This weekend I've been tinkering further with characterisation for my New Haven setting within the Serene Dawn SF campaign. Two innovations to my gaming are being experimented with.
Firstly, I've been using my dusty but complete set of Hero System 6E rules to begin to quantify the way I want the setting to feel and work mechanically. That's not to say I'll ever play using Hero, given that only one of my players have ever tried the game, but it has been allowing me to make things "feel" right.
Secondly, my wife bought me a Lego City truck model and it inspired a whole raft of ideas for using Lego to play out the action scenes on the table top. For some reason Lego has become so cool in my head that I want to replace my card printed miniatures for little plastic dudes.
Heroes Like Jack
For me every roleplaying setting begins with a few ideas scribbled on a Mind-map and an idea for a hero.
Serene Dawn began as a desire to relive the heady days of youth and both recreate and re-imagine the kind of games that I enjoyed as a teenager. Hanging around with teenage gamers, as I now do at the school RPG club I began running a couple of months ago, I am able to feed off their enthusiasm for the hobby and let it fuel my own. Thus, having drafted some very big picture ideas into the wiki last weekend I took out my iPad and Mind-mapped out some thoughts for how I want the setting to feel. This was very broad-strokes stuff, responding to some of the notes in the Gamesmastering section of Hero Book 2. My efforts are displayed as follows -->
Step two is then to create my own hero for the setting. In this case I plumped for an idea that has been bubbling around for literally years, Jack Haussmann. I scribbled down some background and then I constructed what was, it turns out, a terrible first draft character sheet. Talking to the wonderful folks on the Hero System boards, and being directed to an excellent blog on designing characters for Hero, I re-iterated the sheet. This highlighted all the gaps in both my system knowledge and my own thinking, which in turn is driving the next phase of design.
|Click for larger image.|
Every step of this process has helped me to better quantify the kind of game I am imagining, ask questions about how I want things to feel and play out, and make decisions that will ultimately make life easier and better for my players. When it comes to them creating heroes I know that I will be much better placed to answer all the detail questions they need to ask to create an effective and interesting character in the setting.
This is not a new idea. Back around 2004 I visited a wargaming show in Loughborough and played in a game of pirate action that used all-Lego miniatures - ships, heroes, villains, everything. It was fantastic and really fun to boot.
My wife and I have a long affinity with Lego and both enjoy constructing the models, usually together as a 30 minute or so fun activity on a Saturday afternoon. Yesterday she bought me a new Lego kit from the City range and something clicked: "Why not use the truck driver model as a miniature for Jack?"
Looking at the finished kit, itself in a great scale for tabletop RPG gaming, I realised that I could think of two or three scenes revolving around the trailer immediately. For instance, I could imagine the heroes tracking down the trailer in a park and breaking in to it to uncover some secret in the story. There was the idea of a high-speed chase on the highway. Not to mention the idea of a gun battle across the vehicle with all its doors open, like something out of a video game.
That was it. For me, if I could possibly make it happen, the idea of using Lego dudes and some of the models to play out the action scenes feels really cool. There is a vast range of models to draw from, they are relatively easy to get your hands on, and they are totally customisable. In time, as you collect pieces slowly, you can graduate from a few Lego pieces and a dry-wipe pen towards a more fully realised Lego set for each scene. You can even get the players involved in constructing the play area before each fight scene, talking over each item they can see and all the terrain effects.
All in all, with an exciting new SF setting and the idea of bringing it to life with Lego, I ended up having a really fun day. Even if I don't get to play with this stuff immediately, the GM inside of me is really enjoying the creative stretch. There's nothing quite like making our roleplaying dreams come to life, however slowly, to make the early-mornings and late-evenings a relaxing time.