Jack (Hero)

You don’t know Jack.

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Basic Information

In English and Cornish Mythology (and related legends, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes) Jack is a culture hero and archetypal stock character (specifically a trickster-archetype and/or a knave) . There are also some Jack stories in Folklore of the United States, especially in Appalachia, presumably evolved from those that were brought over by the colonists.

Jack is young, unconventional, and either incredibly clever or damnably lucky. He's also very brave, and takes some outrageous risks.

Here are nutshell-summaries of the most exciting Jack stories:

It's possible that all those oh-so-clever Jacks are intended to be one and the same (the beanstalk climber, giant killer and wizard of Kent could be three faces of the same character as he goes through life - and frankly someone who has substituted a dog for himself into Hell, probably deserves eternal exile).

They may also be one or more of the following less-heroic Jacks:

See Also:



Game and Story Use

  • Stuck for a name for your next character? Have you met… Jack? It's got a good pedigree. You could do a lot worse.
    • (Stingy Jack has certainly done worse.)
  • The real Jack is probably a great PC for a one-on-one game, where Jack can safely hog the spotlight. He may not play well with others (but see below for at least one idea for using him in a party).
  • Bill Willingham's Fables series posits him as a copy of a very similar early legendary figure called Wicked John - this could very easily be just another name for the same character.
  • In a game with mythological characters or classic literary references, the players should be immediately suspicious of anyone named Jack. He could be any of the above heroes, but he could also be a con artist, trickster, or social bandit.
    • "I hear he killed two with one blow." He ain't no brave little tailor. Don't take your eyes off him 'till you get a satisfactory answer to the question: "Two of what, exactly?"
    • If he's Jack-o-lantern he might try to steal your body or your soul.
    • Even when he's a hero, he's still a thief.
  • You could flip/invert/subvert the classic structure, and have the giants be the good guys.
    • Maybe even a group of giants as PCs. You could make a fun party with 1 frost giant, 1 fire giant, 1 stone giant or living statue, 1 ettin, etc. And then this wicked teenage boy shows up to make their lives hell.
    • Actually, it might be fun if Jack is also a PC, and has a frenemy rivalry with the giant PCs. He's constantly messing with them, but they occasionally work together to defeat the devil, mordred, or the army of some other big bad evil guy.
    • Jack is a trickster - it would be entirely in character for him to steal the credit for other people's work. Sooner or later you get to hear that the giants you killed have been added to the list of those killed by Jack - perhaps his name was simply more memorable.

Building This Character

Character Level

  • He looks on the surface like a low-level character, just some poor peasant farmer or squire. But in truth, he's quite possibly Epic level.


  • Luck. If your system has it, it's his best stat.
  • High Intelligence, but low Wisdom. He can think up a clever trick in a hurry, but he might fall for the silver words of a fellow con artist. Also a good fit for someone who is continually getting into trouble, even if he can trick - or talk - his way out again.
  • Solid physical stats all around. Nimble and quick, for sure. Probably strong and healthy, especially if he's a giant-killer.


Special Abilities

Flaws and Hindrances

  • Sometimes vulnerable to the same sort of confidence games he himself employs.
  • Ridiculous amounts of confidence. He thinks very highly of his own capabilities, and will take risks that no sane man would dare.
  • Possibly impulse control problems instead of confidence - he just can't help taking a wager or grabbing at a shiny thing.
  • In some versions, too wicked to get into heaven. Wicked enough the Devil himself comes to collect.

Combat Role

The big questions are:

  • Is he lucky, clever, or both?
  • Is he good or wicked?
  • Is he the Jack from one, several, or all of the referenced stories on this page?
  • Does he have any weird magic (stone-flying, ice powers, divination, etc)?
  • Which of his various magic artifacts has he acquired at this point in this story?
    • …and which has he already lost, put into hock or gambled away?

FALSTAFF. I? Call me Jack if I were not prop to each of her wheels in turn till I am stamped like a butter-pat with the imprint of her underpinnings. I seek a red flag?

(from) The Marrèd Drives of Windsor R. Kipling (after W. Shakespeare)

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