It has been a really exciting week of roleplaying for me because of two major streams:
- The school Pathfinder Society grew to 6 players, including our first female player.
- I noticed something useful while helping the club create characters.
Characters are the life-blood of the roleplaying experience: they are the protagonists in the stories that we tell as a group. Without these characters to be the heroes of the tale there is no action, no challenge and no story.
In Pathfinder, and other games like it such as D&D4e, there is a clear structure to character creation which allows for a lot of choice within some broad stereotyped archetypes.
For instance, the player can choose a Fighter, Wizard, Cleric or Rogue (or one of many other "classes"). They decide on a Race, such as Elf or Human. From here they shape the hero from the templated outline these two decisions provide.
This is all well and good for your traditional fantasy game. For most of us, who play the pseudo-medieval fantasy adventure, this stuff works just fine. Stereotypes are helpful.
And then there are those of us who are building slightly different fantasy worlds.
Mykovnia is a slightly different fantasy world. It has a more primitive feel, being set in a kind of pseudo-Iron Age period of post-apocalyptic survival.
This week I have been musing over whether to try and run Mykovnia using Pathfinder. It could certainly be done, and done quite well, using those rules. And yet...
It was a short Twitter exchange with @symatt this weekend which tipped me back away from that particular precipice. The comment was simple: "use GURPS or Basic Roleplaying for your world." What I think that @symatt was saying was that Mykovnia is a bit different... and it needs the freedom and flexibility that a Race & Class system can't offer. I think he is correct.
That being said, the big problem I face when running GURPS with my group is that they find it hard to narrow the infinite set of options down into specific character ideas. Thus came the insight that, while actually pretty obvious, I needed to get to...
Templates & Pathways
GURPS has a rather nifty guidance system for players called Templates.
Templates are pre-packaged sets of traits and/or choices which help a player to create the kind of hero archetype that they want without restricting their ability to customise.
My insight was simple: give your players some Templates... but also, within each template, offer the player some recommended Pathways for further choice. What do I mean?
Imagine I want to play an Astryan hero from the Far North. Astrya is a human tribe and so I would choose the Northman template. All nice and simple.
If, however, that template also included links to further recommended Occupational or Optional templates this will help me make more informed choices that fit the setting. Astryan's are accomplished Hunters but they also harbour the Moon Shaman cult; Scouts are also among their number, as are Metalsmiths and Herdsmen. Providing each of these occupations as linked templates allows players to build much more fitting heroes.
I suppose, in many ways, the idea is also arising from my recent foray into 6d6 RPG. In this game you might have "Path Cards" which offer you choices to other paths during character creation. In was, however, the desire to give the structure of games like Pathfinder, without the restriction, that gave birth to my small tweak this weekend for Mykovnia.
I have already drafted the first three Racial Templates for Mykovnia. The next step is to add on links to the Occupational Templates on offer, as well as to some Heroic Templates. Taken together I think that these will greatly assist players when they generate GURPS heroes for the setting.
What's an Heroic Template? It's an archetypal set of advantages designed to emulate a specific heroic role within the setting. An example might be the "Defender" warrior archetype, or the Magick-Touched archetype. These help the players to define their hero within the setting without taking away their ability to design any hero they want.
All in all, I'm just really chuffed that each of my gaming groups is starting to inform the hobby of the other.