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Manny Calavera (Grim Fandango video game) in his white jacket

Manny Calavera


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Grim Fandango is an adventure video game, published in 1998. It was the close of a remarkable run by LucasArts, who produced during the 1990s a masterful series of games in this genre.

Grim Fandango has a particularly strong visual identity (inspired by Aztec folklore) and storytelling (inspired by noir detective fiction). It is widely considered a gaming classic.

The protagonist and Player Character  of the game is one Manny Calavera.

This character profile has numerous S P O I L E R S about the game.


Background

  • Other Aliases: The Grim Reaper.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: Former DoD employee.
  • Base Of Operations: 8th Circle of the Underworld.
  • Height: 5’10” Weight: 50 lbs.
  • Eyes: Black Hair: None


Powers and Abilities

As with all of the formerly living souls in the 8th Circle, Manny has roughly the same physical capabilities as he did when he was alive; But he no longer needs to breathe, eat, or drink, though he can still do so if he wishes (in DC Heroes RPG terms, Life Support).

As an animated skeleton, bodily damage or dismemberment have no effect on Manny beyond the actual hindrances caused by the injury itself (Stabilization). But by the same token serious damage cannot be healed (Cannot Heal). Despite these advantages, Manny can be killed if his skull is destroyed.

Though armed with a scythe as part of his job as the Grim Reaper, Manny is not at all proficient with it in combat. It is only a tool of the trade and he thought of it as such — an occasionally convenient piece of equipment rather than a weapon.

He’s a smooth operator

Manny is a capable salesman with a talent for charming his clients, at least when he wishes to do so (Charisma). He also demonstrated considerable talent as a business manager (Scholar). Manny suffered ill fortune as a travel agent, but this was due to office politics keeping him away from all but the worst clients.

When out on his own, Manny went from being janitor at a greasy spoon to becoming its owner and then turning it into a popular nightclub/casino, all in the space of a year.

He later worked similar magic as a deckhand on a rusted-out cargo ship in the same amount of time, becoming captain as he and Glottis refurbished the ship into a beautiful high-tech marvel. These endeavors were undoubtedly aided by Manny’s knack for imaginative solutions to the challenges he encounters.


History

Manuel “Manny” Calavera was a Grim Reaper travel agent for the Department of Death, located in the city of El Marrow in the 8th Circle of the Underworld.

His job was to retrieve newly deceased souls from the Land of the Living and arrange travel packages for them. The journey from the 8th Circle to the 9th — the Land of Eternal Rest — would normally take four years on foot and be fraught with perils that could kill even the dead.

However, the newly dead came to the Afterlife with money in proportion to their good deeds on Earth, possibly allowing them to purchase various types of safer and faster passage.

Souls with moderate sins might get nothing but a walking stick with a compass in the head to guide them, whereas saints might be able to purchase a gold ticket on the No. 9 Train, which would safely convey them to the 9th Circle in four *minutes* instead of four years.

For unspecified reasons, Manny arrived in the 8th Circle with no money and was working as a DOD travel agent to pay off his debts. He did quite well at first, but business eventually took a turn for the worse. Manny started getting nothing but the lower-end clients with little or no credit to their name.

As his fortunes sank, his rival Domino Hurley’s swiftly rose. Domino even got Manny’s old office and began to sabotage Manny by sending his driver home early among other hindrances.

Dia de los muertos

It was during the annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival that Manny discovered that Domino had rigged the sorting system. It now would deliver alerts regarding the best new clients to Domino’s mail tube.

Threatened with being fired if he didn’t bring in a premium client soon, Manny broke into the sorter. He snagged the next good client, one Mercedes “Meche” Colomar.

He also secured transport by engaging in some legerdemain, recruiting a new driver named Glottis. Glottis was an elemental spirit created with one purpose — to drive (or to maintain cars in the garage if no driving jobs were available).

When Manny went to the company garage, he was a little dismayed to see how much Glottis had modified the company car after getting Manny’s forged work-order. Nevertheless, they piled into the Bonewagon and blasted to the scene, running Domino off the road in the process.

When Manny brought Mercedes back to the office, he found to his dismay that she apparently had no money, despite having lived a nigh-saintly life. He went to find out what had happened. But when he came back, Mercedes had already left for her four-year walk through the Underworld. She apparently feeling guilty over causing Manny so much trouble.

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes

When Manny’s boss Don Copel found out about this and Manny’s other recent escapades, he blew a gasket. Manny was fired for vandalizing the sorter, using an illegally modified company car with an unregistered driver, and for screwing up a premium case.

He was locked up in the tool shed of the company garage, ostensibly until superior officers from the DOD could show up to formally address Manny’s criminally inept handling of the Colomar case.

