Shapeshifting Protagonists?

The other day I read the webcomic “Hitmen for Destiny” (by Oyvind Thorsby, author of “Attack of the Yeti Robot Zombies” and “Adventurer’s Consumer Guide”). One of the best moments involved a shapeshifter who’s assumed the identity of someone who’s living in a house with several other people and (erroneously) deduces that he must be sleeping with one of them. The way he gets out of this situation is, well.

This made me think: Maybe someone could use a shapeshifting protagonist to address some of the issues that are sometimes addressed with amnesia? IF often needs to communicate to the player the things that the PC already knows. Amnesia solves that problem by removing the PC’s knowledge, and is so useful that it’s become a massive cliche. Making the protagonist a shapeshifter could have the same effect – the player doesn’t have any of the knowledge that the PC is supposed to have, because the PC doesn’t have any of the knowledge that it’s supposed to have, and that’s one of the problems the PC has to solve. You could even make puzzles where the PC has to figure out where “his” bedroom is without arousing anyone’s suspicion.

Obviously if this were widely used it would become an even more noxious cliche than amnesia, but I thought it might be an interesting premise.

[About the comic: its art style is probably deliberately fairly crude in some ways, there are some issues with English spelling, and it’s very gory. But I think it’s hilarious and kind of epic.]

Oh, this was a common staple of 1980’s agent comics. The steely-eyed director of MI5 is told his top infiltrator in St. Petersburg vanished after submitting a report about unusual activity. Obviously, MI5 needs a new man there, ideally one who’s already well established with a network of contacts in place. What to do? It’s obvious, of course - they must recruit some random civilian who just happens to be a dead ringer for our agent, give him rudimentary training, and send him into the field*.

(*The civilian would, for no obvious reason, be entrusted with secrets and resources normally only reserved for the top agent. Anything else just wouldn’t be cricket.)

The “regular guy who just happens to find himself recruited to be a spy” theme goes way back. I remember a movie in the mid-60’s with Marty “Hello Dere” Allen & Steve Rossi (does anybody else remember them?) called The Last of the Secret Agents – and I suspect that even then it was rehashing an even older idea.

Robert Rothman

Agreed, although in this instance, the wrinkle is that the recruit not only becomes a spy, but is asked to impersonate the man he’s replacing.

I see a Quantum Leap game crawling out of the woodwork here.

Actually, I’m seeing this as a bedroom farce (not original, Thorsby’s comic features a long sequence like this). Bonus points if you can figure out why the sex scenes would have to be with a gay man. UPDATE: On the other hand, any actual sex would be squicky, so I’d probably want to rule it out.

That makes me think of the movie “Dave.”

Not a spy in this case, and bedroom farce is involved, although sort of in the opposite direction.

Actually, doesn’t most farce involve mistaken identity? It’s practically the definition of farce.

I don’t know, the issue seems farced to me. Haha. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Well, ok, I guess I could have, but I didn’t resist very hard.

But hey, maybe instead of a shapeshifter there’s a perception filter like on Doctor Who. I mean, something that would trick people’s brains into seeing something else is probably infinitely more believable than a trite, overdone lycanthrope.