- Aaron K
Critical Party Roles, Part 6: The Party Lift Man
We continue with the Critical Role series, today discussing the penultimate member of the party: the Party Lift Man. As we've noted before in this series, we are discussing the roles that are critical to a good adventuring party that should be filled by players, not characters, and in today's post we're really discussing (ideally) the "first among equals," as ideally everyone in the group, to some extent, will sympathize with this role, and that is the Party Lift Man.
I. The Party Lift Man: Get Her Done
One of the more ancillary jobs and very much dependent on the kind of campaign you run, the term "Lift Man" comes from less than upstanding backgrounds, and refers to the person who grabs the target object or person during a heist. We use it here to refer to the person responsible for completing the goal of the quest: if you need to secure an object, rescue a prince, or destroy a Death Star, the Lift Man is the person you count on to get it done.
They are also responsible for making sure it doesn't get reclaimed, and typically he is the first person in the getaway car for this reason. But at times the Lift Man may not be the person who physically carries it out: they can pass things off to others to carry, and/or setup the party for success while someone else does the deed. But if the party gets paid for completing the job, the Lift Man gets a pat on the back for a job well done. And if the attempt comes up empty, the Lift Man is the first person you talk to about what went wrong.
You can use a Lift Man far beyond the heist scenario. Is your goal, ideally, for all party members to make it out of a combat encounter? The Lift Man is the guy who makes sure that downed party members are taken from the field to be revived. To some extent the Lift Man and the "Party Healer" go hand-in-hand (which is probably why I enjoy playing Lift Man so much), as the Lift Man is the party insurance. They watch over everything.
Thus, you'll often find that the Lift Man and the Quartermaster work closely together (and typically work well together in a well-functioning party), as they both service the needs of the party to increase the chances of success.
II. Lift Men: Gimli, Brad Pitt, and the Sheriff of Nottingham
While I love the rendition of The Lord of the Rings that Peter Jackson gave us (it's good, though not perfect), I'm not a big fan of how Gimli loses some of his knightly characteristics from the book. Gimli is the Lift Man of the Fellowship. Need to kill some orcs? You call Gimli. Need someone to carry things? You call Gimli. Need someone to go with you through the Paths of the Dead? You go to Gimli first because you know he'll have your back and the backs of those who go with you.
Gimli has that trustworthy quality married to competence, both of which are critical for a good Lift Man. As he says in The Fellowship of the Ring, "Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens," and that is the heart and soul of the Lift Man.
This is also something you tend to see in Brad Pitt's characters in the movies he's in, regardless of the role he plays. Whether he's helping Clooney's Danny Ocean with a heist, spying for/against your government, and anything in between, Brad Pitt's character is typically the guy you entrust with accomplishing the task. And rightly so: he's tenacious, not easily giving up on accomplishing the task, alongside being trustworthy and competent.
But just being a trustworthy and dedicated person isn't enough to make you a good Lift Man, as evidenced by the Sheriff of Nottingham. Lots of people have portrayed this character, but I'm going to go with the image of the late Sir Alan Rickman because, let's face it, he's a legend and deserves to have his picture in a blog post. Nottingham represents the Lift Man who over-commits, and as a result loses his quarry and cannot complete the task.
Now, it is worth noting that some of this is likely just due to the writing: the author of the tales of Robin Hood didn't want Robin to get caught. But the point for Lift Men is still true: be honest about your limitations. If you and/or the party cannot accomplish the task, recommend how to abort and prepare for the next attempt.
A Lift Man has to be able to assess the strengths and aptitude of the party and vocalize when they are in over their heads. This is a constant evaluation, discerning at every turn whether your party is capable of completing the task. This is why for a good number of groups the Party Quartermaster is also the Lift Man: the same mind is in both, keeping an eye on the long game to meet party needs.
Our next post will wrap up this series, as we discuss the Party Conscience, which is far more than might be guessed by the name.
Until next time,