rather know that it is coming so they can face it in their own way. If his editor makes the decision to pull a story, Hank can live with that, but he certainly will not be happy about it.

An even worse nuisance, however, could be Charlie Paxton. Paxton has all of Hank's skills as a reporter, but he is more self-serving when it comes to ferreting out secrets that other people want to keep hidden. He has never actually stooped to blackmail, but there is always a first time for everything, especially if the secret was something that was not really newsworthy and the payment was in something other than cash, like sleeping with him or giving away another person's secrets. In addition, while Hank is direct, Charlie is very smooth; he is a handsome and charismatic fellow, a fast talker and a good liar. And while he is not going to do anything like shoot someone for not talking to him, he does not really care who gets hurt when the truth comes out as long as he gets his story in.

One possible adventure seed would be that Hank might contact the player characters if one of his stories got suppressed. This could have happened because Hank stumbled onto something fantastic, like a magician who could raise the dead and make them serve him as slaves, but he did not have enough proof to get the story published. Hank might figure that the best way to get the story out is to get other people involved, people who might be able to gather proof that cannot be ignored. In return for his information, Hank wants to be the one to break the story when the player characters finish the adventure, get exclusive interviews with the heroes who saved the city from the walking dead, and so on.

Another option would be if someone was threatening Hank's family, who still live in upstate New York. Whatever gangsters, cultists, or corrupt politicians Hank happens to be investigating want him to stop, and they have made it clear they are willing to hurt his loved ones if he does not. Hank's parents and sisters do not enter into his daily life often enough to count as Dependents, but naturally he still loves them and would be concerned if they were in danger (one may treat this as a 0-point feature of being a Normal Person). Concerned that the police will be unable protect his family, Hank may turn to the player characters to guard his loved ones and to help him find the truth about the people he is investigating.

Hank Dasher was designed for a game set during the Cliffhangers era, World War II, or the Atomic Horror era. By World War II or the 1950s, of course, he may no longer be a reporter but an editor, serving as a patron (or at least a boss) for a group of investigative journalist player characters. To use Hank in this role, assume he has 25 extra points (or more) to spend on additional or improved skills and contacts.

Modifying Hank Dasher for other historical periods should be fairly easy, as it will involve little more than changing a few particulars in his biography and some of his skills; Typing, for example, would most likely be replaced with Computer Operation if Hank was used in a campaign set in the present.

In the same way, making Hank Dasher a reporter for a Chicago or San Francisco paper instead of a New York one would most likely be a simple matter of modifying a few of his skills, such as Area Knowledge, some of his contacts, and one of his quirks.

If the campaign requires that Hank be a reporter for a European newspaper, one can assume he stayed in Europe (most likely England, although Ireland and Scotland are also possibilities) after the War. If this is the case, Hank provides an excellent opportunity for some humorous roleplaying, as it will be fairly easy to juxtapose his straightforward personality with more genteel (or perhaps just stuffy) European ones.

Hank Dasher In GURPS

Press Pass

A press pass can be treated as a one-point perk. It does not confer Legal Enforcement Powers of any kind. It does not mean your employer is a Patron who will bail you out of trouble. It does not include Contacts. Advantages such as these must be purchased separately. However, a press pass (or similar credentials that prove your connection to a recognized news agency) may make it easier for you to gain access to people, places, and information; among other things, some people (police, politicians, etc.) may be more willing to answer certain questions due to the fact that you are a representative of the media establishment.

5'9" 150 lbs. Black hair. Blue eyes. An American reporter, probably in his late 20s to his early 40s, depending on the date of the campaign, usually wearing a nice suit and a hat.

ST 10 [0]; DX 11 [20]; IQ 13 [60]; HT 10 [0]

BL 20 [0]; HP 10 [0]; Will 13 [0]; Per 13 [0]; FP 10 [0]; Basic Move 5.25 [0]

Cultural Familiarities: Western [0]

Languages: English (native) [0]; French (broken) [2]

Advantages: Charisma 1 [5]; Contact group (An NYPD detective, an assistant District Attorney, an assistant to a state senator in the New York legislature, and a staff member of a Congressman; treat all four as Skill 15-, Available on 12-, and Usually reliable) [32]; Press Pass [1]; Reputation 1 (Smart, tough, and fair reporter, Recognized both by newspaper readers and people he has worked with, Sometimes recognized) [1]

Disadvantages: Code of Honor (Journalist -- Be fair and accurate; do not give up until the truth is discovered and made public; do not let a good story get buried unless there is a very good reason for it, etc.) [-5]; Enemy (Charlie Paxton, As powerful, Rival, 9-) [-5]

Quirks: Aggressive when investigating a tough story [-1]; Enjoys Broadway, baseball games, and other perks of living in New York City [-1]; Likes dogs [-1]; Likes the way he looks in a good suit (but nothing too fancy) [-1]; Straightforward and honest [-1]

   Administration-12 [1]
   Area Knowledge (New York City)-14 [2]
   Area Knowledge (New York State)-13 [1]
   Carpenty-13 [1]
   Crewman (Seamanship)-13 [1]
   Criminology-11 [1]
   Current Affairs (New York City)-15 [4]
   Detect Lies-13 [4]
   Driving (Automobile)-11 [2]
   First Aid-13 [1]
   Guns (Pistol)-11 [1]
   Guns (Rifle)-11 [1]
   History (New York City)-12 [2];    Literature-11 [1]
   Observation-13 [2]
   Photography-13 [2]
   Propaganda-12 [1]
   Research-14 [4]
   Shadowing-12 [1]
   Streetwise-12 [1]
   Typing-12 [2]
   Writing-15 [8]

Total Points: 150

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Thanks to David Stroup and others on Pyramid for information they provided about press passes and the daily lives of journalists.

Article publication date: June 10, 2005

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