A Question Of Character

It has been a really exciting week of roleplaying for me because of two major streams:

  1. The school Pathfinder Society grew to 6 players, including our first female player.
  2. I noticed something useful while helping the club create characters.
Forging Character
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
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.

What Next?
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.

Game on!
UbiquitousRat's Roleplaying Dreams: A Question Of Character

Sunday, 22 January 2012

A Question Of Character

It has been a really exciting week of roleplaying for me because of two major streams:

  1. The school Pathfinder Society grew to 6 players, including our first female player.
  2. I noticed something useful while helping the club create characters.
Forging Character
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
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.

What Next?
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.

Game on!

2 Comments:

At 22 January 2012 at 16:23 , Blogger Wolfchild said...

I think all this extra structure should really help, both in game play as well as character creation.

One of the problems I faced with Mykovnia, was trying to understand the world ad where my character fitted in.
Although UbiquitousRat may not have realised it, I think we knew far too little about the world our characters lived in to make informed decisions both in-game and developmental.

The templates not only guide creation, but by telling us a little bit more about certain social/racial/etc groups, they also describe the world a little more and as we had just a snapshot of Askenor and later a vague concept of 'iron-age' techno level we really had no idea of where to start, but to turn to what we thought we more archetypal characters, or simply off-the-wall randomness that may have had no place in Mykovnia whatsoever.
It served to create some very random characters, but I don't think we'd ever have the where-with-all to really engage in the setting and thus made the story difficult to develop also.

I'm now hoping that when we eventually return to Mykovnia (with perhaps a 3rd or is it 4th set of rules) that we may be better educated and be able to really advance our tale into something worth writing about :)

 
At 12 February 2012 at 16:41 , Blogger Dorothy D.Pyle said...

I have been checking out some of your articles and i must say pretty good stuff. I will make sure to bookmark your site.
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