5623 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck in Magnum PI) driving from the opening credits

Thomas Magnum, P.I.


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game
  • Some time back I mentioned that I was working on a profile based on what some refer to as the world’s greatest TV-series ever.
  • I was, of course, talking about Magnum P.I.

Context

Magnum P.I. was a detective TV series that ran throughout the 1980s. It was a fan-favourite and is often mentioned when discussing 1980s nostalgia.

It was a good-natured male power fantasy – a fabulous island, humour, a Ferrari, beautiful women, a successful private investigator, brawls, escapism, an incredible mansion where the hero stays for free, 2 huge dogs, a buddy with an helicopter… plus Tom Selleck in his signature role as the virile, charismatic, moustachioed but relatable Magnum for identification.

Frankly, the show was very good, funny and relaxing to watch. It comes highly recommended!


Background

  • Real Name: Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV
  • Marital Status: Mostly single
  • Known Relatives: Thomas Sullivan Magnum III (father, deceased), Joey (half-brother, deceased), Katherine Peterson (mother, formerly married to Magnum III), Michelle Hue (former wife, deceased), Lily Catherine Hue (daughter), Frank Peterson (stepfather), Phoebe Sullivan (aunt), Karen (cousin), Billy (nephew), Everett Wendell Courier (grandfather, deceased), Capt. Thomas Sullivan Magnum II (grandfather, aka. The Captain)
  • Group Affiliation: None
  • Base Of Operations: Hawaii
  • Height: 6’4” Weight: 205 lbs Age: 34+ (turns 40 in episode 7.17)
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Black


Powers & Abilities

Thomas Magnum is a highly decorated veteran naval officer. He is still in great physical shape due to regular intense sports activities.

An alert, smart and charming man Magnum regularly also uses the Bluff maneuver as he dupes, tricks and bribes his way to success. However, he commonly ends up paying way too much more than his economy can handle for the bribes.

Magnum (Tom Selleck) taking photographs from a helicopter

He sometimes has pretty accurate premonitions and has a very well developed intuition that comes handy in his detective work. Being poor all equipment he uses is almost exclusively borrowed, with the exception of his lockpicks, service pistol and bullet-proof vest.

Magnum power

There are certain story elements that cannot be explained solely through skills and setting. Magnum has sometimes displayed what in DC Heroes terms may be explained by Skilled Powers.

Thus, in order to really highlight Magnum’s great intuition, his strong people skills and occasionally preternatural luck, the GM can opt to give him Danger Sense (numerous episodes), Broadcast Empath (at least in episode 4.1) and Dumb Luck (numerous episodes) as Skilled powers at 04, 03 and 04 APs, respectively.

His apparent ability to break the fourth wall at times (for example in episodes 1.1 and 8.13) may be simulated by giving him Skilled Reality Check of 02 APs, and his insightful dreams and memories and ghost encounters may be described by:

  • a few APs of Skilled Precognition (episode 5.6)
  • some Postcognition (episodes 3.7, 7.5 & 7.14)
  • Speak with Spirits (episodes 2.3, 5.3, 6.11, 8.1 & 8.5)
  • and even the Occultist (Premonition) subskill

Video

The opening credits give a good idea about the visuals and themes, and the musical score was memorable (if only through sheer repetition).


History

Thomas Magnum is an ex-U.S. Navy SEAL  and ONI   officer and now works as a private investigator on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.

Thomas Magnum had a long military career prior to retiring. He spent 3 tours in Việt Nam along Rick Wright (a U.S. Marine door gunner), Theodore “T.C.” Calvin (a U.S. Marine helicopter pilot) and Eddie Miller (who died in ’Nam).

All 3 survivors have since retired to Oahu Island in Hawaii. Magnum lives indefinitely for free in the guest house of the mostly vacant Robin Master’s estate, aka. the Robin’s Nest, much to the dismay of its major-domo ex-soldier Jonathan Higgins.

T.C. owns the Island Hoppers, a helicopter transport company, while Wright is the owner of a private beach club named the King Kamehameha Club. Magnum often uses the Island Hoppers for transport and meets up with clients at the Club.

Magnum (Tom Selleck) and relatives

Magnum takes on all sorts of cases, often with good results despite troubles. Many clients see him as the best detective on the islands.

After eight years of adventuring as a private investigator, at the very end of the story Magnum returned to service in the U.S. Navy and walked towards the sunset with a young daughter that he had previously not known about, thus going full circle in his life with new purpose.

An interesting note is that Magnum co-inhabits the same universe as writer and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher  of the Murder She Wrote-series, and they have even worked together.

Further, Magnum also co-inhabits the same universe as Simon & Simon .&emps;The same was implied about the group in Hawaii Five-O, of the respective eponymous TV-series.

