Roleplayer #25, August 1991

Primary Sources

Reviews of Gameable Fiction

by Steve Jackson

Feedback on last issue's column was good, so here's another. And, to the several readers who asked "Can I write up X as a Primary Source?" Yes, you can. The sooner the better?

Remember: This is not a column for "game translations," with character stats, weapon descriptions and so on. . . that would infringe the rights of the authors. It's a pointer to good source material for the creative Game Master. Go out and buy these books. Read them for enjoyment; then read them again and think "What kind of a campaign could I set in this background? What can I borrow from this background to add to other campaigns?"

Memoirs of an Invisible Man

H.F. Saint

Nick Halloway isn't an especially likeable character. He's a security analyst – which even he feels is a thoroughly unromantic profession. He leads a banal, yuppie sort of life in New York City, with lots of acquaintances and no real friends. Until something truly extraordinary happens . . .

Halloway becomes the beneficiary and victim of a truly implausible accident. Nuclear? We never know; that's not what the story is about. There's a laboratory explosion, and Halloway is knocked unconscious. He – along with a terrified cat which quickly flees from the building and from the story – is the only survivor. He awakens wholly unharmed . . . and invisible.

At this point, the author waves his hand and banishes the scientific problems of invisibility. Halloway's invisible eyes can see perfectly well. The food he eats remains visible only a short time (disgustingly so) before turning cloudy and then invisible. He's equally invisible to humans, animals and cameras. As for clothing: no, Halloway can't make something invisible just by picking it up. But everything within a certain radius of the explosion became invisible. Halloway thus has one set of invisible clothes, plus everything that he can take from the invisible laboratory before the Feds move in.

Ahh, yes. The Feds. When Halloway first awakens after the blast, investigators are already on the scene. They soon discover that the building has not been blown to fragments; it's still there – invisible. Naturally, they're excited. They are more excited when Halloway's cries for help reveal that they have a genuine Invisible Man in their hands.

Well, almost in their hands. Halloway is overtaken by caution at the last moment. He realizes that if he listens to the man called Jenkins, he'll spend his life either as a super-spy or a laboratory rat. Neither career appeals to him – so he runs. And the rest of the book is about the battle of wits between the invisible yuppie, turned desperately resourceful, and the government agent who can't even tell his own bosses what he is chasing . . .

The Background

Nothing unusual here. The book is set in today's New York City. The idea could work anywhere and anywhen, and it could be interesting to try, for instance, an "invisible man" campaign in a medieval setting.

Campaign Ideas

The obvious campaign, of course, recreates the book: Halloway versus the implacable "Colonel Jenkins." But that only leaves room for one PC. It would probably play better to say that a small group of friends were caught by the original accident. Other PCs could be visible people who are willing to aid the invisible ones (the unlucky Halloway had nobody at all he could trust when he turned invisible). A cohesive group of invisible men could probably find more to do with their powers than just flee and survive, especially if they had a few visible accomplices.

Or the GM could turn it around. The PCs could be the federal agents, chasing the invisible man. No easy task! Even the puny Halloway was dangerous when invisible and cornered. What if a real criminal – especially one with a few trusted friends – had become invisible?

This idea could also work in a Supers campaign. Let the hunters have super-powers of their own; they'll need them. Obviously, nobody can have See Invisible.

A significant limitation on any campaign would be the amount of invisible matter available to the invisible men. Halloway had invisible clothes, tools . . . even a telephone, matches, and a gun with a few bullets! The fewer such items the Invisibles have, the less they will be able to do.

The Book

There is no sign of a sequel to the original "Memoirs of an Invisible Man." Certainly the adventure could be continued, but how different would it be from the original books?

However, the back cover of the book says that there will soon be a movie version starring Chevy Chase . . . who will probably set a record for Least On-Screen Time By A Main Character. Watch for it.

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