It wasn’t long before Manny was freed, but it wasn’t by members of the DOD. Instead, he was released by Salvador Lemones of the Lost Souls Alliance.

Rebel rebel

The LSA was a rebel movement convinced that there was a scam being perpetrated in the DOD travel office that was victimizing innocent souls like Mercedes Colomar. Salvador believed Manny was being used as a fall guy to conceal the real perpetrators of this conspiracy.

Manny helped the LSA gather some materials they needed to continue the revolution, but his main concern was with finding Meche Colomar and exonerating himself. In gratitude for his help, Salvador helped Manny escape the city of El Marrow in a secret tunnel that led to the edge of the Petrified Forest.

Initially facing a long walk through the dangerous Petrified Forest, Manny was blessed with a fortuitous reunion. Glottis had been fired as well and was languishing in the Petrified Forest, distraught over losing his job. Meeting Manny gave Glottis renewed purpose and they made their way through the Petrified Forest in the Bonewagon.

They eventually arrived in Rubacava, the only port that provided passage across the Sea of Lament. It was thus an ideal place to intercept the wandering Meche Colomar.

One year later

Taking a job mopping floors at a lowly greasy spoon diner to make ends meet, the talented Calavera soon moved up to management. Within a year was running the renamed Calavera Café & Casino.

The one-year anniversary of Manny’s arrival in Rubacava was marked by an incredible encounter. A woman came to meet him at the café but when he ran out to find her, he was instead accosted by a ghastly raven with a human skull for a head.

The raven spoke in Meche’s voice, accusing Manny of abandoning her. Then it flew off to one of the ships below, the S.S. La Mancha. Watching the bird, Manny saw Domino Hurley forcing Mercedes on board the La Mancha. Manny tried to climb aboard as the ship left the harbor, but Meche hit him over the head with a bottle, dropping him off of the ship.

Manny made arrangements with Dockmaster Velasco to get himself and Glottis on board the S.S. Limbo that night. His hope was to pursue the La Mancha to Puerto Zapato on the other side of the Sea of Lament. Manny sailed away from Rubacava in the same way he drove in exactly one year earlier, only now he was swabbing a deck instead of a floor.

One year later (again)

One year later, Manny arrived at Puerto Zapato. Once again, he had made an impressive show of reversing his fortunes. He was now captain of the S.S. Limbo, which had been greatly refurbished by Glottis. As Manny was pulling into port and undergoing what he thought was a routine inspection by customs, he received a critical communique from Salvador.

First, he was informed that Mercedes Colomar had never arrived in Puerto Zapato. She had jumped ship near the legendary hypnotic Pearl underneath the Sea of Lament.

Second, he was warned that agents of Domino’s were waiting to kill Manny and his crew, posing as customs agents. The warning came too late to save the crew of the Limbo, but Manny and Glottis escaped, sinking the Limbo in the process. They ended up at the bottom of the Sea of Lament near the Pearl.

Manny and Glottis approached the Pearl, whose light was said to attract hapless passers-by into diving overboard from their vessels and sinking to the ocean floor while trying to recover it. The duo witnessed such an event, only to see a giant octopus grab the impromptu divers and stash them aboard a strange submarine.

As the octopus re-entered the sub itself and drove it away, Manny and Glottis caught a ride. Their final stop : an island fortress at the edge of the world.

Meche found

Exploring the mysterious citadel, Manny discovered that Domino was putting the captured divers to work as slaves. These labored in undersea mines digging for gold to make fake Premium tickets. This seemed a little odd as the conspiracy members had already stolen plenty of real tickets. But Manny was too preoccupied with his current predicament to investigate further at the time.

More importantly, Manny discovered the object of his search, Mercedes Colomar. She had been pressed into service as Domino’s secretary. Meche explained that she’d knocked Manny of the boat in Rubacava because he was walking into a trap.

Working with Glottis, Manny rescued Meche. They made their way off the island by refurbishing the nearby wreck of the S.S. Lambada. Domino pursued them in his octopus-driven submarine, but Manny foiled the evil henchman for the last time, sabotaging Domino’s sub.

Domino was killed when the driverless octosub inadvertently swerved in front of the Lambada, while Manny escaped with but a moment to spare.

Continuing on to Puerto Zapato, Manny, his companions, and the freed slaves from Domino’s citadel made their way to the Gateway to the 9th Circle of the Underworld. The last leg of this journey involved months of walking across an increasingly barren arctic wilderness.

To the Ninth

The intrepid party arrived at the Gateway to the Land of Eternal Rest. There, they discovered that they needed their tickets to get through as selling the tickets was a punishable offense. The Gateway Avatar told Manny that he would have to recover the tickets before the party could move on, which meant Manny had to return to El Marrow.

