In case you somehow haven’t heard yet, Avatar: The Last Airbender is being adapted into an all-new tabletop RPG. While details are scarce at the moment, we know that the game is set to provide us with a range of possible settings for our campaigns – for example, you can choose to drop your party into a time where Roku or Kyoshi were the Avatar, as opposed to just Aang and Korra.
While I’m excited to explore the likes of Kyoshi Island and the Fire Nation pre-Sozin, I can’t stop thinking about the timelines we’ve already seen in Nickelodeon’s two existing Avatar shows. I mean, Nick established Avatar Studios a couple of months back, so it’s safe to say that we can assume we’ll see loads of other Avatars in action anyway. That being said, if you’re going to let me role-play in this wonderful world, I want to do it as my favourite character in the entire series: Uncle Iroh.
I know a lot of people like Iroh, but I really like Iroh. As in, I’ve got the Leaves from the Vine scene from The Tale of Iroh tattooed across half my arm. While I reckon Killua Zoldyck from Hunter x Hunter is the best character in fiction, Iroh is probably my personal favourite. I also love Zuko and Katara, but Iroh’s disposition is absolutely unique both in and to the world of Avatar – that constant juxtaposition of harmonious wisdom and uproarious humour is fairly hard to come by elsewhere.
I know it’s not as if this new tabletop game just assigns established roles out to people – you’re Aang, he’s Sokka, they’re Toph. It’s about creating your own character in this world, similarly to the almost 80,000 people who already role-play as earthbenders over on Reddit. But who am I kidding? There’s no way I’m going to play as a waterbender with a secret affinity for bloodbending, or a Fire Nation deserter hellbent on repenting for the sins of my country. Actually, that second one sounds a bit like Iroh, so maybe I will play that character – but only because, you know, it’s Iroh.
Even though we’ve already seen two very different versions of Iroh – the loving uncle and staunch general in The Last Airbender, and the ethereal spirit in The Legend of Korra – I think this is a character who is too multifaceted to ever contain. In The Last Airbender alone we see him as a violent military commander, “The Dragon of the West” – but we also see him as Zuko’s father figure, a tea shop owner, a member of an ancient secret organization, a counsellor for strangers, a heartbroken father, and a ferociously intelligent person who is able to tell the difference between right and wrong without separating them into two distinct entities, which he knows is impossible.
I want to see young Iroh, a Fire Nation general who secretly knows what he’s doing is wrong. I want to see Iroh as a dad, as a husband, as a brother. I want to see Iroh after he finally takes Ba Sing Se from the Fire Nation instead of for it, but before he passes on to live for all eternity in the Spirit World. I know it’s not canonical, but even having the option to explore these areas by playing as a character as similar to Iroh as I can make it adds a whole new dimension to how he functions in my head. It’s an incredibly exciting prospect, and far supersedes any desire I have to make my own Avatar or whatever.
Or I’ll play Sokka and insist on being the person who comes up with all the names for lore missions – operation: Play As Zuko’s Geezer Friend is a go. It’s his uncle, Sokka. Idiot.
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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