This post contains minor spoilers for my Persona tabletop RPG campaign, though none of this should be all that surprising for my players. If you want to learn everything at the table, give this one a miss.
Zach is played by one of the players in my campaign, and he’s still developing. This is just what we know about him thus far and all this info is subject to change.
Gawky, awkward, and well-meaning, Zachary Beathan doesn’t seem at first glance to be a likely Strength Arcana character. He spent his youth in and out of hospitals, the victim of an early dread disease that has held back his social development as well as his physical prowess. He isn’t sickly, exactly, but he isn’t nearly as strong as average kids his age, and his stamina is very low, because he’s never participated in sports of any kind, even as a child.
But in truth, as in the rest of the Persona series, the Strength Arcana represents the power of self-control, gentleness, courage, and virtue over brute force. A common trope among Persona Strength characters is their strength of heart, and Zach is the strong, good heart of the Persona Heroic team.
Zach has brown-black hair, brown eyes, and a pleasant smile. He always seems a little tired, but he’s unfailingly polite to most people.
In the Persona series, Strength personas typically excel in physical attacks and attributes, and the Black Knight is no exception. He also uses the element of Ice, but he’s about as good with it as, say, Yusuke in Persona 5 was: sure, he can use the magic, but his primary strength is dishing out boatloads of physical damage.
Zach’s parents, Thomas and Lisa, are extremely protective of their delicate flower of a son, to the point of locking him up rather than risk him getting sick or hurt. They had to argue quite a while before they finally decided to let him go to a school with other kids, let alone a public school. This causes him some problems when it comes to a social life, and he often finds himself grounded or given strict curfews. To this day, he typically cannot participate in nighttime activities because he has to be home. If his parents learned about his metaverse activities… well, odds are they wouldn’t believe it, but they’d forbid him from associating with the obviously delusional friends he’s made.
Zach is good friends with the core crew of Persona wielders, including Wayne (Chariot), Uki (Devil), and Jimmy (Magician), as well as newcomer Brent (Emperor). He sort of knows Janna (Priestess), but they haven’t actually talked to each other. He also has an odd, young relationship with Timothy Brothers (Death), a former bully and Jimmy’s nemesis, whom he stumbled upon in a vulnerable moment wherein he discovered that Tim has an adversarial relationship with his abusive father, as well as a sickly younger sister (Alice) that he tries at all times to protect (mostly from his father, but also from the world in general).
The first classmate Zach met on his first day was Sayeed Ahriman, a handsome football player and upperclassman, who helped him pick up his schoolbag after some jocks knocked him over. He fell deeply in love with Sayeed from the moment he saw him, and shortly thereafter he forged a bond with Sayeed, who turned out to be the Lovers Arcana.
Awakening and Arcana
Zach bears the distinction of being one of the first two Persona wielders to awaken to his power, when he and Uki and a distracted Wayne found themselves drawn into Darkest Seattle. When dark creatures attacked them, he plucked up the nearest weapon—a gunblade—and did his best to fight, to protect Uki and himself, despite his body’s weakness. He saw a vision of the worst moment of his life, lying in a hospital bed while a medical team worked to resuscitate him.
Now as then, he felt the darkness drawing him down into despair, but he heard a powerful voice from across a great distance asking why, in that moment, he did not give up and die, and whether that strength remained to him. Zach choked out an affirmative, and the entity demanded he speak louder, and he screamed with more strength than he had ever known. And thus did he forge a pact with Moriaen, the Black Knight, who brought new strength and power to his limbs. Together, they made short work of the creatures.
Moriaen the Black Knight is a physically-inclined persona, with power over ice magic and, appropriately, strength. His strength gives Zach great power with his gunblade (Final Fantasy VIII is Zach’s favorite video game), and Zach’s metaverse outfit is a suit of hooked black armor inspired by that of his persona.
Moriaen’s pursuit—looking for his father at Camelot to recover his birthright—mirrors Zach’s own quest to discover himself and find his true inner strength.
Shadow and Challenge
Zach’s challenge is to build up his confidence in himself, his abilities, and his own inner strength. His path does not necessarily represent physical strength, but rather self-control and moral strength of character—restraint over the beasts of his nature.
Zach hasn’t had to face his shadow—yet—but it represents The Strength Reversed: cowardice, vanity, doubt, and a lack of self-control. When Zach encounters his Shadow, he will be horrified and disgusted but also recognize that darkness inside him.
Zach might be the most classic Persona hero on the team, as he is a nerdy transfer student who starts from essentially nothing and wields a dark sort of Persona. He also follows a similar progression to, say, the hero of P4 or P5 in that he can’t go out at night at first and all his social contact is done at school.
At the same time, he provides this excellent inversion, because he’s gay, and a major part of this game is to include explicitly queer content that gladly, gleefully embraces what Persona should have been doing for years. Sayeed (Lovers Arcana) is kind of his designated love interest, and Zach gets all flustered around the older, suave upperclassman, who takes their blossoming romance in stride. (For a very deep cut, this continues the trend in Persona games of the first companion the PC sees in the game being the Lovers character, which was the case in Personas 3 through 5.)
Also, a fun Easter egg is that Lisa, Zach’s mother, is Lisa “Ginko” Silverman, one of the core characters of Persona 2: Innocent Sin (and she has a supporting role in Eternal Punishment). Considering how deeply in love Lisa was with Tatsuya Suou (Jimmy’s adoptive father), I’m not saying the two of them have a thing in my game… but I’m not saying they don’t. 🙂