Manny also had the opportunity to see what happened to people who used tickets they didn’t deserve. That is, the people that the conspiracy was selling tickets to in El Marrow. Their train turned into a fiery dragon, jumped the rails, and promptly dived into another Gateway, this one leading straight to Hell.

To make the party’s situation even worse, Glottis fell into a coma. He had been too weakened after going months without satisfying the One True Purpose he was summoned for — to move at high speeds.

Ticket to ride

Before becoming completely comatose, Glottis drew out plans for a revolutionary new rocket-sled. Local elementals similar to Glottis’s type (albeit much smaller) were able to build the contraption and shoot it back along the No. 9 route. This solved both of Manny’s problems by providing quick transit back to El Marrow and by giving Glottis a high-speed ride.

With Glottis strapped to the top of the rocket-sled, Manny and Meche took the fast train back to El Marrow…but only made it as far as Rubacava.

When Glottis was revived by the rocket-sled’s high-speed jaunt, he shook the rocket-sled loose while tearing out of his restraints in excitement. Undaunted, the trio retrieved the Bonewagon from its garage in Rubacava. They continued their journey to El Marrow with Olivia Ofrenda, a Rubacava nightclub owner who wished to meet her hero Salvador Lemones.

Nuevo Marrow

The group made it to the outskirts of El Marrow. They were met by Salvador and his Lost Souls Alliance. They had terrible news for Manny: the conspiracy now ran El Marrow, now called Nuevo Marrow. Conspiracy head Hector LeMans ruled with an iron fist.

Through various acts of subterfuge Manny worked his way into Hector’s office. He confronted the arch-villain. Hector managed to escape but Manny recovered the real premium tickets. Hector had been selling the fake ones while hoarding the real ones because he needed quite a few to pay for his sins.

Olivia Ofrenda picked up Manny, ostensibly to take him to Salvador. But she actually brought him to Hector Le Mans’s greenhouse instead. Olivia was a double agent working for Hector.

Sprouted

Hector confronted Manny one last time and wounded him with a slow-acting sproutella gun, leaving Manny for dead. Manny had a last-minute trick up his sleeve and managed to neutralize the sproutella. Rather than try and face Hector again, Manny filled the greenhouse’s water tank with sproutella. This fed through the sprinklers and filled the greenhouse, killing Hector.

With the conspiracy broken open, the authorities were able to reassert control of El Marrow. Manny, Meche, and Glottis took the No. 9 train back to the gateway to the 9th Circle. Meche had the ticket she was supposed to have all along and Manny was given one by the DOD as a reward for all his work.

Glottis parted company with Manny at the gateway — he could not leave the land from which he was summoned. However, thanks to Manny, Glottis now had a much better job and many new friends, so he was happy to stay behind.

Manny and Meche said their goodbyes to their friends and continued on into the Land of Eternal Rest.


Description

Like all of the mortal souls in the Land of the Dead, Manny shed his flesh when he left the living world. He is now an animated skeleton, albeit a stylized one in the manner of Dia De los Muertos calaca.

Based on comments from others, it is known that every living soul in the Land of the Dead is a skeleton. Yet it is possible that the exact appearance of those skeletons depends on the perceptions of the individual. Namely, the skeletons might only appear to be Dia De los Muertos calacas to Manny. Examples of other calacas can be found at http://www.holidays.net/halloween/calacas.htm.)

Manny himself is rather shorter than average, though his unusually tall skull ameliorates this to some degree.

While working with a client, Manny wears the cloak of the Grim Reaper just like any other travel agent. In the office, Manny wears tasteful but inexpensive suits. When his fortunes improved as a club owner and later as captain of his own vessel, he wore rather dapper tuxedos and naval dress respectively.


Personality

Manny is an average workin’ joe, slaving away at the DOD travel office to earn enough money to buy a trip to the Land of Eternal Rest. While he is not above engaging in some shady shenanigans to get ahead (such as rigging the roulette wheels at his casino), he will not do anything genuinely harmful to others.

Manny is quite loyal to his friends. He went to some trouble on various occasions to help pals such as the endearing but reckless Glottis. He is usually not the type to charge headlong into danger. Yet he will place himself in harm’s way without hesitation to protect those he cares about, even if he is obviously outmatched.

Manny also tends to be a bit of a smart ass and has a wry sense of humor.

Despite Manny’s protestations that he was seeking Meche Colomar for no reason other than proving his innocence regarding the DOD charges, it was obvious to everyone who knew him that he had fallen hard for her. Even when he had built a successful new life in Rubacava and later on the S.S. Limbo, his first and foremost concern was finding Meche.


Quotes

“Is it hard to kiss up to the boss so much when you got no lips ?”

Manny: “I think we should team up – be partners.”
Domino Hurley (sarcastically): “Oh, I would, but I could never be partners with someone who was so much more of a man than me.”
Manny: “Oh, come on… I’ve seen your wife.”

