Ulysses Crane is an ugly man, with a slightly stooped posture, a twisted face, and a noticeable but manageable limp. He favors military fatigues, and loose fitting clothing. He has a rough looking beard and generally has an aura around him of sweat, alcohol and a week of body odor. He has a hard to place accent, but it's South African after spending 20 years in California. Crane is very much a realist and a pragmatist, with a low jackal like laugh and a way of looking at people that makes them uneasy.
It was the war. Don't ask me which one, you fuckers didn't care then, don't pretend to give a shit now. I was an officer in a mercenary regiment, the pay was better, and it was on time. You always pay your mercenaries first. So we went and we fought the people we were told to fight, kill the people we were told to kill. It got ugly like, and it got personal. It wasn't soldiers fighting soldiers, it was mercenaries fighting militias and civilians. We ended up enjoying it, making them hurt, making them bleed. I lost my eye in a knife fight with a militia captain. The leg was a near miss with a hand grenade thrown by a kid. My back was from a suicide car bombing. Bitch winked at me right as she was hitting the detonator. The war ended and we were on the losing side. There were two options, you stayed and faced a firing squad or a noose, or you fled the country. I ran and I lived.
Crane left his native South Africa two decades ago, following a path north through Congo and Nigeria, then into El Salvador before slipping across the border into California. Once in the Golden State he found a place for himself as an underground problem solver. He had the skills and force of personality to lead a group of the worst of the worst, the training and experience to beat them into a group, and a certain ruthlessness that was simply missing from the American psyche. Since then he has run a basic intermediate level criminal enterprise. His areas of expertise revolve around security, insurgency, intimidation and torture, and running a basic business. He is too influential and wealthy to be a minor league player, but has actively avoided going much higher or bigger than he is because he is aware of both his limitations, and the resources of his potential enemies.
Grand Theft Auto: Crane makes a good deal of money operating a chop shop, taking cars apart, stealing and flipping said stolen cars, and doing repairs and modifications on existing cars. He favors heavy capable vehicles and has no interest in sports or luxury cars.
The Drug Trade: While Crane doesn't handle drugs, he is muscle for hire and has worked as a mercenary in drug wars and in gang wars to secure various objectives.
Smuggling and Theft: Crane has contacts in the shipping and cargo hauling industries and is a go to middle man for getting things across borders, more so for the more exotic things.
Everybody wants something, just most people aren't willing to pay what it costs. Those that are willing, they pay good. Steal cars here, and ship them south to El Norte. Americans cry about their insurance, and the Mexicans buy the cars at a better price than we could get here. Sell the chopped up parts to Mexican warehouses and watch them sell the parts back to the California garages. It's ridiculous but it works. Same with the drugs, it's blood and money and I'll take both. The cartels, the gangbangers, the police, they all think they are hard, but they don't know what hard is.
Hard is maiming and killing your own, it's putting your own family to the question in the back room. It's having a drink and smoke listening to someone you know, someone you care about getting the business done to them against their will. They aren't hard here, they are racists, and assholes, but the first bit of hard you put to these Americans, they cry and roll over.
Behind the Man
Ulysses Crane has been scarred by the things that he has done and very much fits the ideal of having looked into the abyss and the abyss looked back into him. He is amoral, after the violence and butchery and torture that he has experienced, he is indifferent to the normal human condition. Money is a physical measure of importance, and power is the only resource worth accumulating.
There are things you keep to yourself. You don't go cheering Manchester in a South African pub, yeah? So when you are in South Africa, Apartheid, you don't go around letting people know that you don't look at the wrong colored people like they're animals. You don't tell them you have a boyfriend. You laugh, and you smoke a cigar, and you make crude comments at the women and if the opportunity presents itself, you grab a few asses, give the girls and good scare, show the gents some tit, and you go on.
When it comes down to saving your lover, if he's the wrong color, if he's got the same plumbing you do, you pull the trigger. If you don't you both go down, the beatings, the floggings, and being hung up by your knees, having horrible things done to you. You pull the trigger and give him a quick and painless death, and you keep on living, yeah?
Crane might have once been a homosexual, but in the years since his escape from South Africa he has seldom shown interest in anyone. It could be a matter of impotence from injuries, or emotional damage, being unable to connect with another human being after the things that he has done. Ironically despite the horrible and unforgivable things he has done, Crane is neither sexist nor racist. He has a multi-racial crew, and has a fair number of women that work for him. Everyone has to prove themselves, and they have to be able to look after themselves. He will give newbies one free save, but after that, they are on their own.
After seeing Age of Ultron I thought Ulysses was an interesting character, and the Crane comes from mishearing Klaue being pronounced. I later went home and read about the Wakandan smuggler and was rather disappointed. The whole bit about Vibranium, and sonic weapons, and becoming a living sonic creature named Klaw just ended up being the sort of ridiculousness that turns me off of comics. I still really liked the appearance of Serkis as Ulysses, and the name just rather stuck. In my home game, Ulysses has shown up as a middle level crime boss in the Los Angeles underground. He runs a multiracial crew, and his disinterest in women sexually is perceived more as being aloof and unmoved by base instincts. He is low, and dirty, a mean old cripple, but he is equal opportunity, perhaps more so than even the most well meaning soft hearted social activist.
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? Responses (5)-5
I like him. Doesn't hurt that I keep picturing Andy Serkis as I read this. Good non-ultimate adversary. Just enough angst and issues, but nothing too unbelievable or over the top.
This is really good character, excellent combination of bits and pieces to give us both a feeling the visceral nature of the character and the psychological depth of the person. You tell us both how he feels and how he smells. Excellent stuff. I like the style of asides in his voice and the content text in the god's eye voice.
The only thing is you could have been more 'mechanical' or disciplined in the write up. For example in paragraph 1 you call you him a realist and pragmatist when describing his appearance. You toss in the game use suggestions into his background and some the sentences are beneath you. But this all minor stuff, really a great character.I find it distracting and unnecessary to reference the Avengers other than it is impressive to see what you built from that brief scene.
I don't know abt the Age of Ultron and all that that's the inspiration for this sub but it's just a very well-written sub in terms of presenting a very realistic villain and the italic in Ulysses's voice is of course a trademark of excellence from Scras.
Great NPC! Readily adaptable to other places and genres. Mercs are everywhere.