As a final note, since I will not be able to do justice to all of his amazing adventures, to anyone interested in getting in-depth information about every episode and all the details of Magnum’s life I suggest checking out the fan-site Magnum Mania , which is an excellent resource regarding everything related to the series!

Better yet, watch the series!!


The life and friends of Magnum

While it’s not apparent when meeting him, Magnum is a highly decorated and skilled veteran navy officer (ex-SEAL actually).

In fact, he has received the following medals: Navy Cross, Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Prisoner of War Ribbon, Navy Expeditionary Medal, National Defence Service Medal, Republic of Việt Nam Service Medal, Republic of Việt Nam Gallantry Cross Medal w/ Palm Medal, Republic of Việt Nam Campaign Medal, Navy Expert Rifle Medal and the Navy Expert Pistol Medal.

If the hypothesis about him later serving in the first Persian Gulf War is correct, he would later have earned a second National Defence Service Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal with two battle stars, the Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and the Kuwait Liberation Medal (Government of Kuwait) for service in the Persian Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm.

His fee seems to be somewhere around 150-200 dollars per day, which given that he often doesn’t work, is hardly enough to get him by. Additionally, he sometimes chooses to work pro bono for a good cause.

It does help that he’s starting to get the reputation of being the best private investigator (don’t call him PI or Private Eye, he will correct you) on the islands, meaning that clients seek him out.

While clearly capable on his own, Magnum usually uses the sometimes free or at least very cheap services of his friends more often than they get to use his services. The exception is Carol Baldwin, who usually gets Thomas’s help for free. Several of his friends have Connections or Skills or other assets that Magnum doesn’t have, which very often comes handy.

T.C.

He is the owner of the Island Hoppers transportation firm and is another old Việt Nam buddy. He is of great use for all long-range transportation in the Hawaiian area. In DC Heroes terms he most notably has the skills of Acrobatics (Athletics), Artist (Photographer, Singer), Weaponry (Firearms), Gadgetry (Mechanics) and Vehicles (Air).

T.C. is a generally a happy guy is probably Magnum’s best friend. However, not being terribly rich himself either, still requires payment, at a greatly reduced level, for services rendered. He is also the one from whom Magnum borrows binoculars.

Rick Wright

He is the keeper of the King Kamehameha Club (a membership club) – a good place to meet up with clients in need of a private investigator – and an old Việt Nam buddy with some underworld connections.

Most notably he has a rather good Wealth rating, the Acrobatics (Athletics) and Weaponry (Firearms) skills and a Low Level Connection (probably High Level by Season 7) to Francis ’Ice Pick‘ Hofstetler, who knows about everything illegal going on on the island.

Ice Pick himself no doubt has High Level Connections to the Underworld and the Street. Rick is something of a gullible coward and nags a lot although he usually gets through to the end. He is Magnum’s other best friend, even if he sometimes teams up with T.C. to get his debts, particularly the bar tab, from Magnum.

Magnum (Tom Selleck) SCUBA diving

Jonathan Higgins

See the Higgins profile! Regarding equipment in short here: Magnum always has to haggle personally with Higgins over loaning camera equipment, getting access to the wine cellar or tennis court etc.

Higgins actually most often functions as the proxy for Magnum’s Rich Friend advantage to Robin Masters. He has to be Persuaded to give way to the riches; an OV/RV of 06/05 APs seems appropriate, with a few RAPs meaning limited Success, i.e. borrowing equipment against some condition, while full RAPs will result in borrowing equipment without conditions.

Magnum will also have to roll if he has used or is using equipment without permission, failure to do so resulting in the immediate loss of the right to said property, at least for a while.

Magnum does, however, almost always have access to Robin Master’s Ferrari 308GTS  (which has a Persuasion OV/RV of 04/03 APs only using the same rules as above if this is played out; the GM may alternatively rule that the Ferrari is the one thing always available to Magnum in a game).

MacReynolds or Maggie Poole

These are military personnel and thus used to gain military or government information through their Connections. MacReynolds actually died during a case, but an identical-looking guy, a conman and computer expert, appeared after a while, and has since become a good friend and sometimes colleague of Magnum’s (that is when new Mac doesn’t do too many illegal activities or cons).

New Mac (as Magnum calls him) notably has the skills of Charisma (Persuasion), Computer Use, Thief (Security Systems), Vehicles (Air), the Language (Spanish) advantage and further uses a lot of aliases including Jim Bonnick, Peter Turner, Neville Thompson, Joe Travis, Trini Oliva, Eddie, James and so on (it’s safe to say that he has Secret Identity).

Mac’s help is usually free, but often comes at the cost of misadventures, the threat of jail sentences and other surprise oddities to Magnum.

Lt. Tanaka

This native Hawaiian police officer who lives by the book occasionally helps Thomas with some police information or getting out of jail knowing that he is basically a good guy.

