By Reverend K.
This idea has been brewing for a long time in the back of my mind. I've seen a LOT of characters in tabletop games and in LARP's that strove to be some kind of Bad-ass, and usually failed miserably. Mainly because there are a lot of confusing images in T.V. and film that players and GM's glom onto. In the interests of making better play, I've come up with a few guidelines for those who want to get into the feel of playing a real Bad-ass.
The serious heavyweights never go looking for trouble. Trouble knows exactly where to find them at all times. A real bad-ass often wants to avoid a fight because he knows intimately all of the consequences of winning that fight. (Police involvement,assault charges,trips to the hospital or the cemetery,having to keep a low profile,Possible injury, etc...) The problem is that in any given place there are people who fancy themselves Alpha males and who respond to the mere presence of a real bad-ass as if it were some sort of personal affront. Real bad-asses never talk about how tough they are or show off if they can help because they know from hard experience that it just causes too much trouble.
One of the better indicators of whether somebody is a bad-ass or not is how much they talk. Real bad-asses don't have to say much at all. They have better things to do than jabber about how tough they are... like stay alert for trouble.Besides, most real bad-asses have learned that there are very few questions that can't be answered with a cold steely glare. If a bad-ass does speak, his words are carefully chosen for effect and thus he tends to come of as being cool.
Examples: Bruce Willis in Last Man Standing, Clint Eastwood in just about anything,Wesley Snipes in Blade, Peter Weller in Robocop, Jean Reno in The Professional,Chow Yun Fat in The Replacement Killers, Kevin Klein and Scott Glenn in Silverado.
I've seen so many people,especially in online RP, who describe their characters as having a matched pair of silver katanna's or nickel plated Mac 10's or pearl handled 45's or some other foolishness. A real bad-ass looks at weapons like a craftsperson looks at tools. They may have some that they favor but they are going to use the right tool for the right job, and if the tools have to get left behind in the wake of trouble then so be it. it doesn't pay to get killed trying to get your left-hand sword back. Also, a heavily ornate weapon attracts attention to itself AND marks you as an amateur to other pro's. Style is all well and good but most real bad-asses prefer utilitarian weapons. The only real exception to this rule is Batman.
From a role-playing standpoint you should be aware that if it takes more adjectives to describe your weaponry than it take to describe your character, then your characters is less interesting than his weapons. Special weapons are nice but they don't make you more macho or capable.
The main difference between them and the other guys is that they always get back up. Bruce Willis has made a cottage industry of being beat to shit by the end of the movie. But if you want a classic example of the bad-ass getting back up. Watch Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven. The point I'm trying to make here is this; Just because you've created a bad-ass character does not mean you have a license to invulnerability. In fact if you take it in the pants, it's sort behooves you to do so stoically.
A lot of people look at being a badass as a liscence to push people around. Nothing could be further from the truth. Pushing people around create more trouble than it solves.Experienced badasses know this. As a result, they try to avoid ordering people around as much as possible. Most are perfectly content to allow others to give the orders. Samurai and Ninja were badasses but they usually served greater powers in exchange for privileges and payment. Look around you at the next LARP you attend. The guy issuing the orders is probably not a real badass. The guy who he issues them to,who just nods his head and goes away, IS a badass. especially if it results in half a dozen casualties.
In Unforgiven, Gene Hackman has this long speech about the importance of Coolness under fire as opposed to speed on the draw. This idea is absolutely true. Those who rely on speed or strength or funky powers in battle tend to get into a state of mental passivity. Unfortunately, mental passivity WILL GET YOU KILLED! Staying calm in battle is not about looking cool. (allthough it does make you look cool) it's not even about staying cool so your troops will follow your example and stay cool too. (allthough, that too is a happy side benefit) It's more about keeping your mind active and alert for threats and opportunities. In battle, these threats and opportunities can present themselves and pass in moments.