(Confronting Domino Hurley) “This is one Domino that’s going back to the bone pile !”

“This deck of cards is a little frayed around the edges, but then again so am I and I’ve got fewer suits.”

LSA Agent: “(Meche) volunteers quickly for dangerous work. She could be useful to the cause.”
Manny: “As far as I’m concerned, she *is* the cause.”


DC Universe History

Manny might have worked with Deadman on occasion as a temporary liaison between the Realm of the Just Dead and the Land of the Dead.

Etrigan might have dropped in on the Land of the Dead occasionally as well, teaming up with Manny to get trashed at the local bars. This may have even led into Manny’s infamous incident at the last DoD Christmas Party.

Any sorcerer seeking information about the afterlife might inadvertently summon Manny, which might play havoc with their expectations of life after death.

Crank it to 8

If you wanted to drop the PCs in the 8th Circle of Hell as seen in Grim Fandango, just add the Advantages Life Support (Full) and Stabilization and the Drawback Cannot Heal (Only applies to Killing Combat Damage, 20 pts.).

They would have a new Wealth score as well, based on their good deeds. The amount for that would probably have to be determined by the GM. Unless the PCs engaged in truly outrageous behavior, they should have a fair amount of moolah.

The PCs will find the 8th Circle somewhat anachronistic. The predominant theme is 1930s art deco with a film noir atmosphere. The latter is more pronounced in the seedier towns like Rubacava. At the same time there is a dash of Aztec flavor, seen most strongly on external building features such as façades and “gargoyles.”

The No. 9 train is a classic industrial art deco design, while Guardian of the Gateway to the 9th Circle is an animated Aztec bust.

The DoD offices use computers for file keeping, but deliver messages by means of cannisters sent via vaccum tubes throughout the building. Security systems use dental scans but the LSA had to set up a carrier pigeon network to communicate with reasonable speed between cities. The GM should immerse the PCs in the setting by playing up this schizophrenic aspect of the 8th Circle.

Hooks

From that point, there are several adventure hooks for the PCs. Perhaps they get caught up in the conspiracy that Manny did and end up broke on the road to Hell. Not only does this offer opportunites for action and adventure, but there’s a fair amount of roleplaying opportunity in having the PCs think they’ve done something terrible in their lives that they can’t even remember.

Another possibility is having the PCs arrive in the Land of the Dead just after the conspiracy has been broken up. They could be offered premium tickets and a choice — take the No. 9 train to the Land of Eternal Rest or take the suitcase full of premium tickets and find the wandering saintly souls who were screwed out of their rightful place on the No. 9.

If they succeed, they get to go back to the land of the living. This might even provide a convenient way for PCs to exit or enter the campaign, with old PCs retiring to the Land of Eternal Rest and new ones being other recent arrivals in the Land of the Dead who join the PCs’ quest.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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Manuel “Manny” Calavera

Dex: 04 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Unwanted Power
Int: 05 Wil: 04 Min: 04 Occupation: Trapped Soul
Inf: 04 Aur: 03 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 008
Init: 013 HP: 020

Skills:
Artist (Piano): 02, Charisma (Persuasion): 05

Advantages:
Life Support (Full), Scholar (Business Management, Sales), Stabilization.

Connections:
Mercedes “Meche” Colomar (High), Glottis (High), Rubacava community (Low), Lost Souls Alliance (Low).

Note:
Rubacava community represents the network of connections among other business owners and local authorities that Manny built while running the Calavera Café in that city.

Drawbacks:
Cannot Heal (Only applies to Killing Combat Damage, 20 pts.).

Equipment:

  • Scythe [BODY 10, Claws: 04, Misc. Bonus: the Scythe can be collapsed to the size of a baton (5 pts), Cost: 47. The scythes were the tools of the Grim Reaper travel agents. They were traditionally used to slash open the body bags encasing the newly deceased. The freshly dead souls would then emerge like a pupa from a cocoon].
  • Sproutella Gun [BODY 03, Cell Rot: 01, Bonus: Cell Rot attacks the dead as if they were inanimate objects (+3FC), Limitation: Cell Rot is plant-based and can be affected by neutralized by anything that would kill a plant (-1FC), Range: 03, Ammo: 06, R#3, Cost: 11.]
    Sproutella guns were the firearms of choice in the Land of the Dead. They fired small rockets that seeded the bodies of the dead with flowers that would rapidly grow on the victim’s body, killing him in moments. Such unfortunates were said to have been “sprouted.”

Early statistics

Prior to the Colomar case, Manny had none of his current Connections, but did have a Low Connection to the Department of Death. His wealth was only 005 while working for the DoD.

By Roy Cowan.

Source of Character: Grim Fandango (PC game).

Helper(s): Sébastien Andrivet.

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