Tanaka has the Police Rank (Police Lt.), Languages (Hawaiian, French) advantages and Connections within Hawaiian law-enforcement agencies. His help costs nothing, but is limited to very specific situations only.

Luther Gillis

Gillis is an old style veteran detective noir. He is found either in St. Louis or on the Hawaiian islands. If present locally he is sometimes given Thomas’ cases if he personally does not have the time to tackle the case. Gillis likely has all the Detective Skills, Credentials (Private Investigator) and often works as a legman.

He likely has the Seeking Justice Motivation and works surprisingly well alongside Higgins, also being one of few persons to actually like his many anecdotes. Gillis works with and for Magnum since he uses his standard rates during all cases.

Carol Baldwin

Baldwin is a lawyer, and a very good one at that. She has always been a potential love interest for Thomas, but they have decided to just stay good friends, although they still do have strange chemistry between them on occasion.

Thomas gets free legal advice from her as she believes Thomas is a good man and an excellent detective, and Thomas will always help her out without hesitation. Together they constitute an excellent field team, perhaps because they argue about a lot of things.

Baldwin most notably is an opera aficionado, has the Detective (Law) skill, Expertises in the field of law and Credentials (Lawyer).

Doc Ibolt

For some reason Doc Ibolt takes care of all the hospital cases of Thomas and friends. Ibolt is very good at his job and while not costing more than any hospital visit Ibolt has also been phoned by Magnum on occasion as a seemingly free consultant.


Description

Magnum is a descript tall male with a trademark moustache that usually wears khaki shorts or jeans, an Aloha shirt  and deck shoes, sandals, Sperry boat shoes or white Puma Easy Rider sneakers. Socks are almost never worn, not even while he is wearing a suit, but worn only when jogging.

Being a baseball enthusiast, he often wears battered baseball caps of the Detroit Tigers or of the USC: a cap that says VMO2 Da Nang – this is an abbreviation for Marine Observation Squad 2, the Marines where Magnum, Rick and T.C. served in ’Nam.

He still wears a dog tag around his neck, a team ring (also worn by T.C. and Rick as a symbol of their wartime camaraderie) and often a pair of sunglasses.

He maintains an easy-going cool under all but the most stressful of situations. While an imposing and competent man-of-action he interestingly remains both vulnerable and occasionally bumbling.


Personality

Thomas is an honest, laid-back, care-free and relaxed genuinely good guy. He is very unlucky in that he somehow ends with most clients not paying him or the payment going to new debts. In principle, he always has debts and no more money than is in his pockets, although this probably disturbs his friends much more than it does him.

He regularly thinks about chapters to his great book about detective work – a work that comes very naturally to him. It is perhaps for this reason he has also worked extra at a university teaching a course in investigative studies. While he keeps some memorabilia around from his time in the Việt Nam War he has, in fact, well made his peace with it all.

He always sleeps in late and no doubt enjoys the free lifestyle he has come to live where he lives in a relaxed setting by the sea and has access to a wine cellar and expensive vehicles and devices. Of course, it would be simpler if Higgins, the butler of Master Robin wouldn’t be around to block his freedom at many occasions.

At times, Higgins has been constant complains, constant arguments, put-downs, threats, early wakeups, bringer of long boring stories and someone who always gets into his house without knocking.

Over time, however, they have come to respect each other and eventually even built a deep mutual friendship. They now know each other well enough to hear what the other is trying to say even if they are mumbling gagged.

Magnum (Tom Selleck) with his .45 pistol at the ready

He keeps in excellent shape by regularly enjoying sports, such as volleyball, baseball, basket ball, tennis and rowing sports. He also enjoys scuba diving and swimming in general, something he has plenty of opportunity for living at a beach.

Thomas does hate dogs. However he has come to get along somewhat well at least with Higgins’ lads (the dogs Apollo and Zeus) over the years and has even walked them on occasion. He likes pizza, burgers, figs newtons and Old Düsseldorf beer, which is always (seemingly mysteriously) found in his refrigerator.

He does care deeply about his friends and has excellent people skills. He is usually a very balanced guy mentally, and kind and even cheerful, although once when he had suffered one too many failures everything bottled up came to the surface and he was really depressed and guilty for quite some time.

Despite everything he has done he still keeps a basic naiveté with many things; it’s actually quite charming. A good guy at his core he occasionally works for free to help people really in need, and then perhaps particularly when a beautiful woman is involved (as such, he is not beyond sleeping with clients either).

That said, Magnum is a loyal and hardworking private investigator that thoroughly enjoys his work, the action, the social interactions, changes in scenery and so on – hiring him is a pretty sure bet at getting results!

