If there’s a heroic archetype that everyone at one point or another has wanted to play, it would be the Lone Wolf. Popularized by far too many examples of fiction everywhere, the badass, brooding, ultra-competent archetype is also another candidate for cliche. Compounded with the problem that inconsiderate versions of the Lone Wolf pop up in nearly every gaming group at one point or another and you can see just why GMs usually scrutinize these concepts very closely.
The Lone Wolf – The dark, brooding character with an acid tongue and unmatched skill in combat is an old classic. So much so that it exists in nearly all genres, from Boba Fett to Batman to Garet Jax. That being said it’s also due to its fame that it’s suddenly become so much more difficult to pull off convincingly.
The problem with the Lone Wolf Archetype is that so many people see it as an excuse for bad behaviour and selfish play. Abandoning the team, disregarding orders, and generally making the other players unhappy seems to be part and parcel of their concept of the Lone Wolf, justified by the ever annoying phrase “I’m just playing my character.”
When it’s done right however, the Lone Wolf has the potential to be an excellent contribution to the team in general. While he might not necessarily get along with the Farmboy, his willingness to go where the idealist won’t will be useful in certain situations. Likewise, the Lone Wolf might find some of the Veteran’s advice equally handy as the old geezer might know more about the enemy’s weaknesses that the Lone Wolf might exploit.
How to use a Lone Wolf in a Campaign:
- Lone Wolves in name alone – A true Lone Wolf is only one in name alone. Every single Lone Wolf, from Drizzt Do’Urden to Batman actually have their own teams. While they project the image of being the ultra-competent loner, they actually work well with a team, using their specialized solo skill set for performing precise attacks while making sure that their team is safe to play their roles. Likewise, the Lone Wolf always has someone to go to when it comes to covering angles that he might not necessarily have the time, or the training to handle.
- Work for the pack - They are often designed to operate alone, but that doesn’t mean that they should ignore their team. A sneaky character might find his way into the Big Bad Evil Guy’s castle, but his first order of priority is finding a way to get his friends through the gates, not shuffling off alone in hopes of assassinating the BBEG and claiming all the victory for himself.
- Questionable Methods, Unquestionable Integrity – Lone Wolves are sometimes known for doing things that most other adventurers would find to be distasteful at best, but they are tolerated because the party trusts them. Sure there’s a fair amount of tension involved (especially if the Farmboy insists on doing things the right way.) But at least the party can sleep at night knowing that they won’t end up dead the next morning. If the Party can’t trust you, then there’s something wrong, and you might be on the slippery slope to PvP territory.
The Lone Wolf’s Resources:
- Dirty Deeds - Fighting dirty is the Lone Wolf’s hallmark. Gas pellets, drugged darts, striking from the shadows are all good examples of an efficient Lone Wolf’s schtick. These are the characters that put their hearts and souls into doing what they do, so they’re not the type to do things half-baked.
- Intimidation – This is one thing that any Lone Wolf should have in spades. Intimidation (without necessarily resorting to torture) is a hallmark of a lot of this Archetype. Notable examples lie in the Superhero genre, with Daredevil or Batman or Spawn threatening to toss a perp off a building.
- Allies - Whatever friends the Lone Wolf has are usually fiercely loyal. As such there’s never a situation when a Lone Wolf finds himself outnumbered, outgunned and without a friend in the world to back him up. Allies, whether in the form of other players or NPCs should be cultivated however possible.
- Batman – The Dark Knight is a perfect example of the Lone Wolf done right. He prefers to operate alone, but is not adverse to having allies. While his personality may be abrasive, the Justice League pretty much admits to needing him even if he tests their patience. He’s resourceful, creative, confident and has a stable of allies all willing to aid him at a moment’s notice, including his wards, the Oracle and even some villains like the Riddler, Catwoman and Talia.
- Garet Jax – For the solo, there’s always Garet Jax, the Lone Wolf that teams up with the Ohmsfords because they got his interest. While his excuse may seem flimsy, Garet Jax holds up his reputation of being an almost unbeatable combatant, and has proven himself to be incredibly valuable to their survival.
By this point, I’m pretty sure I sound really preachy by now, but playing a Lone Wolf character well requires a certain kind of attitude and mindset that bears repeating:
- The Player of the Lone Wolf is a Participant in the game – You are playing a role in a group, so remember to put the group first before yourself. The GM will give you ample opportunities to pull off your solo badass moments, there’s no need to force them by antagonizing your party.
- Not getting along with your party does not mean that you can’t be a team player – Just because your Lone Wolf is snarky and sarcastic doesn’t mean that he won’t rescue an ally, or will disregard a plan to be badass. Personal conflict adds color to the game, but there’s a thin line between adding personality to being disruptive.