Despite his generally casual demeanor, Magnum always insisted that he be referred to as a private investigator and not a private eye or other slang. This was not about ego but instead emphasized that he was a professional who took his work and his clients seriously no matter the circumstances.


Quotes

[In trouble] “Look, I think I can explain” or “Now just wait a minute” (while motioning his hands)

[To the audience] “I know what you’re thinking (and you’re right/wrong).”

[Attempting to bribe the house detective] “Look, couldn’t we settle this with a little green piece of paper, you know the kind with Andrew Jackson’s picture on it ?”

“One thing I’ve noticed over the years: usually people hire private investigators because they can’t unravel the puzzle themselves… their emotions are too involved. They need someone who is detached, analytical, uninvolved and that’s what I’ve always tried to give them, but somehow that all became very difficult when the missing person was Rick and the client was me.”

“Experience, lieutenant, and cold hard investigative logic.”

“It cost me almost my entire life’s savings doing it. 80 bucks for beer, 20 bucks for garbage, 50 bucks for Rick’s and T.C.’s tuition. All I got out of the investment was having to face the fact that nobody got anything out of my class.” [but he’s wrong at that, he had already solved the case]


DC Universe History

In the DC Universe (and Marvel Universe) Magnum will naturally have access to all the powers proposed in the Magnum Power special section, perhaps even at slightly boosted levels.

Naturally, Magnum once had a client named Dr. Sam Beckett , which surprisingly put him into connection with some of the DC Universe’s top scientists, before returning to Hawaii.


Marvel Universe History

While Magnum does not exist in the Marvel Universe he was a very popular TV-character. He had many fans not the least notable being Roberto “Sunspot” daCosta of the New Mutants. Magnum was a source of real inspiration for him.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Magnum P.I.

Dex: 03 Str: 03 Bod: 03 Motivation: Responsibility of Power
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 04 Occupation: Private Investigator, (Ex-)Navy Officer
Inf: 03 Aur: 04 Spi: 04 Resources: 002
Init: 013 HP: 045

Skills:
Acrobatics (Hard Target, Athletics): 05, Animal Handling (Riding): 04, Artist (Photographer, Saxophone, Writer): 03, Charisma (Persuasion): 04, Detective (Clue Analysis, Law, Legwork, Police Procedure): 06, Martial Artist: 04, Military Science (Danger Recognition, Tracking): 04, Scientist (Research): 04, Thief (Locks & Safes, Security Systems, Stealth): 05, Weaponry (Firearms, Heavy, Thrown): 05, Vehicles (Land, Sea): 04, Vehicles (Air): 02

Advantages
Area Knowledge (Hawaii), Credentials (Private Investigator), Expertise (Baseball), Familiarity (Bribing, Chess, Tailing/Shadowing, Scuba diving), Language (Vietnamese, some Hawaiian names and expressions), Luck, Rank (Navy Commander O-5, retired during the entire series until the final episode when he rejoined the Navy; he would likely later have also served in the Persian Gulf War and then finally retired after thirty years of service in the late 90s with the rank Captain O-6), Rich Friend (Robin Masters), Sharp Eye (Intuitive insights and dreams)

Connections:
Theodore “T.C.” Calvin (High), Orville Richard “Rick” Wright (High), Jonathan Quayle Higgins III (High, originally None or Low), Private Detective Luther H. Gillis of St. Louis (Low), Lt. Yoshi Tanaka of the Honolulu P.D. (Low), Lt. ”Mac” MacReynolds of the U.S. Navy (Low; temporarily lost), Lt. (Cmd.) Maggie Poole of the U.S. Navy (Low), Assistant District Attorney Carol Baldwin (High), Doc Ibolt (Low)

Drawbacks:
Debt (+1; to T.C., Rick, Higgins and others), Unluck

Equipment:

  • Lockpicks [BODY 02, Notes: The lock picks enables the use of the Locks & Safes subskill without penalties. Should he not be carrying this, he will instead open door locks using a credit card]
  • Magnum is sometimes, although rarely, armed with his weapon of choice, a Colt Government Model .45 ACP. He will carry a gun during any adventure if the Player succeeds at a Catastrophic Action Check (i.e. a dice roll of 18+) even if nothing was originally stated about the status of arms carried or not (failure still gives Magnum the option to “purchase” a gun in his pocket by altering the game environment using HPs)
  • Magnum also owns a rarely used bullet-proof vest, which is usually kept at home

Previous stats

Magnum may have had Minor Irrational Dislike (Dogs) drawback during the first few seasons.

By Dr. Peter S Piispanen

Source of Character: Magnum P.I. TV-series; character played by Tom Selleck

Helper(s): magnum-mania.com, Joseph Williamson, Sébastien Andrivet, Christopher Cottingham, Roy Cowan, Kevin Berger, Mikael J. Berry

Writeup completed on the 22nd of September, 2013.

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